Ben Frederickson Live

Bring your Cardinals, Blues, Mizzou and STL sports questions, and talk to Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson in a live chat starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday.




    Greetings, chatters. Welcome to a historic chat. The Supreme Court just ruled it is not illegal to bet on how many Machado questions the chat will encounter. The over/under is 500. Place your bets. Let's roll. And, as always, thanks for stopping by.
    Since the Cards are struggling to score runs, can Mabry, McGee or Oquendo teach Carpenter and Wong how to bunt runners over? At least they can advance runners into scoring position instead of striking out.
    How about helping Carpenter find a way to not hit directly into the shift? A Little League coach would line up a wall of nets on the pull side of the field and tell the hitter to hit it anywhere but there. I get things are more complicated in the big leagues, but it's still baseball. Hitting into the shift, then claiming bad luck, doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Carpenter has to adjust, find a way to lift the ball over the shift with power, or get used to not being a starter -- though it will probably take Matheny too long to make that decision, based on his handling of players in similar situations in the past.
    I’ve been a Cardinals fan for 61 years. I have to tell you though the brand of baseball we’re seeing now is downright boring. I get so sick of hearing about a pitch count, or a players launch angle, or the speed of the ball off the bat, analytics and all the acronyms like WHIP, WAR. Who cares? Over the past 20 years we’ve dumbed down the game. Pitchers are groomed to pitch 5 innings. Anymore than that is a bonus. It really makes you appreciate even more the Bob Gibson’s, Juan Marichal’s & Fergie Jenkins, pitchers of that ilk. And the players before them were tougher than that. I hear Wainwright referred to as a warrior? Bob Gibson pitched on a broken leg. That’s a warrior. Nowadays a player gets a little tightness somewhere and goes on the DL for 10 years. Thanks for listening to my rant. I guess I just yearn for baseball when it was fun to watch.
    Looking at Mr. Gibson's numbers now is a mind-blowing exercise. Then you go the next step and think about how much he would get paid in today's game, if he was allowed to pitch like that. I'm all for the advanced metrics and analytics. They make both fans and teams smarter consumers of the game. But I'm never going to dismiss what can't be factored for in those numbers, and I get annoyed when the people who push the numbers are so dismissive of things common sense says are important to the success of a player and a team. Example: A player's mental strength. Some guys have the best projected numbers, but just can't be at their best when a game calls for it. Others rise to the occasion. Projections can't tell you much about that. Some guys make teams better. Some guys drag teams down. There are elements, important elements, of the game that cannot be factored out as new info arrives.
  • When teams (like ours) struggle offensively, there is always a call to fire someone. This season and maybe last season to Mabry has become a target. In response to those who would like to see the hitting coach fired, the answer is often, "he's just a coach." "He's not hitting." "He can only do so much." "The players are the only ones who can make the change." If thats the case, why does the position/job exist?
  • I won't give you those answers on Mabry. I'm not sure firing him fixes the frigid starts of key Cardinals, but at some point the team has to look for something, anything to jar the offense awake. One way to try that is to change the voice that each of these slow-starting hitters talks to. A different voice. A different philosophy. Different drills. Different film technique. Something. Anything. That's the story the Cardinals have when it came time to change pitching coaches. Just a need for something different. If the offense continues to underperform, the heat on Mabry's seat will increase. Remember: He is one of the few coaches who did not turnover in the coaching churn last season and this offseason. And he is close with the manager. Making that move would be a direct sign to Matheny.
  • Carp didn't start the last 3 in San Diego right? How is that Matheny moving slowly?
  • Let's see how the lineup looks in Minnesota.
    This section, from Derrick Goold's notebook, jumped out to me.
     
    One of the decisions Matheny has had to make daily about his lineup this season will be alleviated Tuesday by the grace of the designated hitter in an interleague game at Minnesota.

    For the first time this season, Matheny will be able to fit Jose Martinez, Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter into the same lineup, should he choose. Matheny suggested over the weekend that Gyorko has hit his way into more regular playing time and how there are “some guys that make that DH fit really well.”

    “A couple of the guys who could use time off their feet defensively,” Matheny said. “Maybe just focus on their at-bats.”

