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Let's Talk About 2009

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A couple quick notes on the game yesterday and the present condition of the Cardinals:

  1. Carpenter looked pretty lost on the mound yesterday.  His command was miserable with pitches missing well wide of the plate.  The velocity was there (Steve Sommers tweets the curveball was a little flat) but he struggled to locate his pitches.
  2. Tyler Greene was 2-for-3 with a triple.  Greene isn't without his warts -- he can be inconsistent on defense and he struggles to make contact -- but given the performances of Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan to date, this seems like an ideal time to get a look at Greene.  At 26, he is what he is but what he is may be something approaching an average player.
  3. Randy Winn was 0-for-5. The logic of starting him (TLR told the media he was 4-for-12 against Parra) was bad and while Winn isn't a bad player, this wasn't the optimal situation to start him.
  4. I'm wondering is Rasmus 100%. I can't find any other reason why you start Nick Stavinoha yesterday.  Rasmus struggled to stay in playing shape for the entirety of last year so it's not unreasonable to speculate on how he's feeling as we approach mid season.
  5. Joe Strauss made a salient point on twitter and I have to agree. The Cardinals have had some questionable DL management as of late seemingly to the detriment of the team. Freese's play in June was abysmal though it's hard to tell how much of that was linked to the injury. Ludwick was finally placed on the DL after working out on the treadmill. The problem I have is that these don't seem like isolated incidents but a pattern of how the Cardinals use the DL -- a day late and a dollar short.

Enough of that though.  I've got the Matt Holliday trade on my brain today -- really Clayton Mortensen in particular.  Jay Randolph Jr. made some remark about Holliday being more comfortable in the outfield -- it's only been a year, give Holliday a break!  Clayton Mortensen pitched yesterday for the Athletics. The conversation came up a couple weeks ago on Future Redbirds and, rather than dwell on the 5-12 drubbing, I thought I'd take a trip down memory lane.

The 2007 draft was not a favorite for me. Selecting Pete Kozma, a perfectly fine draftee, in the first round felt like a reach. The Cardinals followed that up with Clayton Mortensen, a easy sign as a senior out of college. I thought it was a terrible pick and didn't shy away from saying so. I was wrong.

I softened up on Mortensen pretty quickly.  The Cardinals rushed him to AAA in 2008 where he struggled with his command. The more I saw of Mortensen, however, the more I liked.  In June 2009, one month before the Holliday acquisition, I wrote that Mortensen was really the top pitching prospect in the system (with a Jaime Garcia caveat).  Featuring a strong groundball rate and an improved changeup, Mortensen had the makings of a nice mid rotation arm who would generate groundouts and not get pummeled by opposite handed hitters.

At the time of the Matt Holliday trade, I was driving to Springfield to see the S-Cards.  I recall arriving at the ballpark and getting a text from one Mr. Alex Fritz (UID 196), which was followed by a "Crap, I don't have internet access right now." The trade to move Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson for Matt Holliday had gone down at the most inconvenient of times for me personally.  Still, it was an interesting exchange of players with fans coming down vociferously on both sides.

If you want to walk down memory lane, read your timewarped comments: VEB Matt Holliday Thread 1, VEB 2, FR Thread 1, FR 2, FR 3

I wrote the third Future Redbirds thread at the hotel in Springfield in the wee hours of the night after the S-Cards game. This all took place shortly after the Chris Duncan trade (I can't believe it's only been a year since people who don't use their real name scooped Joe Strauss so badly) and I still think that month in 2009 was one of the most fascinating for the organization in recent history. With regards to Mortensen specifically, I made this comment:

I’m more perturbed by the loss of Mortensen than Wallace.  Wallace didn’t have a place in STL to me but Mortensen clearly does.  He’s the best long term pitching prospect in the system this side of a healthy Garcia.  With an improved changeup to fend off lefties and a natural sinking fastball, he had the makings of a nice middle of the rotation pitcher.  He doesn’t have the diversity of weapons of a Carpenter or Wainwright but there are similarities there for me and tutelage under those two (and Dave Duncan) seemed like a match made in heaven.

As the Cardinals rotation looks paper thin at the moment (Jeff Suppan, 2010 Cardinals starting pitcher), the team lacks a steady option from the young guns. Adam Ottavino has struggled with his command in the majors. PJ Walters stuff hasn't survived better hitters and Lance Lynn is having a rough season in AAA (5+ FIP).  Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Mortensen has been putting together another solid year denoted by ground balls and a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio. 

Yesterday Mortensen put together 6 solid innings for the Athletics against the Cleveland Indians. The defense betrayed Mort but he struck out 7 and walked 2 while allowing 6 hits for 4 runs (3 earned).  He did have more flyballs than groundballs (5 to 4) but he's shown a strong groundball rate this season at 54%.  While he still has a long way to go to shown that he can stay with the big boys long term, he seems like he's about ready to take that step.

The Cardinals assembled a solid staff to start 2010 with 2 legitimate aces, two mid-rotation veterans and one talented rookie. A the middle of the year they find themselves with two young aces, a very good but not quite excellent Chris Carpenter and two injured arms.  Brad Penny should bolster the rotation in the near future but whether that last spot goes to Jeff Suppan or Blake Hawksworth remains to be seen. I'd sure like to have Clayton Mortensen available in the minors right now.

I still like that trade though. I think the Cardinals with Matt Holliday are a more complete offensive team in spite of their recent struggles. Brett Wallace has managed just a .869 OPS in a hitters paradise. (Seriously, Las Vegas is an awesome hitters park. That OPS is nothing special there.) Meanwhile, Shane Peterson is mired in a .635 OPS for the AA club in the Texas League.  The turmoil in the Cardinals rotation hasn't phased them much (their 5th in FIP and xFIP) but with all the banter of Dan Haren and Cliff Lee in the news recently, I'd feel much better about the safety of my Shelby Miller fabrege egg if we still had Clayton Mortensen in the system.

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Thanks for indulging my off topic retrospective post for the day. Cardinals play Milwaukee at 1:15pm.  Have a happy and carefree 4th of July!