O'Neill hasn't been a great hitter as a part-time player. Both players are fast an\d both can play center fielder, but Arozarena has proven himself as a pinch-runner.
That will be an interesting call. Losing Yelich is a dramatic deal and Milwaukee did get to the postseason, so Counsell could get the nod. Shildt is such an unassuming guy, so under the radar that some voters could overlook his work.
I have no feel for the series, but splitting in Atlanta creates a best-of-three with the Cardinals holding the home-field edge. That would be a good thing -- as would having Flaherty positioned to pitch Game 5 in Atlanta.
Well, you need four starters the way the schedule works. And Adam is one of the four, so I don't see the issue with pitching him in Game 3. Using him there could allow Shildt to use Hudson on his throwing day between starts and still get some Game 4 innings out of him. Had Hudson been slated for Game 3, then using him as a Game 1 fallback would have been more problematic.
As we've seen, Shildt has stuck with his lineup. He did so i the do-or-die games down the stretch and I would expect that in the playoffs. The team's emphasis on defense also favors Bader, one of those special outfielders who can safe runs.
I believe we'll see Hudson in Game 4. If Ponce de Leon starts Game 4 and the team is up in the series 2-1, that's no big deal because the Cardinals would know Flaherty has Game 5. But if Daniel has to start Game 4 with the Cardinals are down in the series 2-1 despite spending Hudson completely in earlier action, then something really bad happened.
In 2006 Tony La Russa was just trying to steal a best-of-five series by throwing Chris Carpenter twice. It worked -- and then the Cardinals kept winning, to everybody's surprise. That team was not in a good place at the end of this season. This team had an epic second half right up until the last few days.
While closer Carlos Martinez has been excellent down the stretch, the rest of the relief corps wore down. I would rate the late-inning options as quite short of "lock down" at this point. Fans may need to wear seat belts in the seventh and eighth innings.
Getting Tommy Pham to pop off would not take a Herculean lift. And then Tommy would gladly back that up in the field. I wonder if, over time, Pham would have found a comfortable place on a Shildt-managed team.
I don't Goldschmidt see moving back, but it would be fun to see Shildt put Wong second and Edman fourth. That sounds crazy, but if this team gets into do-or-die mode in this series . . .
Shildt sticks with a set group, so it's tough to say. Fans would love to see, say, Arozarena tag in for Bader or even Ozuna if one of those two is in Total Whiff Mode during the series. Could that happen? Could Randy A deliver? He has tools, so there's my longshot pick.
Cabrera is so raw, I would be surprised to see him used as a true lefty specialist in a high-leverage spot. If he is, that's a sign of trouble. And there could be trouble, because Webb is just average and Miller is inconsistent, so none of these options are thrilling.
Maddon spent a professional lifetime in that organization, as baseball careers to, so that's a natural fit. Fewer teams are going for big-name, high-priced managers -- but the Angels could use the buzz and the PR savvy that Maddon would bring.
I'll go a bit longer to get closer to game time, then do my usual all-sports chat on Friday.
Keuchel got the Game 1 nod for his experience. He's an inning-eater who has to pound the bottom of the zone with his sinker. He was sharp for much of August, but he's been pretty ordinary down the stretch. Mike Soroka, 22, has electric stuff but, like Flaherty and Hudson, he has prove himself on the big stage. Mike Foltynewicz struggled to command his slider earlier this season, but he's nasty when he has that going. He is a fastball-slider pitcher who can also mix in sinkers. Flaherty's buddy Max Fried has a full pitch arsenal, just like Jack. He has a couple of different breaking balls to go with some decent heat.
There is some defensive fall-off there, since Bader has extreme range and a very strong arm. The other question is this: How much more offense does Arozarena offer? His sample size at this level is quite small and he hasn't hit much in the last month.
If the Cardinals are as inconsistent at the plate as they were during the last few weeks, they might get past Atlanta but that's as far as they would go. This hasn't been a terrible offense in the second half, but it's hard to rely on the intermittent homers because so few of these guys hit great with runners in scoring position. Batters can get hot seemingly out of nowhere and the Cardinals need that from Ozuna and DeJong. More consistency from Goldschmidt would be welcome too.
To me, Cabrera is there to eat some innings if a game goes terribly wrong and Shildt wants to spare everybody else. Maybe some day he will be ready for higher leverage work, but putting him on the spot now would not be wise. As for DeJong, I was hard on him in my midseason grades and he hasn't done much to improve that assessment. His season-long struggle with RISP makes him a No. 7-type hitter, not a No. 3 as Shildt was using him earlier. Has he hit his ceiling?
Absolutely the weather will be key. The ball could fly in Atlanta and not fly here. Then there is the durability factor. Mikolas is known to sweat, so how many uniforms will he need to get through six or seven innings today?
Neither would surprise me. The Braves lost momentum (or interest) late in the season and now they have to turn it on again. If the Cards get a couple more hitters going they could get this thing to a fifth game and another chance for Flaherty.
What's debatable about the roster choices? Not much. Nobody he left off had a great case to be on the roster. Now, if he sticks to his regulars and a couple of those guys never do hit, then there will be some second-guessing.
Bader offers great defense and he's the No. 8 hitter, so that limits his offensive liability. He'll hit a few homers when pitchers make mistakes with fastballs. So far Shildt hasn't been inclined to move away from him. He values fielding very, very much.
Ozuna has struggled severely, so what does the team do? Great question. I was all in favor of re-upping him back in the middle of the season, but now? Gulp. As noted earlier, everybody and their Aunt Judy is crushing homers this season. So Ozuna's power numbers do not stand out. If the Cardinals made him a qualifying offer, I'd jump at it if I'm Ozuna and then try to build value for his next deal. After seeing free agents in last year's class languish unsigned, that should be fair warning for Ozuna. Look at all the outfielders having better years -- including guys the Cardinals traded (or gave) away. Look at his fielding, which has been awful. If I'm John Mozeliak I probably qualify him and live with the high number for one year if he took it.
I'm with you on that. Throw in the weather and the home/road splits for Mikolas and I really agree with you.
Yeah, I agree with that as well. Matt Carpenter will get some ABs off the bench, but basically he does nothing well. He's an OK third baseman at best and he can be a liability on the bases. He'll draw some walks and hit the occasional homer, but he hasn't hit for average since last August. That's not a slump, that's a career shift.
It's a three-batter minimum OR pitching to the end of an inning. The idea is to eliminate the use of reliever after reliever to face just one guy.
This team has an excellent spirit. That's how it sustained a months-long push to get to this point. So, sure, if a few key guys rise up an play well, then all the issues that seem glaring on paper won't matter.
OK, we're getting closer to game time so i'm going to call off the jam. I'll see some of you (and some non-subscribers) next time. Thanks for supporting the Post-Dispatch and quality local journalism. That's never been more important.