     
  • While Im sure Harper and Machado will get big money in the off-season from someone, I'm curious if the new style of doing business will surprise us. Do you think it is possible that teams seek shorter deals for more $ for players like these as opposed to the 10 year deals everyone anticipates.
  • If they were older, yes. But Harper and Machado are both 25 years old. That screams long-term deal. I see the contracts coming in three camps. Young superstars will get long, loaded deals. "Older" superstars will get short, loaded deals. Older non-superstars will be forced out, or at least forced to work for cheap.
  • Ben, I see a lot of chat about what to do in regards to Carpenter, Fowler & Wong and they’re lack of production. Matheny’s in a hard spot. He doesn’t want to lose his club house but at the same time he’s going to have to make some tough decisions in the next couple weeks if he wants to contend. I think he wants to be able to look those players in the eye and say “I gave you every opportunity I could”. You’ve got all these great assets in Memphis that may be able to come up and give us a spark like Vince Coleman did in 85’ and Willie McGee in 82’. This is a boring team to watch. Matheny is a boring manager. No hit and run, no squeeze plays. This is almost like watching American League baseball. That being said, even if we do not make the playoffs this year Matheny will keep his job.
  • The Cardinals do hit-and-run. Harrison Bader, Tommy Pham and Matt Carpenter have been in those spots. It's not always executed. Pham has said some of his times caught stealing have tied back to failed hit-and-runs, and Matheny has confirmed that.
    I don't lump Wong in with the offensive struggles of Carpenter and Fowler. Wong is this team's best second baseman. He's leading the team in defensive runs saved. He was never going to be counted on as an offensive catalyst. It's hard to be shocked by his numbers. He's still changing games with his defense at second.
    Fowler and Carpenter are not changing games with their defense anywhere in the field. They are counted on to be offensive catalysts. They are supposed to be two of this team's top-three hitters in the lineup. That's a big difference than Wong.
    I agree that Matheny is in a tough spot. He sees the past production and doesn't want to move on too soon. He believes his confidence in these guys will be rewarded. And it still could be. But the risk you run is what if it doesn't? What if it's Brandon Moss 2.0, and you drove it into the ground before realizing it? I don't think you have to give up on these guys. But ramming them in there probably isn't the best approach either. The San Diego series was handled well, though giving Carpenter a day off then plugging him in in a high-pressure pinch-hit scenario (strikeout, looking) turned an off day into a bad day.
  • What do you make of the NL central? Pirates still over achieving, Cubs underwhelming so far, Cards staying in it somehow, but not on the most stable footing. Can the Brewers stay in it? Does their starting pitching eventually do them in?
  • I'm most surprised by the Pirates.
    I do think the Brewers' thin starting pitching will catch up, and the Cardinals' could get better with Flahery in and Reyes coming.
    I'm not ready to write off the Cubs. They will make a move if they need a boost. They are treating this as a World Series window-open kind of season, and won't take their foot off the gas.
     
     
  • I think Bader looks like a young Jim Edmonds in center-field. Lots of energy! Why not move Pham to right with his hammy problem and let Bader play -center? Bader is the next Jim Edmonds.
  • Bader has been very, very impressive. When he came up, I figured it would be for a brief run before heading back to Memphis. Instead he's carved out a niche. His defense is stellar and, yes, exciting. He has that Edmonds-like flare for the dramatic. His bat has not shown the pop that Edmonds grew into, but then again Edmonds didn't really start slugging until his third major-league season. Bader does have as many home runs (three) in 62 major-league at-bats this season than he did in 82 major league at-bats last season. Good sign. As far as moving Pham from center, let's let Bader prove he's an every-day starter first. Pham's move to center shows how it's easy to look like a world-beating corner outfielder and then look average (or slightly above) when playing center.
      
