Ludwick’s Return Key To Cards and Pujols’ Success

Tonight, as the Cardinals take on the Giants, Ryan Ludwicktakes on the challenge of protecting Albert Pujols as well as protecting his team. While Ludwick has been on the DL, the Cardinals have seen a high poweredoffense slow down to a struggling one. Prior to Ludwick’s injury, the Cardinals averaged over 5 runs a game. Since Ludwick landed on the DL the Cardinals are down to a little over 3 a game.

Ludwick’s injury caused many more changes as well. It changed the way pitchers throw to the Cardinals, the production from the clean up spot, and the success of Albert Pujols.

Opposing pitchers have had a gameplan every time they have  faced the Cards’ with Ludwick on the DL that headlined with “Don’t Pitch To #5.” Why would they? Nobody else in the lineup could hurt them with the big man not there to score and drive in runs. With Ludwick back in the lineup, pitchers may have to think twice before issuing 4 in a row to Albert.

Production from the 4 hole has dramatically decreased in Ludwick’s absence. A key reason the opposing pitchers felt they could just pitch around Pujols with ease. The commity of clean up hitters didn’t have near the numbers that Ludwick put up before his injury. 

Ludwick … .293 BA/ .561 SLG / 82 AB /12 runs/6 HR / 22 RBI

Others … .183 BA/ .290 SLG / 93 AB / 8 runs / 2 HR / 11 RBI

Albert Pujols, as good as he is, has also suffered from Ludwick’s injury. The few times he hasn’t been walked he has rarely been the Pujols that we know. Trying to carry the whole team on his shoulders, Pujols has hardly hit like he’s known to do.

So, as Ludwick makes his way back to the lineup tonight, let’s hope that some (if not all) of the problems during Ludwick’s absence are solved.

Cardinals’ Have To Find Offensive Production

Somehow, someway, the Cardinals must start scoring runs. It’s painful to watch a great pitching performance combined with no run support. Today, as Carpenter pitched his tail off, the offense couldn’t do a thing. Weak ground balls here, a pop up there, and watching three fastballs right down the middle. Don’t get me wrong, we were not exactly facing a patsy on the mound today.But the Cardinals have to find their bats, or a bat somewhere.

With the recent injuries, the Cardinals have lost some very good bats. But as one returns and the other gets closer to his return, this team needs to start scoring fast.

Ludwick is a very good bat. If he returns in full swing and gives opposing pitchers someone to worry about besides Albert, he could account for a major boost offensively. Ludwick’s return will hopefully contribute to Albert being walked less and the Cards’ scoring more.

From the left side of the plate the Cardinals are really lacking production. Rick Ankiel hasn’t been his self this season and will take some time to adjust after his injury. Chris Duncan was very hot in April but has simmered down in May. Colby Rasmus, with the exeption of a homer here and there isn’t doing anything his self.  And I don’t even have to mention Thurston. The three lefty outfielders have to pick it up. If Duncan can figure out what he was doing in April, and Ankiel can start smashing like last year, the numbers could go up as well.

If all else fails, the front office should find a bat somewhere. With the plethora of trade bait on this team, Mo shouldn’t have that hard of time finding some run production out their somewhere.

UCB Progressive Game Blog-4th Inning/ #4 Molina

After Kyle Lohse sat down the Royals in order in the top half of the 4th, Saturday’s 5-0 shutout of the Royals featured a Cardinal rarity. When 3rd baseman Brian Barden missed the hit part of a hit and run,  speedster Yadier Molina slid safely into 2ndto make it two stolen bases on the year. Molina is now tied for third on the team in the stolen bases with Ryan Ludwick, Joe Thurston, and the Greene Boys. The only two players with more stolen bases are Brendan Ryan with 3 and Albert Pujols with a team high of 7.

Molina got in position to steal the base after leading off the 4th with a single up the middle.  His first of a 2/3 game. Molina’s average stands at .285 and after a recent “drought” it looks as if he is hitting the ball again. Add this to the league’s best defensive glove and I think you can make an argument he is the best catcher in the N.L. today.

Everyone in baseball knows how good of an arm Molina has. Just ask Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs who gave the Cards’ a huge boost when Molina picked him off at 1st to open up the homestead. Molina rarely allows a stolen base and when he does, it is usually off the pitcher. He makes smart decisions with the ball and hasn’t commited an error so far in 2009 (knock on wood)

Molina has also progressed into one of the best hitting catchers in the league.  He is one of the toughest players to strike out in all of baseball. Only striking out 11 times this season in 130 at bats, he is all but sure to put the ball in play and make something happen.

Come time for the All-Star break, it will be a shame if Cardinal fans don’t get to see their own number 4 playing in front of his home fans.

Cardinals Need To Avoid Digging Huge Hole

When St. Louis takes on the hated Chicago Cubs tonight, it is important that they get on track and do it fast.

