Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cards At the Halfway Mark

Man, I was way wrong about that Heat/Spurs Final. Can only count on Lebron so far I guess. To baseball!

It's been 40 games since I last looked in. Over that time, the Cardinals have gone 23-17, so a minor improvement over their 21-20 start to the season. Haven't made up any ground on the Brewers, though, and the National League looks like it might have more than 5 good teams this year. The offense has not improved. The Cards are now 12th in the NL in runs, down from 11th 40 games ago. They're still 13th in slugging percentage, so being 6th in OBP isn't helping much. They're dead last in the NL is home runs, and 14th in stolen bases. So no power, and still no speed. Dandy.

Kolten Wong got called back up eventually, hit all right for awhile, but his numbers are essentially where they were 40 games earlier. .544 OPS then, .586 now, and he's on the DL, which leaves the Cardinals with Mark Ellis (.523 OPS), and Descalso (.490 OPS). Shane Robinson is back up, not doing much. Grichuk hit his first HR, but otherwise has an OPS of .464, and is back in the minors. Oscar Taveras was called up, hit his first HR in his second at-bat, continued to make good contact, but had poor results, to the tune of a .522 OPS. So Matheny spewed some crap about Oscar's swing being wrong, and they sent him back down. You know, I thought Matheny was hired because he understood the need to play the young guys so they could develop. Sure doesn't seem to be doing that. More like he has "his guys", and "not his guys", and the "not his guys" get no wiggle room for struggle.

Also, Peter Bourjos has an OPS of .596, and Allen Craig's is only .675, though Bourjos is playing excellent defense, at least.

On the positive side, Matt Adams is the leading hitter on the team, with an .867 OPS and 9 HRs. Peralta has cooled somewhat from his hot start, but has an OPS+ of 111, good for 3rd on the team behind Adams and Matt Holliday, who is at least getting on-base (.376 OBP), if not hitting for power (.392 SLG). Matt Carpenter's above league average (106 OPS+), though his slugging is still only .369. Still, it's a 50 point improvement from last time. Jon Jay still has an OPS+ of 109, so Bourjos is gonna be in trouble if he doesn't get his bat in gear a little. Tony Cruz is hitting, not great or anything, but better than he has in the past. Maybe because Molina's been banged up (and has fallen off considerably from the start of the year), so Cruz is getting more consistent playing time.

If the offense hasn't improved, the better results must be the pitchers' doing, right? Well, their ERA is now 2nd in the league. They're still 5th in Ks, but now 8th in BBs, so not improving there. However, they've allowed the fewest HRs in the league, so that helps. Injuries are starting to pile up, though. Joe Kelly still isn't back. Garcia and Michael Wacha's shoulder both started troubling them. Wainwright's had some periodic elbow inflammation. Keith Butler and Kevin Siegrist are both out. Shelby Miller's still getting decent results with bad peripherals. The strikeouts are at 6.3/9, the walks at 4.4/9, and the HRs, at least, are down to 1.1/9. Trevor rosenthal is still walking almost 5.5 batters per 9 innings, and Carlos Martinez is over 4.

Most of the other guys are doing better. Lynn is the only starter with more than 3 BBs/9, and it's not much over. His other numbers are good, and he's pitching quite well. Wainwright's been mostly aces, Wacha's good when he's not hurt. Seth Maness is doing well in the bullpen, and pat Neshek's doing outstanding. Choate's peripherals say he should be doing a lot better than he is, as his FIP is 3.10, but his ERA is 5.48. Beyond them, it's a hodgepodge of guys. Jason Motte's striking out a batter an innings, but he's also surrendered 3 HRs in his 10 innings so far. Sam freeman's done well is his 15 innings so far, Nick greenwood not so much in his 7. Marco Gonzales was called up for a start against Colorado, and while the Cardinals won, he didn't have much to do with that.

Defensively, Molina and Cruz' numbers both look good. Adams is about league average, Craig a bit below at first. Wong is now grading out slightly below-average, while Ellis is slightly above, at least by Baseball-Reference. Carpenter's improved his numbers at 3rd, Peralta's doing surprisingly well at SS. B-Ref has him on pace for 10 runs above average if he plays 1200 innings, which he's on pace for about 1300. Descalso grades out as below-average at all three of the infield positions he plays. What a shock. Holliday's dragged his defensive numbers up to exactly average, which I didn't expect. Bourjos is on pace to be 13 runs above average if he played 1200 innings, though he's only on pace to actually play about 800. Even Allen Craig is scoring well in RF, which I definitely didn't expect. I figured we'd be fortunate if he could be no worse than Beltran was last year.

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Finally The Finals

The NBA Finals start tonight, with a rematch of last year's Finals. Miami finished off the Pacers in 6 games, as I predicted. Nice to get one right once in awhile. Second year in a row that Miami ended Indy's season with a blowout. I guess all that talk about the Pacers being built to trouble the Heat is just talk. Miami seems capable of destroying Indy anytime they choose.

Out West, even the return of Serge Ibaka from his "season-ending" injury after only 2 games couldn't help the Thunder, as they fell in 6 games. Which makes my prediction they'd win in 7 look kind of stupid. Ah well, on to the championship.

San Antonio vs. Miami: The consensus seems to be that the Heat are not quite as good overall as they were last year, and the Spurs are a little better than they were last year. Put together with the Spurs having homecourt advantage, I probably ought to pick the Spurs, but I'm going Heat in 7.

The Heat as a team might be weaker, but Lebron doesn't seem to have slipped, Wade is healthier than he was last year, and Bosh seems more comfortable out beyond the arc than last season. I'm not sure it matters that Greg Oden and Michael Beasley were a waste of free agent dollars, or that Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier are running on fumes. The Heat lean on the Big Three (especially Lebron), and count on someone else - Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Birdman - having a big game just often enough to swing things. It's worked pretty well the previous two years, and so far in this postseason (not that the East offered much of a challenge).

The Heat are still a good defensive team, with a fair amount of the same athleticism the Thunder use to trouble the Spurs offense. Their offense is considerably better in terms of execution and coaching, which makes the challenge facing the Spurs that much greater. I'd still like to pick the Spurs. They're the deeper team, probably better coached, they can play in a lot of different styles to either match Miami, or try and force the Heat to react to what they do. I'm not sure about Tony Parker's status, and Ginobili always seems to be 5 seconds away from injuring something, but the Spurs seem as capable of dealing with those problems as any team. They survived a tougher road than Miami, though I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I don't think either squad really needed to be battle-tested, but I'm not sure there's a significant difference between 15 playoff games (Miami), and 18 (Spurs). At this point, I just don't think I can pick against Lebron, until somebody actually beats him 4 times in 7 playoff games, which hasn't happened in the last 3 seasons.