     
  • The Brewers have had just about everything break right for them and they're only a game up meanwhile STL has had pistons not firing in every phase and are only a game out. That to me says that Cards fans shouldn't worry.
  • Yep. And look at the Brewers' starting pitching depth compared to Cardinals. Injuries happen. Cards have many options. Brewers, not so much.
  • I commented to The Commish yesterday that with the game on the line, runners in scoring position, Matheny marches up Wong and Kelly. Wong looked at three pitches without taking the bat off his shoulders. Kelly, who we've been told is Molina's heir apparent, failed as well. Both are hitting under .200. With all the supposed talent this team has in the minors, why does Mo not replace these guys? Neither can hit and that's 50% of the game. Anybody can stand at the plate with the bat in hand. I don't want to hear about how great these guys are defensively. If you can't swing a bat (hit .200 minimum), you don't belong at the major league level. What do you think????
  • If you are ready to run off every Cardinal who is not hitting .200, you are parting ways with Carpenter and Fowler as well.
    Those are the hitters who should be drawing the most attention.
    Those are the guys who are, you know, supposed to hit.
    Kelly's struggles at the plate have been concerning because that was the big question when he was called up: can the bat play? He's one-for-16. Emphasis on the 16. You don't make a dramatic decision based off 16 at-bats. Concerned? Sure.
    In 12 games between April 22 and May 6, Wong slashed .333/.405/..639. He has zero hits since. He's in a slide, yes. But he has not been off in the weeds all season, like Carpenter and Fowler. And he's giving you the best defense out of any second baseman in baseball. Ignore that if you choose, but I won't.
  • Today's game of strike outs and home runs lends it self to boring games and streaks and scoring inconsistencies. See the Cubs also. If the team isnt hitting home runs they are striking out.
  • Bingo. And the fans groan and yawn.
  • Any clue why Bowman hasnt recieved his Memphis shuttle pass yet?
  • Because he's trusted. He's appeared in more games (150) than any other Cardinals pitcher since 2016. He could be sent out at some point. But he is pretty clearly one of Matheny's go-to guys. Just look at the numbers.
  • So, I can now legally wager that the Blues won't win the Cup in my lifetime?
  • Don't say that. Next year's the year. If not then, then the next one.
  • Baseball has corrected itself many times throughout its history: Deadball, Liveball, spitballs, stealing bases, PED's, etc. So does this current trend of Homerun/strike-out baseball stay for awhile, or do teams start to figure out how else to win games.
  • I think we are watching it change right now. The rise in strikeouts as a result of pitchers finding ways to exploit the launch-angle binge is a great example. The game always corrects itself, and not always through rule changes. If the game becomes home runs, strikeouts and shifts, it creates opportunity for a team that puts the ball in play, uses speed and turns shifts into easy hits. Just have to have guys buy in on that approach.
  • The Cardinals are in a tough spot when it comes to Ozuna in that his numbers this year are very much in line with those in 2013-2016, which do not scream clean-up hitter, and indicate more and more each day that 2017 was the outlier, the predicament being the Cardinals don't have a better clean-up hitter option at this point. So, the biggest need from the off-season still needs to be addressed. Fortunately the pitching has kept them at or near the top of the NL Central standings so time is on their side. But how long do you think it will take for them to realize he's what the back of his baseball card says he is and get more creative around him?
  • He had a significantly higher slugging percentage between 2013-16 than he does right now. And if you are going to bet on what kind of player you are going to get for two years, and that player is just 27 years old, I'm not sure why you would shrug off a career-best, MVP-like season to emphasize previous seasons. I'm not throwing in the towel on Ozuna yet.
  • At this point, are the Cardinals confident that Gyorko can't play a full season?
  • That's a concern, sure.
    Gyorko has said as much. 
    That's why he prioritized getting into better shape this offseason. You can see the difference in his frame. He's slimmer, more athletic. And bat sure has not seemed to suffer. He's also the best defensive option at third base, and it's not that close.
    Gyorko keeps making his case. The Cardinals need to reward that instead of ignore it.
  • BPIP (brought to you by Lumberlend) discussed the issue of being proactive vs reactive in regards to Carpenter/Fowler. Isn't that the same discussion with Wainwright in the rotation?
  • At this point, yes.
    But the decision to start Wainwright was not solely on Matheny.
    The front office has a hand in this as well.
    I advocated for Wainwright to get his home-opener start. I pointed out that he pitched well enough to give the Cardinals a chance to win in the two starts that followed. But he has not been right since, and it's obvious.
    I don't see how the Cardinals bring him back to start without a lengthy rehab tour that shows he can pitch effectively, recover effectively, then go pitch effectively again. No more one-start rehab assignments.
    There is a real chance Flaherty sticks in the rotation now, and Reyes is zooming toward the end of his rebab tour with some really impressive results after two rehab starts.
    I wonder if Wainwright might be effective out of the bullpen. His curveball and cutter re still getting results. It's everything else that's getting hammered.
  • Marcell Ozuna's numbers are only slightly below his career norms. His 2017 season was a true outlier from his usual production. Anyone expecting him to suddenly turn into Mickey Mantle is going to be sorely disappointed (or they already work for the Post Dispatch).
  • Present the column or chat where I claimed he's Mantle, and I'll gladly eat my words.
  • Ben, you love to quote analytics, and you love to defend the scufflers like Wong, but you aren't shelling out hundreds of dollars for tickets and concessions. Without us fans, you wouldn't have a job and MLB would disappear. We are only asking for the Cardinals to put an average team on the field. At the end of the year, it's all about wins, period. Trends are an important part of statistics. In the real world, when a piece of equipment fails, it is tweaked or replaced. I always thought that the minor league system had a purpose of supporting the big team. So, if Carpenter, Fowler, Wong, and Kelly can't do the job, replace them.
  • I defend Wong when he's singled out as the Cardinal who needs to get shipped for offensive struggles, when he actually brings something positive to the defensive side and has had moments where he's hit well this season, unlike some of the other candidates the Wong critics selectively skip over.
    That's all.
    If you choose to boycott a second-place team, that's your call. I'm not trying to tell you how to spend your money.
  • Have you heard anything about what the Orioles think they could get for Machado? They've surely gotta realize the rental market isn't what it once was. The D-Backs got JDM for next to nothing last year.
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