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Mets Geek » Upcoming Series: St. Louis Cardinals Pitchers

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June 30, 2008
  
Upcoming Series: St. Louis Cardinals Pitchers
by: Alex Nelson on Jun 30, 2008 1:00 AM | Filed under: Articles

Now that the Subway Series is over for another season, New York baseball can turn its attention back to more important things. In the Mets’ (40-41) case, it’s the St. Louis Cardinals (46-36), who have been one of baseball’s biggest surprises in 2008. At a cursory glance, the Cardinals appear to be more or less for real, with the National League’s sixth-best offense and its sixth-best pitching staff, at least by runs scored and allowed. The offense has been a bit of a head-scratcher; Albert Pujols is doing his usual (.353/.481/.625), but the team has also found unlikely production from guys like Ryan Ludwick (.286/.361/.579), Skip Schumaker (.303/.366/.443), Aaron Miles (.315/.352/.370), Rick Ankiel (.255/.329/.506), and Yadier Molina (.295/.350/.385). The starting rotation has had just as many surprises, as the highest ERA among its regular five members belongs to Joel Pineiro, at just 4.33.

This week, the Mets will throw John Maine (8-5, 3.73), presumably Tony Armas (0-0, —), Mike Pelfrey (5-6, 4.47), and Pedro Martinez to face the Cards’ quartet of Kyle Lohse (9-2, 3.94), Todd Wellemeyer (7-2, 3.46), Pineiro (2-3, 4.33), and Mitch Boggs (3-0, 4.37).

Game 1: Kyle Lohse, RHP

What’s the Story? Many teams, including the Mets, had the opportunity to sign Lohse over the winter, but everyone just turned their back on what was originally a steep asking price. Finally, in the middle of spring training, Lohse made himself available to a cheap, one-year deal, which has paid dividends for the Cardinals. In the end, it’ll pay dividends for Lohse also, who should find the money he wanted last offseason, provided he doesn’t implode the rest of the way. And that’s a possibility, since he is well-known as one of baseball’s more inconsistent pitchers. Lohse throws a low-90s fastball, a good slider, an above average curve, and an average changeup.

Last Year: Lohse made three starts against the Mets last season: one with the Reds and two after he was traded to the Phillies. He didn’t pitch particularly well for either team. His best start was his last when he allowed three runs on seven hits and four walks over five innings. Overall, he went 0-1 with a 7.42 ERA over 13.1 innings.

What to Expect: Lohse’s control has been outstanding, as he’s walking just 2.2 batters per nine innings. He’s also done a fantastic job of keeping the ball in the park, though both improvements have come at a detriment to his strikeout rate which is now pretty pitiful. Still, he’s thrived in St. Louis’s more spacious grounds, and he’s improved his ground ball rate, thanks to better location with his two-seam fastball and a willingness to throw more sliders to right-handed hitters. In fact, he pitches almost exclusively fastball-slider to righties these days, while going fastball-change-curve to lefties, who have had more success against him in 2008.

Game 2: Todd Wellemeyer, RHP

What’s the Story? Of all the surprises on this Cardinals team, Wellemeyer is one of the biggest. He was at one point a pretty good prospect in the Cubs organization, featuring a live fastball and some outstanding minor-league strikeout rates. Control and homeruns, however, have been a concern throughout his career, and, as a result, he’s never managed to latch on wherever he’s pitched, either in the rotation or in the bullpen. This year, at the age of 29, he’s refined his command enough to finally stick. Wellemeyer has a fastball that can touch 95 with great movement, a plus slider, and a good changeup.

Last Year: Wellemeyer made one start against the Mets last season and pitched very effectively. He went six innings and allowed just one run on three hits and three walks while striking out five.

What to Expect: Wellemeyer might actually be the Cardinals’ best pitcher if his command can hold up. He has three plus pitches, he’s equally effective against both righties and lefties, and he’s one of the few pitchers on the staff who can get even an average number of strikeouts. As I said, he’ll need to continue to spot the fastball well, which can hurt him in two ways. Sometimes it moves so much he can have trouble throwing it for strikes, but when he elevates the pitch, it flattens out and can be driven over the wall. Wellemeyer experienced some elbow discomfort earlier this month, and he was kept on a short leash (76 pitches) the last time out, his first start back, but he did look pretty sharp.

Game 3: Joel Pineiro, RHP

What’s the Story? The Cardinals acquired Pineiro from the Red Sox at the trade deadline last season after he had crashed and burned in the Red Sox bullpen. The Red Sox had originally planned on making him their closer, forgetting that he just wasn’t very good. Since coming over to the National League, however, he’s been a solid addition to the Cardinals, posting a 3.97 ERA last season and performing just a tick below average this year. He doesn’t strikeout very many hitters, but he does have great control, walking just 16 batters in 70.2 innings this year. He throws a fastball that mostly hovers around 90, a good slider, and an average change and curveball.

Last Year: Pineiro made one start against the Mets, a late-season game that had to be made up from an earlier rainout. He dominated the Mets in a game they had to win, throwing eight shutout innings on three hits and a walk while striking out six.

What to Expect: Pineiro no longer has great velocity, so he gets by more on location and trying to induce weak contact. He does have great control, as I’ve mentioned, and he gets an average number of groundballs, but he does have a tendency to nibble, and while it doesn’t result in too many walks, it does force him to throw more 88-mile-per-hour fastballs right down the middle of the plate than he’d like. It makes him pretty hittable at times and has given him intermittent problems with homeruns over the course of his career. While lefties have traditionally had less success against them, they’re hitting him harder this season, which makes sense given his lack of a great offspeed pitch other than the slider.

