Monday, December 31, 2012

You're Done Arizona, Get Lost

Arizona lost to San Francisco 27-13. The Cardinals made a game of it for about a quarter and a half, but lost in the end.

Someday I'd surely like to know how Arizona can contain almost every other wide receiver on earth, but they can't handle Michael Crabtree. He had 4 TD catches this season against Arizona. What the hell?

William Powell was lead rusher for some reason. 52 yards on 14 carries. LaRod Stephens-Howling was relegated to 1 carry for -1 yard, which means he led the team in rushing with less than 360 yards for the season. The last time the Cardinals leading rusher finished with fewer yards was 1952. Charlie Trippi, 350 yards. In 12 games. Arizona did have a lot of injuries this year. Beanie Wells (big surprise), Ryan Williams (again). But LaRod's been available all season. Why not use him more, or at least some, every week?

One more reason the entire offensive coaching staff (including Whisenhunt) needs to go. They're all morons.

At least Brian Hoyer managed to throw a TD pass. That gives Arizona 11 for the season. Hooray! Right now, given the choice between Hoyer, Lindley, or Skelton, I'd keep Hoyer. He managed to be more successful in the offense with only three weeks, than Lindley did with an entire year, or Skelton with 3. It kills me to give up on Skelton, but he's awful. No getting around it. If you asked me to pick between Hoyer and Kolb, eh, it'd be close. Kolb performed better, but he hasn't demonstrated he can stay healthy. Which might be a reason to keep both, draft someone in say the 2nd or third round, and focus on improving the OL and running game. I don't think either guy can consistently win games for you with their arm, but if they're given some help, I think they can be successful.

Hopefully they keep Dockett and Wilson around. I'd hate to lose them because they couldn't get along with a coach who ought to be fired.

Whatever, the season's truly over. Now it's playoff time. We get to watch Flacco demonstrate that he isn't an elite QB, no matter what he says. Fingers crossed he lays a giant stink bomb that wards the Cardinals off. He might be an improvement over Kolb/Hoyer, but at the price, he isn't worth it. He's not good enough to build an offense around, even if he (and his coaches, judging by their periodic ignoring of Ray Rice), think he is. Given they're playing the Colts, who have a terrible run defense, the Ravens should just give Ray Rice as many carries as he wants.

I'm inclined to give Seattle the edge over the Redskins, since it's a home game for Seattle, and they've generally played better recently. I don't think Alfred Morris will find the running as easy against the Seahawks as he did the Cowboys. I have to lean Packers in their game against the Vikings. They already beat Minnesota in Green Bay once, 200+ yards from Adrian Peterson or not.

AP, by the way, should be MVP. 6.0 yards per carry and a nearly 2,100 yards as he lead the Vikings to the playoffs. Yes, Peyton lead the Broncos to the playoffs, and they even won their division, but two things: One, the Broncos won that division last year, with a QB who could not actually throw the football. The Vikings won 3 games. Speaking of the Broncos division, that leads us to Two, the shitbox that is the AFC West. That division is a joke. Denver had 6 wins on their schedule guaranteed at the beginning of the year, just from getting to play KC, Oakland, and SD twice each. Meanwhile, the Vikings are in the same division as Green Bay and Chicago, an 11-win team and a 10-win team. Even the Lions, who only won 4 games, are no slouches. They're at least competitive, more than you can say for most of Denver's competition.

Hey credit to the Broncos for doing what they should, beating up on the patsies. But it does diminish their accomplishments a bit compared to the Vikings, and specifically, Adrian Peterson.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas To You Too, Arizona

If the Cardinals' defense has a weakness - other than being paired with such a pathetic offense - it's the running game. They tend to get torn up on the ground. Even Shonn Greene was able to rush for over 100 yards against. Admittedly, it wouldn't be such an issue if their offense could do something, because Arizona could pull far enough ahead teams would abandon the run. But that's not the hand they've been dealt.

All of which is a way of saying Matt Forte was likely to be a problem for Arizona yesterday, and he was. Until he left with an injury. By that time, though, the Cards were already down by a couple of scores and Forte had gained 88 yards on 12 carries, plus a TD.

Really, though, the Cardinals defense didn't do badly. Yes, they surrendered 152 yards on the ground, at a 4.6 ypc clip. But they recovered a fumble, held the Bears under 300 yards of total offense, and kept Chicago to 3-of-13 on 3rd down.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals' offense was held below 250 yards of offense, went 3-of-15 on 3rd down, and had three turnovers. Beanie Wells fumbled on the Arizona 1, which the Bears recovered for a TD. Then Charles Tillman intercepted a pass and returned it for another TD. SO the Cardinals' D only allowed 14 points. Which still would have been enough for Chicago to win, but again, not the defense's fault.

