Tagged: Cardinal Players

Yadi Not Too Hottie Two

Yadi has been seeing a little less playing time lately which has disappointed me greatly. I won’t pout or complain, however, because I simply can’t. He has yet to turn around his season at the plate although his two hits on Monday were encouraging.
Both the St. Louis Post Dispatch and MLB.com have posted a story about Yadi since yesterday which is the main reason I even bring the subject up.

Despite all intelligent inclinations, I still believe whole-heartedly that he can hit. If you read the articles, it’s clear he has some mental issues at the dish. I promise if he can ever figure those out he will be an above average hitter. I’ve seen him swing the bat well. Just, um, not anytime near the beginning of a regular season.

I mentioned in the original Yadi Not Too Hottie post that… “It feels like he would get a hit every time if he could come up in the eighth inning with two runners on and the Cards down by a run. This is not a good thing. But is it a bad thing?” Unfortunately the RBI opportunities he was getting early in the year haven’t materialized as of late so even that statement is now shaky. Although he did get a hit with RISP on Monday…down by more than a hand full of runs in the ninth but still.

Anyway, I’m waiting on him to get hot any day now. And by any day I mean today.

[Check out the post below as well and let me know what you think if you’re so inclined!]

Yadi Not Too Hottie

It’s not a secret that Yadier Molina is my favorite St. Louis Cardinal. That being said, his start to the season has not been everything I hoped it would be.
I had hoped that even at this early point in the season he would have begun to abolish his label as a “defense only” catcher. However, much like last year he has gotten off to an abysmal start offensively. As of Monday morning he has 11 hits in 16 games…that is good for a .180 batting average. He has struck out seven times. Not all that bad until you consider the fact that he was yet to take a walk.

Not all has been horrible for him at the plate. He does have seven RBIs, one of which was a game-winning RBI, and he has came through in the clutch more than just once. It feels like he would get a hit every time if he could come up in the eighth inning with two runners on and the Cards down by a run. This is not a good thing. But is it a bad thing?

The thing that is most surprising about his slow start this season (as compared to his slow start in 2005) is he appeared ready to make an offensive statement this spring. He had three hits in five at-bats for the Puerto Rican team in the “World Baseball Classic” and was hot most of the spring batting .421 with a home run and eight RBIs. He also walked eight times while striking out only once.

If there is any particular reason being given for his start, I have yet to hear it. In fact, I haven’t heard many people mention his struggles at all. Perhaps he has Juan Encarnacion’s worse start to thank because last year his battles in the batter’s box were a hot topic.

In any case, I’m not so much troubled as perplexed by Yadi’s statistics thus far. If any has heard any theories on this or has any of their own let me know. I’m hoping that starting with the Pirates tonight, he’ll start to tear up the league and bring some well deserved attention on himself. It’s always great reading and/or listening to people rave about Yadi. I know there are people (other than myself even!) who would be willing to do the raving…if only he’d give them a reason!

[I know this post fails to mention his defensive abilities, which continue to be stellar even though he’s gotten two horrible calls on runners he’s thrown out but have been called safe. I ignored defense on purpose in order to hopefully make my point without going on for three days! Feel free to comment on how great he is if you so desire!!!!]

El Hombre

Think he’ll see a pitch to hit again tonight? My guess is no.
Albert Pujols just homered for the 11th time this season. The two-run shot gives him 22 RBIs on the season. The no-doubter, off Jerome Williams, was the 1000th hit of Pujols’ career. Wow! Just wow.

(Keep any Jaun Encarnacion (below) coming. I’d love to hear them.)

UPDATE-7:57-I love it when I’m wrong. A double in the 2nd gives him 4 RBIs for the game and gives the Cardinals a 7-0 lead.

The Great Juan Encarnacion Debate

Juan Encarnacion has caused quite a stir among Cardinal fans. It is rare that an addition to the team draw this much criticism in April. Traditionally, St. Louis fans give struggling players unnecessary ovations, firm pats on the back and, in general, the benefit of the doubt when it comes to early season issues. (Tino Martinez anyone?) However, extraordinary circumstances have caused a rush in judgement when it comes to the Redbirds’ right fielder.
Before you are led to believe I’m the next in line to berate Cards’ fans for their actions thus far, continue to read as I attempt to answer some interesting, if not important, questions about Encarnacion. I’m not entirely sure anything will be resolved in the end but at least all sides of the issue will be examined.

(1) What do the Cardinals need from him this season?

