Saturday, July 31, 2010

I want to have my cake and eat it, too...

This season's trade deadline made me realize the error of my ways. I have become attached. To the whole team. I realized this fact a while back, but did not take my own advice and still let my emotions get in the way. Every player has a special place in my heart for some reason. Especially if they wear the birds on the bat for more than a season. Sometimes it doesn't even take a full season to win me over, though.

When Ryan Ludwick broke through in 2008, I was hooked immediately. Admittedly, I had never heard of Ludwick before that season. But after he took his first John Daly-style "grip it and rip it" swing, I knew I would love him. Maybe it was the intrigue that he threw left handed but batted right handed. Maybe it was that, not totally unlike Edmonds, he did not have great speed but always seemed to make a play no one thought he could make. Or maybe it was just because he played the game the way it is meant to be played- giving every ounce of effort in your body on every single play. Whatever the reason(s) behind my affection, I grew extremely fond of Luddy during his Cardinal career. And I know that I'm not the only one.

It has been well documented in the past 24+ hours that the players in the clubhouse were, somewhat, surprised and, totally, saddened by Luddy's departure from the team. The thing that is not shocking, however, is that the club made a move to get an above average starter to help fill the void left by Lohse and Penny. It is also not a shock to anyone that the player that had to be parted with happened to be a major league outfielder- a place where the team is exceptionally deep. It is just unfortunate that the player had to be who it was. And, as much as we all hate to admit it, it made pretty good sense to make this move right now. Ludwick is a free agent in a few months and with all of the other soon-to-be expiring contracts of the core group (Carp, Waino, and that first baseman), there won't be much money to throw around. It also helps that John Jay (whose name is my name, too. Whenever he goes out, the people always shout "there goes john jay..." Na na na na na na na....) has been absolutely unstoppable since he made his second trip back up to play with the big boys. It does take a right handed bat out of the lineup but Jay is not a typical lefty in that aspect. In his 22 at-bats against left handed pitching, he is hitting .455 and slugging .545. Granted, that is not a huge sampling, but it shows that lefties don't scare him. But it does remain to be seen how well he will hold up down the stretch and (keep your fingers crossed) into the playoffs.

And from Ludwick's point of view, if you're going to be traded, it surely eases the pain for it to happen at the time it did. Hours before being traded, he touched home plate as the game winning run in the city that grew to love him and in the stadium where he was cheered on so many occasions. It was almost like coming full circle for him. In his first season in St. Louis, he lit the world on fire and made his first (hopefully not last) All Star team. And, in his last game as a Cardinal, he came in and hit a pinch hit double, eventually scored the winning run, and made a city smile one last time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ras-sle Dazzle

Colby Rasmus received more hype than any other Cardinal prospect that I can remember. Ankiel had a lot. Bud Smith even had a lot, in his own right. But the hype that surrounded Rasmus seemed to be at a different level altogether. In particular, because he was compared to Edmonds. He was expected, by us optimistic Cardinal fans, to be the runaway Rookie of the Year last year. He was expected to come in and immediately replace everything the aging Jim Edmonds was in his prime.

That didn't quite happen. Circumstances did not line up in his favor to allow that to happen. He had a couple of lingering injuries that hampered him for much of last season. He had no idea how to handle a day game, let alone a day game following a night game which indicates that he was ill prepared for the big stage. He was not used to having to watch what he ate- he was 22, duh!! What 22 year old knows how to perfectly manage their diet? And there was also that minor detail about getting his, then, girlfriend pregnant mid way through last season. That could have the tendency to distract even the greatest of talents. He has since decided that he "liked her" and "put a ring on it" and manned up to the situation. Not everyone would have. Needless to say, life apparently hit Colby Rasmus in the face pretty hard last year.

But in the 85 games in which Rasmus has appeared this year, he is approaching, has equalled, or has surpassed all of his offensive numbers from last season (147 games). He has 18 doubles this year, compared to 22 all last year. He has 2 triples and 16 home runs this year- both equalling his totals from a season ago. His 42 RBIs this season are 10 short of his '09 total. His 77 hits and 53 runs are still a shade away from his 119/72 respective totals from last year, but he should easily surpass those totals by season's end. Thirty six of his 77 hits this year have been for extra bases, however, compared to only 40 such hits last season. He has tripled his steals total from a year ago (from 3 to 9) already which either means he's becoming a smarter base runner or he's gotten a lot faster. I'm ok with either. And, my favorite stat of all, he has already earned more free passes-only 5 intentionally- this year than he did all last year. He has 37 already compared to 36 last year. That one has been talked about the most by our buddies Mike "High Skies" Shannon and Al "What Game am I Watching" Hraboski (however you spell that) but it garners the most attention, too. His eye and plate presence have improved exponentially from his rookie campaign (which makes is odd that he almost has as many Ks, too but I guess you can't change a free swinger over night). He is seeing almost half a pitch more per plate appearance than last year. Oh, and his average is up 29 points.

His defense is still somewhat of a work in progress. According to a recent ESPN article, Rasmus has had more throws to the wrong base, allowing more runners to advance than any other player this year. I am pretty sure that it's one of those stats that only one guy has figured up and is nullified quickly by the "rather make a mistake by being aggressive" argument, but it does still bear mentioning. That is also one of those things that comes with experience. He's still a confident kid (he's only 23) with less than a year and a half of big league experience. Once he realizes he isn't playing in Memphis where most guys are bad base runners and that pretty much everyone but the other 2 Molinas are fast enough to get that extra base at this level, he'll be fine.

This post is strangely timed, considering he has been a little quieter the past couple weeks, but he was on a massive tear early on and it needed to be discussed.