Losing 10 out of their last 14 and slowly fading in the NL Central, the Cardinals have obviously missed their players who have suffered from various injuries. In a division that looks to be as competitive as any, St. Louis can’t afford to fall too far back while waiting on the return of some of their stars.

Carpenter is expected to start Wednesday while Ankiel is expected to be added to the roster that same day. Ludwick is also supposed to return as soon as he is eligible to come off of the 15 day DL. Hopefully Ankiel and Ludwick can take some pressure off of Pujols who is painfully trying to put this team on his shoulders and is only hurting himself.

So, with a couple of players back this series and more to come, how about a sweep of the ole’ Cubbies to push a little dirt into the hole we are trying to avoid. Any takers?

Huge Homestead Awaits

The Cardinals return home Friday after two three game sets with the Reds and Pirates. It hasn’t been a very favorable road trip losing four out of six and all-star Ryan Ludwick the first game in Pittsburgh.

Coming into St. Louis Friday night are the Milwaukee Brewers who are possibly the hottest team in the game right now winning nine out of their last 11. The Cardinals have only won four.

After the Brew Crew, the rivalry continues as the Cubs make their way to Busch for a mid-week match up that is always set for excitement. The Cubs are currently 20-14 and are only a half game out of the lead in the Central that currently belongs to the Cards’ and Brewers.

Heading from one rivalry to another, the Birds will take on the Royals in their first interleague match up of the year. In years past, though always competitive with St. Louis, the Royals have been the joke of the league. So far in 2009 it’s a different story. Led by Zach Greinke who is 6-1 and has a sub 1.00 ERA, KC is currently in a three way tie atop the A.L. Central.

So Cardinal fans have a lot to look forward to this homestead. Three great teams , that if taken care of, can give the Cards’ a huge confidence boost. The Cardinals can also get a huge boost of confidence, and talent, if Chris Carpenter comes back healthy. Which if everything goes well, will happen against interleague rival Kansas City.

Injury Bug Keeps Biting, Hurting

The injury bug has once again taken it’s toll on the Cardinals. It likes to make it’s way to the club often…unfortunately.

Today as the Cardinals take on the Pirates at PNC Park, they will have six players currently residing on the disabled list including a former Cy Young winner and three bats that make up a lot of their offensive production.

Rick Ankiel, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Troy Glaus, Ryan Ludwick, and Brendan Ryan combine to make up the six players on the D.L. Only the Padres have more bitten in the N.L. with seven. As the D.L. numbers have went up, the Cardinals numbers have went down.

Recently the Cards’ have cooled down from their hot April start and have lost seven out of their last ten. Production has been way down as the injuries go up.

Things may be looking up though, as four out of the six are expected to return soon. Returning (possibly) in May, Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick, Brendan Ryan, and “ace” Chris Carpenter could, and should, turn the recent bad play around.

Hopefully, all these guys come back soon and strong. With everyone back and playing at their full, healthy potential, the Cardinals can be a force to be reckoned with if the D.L. stays clean. They just have to find a way to get the bug out of town

Carpenter Eyeing Return…Again

Chris Carpenter

Chris Carpenter

We all know the type of pitcher Chris Carpenter is when he’s healthy, which we have seen bits and pieces of since making his Cardinal debut in 2004.

In the years 2004-2006 Chris Carpenter was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. During of which he posted three 15 win seasons and added a Cy Young, All-Star start, and a World Series Championship to his collection of achievements.

After the World Championship in 2006, the Cardinals signed Carpenter to a 5 year, $65 million deal that kept him with the club untill 2011 (with a $12 million option for the 2012 season.) Since then, Carpenter hasn’t seen much time in the Cardinal uniform.

Since April 1st, 2007, after an injury to his elbow that required Tommy John Surgery, Carpenter has only appeared in 7 games and earned only 1 victory. An amazing one-hit performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates this season.

Things were looking up untill April 14th when, facing the Arizona D-Backs, Carpenter was once again injured. This time, an MRI would reveal a torn oblique suffered batting in the top of the 4th inning. He was then placed on the 15 day disabled list and predicted to be out 4-8 weeks.

Since that date when every Cardinals fan, including yours truly, sighed and returned from Carpenter Cloud Nine. The pitching staff, while fading recently, has mananged to keep the Cards’ on top of the division while leading the team to a 20-13 record. But, it’s safe to say, the club really needs Carpenter to come back…healthy.

On May 4th, Carpenter played catch for the first time since injuring his oblique. Everything went well and as expected. He planned to throw off of the mound in 6 or 8 days, which he did Tuesday.

Yesterday at PNC park in Pittsburgh, Carpenter threw off the mound and was satisfied with with the bullpen session. Most importantly though,  he was pain free. The Cardinals hope they can say the same thing for him when he makes his retun and for the rest of the season. It is vital that Chris come back healthy, stay injury free, and pitch like the Carp we know if the Cards’ plan to make a run this season.