The answer to this question, unfortunately, appears to be an evolving one. Originally, manager Tony LaRussa decided to use Encarnacion in the two spot, directly in front of Albert Pujols, with hopes of him becoming a major run producer for the team. The theory apparently was Encarnacion would not only be given many RBI chances, but also that he would receive pitches to hit because of Pujols’ presence on-deck. Well, half of that theory was proven undoubtedly true. Over the first two series of the Cards’ schedule Encarnacion came up a ridiculous number of men on base, including nine in one game alone. However, he failed to produce any runs for the team and left Pujols stranded on-deck more than once.

After continuous struggles, he was moved down in the line-up, and while it’s not as if he no longer gets to bat with runners in scoring position, the focus for Encarnacion has recently been to simply find a way to get on base and, in the process, find his swing. In the end, however, St. Louis is still going to need him to find a way to help the team put runs on the board. His lone RBI (Yes, he has one RBI.) so far this season is proof that he has not been able to do so.

(2) How good could/can fans reasonably expect him to be?

When Juan Encarnacion was signed by Walt Jocketty in the off-season I found myself in many conversations regarding how good of a player he actually was. It seemed that everyone I knew was familiar with him as a player, but no one could quite describe just how much talent he had with any reasonable amount of detail. The general consensus seemed to be that we would just have to wait and see. Although there was also the general belief that however good he was before, he would be better for the Cardinals. That is just the way the baseball world has worked for Cards’ followers as of late. (Call us spoiled if you’d like.)

A quick glance at Encarnacion’s career numbers revealed that an improvement during this season would certainly be necessary if he hoped to fill the shoes of a Reggie Sanders or Larry Walker. For his career he has been a .268 who averages 85 RBIs, 38 BBs, and 114 Ks for every 162 games played. Last season, with the Florida Marlins, he hit .287 with 76 RBIs, 41 BBs, 104 Ks, and a .349 on-base percentage. In other words, he was alright. Whether “alright” is considered a positive, a negative, or a neutral term in this case is largely subjective.

It would have been unfair for fans to expect a superstar, or even a star, at the plate with Encarnacion. Strikeout totals don’t diminish overnight, and rarely does a player suddenly become a .300 hitter in his tenth year in the majors. Still, I believe most fans, including myself, would be more than happy with Encarnacion hitting in the .270s or .280s if he was able to produce somewhere near 85 RBIs. It is beginning to look as if those numbers will remain out of his reach as he is currently batting .204.

(3) How hard is he trying? How hard does he try?

This is a touchy subject. I’m not in the clubhouse. I don’t see how hard he works while I’m away from the park. I don’t know him personally and therefore don’t know his personality. Pujols , for one, believes he is trying as hard as he can, and I’m inclined to believe anything and everything Albert says. However, his lackadaisical effort in the outfield was something I noticed during the World Baseball Classic, but I was hesitated to call it that at the time. I instead mentioned that I thought he could’ve gotten to some balls he did not get to.

Furthermore, (I cross my heart this is a true story.) I informed my roommate one day before his potentially game-losing error in the outfield that I was NOT fond of his casualness in the field. An almost direct quote from me to Kelsey (as verified by her)…”I hate the way he catches the ball with one hand and half the time doesn’t even seem to look it into his glove. I know he’s a major-leaguer and 999 out of 1000 he’s going to catch the ball, but if that one drop causes us a ball game I’m going to be [ticked]. Besides, if Jim Edmonds can catch the ball with two hands everyone else can, too.”

I’m not happy about being right on that particular point, but I think it’s telling that his nonchalant attitude in right is that obvious. I picked up on it almost immediately once I got to see it him play on a daily basis, and I refuse to act like it’s OK. However, this does not speak of his effort in all aspects of the game, and I’m willing to be convinced he is actually trying too hard at the plate to get hits and RBIs. At this early point in the season, though, I’m not willing to be convinced that he is completely focused in the field or on the base paths.

I do not think I’m alone in the is belief. (By all means leave me a comment if you think otherwise.) This is a problem…which leads to another problem all-together…

(4) Is it OK to boo him?

My initial and continued response to this is HECK NO. However, I have no desire to continue the booing vs. not-booing debate that has been so prevalent on MLBlogs as of late. The only reason I even bring up the topic is because I loved a comment that was left on Matthew Leach’s blog. One fan left this note regarding Cardinal fans…”We aren’t the best fans in baseball, we are the smartest fans in baseball. I could care less if we are called the best fans in baseball. If I see a player with bad habits that are a result of poor practice or lack of effort, that player is going to get it from me.”

I don’t agree with the whole statement (I like the idea of being one of the best fans in baseball, and I still hate booing.), but I think it’s raises an important point. Cardinal fans loyally support any player who hustles and who “plays the right way” even if that player lacks true Major League talent. Bo Hart, Stubby Clapp, and Joe McEwing jump to mind although they are only a fraction of the list.