Game 4: Mitchell Boggs, RHP

What’s the Story? The 24-year-old Boggs, drafted out of the University of Georgia by the Cardinals in the fifth-round of the 2005 draft, was named the Cardinals’ eighth-best prospect by Baseball America after last season. Boggs is a durable pitcher who throws a low-90s sinking fastball, a plus slider, and a changeup that could still use some work. In order to be successful at the big-league level, he’ll need to throw strikes and use that sinker to induce some easy groundball outs. Thus far, he’s done okay, but both his groundball rate and walk rate could stand some improvements.

Last Year: Boggs has never pitched against the Mets.

What to Expect: As I mentioned, Boggs is a sinker-slider pitcher, so he’ll be pretty predictable. He’ll throw a lot of fastballs on all counts, though if he gets ahead with two strikes, he’ll throw the breaking pitch to righties and the change to lefties. Lacking a quality offspeed pitch against lefties, they’ve knocked him around to the tune of .261/.370/.543. His control thus far has been pretty shaky, so I’d load the lineup with lefties and hope for a patient approach from my hitters, as haphazard contact will work to the Mets’ detriment.

Overall: I’m picking a split for the second series in a row. I have an inkling that Maine will out-pitch Lohse, and, since the Collapse is over, Pineiro won’t throw eight shutout innings against the Mets again. I do think the Cardinals will beat Tony Armas—who I think will pitch well in a losing effort—and I’m frightened of Mitch Boggs, who is, after all, a pitcher the Mets haven’t seen before. None of these pitchers are particularly fearsome, and the Mets could take three out of four, but I feel safer with a split.


12 Responses to “Upcoming Series: St. Louis Cardinals Pitchers”

  1. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on June 30, 2008 at 1:25 am (#745196)

    My faith in Tony Armas could scantly fill a thimble.

    Yeah, split probably.

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  3. Comment posted by Tired off his ass in St.L on June 30, 2008 at 1:47 am (#745197)

    Your best bet is to go into the 8th or 9th down by a run or 2. We have 16 blown saves this year. Most in the NL.
    This should be fun…..Good luck and hopefully nobody gets hurt.

  4. Comment posted by Tim in LA on June 30, 2008 at 3:17 am (#745205)

    When are you going to turn this into a column for the Post?

  5. Comment posted by Eli on June 30, 2008 at 4:04 am (#745206)

    My faith in Pedro (for the next game) could scantly fill a thimble also. But he’ll eventually figure it out and pitch well within the next few weeks.

    Is either, bother or neither “Tired….ST.L” and/or tim in LA last years “Tim in STL”?

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  7. Comment posted by 86Forever on June 30, 2008 at 8:51 am (#745225)

    From the department of “get an inch, take a mile,” I’d love to see these pieces expand into a look at the upcoming bullpens as well.

    Great job, as always.

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  9. Comment posted by TLC on June 30, 2008 at 10:37 am (#745325)

    and I’m frightened of Mitch Boggs, who is, after all, a pitcher the Mets haven’t seen before.

    I wouldn’t be frightened by anyone from Dalton

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  11. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on June 30, 2008 at 1:44 pm (#745633)

    From the department of “get an inch, take a mile,” I’d love to see these pieces expand into a look at the upcoming bullpens as well.

    It’s not happening. Even if I reduced the comments for relievers to just “What’s the Story” and only looked at the top four or five guys, I’d at least be doubling the amount of research I would have to do. And scouting reports on relievers aren’t very easy to find.

    Considering that these guys might not even pitch, it’s just not a very efficient use of my time.

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  13. Comment posted by Tired off his ass in St.L on June 30, 2008 at 2:06 pm (#745659)

    I can give a quick synopsis on some of our relievers….Perez throws hard and is our closer of the future. You will see Franklin, Springer and Villone (worst of the bunch) rookie McClellen and Flores. If you see Miles pitching you don’t have anything to worry about. Izzy may be available. He has been very hot and cold. Perez though is impressive. High 90′ and good movement. Walks have hurt all of the staff, even though they have decent ERA’s (except Villone)
    If his series comes down to BP’s, it might be interesting, I give that nod to you guy’s based mainly on Wagner.

  14. Comment posted by Ed in Westchester 2.0 is an optimistic yahoo on June 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm (#745711)

    Eli – “tired off his ass in St.L” is “Tim in St louis”

    His wife just had a baby.

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  16. Comment posted by Bob Loblaw on June 30, 2008 at 3:17 pm (#745806)

    It’s not happening. Even if I reduced the comments for relievers to just “What’s the Story” and only looked at the top four or five guys, I’d at least be doubling the amount of research I would have to do. And scouting reports on relievers aren’t very easy to find.

    Considering that these guys might not even pitch, it’s just not a very efficient use of my time.

    I want my money back.

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  18. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on June 30, 2008 at 3:53 pm (#745879)

    I want my money back.

    You and me both, brother.

    I tinkered with the idea last year, but I just don’t have the time to make it work, considering this column runs twice a week, sometimes three early in the season.

    I can give a quick synopsis on some of our relievers….Perez throws hard and is our closer of the future. You will see Franklin, Springer and Villone (worst of the bunch) rookie McClellen and Flores. If you see Miles pitching you don’t have anything to worry about. Izzy may be available. He has been very hot and cold. Perez though is impressive. High 90′ and good movement. Walks have hurt all of the staff, even though they have decent ERA’s (except Villone)

    If y’all really want stuff on relievers, this is the way to do it. In the comments thread, everyone just offer whatever you know about any of the opposition’s relief corps.

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  20. Comment posted by Bob Loblaw on June 30, 2008 at 4:00 pm (#745895)

    Love your projections, Alex. You do a great job.

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