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Game 99 Open Thread: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs

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In the last two weeks, I've written about Felipe Lopez and Matt Holliday: two players who seem to be a bit under-appreciated for what they've provided the Cardinals this season. I've got another player in mind today who is having a really great year but we don't talk about all that often. Would you care for some applesauce?

In 2009, Jason Motte got bit by the homerun bug. Not only did he allow an unusually high number of HRs (13.7% HR/FB) but, from a fan's psychology, they seemed like critical homeruns too. Motte wasn't terrible last year but he continued to fiddle with his secondary pitches throwing his fastball 75% of the time. He'd mix in a messy second pitch that was sometimes classified as a slider, sometimes as a cutter. I strongly believe that those pitches are the same and it was really a command issue.

2010 has been kinder to Motte and he's shown some growth as well. He's gotten the fastball rate up into the 80s again. For me, the higher the fastball%, the better. His second pitch is the cutter/slider though now all grouped as just a cut fastball in 2010. In any event, he seems to have finally found some command of that pitch but it's still simply a show-me pitch. If you look at the linear weight pitch values, his fastball is about 9 runs better than average and his other pitches are below average. Things that don't surprise me.

Motte's control has improved with his command as he's walking fewer batters. His swinging strikeout rate is up along with hi strikeouts. Luck has evened out for Motte a bit as well as his HR rate has returned to the ~10% level that it rests at for most pitchers. (Aside: He's stranding 90% of runners, which isn't likely to continue, but I'm curious what the correlation is between strikeouts and stranding runners. Generally speaking, better pitchers strand more runners and better pitchers get more strikeouts. I wonder how strong that connection is compared to someone who is a low strikeout high groundball type instead. I digress.)

I'm more than willing to criticize Tony La Russa when it's due but he also deserves some praise in this instance. He's recognized that Motte is having an outstanding year and has continued to place him in high leverage situations. Outside of "closer" Ryan Franklin, Motte has been the most leveraged reliever in the pen. Besides, arguably, Mitchell Boggs, Motte has actually been the best choice outside of Ryan Franklin. Tony's bullpen management, while often frustrating in the daily nuances seems very good in the macro sense. Jason Motte has been a heck of a weapon out of the pen and might be, dare I say it, the closer of the future?

* * *

I followed the game yesterday while at work and had little interest in watching it on replay. Unfortunately both the restaurant we were at last night and the bar we went to afterward had the FSN replay on. I was with a Cubs fan; I did not care for what ensued.

I've reached my tolerance level for Blake Hawksworth, starter. I understand that he's been something of the best of a bunch of bad choices. I've equally little interest in seeing Jeff Suppan start and PJ Walters has never struck me as a viable option outside of PETCO. Still, the lack of depth in the starting rotation seems as if it will be our undoing. The Cardinals seem to be trying to address this and I won't engage in more of the Roy Oswalt discussion beyond saying I don't much understand it. I'd settle for something a little less fancy that isn't Jeff Suppan.

(Aside: Danup's pet prospect Gary Daley was released this week. Blake Hawksworth is also a Danup special. Danup attaches himself to players that just aren't very good. Anyone who mentions my attachment to Bryan Anderson or Daryl Jones will be banned summarily.)

I do have to say, the one enjoyable part of yesterday's game was the Ryan Theriot blooper reel. Missed catches, balls through his legs, popups lost in the sun . . . it was like watching a drunk beer league second baseman. I got many a good laugh out of it.

It would be nice if the Cardinals could scrape together a win against the Cubs though. The Cubs have done all they can to give away some of the games. The Cardinals just need to seize the opportunity. Perhaps they will tonight with Chris Carpenter on the mound.

* * *

A little non-baseball as well. I'll admit that I planned on writing this post in the afternoon. While I usually write non-time critical pieces (i.e. not a recap of the previous game) I could, conceivably write days in advance. For some reason, my writing generally suffers when I try to do that. The creative process feels stunted and I wind up forcing the words rather than simply speaking via the post. Since I post on Sundays, this means that I'm often penning the piece on Saturday, which happens to be the night my cadre of friends likes to get together. I had planned to write midday before being called into work this morning.

So with that said, I want to heartily recommend the International Tap House (iTap, if you're in the know) that recently opened in Soulard. They've got over 500 different kinds of franklins from countries all around the world. I had a beer from New Zealand, France and numerous other places in the US. While the seating is somewhat limited, the bar is huge and the crowd was a little more sophisticated. Without the typical drunk beers on tap (no AB or Miller products to be found), the crowd is there to talk and taste rather than yell and stumble. If you're a beer snob or simply a curious taster, iTap is fantastic. Check it out. Some verdicts:

  • Mothership's Wit - Very Good - Clovy, wheat beer
  • Lefthand Haystack Wheat - Terrible - Skunky wheat beer; brewed in Colorado but tastes like a bad Mexican beer
  • Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat - Good - The blueberry is pretty strong so if you like that flavor, it goes well with this wheat beer; if you don't like blueberry or sweet beers, don't get this
  • Epic Lager - Good - A New Zealand beer; I don't drink much heavier than lagers -- if I can't see through it, I'm not drinking it -- and this one was quite good but not as thick as some of the European lagers
  • O'Fallon Wheat - Average - Nothing special about this Wheat beer, if you can't guess, I love wheat beers
  • Strongbow - Good - A English cider that tastes like apple juice; very sweet, I made it about halfway through and was turned off by the amount of sweetness but it was good for the first half

I probably tried about 4 or 5 others from friends that I can't recall. I wanted to try the beer listed from Kenya, "Tusker", but when I asked for it, they were out. I'm uncertain if this was a socio-economic joke about Africa or not. The bartender looked at me funny when I laughed, so presumably they were actually out. Again, iTap in Soulard -- try it.