Whisenhunt benched Lindley partway through the game and tried Brian Hoyer. He completed some passes, though one of them was to the Bears. So not much new there. The running game did nothing, 19 carries for 29 yards. At least they tried to run, I guess.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Time For An Offseason Look-In

The St. Louis Cardinals have made a few moves at the major league level since the season ended. Let's take a look:

Signed Randy Choate to a 3-year deal - $7.5 million over 3 years seems like an awful lot for a guy who averages 44 innings per 162 games, and threw less than 40 last year. Still, the Cardinals did have a dearth of useful lefthanded relievers last year, and if that's all they let Choate do, he ought to be fine. Lefties have a career .563 OPS against him. Unfortunately, righties have an .806 OPS against Choate, so best to keep him away from those. It was even more pronounced last year, .461 vs. .821, in admittedly small sample size (116 PAs against lefties, 52 against righties).

I do have concerns that he'll abruptly lose his ability to retire lefties, at which point he's useless. He's going to be 37-39 for the duration of this contract, so it could happen. Also, he's likely to throw so few innings, it won't take many bad appearances to torpedo his value. Or at the very least, turn the fans against him. Ray King didn't have a bad 2005, for example, but he did have a bad stretch where he couldn't retire any of the tough lefthanders, and that was all it took for fans to get frustrated. When you only have one duty, you better carry it out well, or everyone is gonna wonder why they keep you around.

Traded Skip Schumaker to the Dodgers - Apparently Skip's people requested the trade. The Cardinals got a minor league shortstop, Jake Lemmerman, I believe. He's supposed to be a slick fielder, but he's been a pretty lousy hitter even in Double A. Which is pretty much the same book as the one on Ryan Jackson, but at least he's made it to AAA, and even the majors. Even if Matheny did refuse to actually use him at SS for some reason.

I'm not going to pretend I'm sorry to see him go. It's not true, and you wouldn't believe it anyway. I've beaten the drum for too many years about how Skip playing second pissed me off. He had his useful moments, and credit to him for being willing to try playing second, but he wasn't good at it. His offensive value is almost entirely dependent on his batting average, because he doesn't have much power, or much ability to draw walks. He's hardly the only guy on the team with that skillset, but most of the others play the same positions as him, and are probably better. You couldn't platoon him at 2nd with Descalso because they were both lefties, and while Skip hit better, Descalso's the better fielder. He can't platoon with Jay in CF, because Jay is also a lefty, a much better hitter (113 OPS+ vs. 94), and for this year at least, a better fielder also. Skip doesn't hit enough to be someone you'd want to use to take playing time away from Holliday or Beltran, so what does that leave him?

The Cardinals need a guy who can play 2nd or SS, who can actually hit a little, preferably righthanded. Skip filled none of those requirements. I'm not sure what the Dodgers will use him for, but good luck to him all the same.

Signed Ty Wigginton to a 2 year contract - Problem is Ty Wigginton doesn't fill any of those requirements either. He doesn't even do the things he does better than people the Cardinals already have. There's no reason to use him as Freese's primary backup ahead of Matt Carpenter. I went back through his entire career, and there wasn't one season where Baseball-Reference has him as even an average 3rd baseman. He can't really play the outfield either, so you're better off continuing to work with MCarp there too. Same at first base, backing up Allen Craig.

The best thing you can say is he's righthanded, and he does do better against lefties, so I guess you could get by using him in place of MCarp against tough lefties, but he's not that great. You're probably better off just sticking with either Craig or Freese, if they're available. And of course, he doesn't do anything for the middle infield. Unless they're planning to use Carpenter as part of a trade package to get a middle infielder, I don't see the point of this move. Wigginton just doesn't seem to have the range of utility that makes him worth a 2 year contract at this stage. It's not a big deal in terms of money - about 5 million total - but it feels like a waste of a roster spot that could go to someone who helps more.

So yeah, not exactly loving the offseason moves so far, but I did figure it was gonna be tricky. The Cardinals seemed like they were just good enough across the field it would be hard to improve anywhere except at the margins. Trying to upgrade from Furcal at SS, Descalso at 2nd, or maybe Jay in center, was going to cost so much it probably wouldn't be worth it. So then you're looking at marginal players, ones willing to be bench guys, and those guys are always going to have holes in their game. Even so, this isn't a promising start.


Monday, December 17, 2012

So It's Like That, Huh, Arizona?

I'm not really mad they won. I remembered at some point last week that I want the Cardinals to win. Always. Anyway they can. Fuck draft positioning. I was just didn't want to see any more humiliating losses, and the Seattle game made me fear the defense had packed it in for the year.

Not that I would have blamed them if they had. They've done their best to carry this team all season. The special teams haven't been terrible, but certainly haven't been the boon they were last year, when Peterson was breaking off huge punt returns every 5 minutes. The offense has been a disaster. I wouldn't be surprised if the defense just lost hope when the Seahawks went up 13-0. I still think they quit in that game, but I understand it. At that point, the Cards' only chance would have been multiple defensive touchdowns, and that obviously didn't happen. That week.

