Today I am participating in the United Cardinals Bloggers progressive game blog, an annual UCB event where a number of Cards Blogs each cover an inning of a single game.
For coverage of the second inning of today’s game, check out the awesomely-named Aerys Sports Cardinal site Aaron Miles’ Fastball . For a full list of bloggers participating in the UCB Progressive Game Blog, head over to the main United Cardinals Bloggers page.
After the third inning, the Milwaukee Brewers have a 1-0 lead. It could be a lot worse. Fortunately, we can thank Casey McGehee for giving Colby Rasmus the chance to get his first outfield assist of the season, allowing the Cardinals to escape the top of the inning with minimal damage.
It could have been a great inning for Lohse, who struggled with his pitch count through the first two. He retired Counsell and Braun quickly. Then Prince Fielder came up and spooked Lohse, probably by looking at the pitcher like he was an extra-large veggie burger. Lohse all but pitched around him, setting up McGehee’s RBI double.
Prince Fielder scored from first base, the ground shook as far west as Colombia, and Rasmus threw to the cutoff man instead of trying to nab fielder at home. This was a heads-up play, not only avoiding a potential fatal collision between Fielder and Molina, but catching McGehee off-guard.
If you believe in momentum, that was the sort of play that should have reversed it. Rasmus stopped a rally before it could get out of hand, and the Cardinals came to bat with the wind at their sails. Unfortunately, it was also time for the 7-8-9 spots in the lineup.
First up was Daniel Descalso, who earned some leniency with a well-timed HR on Tuesday to give the Cards the lead over the Marlins. Single game heroics aside, Descalso has been awful so far at the plate. He came into today’s game batting .221/.276/.368. After him was Tyler Greene, who has managed to be even worse at .206/.289/.324.
Nine pitches later, Kyle Lohse came up to the plate with two outs to complete an easy inning for Brewers starter Yovanni Gallardo. If Lohse reached base, next up would have been Nick Punto and his .222/.349/.306 line. That’s a nice IsoD. It’s remarkable that pitchers throw Punto anything but strikes. But it’s still abysmal.
Counting the pitcher, the Cardinals have four players in the lineup with an OPS under .660. Ryan Theriot is out today. At least at the moment, he would marginally improve the situation with his .682. .682 is also bad. And this success, which is only relative to the rest of the light-hitting infielders on the team, has come from a BAbip-fueled high batting average. Even when he comes back, the Cardinals are conceding almost half their at-bats to fringe hitters. Three out of nine starters are utility players who would be fine bench options or #8 hitters on a good team. Surrounding the pitcher, they create an oasis for opposing starters. Berkman and Holliday aren’t going to hit .400 forever, and when they regress it’s going to get ugly if they don’t have some backup from the rest of the lineup. Hell, even an off day from the heart of the lineup could turn into a no-hitter.
To make things worse, we’re not sacrificing offense for defense with these guys. As long as Theriot continues to start at SS, the infield defense will be shaky. And it doesn’t look like he’ll be moving any time soon. So the Cardinals aren’t getting anything out of the black hole at the bottom of the lineup… although I admit that Descalso is incredibly impressive at 3b considering the last time he spent significant time there was 2007 at low-A ball. It’s not good enough to make up for his hitting, and it’s not good enough to make up for the error machine that TLR installed at shortstop at the beginning of the season.
So, what’s the solution?
I want to see Matt Carpenter and his .429 OBP in AAA on the major league team. Bat him leadoff. No, I’m not kidding. He’s got a career .107 IsoD in the minors. He gets on base.
Move Theriot to 2b, and platoon him with Skip when he comes back. Theriot against lefties, Skip against righties. I don’t like Skip’s defense at 2b at all, but he’s got a .780 OPS against righthanders for his career. Theriot has a similar .782 against lefties. It’s not fantastic, but it’s a lot better than what we have.
I wouldn’t mind handing the position to Descalso, hoping he could work out the kinks and find the success he had in the minors. But TLR won’t give up on Skip or Theriot. Descalso should work on his hitting in AAA as a starter at 2b. If putting Carpenter at leadoff isn’t an option (and I know it isn’t) a Schumaker/Theriot platoon could probably get on base at a decent clip.
As for shortstop? Well, absent a trade I don’t think we have any great internal options. Punto can take a walk and he has decent defense. I’d let him have it for now but explore trade options. Tyler Greene? At 27 he hasn’t shown any indication he can be a major leaguer. He needs to go.
Carpenter-Rasmus-Pujols-Holliday-Berkman-Molina-Schumaker/Theriot-Punto. It’s not perfect, but it’s better. The Cards need to do something if they’re going to avoid ugly innings like the bottom of the third.
For the fourth inning, head on over to Fungoes.