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all's wells . . .

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let's get the important news out of the way first: it don't look so good for carpenter's elbow. as one poster put it in a recent thread, the elbow doesn't swell up for no reason. ever hopeful, the organization is now latching on to the fact that the swelling is behind the elbow, rather than directly on the joint, as some sort of positive sign. more encouraging is the fact that carpenter has yet to report pain while throwing; he reportedly threw with full velocity in his saturday side session and had decent command of his pitches, something that wouldn't be possible if the ligament had torn.

whatever's ailing him, it's more serious than a mere blip. but it's not necessarily --- not based on current information, anyway --- the end of his, and the cardinals', season. might be that he misses a month or two; could the cardinals survive that? in this division, maybe so.

assuming carpenter will be out for at least two more starts, who takes his place in the rotation? it has been suggested that blake hawksworth might get the call; he threw 5 shutout innings vs the cardinals in the march 30 exhibition at memphis; couple that with his 6 spring training innings in the major-league camp (2 runs allowed) and he had a spring era of 1.64 vs big-league competition --- but he only struck out 2 players, which suggests he might have a bit left to learn. although he is 24 years old, hawksworth has only thrown 80 innings above class A, and zero above double A (not counting spring training); his numbers were good but not dominating last season. seems premature to throw him in there against a major-league lineup.

if not him, then who? options:

  • narveson, keisler, or ginter: all have a smattering of big-league experience; all might manage to beat replacement-level performance (ie, post an era of about 5.00), but i don't think any is likely to do significantly better than that. ginter did hang in there three seasons ago for 14 starts for the mets and posted a 4.64 era. however, of these three guys, only keisler would be available to fill carp's vacant slot on tuesday; ginter pitched yesterday at memphis and wouldn't be available until friday, and narveson pitched on saturday and wouldn't be available until thursday.
  • franklin or thompson: franklin, the most logical choice, appears to be the only player la russa trusts to protect a lead in the 8th inning; he's the main setup man, hence out of the running. that leaves thompson, who's off to a slow start but still probably is a better option (certainly no worse) than narveson, keisler, or ginter. there's plenty of bullpen depth at triple A to cover thompson's defection, should he move to the rotation --- falkenborg and jimenez both have 2+ years of triple A experience (the former also has 30+ innings in the big leagues), and either can probably take over a middle-relief job without much (if any) of a step down. unless tony/dave are still holding out hope that thompson can pitch himself into the setup role --- a dubious proposition, imho --- he's the guy i'd go to first.
it's a bit ironic that carpenter has the worst performance by a cardinal starter this year; four of the other five outings were "quality starts" by the official definition, and two of those (by wainwright and wells this weekend) were extremely strong. i charted wells' yesterday (he's my designated guy for the pitch-by-pitch project) and came away impressed, but not necessarily blown away. the nice thing about wells is that his stuff is so good he can get away with mistakes; the bad thing is that he makes a lot of mistakes. all game long he was missing molina's target, at times by a mile --- yadi would set up inside, and the pitch would be a foot off the outside edge; he'd be low in his crouch and tapping the ground with his glove, and the pitch would sail in nipple-high. although he got better as the game progressed, he was still missing plenty of targets even in the 6th and 7th innings. the astros were never able to punish him for those miscues; on the contrary, his errantness seemed to keep the astros off balance, keep them guessing. i think it worked in his favor. 3 of his 7 strikeouts came on pitches outside the zone, including two that should have been ball 4. it remains to be seen whether wells' stuff is so nasty that he can consistently get away with that type of imprecision; it's possible he's that good, and let's all hope so.

he got off to a very shaky start ---- 19 balls in 36 pitches over the first two innings --- but settled right in after the cards went up 3-0, hitting the strike zone for 38 of his final 54 pitches. put another way, he threw more balls in the first 2 innings than he did in the last 5 innings combined. his fastball was consistently 93-94 mph with movement; the astros' best strategy against it was to take, as he missed the strike zone with it nearly half the time (43 percent). wells threw 28 fastballs for strikes, and the astros only put 6 of those pitches into play --- only 1 of which left the infield, ausmus' bloop hit in the 2d inning.

but his best pitch yesterday was the slider, which was strike three on 4 of wells' 7 ks; the astros chased it out of the zone half a dozen times. it comes in hard, 84 to 87 mph, and breaks sharp and late; must be very difficult to square up. the astros swung at that pitch 14 times and only put it into play 4 times, all for outs; their swings were more likely to result in a miss (5 times) than a ball in play (4).

can't end the post without a nod to Hardcore, who predicted albert's big day yesterday morning. for his career, pujols is now 10 for 19 on easter with 5 hr, 10 rbi.