As requested by Cards fan in Chi Town, I am going to go through the TESS game that I watched tonight and point out where a general lack of aggressiveness is killing what could be a potent cardinal offense.
Top of the 3rd: Lopez leading off takes a curve right down central. While this is frustrating because Correia had shown he would throw a first pitch breaking ball earlier in the game, it is the 90 mph fastball in the middle of the plate on pitch two that frustrates me. I played Division 3 ball, and pitches located there usually are crushed. Watching the at bat, it seemed Lopez was surprised by a fastball. Next batter, John Jay, takes fastballs 0-0 and 2-1 that have a ton of plate. These are hitters counts, which should be approached with a mentality of looking for a pitch to drive. I saw none of that in this inning.
Top of the 4th: Holliday strikes out, but at least takes a hack on a 2-0 and 2-1 fastball. I am more concerned with Holliday chasing pitches down in the zone. With his high leg kick it is very difficult to hit pitches down, and coupled with his long(ish) swing, he tends to get beat. On a high note, I often watch Holliday buckle his front knee and rope breaking pitches down into the outfield. So win some lose some I guess.
Top of the 5th: My biggest pet peeve in baseball (other than leadoff walks, hitting guys with 0-2 counts, and failing to score runners from 3rd with less than 2 outs) is when hitters strike out with men on after being ahead 3-0. I understand Holliday is taking 3-0, but he decided not to swing at the 3-1 pitch before Correia even let it go. You could tell by his body language and sharp words for the umpire he was looking to walk. We do not trade away Brett Wallace and pay exorbitant amounts of money for Matt Holliday to walk with the bases loaded.
Top of the 6th: Yadi takes a 1-0 fastball slightly above his belt and then a 1-1 slider in the middle of the plate. While I have applauded his approach to consistently look to hit the ball up the middle and to the opposite field, I really would love to see him turn on an inside pitch. In doing so, or at least sending Oquendo to the deck with a foul ball, lets pitchers know that they cannot simply bust him inside where he cannot extend his arms to shoot the ball the other way. Corriea was tiring and I felt like we had no chance to take advantage.
Top of the 7th: Ludwick K's on three pitches that were all relatively in or around the strike zone, taking two in a row to fall way behind. John Jay is to be commended for attacking pitches in the strike irregardless of his outcome.
Top of the 8th: Ahhh the quintessential at bat that defines Albert's struggles this season. Teams know Albert is struggling, he has not had many XBH in a while and they are consistently pitching him away. With Holliday underperforming, there is absolutely no reason for them not to nibble at the outside corner, away from his incredibly quick hands, and potential power zone. Teams are confident right now that they can bust Albert away, and if he walks or singles, they can deal with Holliday or Rasmus. Consequently, Albert begins expanding his zone, to pitches that not even he can do much with. First pitch: slider off the plate and a terrible swing from Albert. Second pitch: fresh off an ugly swing, Albert takes a fastball on the outer third, slightly above his knees, a pitch that I have seen him crush into the right center gap and over the wall dozens of times. Strike two. Third pitch: another mechanically terrible swing and Pujols is gone on strikes. Inconsistencies with tonight's home plate umpire aside, Albert must understand he cannot right the ship until he stops expanding his zone away from his body.
Just when I think Holliday is a lost cause, he shifts right back into aggressive mode, taking huge cuts at pitches all around the zone. I guess he was pissed off about taking a 3-1 pitch with the bases loaded....
Top of the 9th: Colby must absolutely start looking to drive pitches to the opposite field. He has completely shut down on pitches on the outer half and is looking to pull everything. I realize that in most cases we would ask a batter to take a strike in this situation, but if Colby is to become the impact player we need, he has to feel comfortable putting a good swing on a pitch in this situation. Because of his desire to pull, his front shoulder is bailing, and he is swinging through pitches that we know he can crush. The first pitch fastball he takes in this at bat was easily the best pitch he was going to see. I would love to see him look for pitches away and just react to those inside. Kudos to Skip for putting a good swing on a pitch in the middle of the plate, after taking a strike like he should have. Also kudos to Ludwick for recognizing the spot he was in, and swinging at pitches that gave him a chance for a hit.
Top of the 10th: Freese gets ahead in the count 2-0 and stares down 2 fastballs with more than enough plate. Low and behold the count is now 2-2, and Webb snaps off a dirty slider to put Freese and the Cardinals away in a pathetic inning. Once again an unwillingness to attack the strike zone hampers the heart of the Cardinal order.
Top of the 11th: As if Colby is reading my mind like Holliday, he takes a large hack at the first pitch, an outside fastball. He then proceeds to punch a tough pitch into center field. For the sake of children and others with high blood pressure, I am not even going to voice my displeasure concerning the absolute embarrassment on the bases later in this inning. Oquendo or whomever decided to send Rasmus should be swiftly executed. (kidding of course, because who would manage the Redbirds after La Russa leaves?)
12th: Lopez swings at a good pitch, Mather looks like he belongs in Springfield, and Pujols tags a pitch that gets caught. I hope to see more of this from Albert in the near future.
13th: Freese expands his zone and looks foolish, but at least he is aggressive. Colby just missing pitches because he is seeing half the field right now.
Overall, these are just a few of the snapshots I have been observing and lamenting over the past few weeks. These may be very detailed and very nit picky, but I have been observing an overall inability to hit the right pitches in the right counts from this team. With our rotation in tatters, I pray that WW, Carp, and Garcia can throw up as many zeros as possible until Penny returns and/or Albert begins driving in runs again. This boiled to a breaking point for me because I would have punched someone right in the face if they told me Jerry Fucking Hairston Jr. would be responsible for two Padre victories on solo home runs. It is still very early and McGwire has time to fix things yet. I welcome any comments, suggestions and viewpoints on this matter and appreciate you taking the time to read it. Hopefully I will be able to post a little more regularly.