I trust myself as a baseball fan, and I trust my fellow Cards’ followers. It is the belief among many Cards’ fans (the note I copied-and-pasted above was just the most poignant of many similar comments)that his focus and fundamentals (not effort) are lacking, more than a low batting average and RBI total, that concerns me about Juan Encarnacion. Even though it is only April, this problem, if it exists, is one that warrants much discussion because even six homers and 14 RBIs against the Cubs this weekend won’t begin to fix it.

What very well may begin to fix “it”, however, is an unnecessary ovation, a firm pat on the back, and the tiniest bit of belief from those who will pack Busch this weekend. Spread the word…ANY and EVERY person who puts on a Cardinal uniform deserves these three things.

Albert Pujols is Amazing

Albert Pujols, as most of the world knows by now, has been extremely hot at the plate the last couple games. Four home runs in four at-bats has a way of grabbing people’s attention. I’m not sure which cliche would do Pujols more injustice…saying he’s amazing and a great hitter or saying I can’t quite find the words to explain how amazing and how great of a hitter he is.
I do not have the privilege of watching Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, or any other prominent MLB hitters not wearing a Redbird uniform on a daily basis. I am, however, blessed with the opportunity to watch Pujols step into the batter’s box hundreds of times each year. Watching him hit home runs, particularly four in a row, exhilarating. Regardless of how I’m feeling at the time a no-doubter off his bat is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face.

For me, though, that is not what makes Albert Pujols so wonderful, so sublime, so frustratingly unexplainable. The key to what makes him the best, so to be most-feared, hitter in baseball is in his line drive doubles to the gap, his walks with runners in scoring position, and his base hits that bounce through the middle.

More specifically, the key to appreciating Pujols is in watching the way he does all of these things. He does them with the same ferocity and the same focus with which he hits game-winning homers. Each time he steps up to the plate, spreads his feet, settles down into his signature crouch, pulls his bat behind his head, and holds his chin up toward the pitcher he looks like a man who has something to prove. The look on his face moves beyond the look of a man focused on a ball and toward the look of a man who believes he HAS to do something great right NOW.

Although I don’t see them every day, I’ve seen Rodriguez, Guerrero, Ortiz, Bonds, McGwire, and so many other great hitter stand in the box. I’ve seen them focused, and I’ve seen them accomplish amazing feats. I’ve never seen in any of them what I see in the Cardinal’s first baseman. It’s not a matter of desire for me. I’m not trying to say that Pujols wants to win more than anyone else, and I’m in no way trying to disrespect any of the players I mentioned. I am saying he is better than all of them, and I won’t apologize for saying it.

Yes, I’m biased. Yes, he is the best player on my favorite team. Yes, I’m counting on him to win a World Series. Yes, he strikes out and hits into double plays and some days goes 0 for 5. Yes, Derek Lee beat him by five points for the batting title last year. Yes, Andruw Jones hit more homers. And, yes, Big Papi is SO very clutch.

Still, he is the best “hitter” in baseball today, and the best I’ve ever seen in my relatively few years. He uses every inch of the ballpark, so you’ll never see three infielders stacked up on one side of the diamond. He rarely swings at a bad pitch, and subsequently seldom strikes out. If he has a weak spot, he’ll be the first to realize it, and the first to abolish it.

Each time he picks up a bat I believe he is going to do something to help the St. Louis Cardinals win. And I believe he subscribes to that line of thought. We’re both wrong more than half of the time probably, and yet it doesn’t matter the next time his spot is due up. I still believe, and I know he still believes.

This says nothing of the player he is once he is unleashed on the base paths or wearing a glove at first. He’s unbelievable in those aspects of the game as well. But the aggressiveness with which he does those things begins at the plate…begins with him clutching a bat…begins with his chin held high in the air.

No statistic can measure the attitude he brings to the ballpark. No World Series ring is needed to prove his worth. (Just please don’t tell him I said that. I certainly don’t think he would agree.) And no words I manage to string together could begin to do justice to what he means to his team, what he will mean to baseball history in the future, or what he means to me.

An amazing article…

…about Yadier Molina! Check out this article from Cardinals’ beat writer Joe Strauss exploring the early evolution of Yadi. It’s a worthwhile read, I promise.
I was surprised to read Yadi described as sensitive by his teammates. In this case “sensitive” didn’t seem to carry any negative connotations, however. The article takes about him in a personal light but sadly didn’t reveal to me, once and for all, if he is married or not! I’ve had heard conflicting reports about this for some time, and I have no where near enough guts to yell through the fence in Jupiter, “Umm, Yadi, are you, umm, married?” No matter what the answer is he’ll still be my favorite player, and I’ll admire him no less…it would just be nice to know one way or the other. *Sigh*

Let’s hope tonight’s game leaves me with a better taste in my mouth…yesterday’s was quite bitter.