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Chasing Windmills

A quick promotional before the post, the St. Louis National Adult Baseball Association is having their All Star Charity game on Sunday, July 20th.  Numerous organizations, including the Cardinals, have made contributions toward the event that will benefit St. Louis Children's Hospital.  If you're looking for a relaxing night out with the family and you want to support a good cause at the same time, you should consider attending the game.

After the Mark Mulder implosion on Wednesday, I debated writing a scathing post about the handling of that situation.  Thankfully, I didn't have to post yesterday but the whole situation reeks of inept decisions by management for reasons that aren't, first and foremost, about winning games.  Mulder consistently struggled in the minors failing to put together two consecutive successful starts.  Regardless of that, he was granted the opportunity to start against a superb offensive team in a hitter's ballpark.  That simply doesn't make sense.  To add insult to injury, Mulder complains of an injury within 10 days of being activated from the DL when the medical teal pronounced him "healthy".  I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth and a great deal of disappointment in the judgment of the Cardinal's decision makers.  Mulder's rehab has been naught but a quixotic escapade since being resigned for 13M dollars.

Fresh on the heels of that farce comes the decision to call up Jaime Garcia.  As Larry noted yesterday, there are some valid reasons to think that Garcia isn't ready for the bigs.  Having watched the last 3 Garcia starts on video, I can't help but agree with those statistical conclusions.  The command doesn't appear to be there.  The curveball that he's been renowned for gets hung far too often.  The lack of an effective third pitch is worrisome as well.  In much the same way that Mitchell Boggs wasn't ready, Jaime Garcia isn't either.  Since June 3rd and 8th, Garcia hasn't managed to string together quality starts.  Why the sudden belief that he's going to be able to retire major leaguers on a regular basis?

That said, the team may feel like they're backed into a corner.  With Wainwright still weeks away there's really only two players that you could consider developmentally ready and the club seems to have abandoned hope for both of them.  Obviously, Anthony Reyes is not a part of this team's future.  I'm not going to argue that he's a good pitcher or that he's even an MLB quality pitcher but there's really nothing left to learn in the minors with him.  I think the same can be said for Mike Parisi who has been exceptional in his last two starts.  I'm not a Parisi backer in the long term b/c I think he's a fringe MLB starter but that's exactly what the team is looking for right now.  Instead of calling up Reyes or Parisi, or Mitchell Boggs who was already on the 40-man roster and had already seen big league action, they're calling up another rookie who just isn't ready yet.  If they really detest all three of those options, why not go snag a guy like Jack Cassel from the Astros for a minor league reliever or some such.  Stop setting up players to fail.  It's not good for them and it's not good for the team.

While numerous people have advocated acquiring another arm (and if they do, I vote for Burnett), I'm firmly in the camp that the team needs another bat.  Despite having the 3rd best OPS in the National League the Cardinals have scored just the 7th most runs -- middle of the pack -- and they've gotten the 3rd most at bats.  I'd love to throw down some research right here about consistent hitters but I don't have any, which makes my following claim specious in it's subjectivity.  It seems like the Cardinals consist of one great bat (Pujols), 3 streaky sluggers (Glaus, Ankiel, Ludwick), a bunch of complimentary and useful offensive players, and then some absolute offensive zeros (Izturis, Ryan, Kennedy).  It turns into a feast or famine situation when the sluggers stop slugging.

From June 11th, when Ryan Ludwick hit his 15th HR, till July 5th Ludwick went 21 games without a HR posting a .565 OPS in 72 ABs.  He'd been a tremendous offensive force for the Cardinals previously but he simply disappeared into a funk.  From April 30th to June 6th, Rick Ankiel watched his OPS plummet nearly 100 pts.  He hit just 5 HRs in 112 ABs compared to July when he's hit 4 HRs in 31 ABs.  Troy Glaus ended May after 189 ABs with a slugging percentage of .397 and a total of 3 HRs.  In the following 127 ABs, he's hit 10 HRs and raised his slugging 50 pts.  It's not that these players are without offensive value or even defensive value.  I just question the stability of an offensive whose core is prone to what seems like extended slumps.

There's a variety of ways to improve the club offensively.  When Colby Rasmus returns from his strained groin, I'd think that he's made enough noise in Memphis (June stats - .337/.442/.535 w/ good peripherals) to warrant a look in left field.  It's not that Schumaker hasn't been surprisingly good but the team needs a boost offensively and Rasmus has that kind of potential.  The popular target as of late seems to be Matt Holliday who has been discussed and dissected in several previous threads.  I'm not a fan of that option (given what I perceive to be the asking price and Holliday's on the road numbers) but I can understand the rationale behind it.  Barry Bonds remains available (presumably for very little) and could possibly become the Cardinals second best offensive player upon arrival.  (The defensive concerns are overblown, imo, with Ankiel in center and Skip available on the bench.  If we survived Chris in LF, we can survive Barry.) Of course, if all my wishes were being granted, the Cardinals could acquire Brian Roberts whose having a tremendous offensive year.

I don't watch those players enough to make a claim that they are or aren't streaky but an argument can be made that they all represent an upgrade offensively.  The Cardinals need a little push to get from middling offensive team to good offensive team.  The pitching can get that push from a healthy Wellemeyer and Wainwright. I don't see the possibility of that boost for the offense outside of, perhaps, Rasmus.  If the Cardinals do acquire another pitcher, I don't think anyone out there is enough to shore up the rotation w/o contributions from Wainwright and Wellemeyer.  If we get contributions from Wainwright and Wellemeyer, I'm not sure any pitcher out there is the right combination of a significant upgrade and not too costly in prospects.  I'm not sure that I want the Cardinals to acquire a player via trade but I am sure that I'd rather see another bat than an arm.  The chasm, be it big or small, between TLR's perception and the front office's perception of the needs and possibilities of fulling those short term needs leaves me with little sense of what direction is really going to be taken prior to the deadline.  The Cardinals will have to sally forth with their current roster and perhaps someone will come to help battle the giants.