This week? The defense had 2 INT returns for TDs, plus another INT by Peterson, plus the special teams recovered a fumbled punt inside the 10. Which certainly helps. Beanie Wells ran for three TDs, and Lindley only threw 1 INT, but also barely 100 yards. The offense had 2 scoring drives that started inside Detroit's 5, and another inside their 30. On the plus side, they did rush for 99 yards, and Whisenhunt remembered LaRod Stephens-Howling existed, giving him 5 carries. All told, the Cardinals ran it 29 times, to only 21 passes. You'd like to see more play calls, but at least they got the ratio right.

I don't think Wells can be a consistent 20-25 carry back over a whole season. He just can't stay healthy. And LaRod probably can't hold up to that level of work over the long haul either. But between the two of them they ought to be able to get 30 carries a game, provided the defense can keep things close. And until Arizona gets a competent QB, they need to run as much as possible.

Anyway, major credit to the defense for showing up big this week. I imagine they have to be frustrated about the way things have gone, but they responded well to the embarrassing defeat last week. Also, I really dislike that the team fined Dockett for arguing with the coaches about letting the Jets score. I understand the thinking behind letting the Jets score, but I also understand the Cardinals' offense is terrible, and they couldn't have scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion if they had a whole other game. The defense forcing a fumble and returning it themselves was the team's best chance. If the coaching staff didn't recognize that, they weren't paying attention. Which, given some of their decisions this year, is entirely possible.

But hey, that defense sure is good. Beat up Jay Cutler next week guys. If you do, he might throw a bunch of picks and the team could have a chance! OK, the odds are strongly against it. Even slumping, the Bears are more formidable than the Lions, but at least it's in Arizona.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Arizona Teaches Me To Be Careful What I Wish For

Let's start with this: I asked for John Skelton to be reinstalled as starter. I figured that with him, Arizona could have held off Atlanta and beaten the Jets. Whisenhunt made Skelton the starter for the game against Seattle, and Skelton played like crap. So did most of the team, and Arizona got obliterated, 58-0.

At this point, I'm ready for the season to be over. If Arizona chose to forfeit the last 3 games of the season, I wouldn't mind. Just take the 1-0 losses and move on to the offseason. At least the point differential wouldn't get much worse.

There's nothing else to say.


Monday, December 03, 2012

Would You Like To Hear Some Numbers, Arizona?

137 yards of total offense. 5 first downs, one of those on a penalty. 0-for-15 on first down.

Let me repeat that. 0-FOR-15 on 3RD DOWN.

Oh, and the most important number, 6. As in, six points, one fewer than the Jets scored.

Ryan Lindley's been the QB for over 10 quarters now. The Cardinals have scored 29 points in that stretch. John Skelton, hardly Tom Brady under center, had lead the Cardinals to 30 points in roughly 5.5 quarters (from the start of the Green Bay game up to his benching). The opposing defenses have scored 21 points since Lindley took over. Keep in mind, that's just them returning his mistakes to the house. It doesn't count the points their offenses scored thanks to improved field position.

What's galling is Rex Ryan was willing to bench Sanchez when it was clear he didn't have it. He turned to Greg McElroy, not because he expected McElroy to be great, but because what the hell, he couldn't be any worse. Lo and behold, McElroy did just enough to lead the Jets on their lone scoring drive.

Meanwhile, Whisenhunt is over there watching Lindley derp his way to a 6-for-20 first half, and he never considers putting Skelton back. Well, he did, but he says the coaching staff was swayed by the things Lindley was saying on the sideline. Swell. Lindley produced a sway in me as well, but it was nausea from his terrible passing.

Did you know that between the games against the Falcons and Jets, the Cardinals are +7 in turnover margin/ Yet they lost both games. Their defense is busting its ass for nothing. If Whisenhunt had kept Skelton in, the Cards win both those games. I'm not saying they would have been pretty, but I'm confident Skelton would have made just enough plays so the defense's hard work wasn't for naught. I can't say they would have won the Rams game, though I figure it would have been considerably closer since I doubt Skelton would have thrown 4 INTs.

Even if they lost that one, consider the overall circumstance. The Cardinals would have followed a 5-game losing streak by winning 2 of 3, both victories on the road no less. Instead, they're on an 8-game losing streak, and Whisenhunt is insisting Lindley gives the team its best chance to win. Which is so absurd as to be hilarious, like a bear on a jet ski. Lindley hasn't thrown a TD yet. His completion percentage is 48.5%, his yards per attempt, 2.2.

Even Skelton, in his rookie year, when he completed only 47.6% of his passes, had 2 TDs to only 2 INTs. he averaged 4.9 yards per attempt. When you're so lousy you make Rookie John Skelton look like Unitas in comparison, the only team you're helping win is whoever plays against you.

And why is LaRod Stephens-Howling the forgotten man on offense? He got one carry and one catch yesterday. How is it that Beanie Wells' return (32 carries for 70 yards the last two weeks, but also 2 TDs) somehow made LaRod the third-stringer behind Wells and William Powell? As Lindley clearly can't get the ball within 5 yards of Fitzgerald, that makes LaRod the best playmaker they have the ball can actually reach.

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