This feels like one heck of a second tier sports weekend. With baseball wrapping up to head into the Futures Game tomorrow and then the All Star Game on Tutesday, there was a lot going on around it. Last night was a big night in Mixed Martial Arts with a much anticipated rematch between, arguably, the best pound-for-pound fighter Anderson Silva and the man who was one round away from defeating him two years ago. It was the most vulnerable he's ever looked.
They started in what looked like a continuation of their last match. It ended much different.
This morning will see history in tennis as Roger Federer matches up against Britain's Andy Murray. Federer will look to match the total number of Wimbledon titles held by Pete Sampras (the all tie leader) at 7. Andy Murray will try to end Britain's drought in the men's single titles that dates back to 1936. Roger Federer is the aging (in tennis terms) star with another chance to recapture glory. Murray is the excellent but distinctly second tier player behind the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Federer. It should be incredible.
This is, of course, a day after Serena Williams won her 14th singles title. I'm not alone in wondering how far both she and sister Venus could have gone if they had maintained, what seemed to falter at times, a better focus on tennis. Nevertheless Serena, at age 30, has shown that she's still got a power game and becomes the first player since Martina Navratilova to win the Wimbledon's title over the age of 30.
All in all, a hell of a weekend. A collection of baseball thoughts reside after the jump.
- I don't really know who the heck Matt Carpenter is. In the minors, he had off the charts plate discipline with a career walk rate over 14% . Since coming to the majors, that has dropped to just under 10%. What makes it even more complicated is that he's also shown a significant increase in power output. Clearly his swing has changed -- and anyone who saw him in the minors and watches him now can see it -- but it's a fairly radical transformation in results. It's turned him from a rather unique interesting prospect into a more routine third baseman's profile. I'll never stop wondering if he would have been more successful as a walking machine in the majors.
- We've fretted about the bullpen and the starting pitchers a good bit and rightly so given their penchant for ineffectiveness and injury respectively. They rank 6th in the MLB in FIP, however. Meanwhile, the Cardinals offense ranks second in wRC+ (a park and league adjusted measure of wOBA). Can someone remind me why we're only 5 games over .500?
- Can you also explain to me why the Pirates are still ahead of us? That is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the game to me right now.
- How different would the regular season be if the playoff teams consisted of each division winner based on W-L record and the wild cards were the top two teams in each league in terms of WAR?
- It's nice to see Colby Rasmus succeeding in Toronto. He's still not the player I thought he'd wind up to be but as someone who was very much a fan of him as a player, there's a nostalgic, warm fuzzy feeling to seeing him find success under his new circumstances.
- Meanwhile, there's continued schadenfreude that Albert Pujols is headed into the All Star break with less than 1.5 fWAR. He's been hitting better of late and I have no idea exactly what caused his massive slump but he dug a hole that was irreparable in 2012. That contract is being masked by the success of young players like Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo but the Angels could very well be in first place if 2012 Albert Pujols was more like the Albert Pujols of the last decade.
- The Cardinals lead the league in BABIP.
- Tyler Greene's grace period at second to start the season seemed especially short for someone who was nominally the starting second baseman. Whatever opportunity he had is almost certainly gone now as Mike Matheny starts to place guys like Matt Carpenter at second base over Tyler Greene. I find the tone of Matheny's comments honest and refreshing in this Joe Strauss article. It's interesting to not read the same Kremlin-style subtones that characterized many a Tony La Russa statement. For that alone, I'm willing to forgive the next first inning bunt. Maybe.
- It seems like Tyler Greene's spot on the roster s almost completely superfluous at this point. If the Cardinals believe that Daniel Descalso can handle shortstop for any length of time (or if Ryan Jackson can), why keep Tyler Greene around? Perhaps the one thing that Tyler Greene is best at, baserunning, seems to be stifled when he doesn't steal late in the Cardinals recent 1 run loss.
- If the Cardinals are going to make a midseason upgrade, second base would be a prime target. Too bad there doesn't appear to be squat on the market for second baseman. Kolten Wong cannot arrive soon enough.
- Kolten Wong will kind of arrive tomorrow when he and Oscar Taveras participate in the MLB Futures Game. If you want to keep an eye on another player besides ours, I suggest shortstop Jurickson Profar who has a good bat to go with excellent shortstop defense. Profar is in AA now meaning that the Rangers could have an interesting and difficult decision to make regarding Elvis Andrus in a year or so.