Cardinals Post-Game Notes: April 16, 2009

Just a couple of quick impressions from the Cards' first contest of the year against the Chicago Nine.  

I have to admit, I'm starting to get more than a little bit concerned about Adam Wainwright. Yes, he did an amazing job of pitching out of trouble in the sixth inning, which is why even at reduced effectiveness, the man is still one of the top pitchers in the league. The problem is that he hasn't been all that sharp yet this season, and it's been pretty much the same story every time out. Too many first-pitch balls, not aggressive enough in the zone, trying to much for the margins, and just generally throwing too many pitches.

It seems as if Wainwright is throwing an awful lot of offspeed and breaking pitches early in the count. In the first inning alone, he threw first pitch breaking balls to Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, and Mike Fontenot, while he started Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, and Micah Hoffpauir off with fastballs. In fact, Lee got two sliders in a row, with the second one a bit of a hanger, and was predictably able to put a good swing on the ball.

Particularly when you're talking about the first time through a lineup, throwing first-pitch breaking stuff to half the hitters seems unusual. If Wainwright were a junkballer, a soft-tossing lefty or that sort of pitcher, it would be understandable. But while Adam doesn't throw in the upper 90s or anything, he has an above-average fastball, and needs to rely on it more. In fact, if anything, Wainwright's fastball looks to have the best combination of velocity and movement that I can recall it having since he was closing in 2006; he just seems to be trying to nibble with it, instead of challenging hitters.

The fact that Skip Schumaker is being used as a defensive replacement in the outfield late in games is maddening. Don't get me wrong, he's infinitely preferable to Chris Duncan out there, but Colby Rasmus is the best defensive outfielder the Cardinals have on the roster, and frankly, it isn't even close. It's bad enough that La Russa continues to run Rick Ankiel out there in center field, but when the guy with the best glove on the team can't even get into the game when a defensive sub is needed late in the game, something is seriously wrong with the way the personnel is being deployed.

The Cardinals obviously seemed to realize that Schumaker isn't one of the four best outfielders available for the job; otherwise, they wouldn't have tried to convert him over to second base. Yet somehow, Rasmus' superior glove, even though it was ostensibly a big part of the reason that the Cardinals decided to move Skip to second in the first place, still isn't enough to get him into games when he can have the biggest impact. Skip's bat makes him an asset at second base, if he can be anything even approaching passable, but in the outfield, he simply doesn't have the same kind of upside the other players on the roster offer.

I take back every bad thing I ever said about Kyle McClellan. As bad as he looked in spring training, and even going back to last year, the kid has been absolute nails since the season began. He's looked every bit the relief ace he served as for the Cardinals in the first half of 2008.

One thing that is notable, I think, is that McClellan has apparently gone back to his curveball as his breaking ball of choice, rather than the slider that he seemed to favor for most of the season last year. I know that he threw primarily a curve coming up through the system before his Tommy John surgery, but had gone to the slider afterward. I wonder what caused the change back?

Ryan Franklin's beard is still disgusting. It almost looks like he tried to trim it up a little bit, sort of make it halfway presentable, but only succeeded in making it angry. Seriously, that thing really needs to go. I don't care how well he pitched.
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