April 28, 2014

#Cardinals reshuffle means little if Matheny won't play ’em

Welcome to the major leagues, finally, Oscar Taveras. Oh, oops my bad, I meant Randal Grichuk.

Grichuk, the "add-in" of sorts in the trade of David Freese to the Angels for Peter Bourjos, is officially no add-in any longer.

He got brought up for Shane Robinson, who's headed to Memphis.

Also headed down is rookie 2B Kolten Wong. I didn't think he's been struggling that bad, even though Mike Matheny parked his butt on the pine the last couple of games. Anyway, Greg Garcia has been hot at Memphis, and before the Cards signed Jhonny Peralta, some had talked about Garcia as the team's next SS, though others had questioned his range, among other things.

Robinson was a no-brainer.  And, if Garcia is this hot, and has experience at SS, does this push him ahead of Daniel Descalso in the depth chart? I say it should, given that he also has been leaving steaming piles in the batter's box; we'll see what Matheny says. 

It is a bit unfair that Wong seems to be getting a fair amount of the blame for the Cards' offensive woes. They're far more than him; to some degree, they hit 2/3 of the team. But, Wong's a rookie with a low-dollar contract. You certainly can't send Peralta down, literally, by service time rules, even though his BA and OPS are still in the crapper, and his SLG and OPS were until his 2-HR outburst last week. Realistically, you can't send down Bourjos. Unfortunately, you are stuck with Allen Craig, too, who's been the biggest stinker in all of this. And, while Jon Jay's been better than the other OFs not named Matt Holliday, nobody really thinks he's the long-term answer in the OF.

Wong, Craig, Bourjos, Descalso and Robinson are all below the Kozma Line, the Pete Kozma sabermetric answer to the Mendoza Line made infamous by Mario Mendoza. It was time for a move.

Meanwhile, the "why" of Grichuk instead of Taveras should make for plenty of talk. The two were almost dead even at the plate, although Grichuk currently has an edge in the field, and a decent-sized one.

Also, Jay's been good enough, at least, that, if Craig is still struggling, he should get ready for some pine time himself. The team can't afford to wait him out much longer.

If it's any consolation, Freese is having a year worse than Bourjos and as bad as Craig, so the trade is still worthwhile.

Speaking of Matheny, too, Bernie Miklasz notes he had a quick trigger for Wong in his cup of coffee last year. It's worth a read for other things. Bernie notes that Robinson, a rightly, bats better against right-handed pitching and that:
Robinson was miscast as a platoon option; for some reason Matheny never quite figured out that Robinson (who bats right) was better against RH pitching than LH pitching.
Again, our sub-genius manager in St. Louis. It's called sabermetrics, Mike; give it a shot, OK? Hell, this isn't even that sabermetric; it's called "splits."

On Grichuk vs. Taveras, Bernie refers to the defensive issue, noting that Taveras probably isn't ready for Busch's large center field.

That said, Bernie brings the talk back to our Sub-Genius Skipper:
I just hope Grichuk gets a chance to play. Obviously, the CF position remains unsettled in St. Louis. Bourjos has done nothing so far, which leaves Matheny leaning on Jon Jay, the guy Mozeliak tried to replace by making the Bourjos trade. Given the situation in CF, and Allen Craig's slow start and startling loss of of power, there should be plenty of chances for Grichuk to get into the lineup. 

Unless, of course, Matheny is caught up on on his “I'm going to stick by my guys” thing, which is occasionally a problem. I don't think Mozeliak wants Grichuk up here just to have a good seat in the dugout.
Ditto for SGS and Garcia, Bernie says:
The only way to find out about Garcia is to play him, and frankly I'd really be surprised to see Matheny put aside his “I'm sticking with my guy” sentiment to play Garcia over Descalso.
Wunderbar. Maybe Mozeliak needs to start "leaning" on Matheny more. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that Mo isn't still a bit in man-love with Matheny. It also makes me wonder if this is part of why Carlos Martinez isn't starting.

Disclosure: In addition to my general lack of enthusiasm for him since he was hired, I wanted Terry Francona in the first place when Tony LaRussa retired. Beyond the issue of Shelby Miller in last year's postseason (still not sure if Matheny or Mo gets more blame for that), I've voiced my displeasure with Matheny as recently as yesterday. Let's remember that Matheny had no prior managing or coaching experience in professional baseball besides that as a minor league instructor before Mozeliak hired him, too. By the end of this year, he'll have three full years and I can apply my WAR for managers idea to judge his actual performance.

And, it's probably time to ask more about what "my guy" entails. Based on issues of the past 12 months, I already have some tentative ideas.

Update, May 3: Grichuk has gotten decent playing time so far and Garcia hasn't been totally stinted, at least. Stay tuned.

Update, May 21: The "Matheny's guys" issue also applies to the pitching staff, don't forget.

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