Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Reds 13, Cardinals 4

The Cardinals’ home-opening 13-4 loss to the Reds was just one game. But it was a head-to-head game against the team’s likeliest competition this season, and, given the way they lost, it’s the kind of game that can leave some scars of doubt.

The Cardinals took a tie game into the ninth, where Mike Matheny commendably called for Mitchell Boggs, his best (on a typical day, at least) reliever available (though something tells us it was as much a function of Boggs being the “ninth-inning guy”). Boggs proceeded to walk Shin-Soo Choo on four pitches. After Chris Heisey (a career .313 OBP hitter in the #2 spot in the order) got himself out, Boggs faced Joey Votto. So when Boggs threw a pitch to the backstop, it should’ve been a wakeup call for Matheny. No one could’ve foreseen the ensuing nine runs that the Reds would tally, but relievers who miss the catcher’s glove after a four-pitch walk generally aren’t in the best physical or mental state to hold a tie game. At that point, Matheny needed to slow the game down and call on someone else. He had Fernando Salas and Edward Mujica available, but perhaps his scripted approach to the pen precluded those “setup” relievers as options.

Everyone — including Boggs — knew that the big righty didn’t have it Monday. The byproduct of that elephant in the room was that it led to no-confidence moves, like Boggs intentionally walking two batters. If you lack that much confidence, bring in a new pitcher. Including Votto, two of the next three Reds batters were lefty. Why not bring in Marc Rzepczynski at that point? It still wasn’t too late when Jay Bruce batted. Then again, the Reds’ lefties who did hit against Zep — Choo, Votto and Bruce — didn’t seem to have a problem hitting off a lefty, or at least that particular one.

Other notes:

  • Full disclosure: We proudly have Boggs on our fantasy-league team.
  • If you’re think we’re being too hard on Matheny, can someone explain the reasoning behind double-switching out his #3 batter in a tie game? Credit Derrick Goold, who openly wondered about it on Twitter than inquired about it with the manager, who could only say that it was “the risk you’re going to have to take.”
  • The implosion overshadowed Jaime Garcia‘s dominant 10-strikeout performance.
  • Mike Shannon lamented the error that Shin-Soo Choo made on Yadier
  • Molina’s fly ball in the first. But ordinary effort — that is, a fielder of average skill at that position — would’ve had it, as was the case with Choo’s later error.
  • Choo’s errors were likely a function of the tough sun field as much as any skill deficiency.
  • Left fielder Chris Heisey made a strong leaping grab on Matt Holliday‘s drive in the third, and assertively stepped in front of Choo to make another catch. He might lack other skills required for the center field (where he has played 112 games in the majors), but he makes up for it in his approach. See also his attempted takeout slide of Molina on a fielder’s choice.
  • Brandon “Gremlin” Phillips struck again. We don’t typically put a lot of stock in a ballplayer’s particular ballpark splits beyond general park factors, but in this case, Phillips has openly admitted that he thrives on the antipathy get receives from fans at Busch.
  • Cardinal fielders may have officially registered only one error, but they didn’t help their pitchers. David Freese let a ball pass under his glove as did his replacement, Matt Carpenter, in the tumultuous ninth. And of course Kozma couldn’t pick a short-hop in the ninth that would’ve at least kept the score respectable.
  • Daniel Descalso did make a terrific glove flip to extinguish the Reds’ eighth-inning rally.
  • Credit Phillips with a stellar pick on Beltran’s grounder in the eighth.
  • To add insult to injury, Cardinal castoff Cesar Izturis piled on with an RBI single.
  • Had it not been for Dusty Baker‘s own auto-managing, which had him ordering Heisey to attempt a sac bunt after Choo’s four-pitch walk, Boggs might’ve thrown 10 straight balls. Effectively he threw nine of 10 (the pitch that Heisey foul bunted was inside).
  • It might’ve been one game but it was a hit to the early-season pythagorean win-loss record.

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