By Adam Kaufman, from Cardsblog.com
The St. Louis Cardinals are fortunate enough to have some desperately needed reinforcements coming off the DL for the stretch run. Let's examine how Mike Matheny should utilize these players.
The former Cards closer is nearing a return from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since July. His season to that point was a disappointing one, as he posted a 5.13 ERA while saving 14/18 games in the early going.
Rosenthal has had some serious control issues, posting a BB/9 rate of 7.29 this year, while that number was just 3.28 in 2015. However, it seems like a portion of his struggles may be attributed to trying to pitch through this injury. Rosenthal had a 2.11 ERA in April and May despite a high walk rate, but the results came crashing down in June and July.
With the Cards locked in a tight race for the wild card, manager Mike Matheny can ill afford to experiment with Rosenthal in high leverage spots. Despite his one-time elite pedigree, Rosenthal is going to have to prove himself healthy and capable by producing in low pressure blowouts. Perhaps the long layoff will prove to be just what Rosenthal needed, and he can pitch his way into the back end of a bullpen that has held its own heading into the stretch run.
The St. Louis Cardinals just wrapped up a nine-game road trip, going a decent 5-4 against the bottom-feeding Brewers and Reds before taking two tough games in Pittsburgh. More notably, they continued their season-long power resurgence, bashing 17 home runs over the nine games.
The unheralded rookie burst on to the scene this spring, putting up big numbers while filling in for an injured Jhonny Peralta. Diaz made the NL All-Star team and slashed .312/.376/.518 with 14 HR before going down with a right thumb fracture at the end of July. He came off the DL on Sunday to find a crowded infield consisting of Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong, and Peralta among others.
Photos: Aledmys Diaz
Many of those infielders have excellent positional flexibility, which should enable Mike Matheny to move guys around and find good matchups on a daily basis. While Jedd Gyorko excels with the bat in his stint as the starting shortstop, his defense has been subpar. Diaz hasn't exactly been a wizard with the glove, but he should at least shift Gyorko to another spot on the infield.
Holliday was recently cleared to begin baseball activities coming off thumb surgery in mid-August, and it looks like he has a chance to return towards the end of September. While the veteran outfielder currently is having one of his worst seasons of his career, his clubhouse presence and power from the right side will surely be welcomed back with open arms to a lineup that is 15th in the MLB in runs scored in the second half.
In all likelihood, Holliday will reclaim his starting spot in left based on pedigree alone and relegate Brandon Moss to the bench. However, the numbers don't necessarily back up that decision. Both Moss and Holliday are hitting .242 in close to 400 plate appearances. That's about where the similarities end. Moss goes 14 at bats between HRs on average, while Holliday goes 20.
Both Moss and Holliday have less than stellar reputations with the glove, but Moss has actually been a solid defensive contributor this season. Now, with each outfielder hitting from opposite sides of the plate, it seems like a perfect situation for a platoon, some odd reverse splits would say otherwise.
Twenty-two of Moss's 25 HRs have come against righties, and Holliday is hitting just .226 against lefties in 2016. Matheny probably doesn't have the guts to park a franchise cornerstone on the bench for a September playoff race, but it looks like it wouldn't be the worst thing to pick his spots and keep his legs fresh.
There is no question about it: it is crunch time for the Cardinals. This upcoming week has the potential to be the deciding factor in the Cardinals' Wild Card hopes, with three games at Busch Stadium against the MLB-best Cubs and four in the unfriendly confines of AT&T Park against the Wild Card leading San Francisco Giants.
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