Lance Berkman Continues His Epic Streak

ST. LOUIS — Lance Berkman cautions that the season still is young, but his stock continued to soar Thursday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

The switch-hitting Berkman, batting from his weaker right side, popped a three-run homer to left on reliever Mike Dunn’s first pitch, highlighting a four-run eighth inning that catapulted the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-3 victory over Florida.

“It’s good to win a game that’s tough, hard-fought,” said Berkman, who connected with a high fastball over the middle of the plate. “I felt good about putting us up right there. I tried to be aggressive, and hopefully he made a mistake in the strike zone. You’re not going to get him too many times.
Cards beat Marlins on Berkman homer Cards beat Marlins on Berkman homer Cards beat Marlins on Berkman homer Cards beat Marlins on Berkman homer Cards beat Marlins on Berkman homer Cards beat Marlins on Berkman homer Cards beat Marlins on Berkman homer
Lance Berkman circles the bases after hitting a three-run homer in the eighth inning, which proved to be the game-winner, putting the Cardinals over the Marlins, 6-3. – Tim Vizer/BND

“All in all, a real good day.”

The latest in a series of good days for Berkman. The 35-year-old right fielder, who also had a game-tying sacrifice fly in the sixth, has a major league-high 32 RBIs in 29 games to go with a .392 average, a .462 on-base percentage and a .775 slugging percentage.

“I’m trying not to think too much about it,” said Berkman, who signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Cardinals in December. “I mean, I’m just going up there and trying to have good at-bats. It’s been a good run.

“I feel good. The swing feels good, the body feels pretty good. It’s been helpful that Tony (La Russa) has given me a day here and there to kind of get my legs back under me. He’s done a tremendous job working other guys in there, and that’s been beneficial to me to.

“Hopefully, it will last, but it’s a long season and we have a long way to go.”

Cardinals On Pace To Shatter MLB Record for Hitting Into Double Plays

No, the DP Blues is not what an adult film starlet gets after a particularly taxing week at work. The DP Blues is what the Cardinals have right now, and have had ever since Albert Pujols grounded into not one, not two, but three double plays on Opening Day

So far this year the Cards have been hitting into double plays at an historic rate. Following Wednesday night’s loss, in which Matt Holliday grounded into a game-ending double play (and Colby Rasmus lined into another, but I don’t think that goes into the stats the same way), the Cardinals have grounded into 42 double plays. In 31 games.
At this rate, the Cardinals are on pace to not just set new records for double plays, but to shatter the old marks. The all-time National League record for team GIDP is 166 times, a mark set by the 1958 St. Louis Cardinals. (Interesting side note: the Cardinals also hold the record for fewest in a season, with just 75 in 1945.) The American League (and MLB), record is 174 by the 1990 Boston Red Sox.
The 2011 Cardinals? They’re on pace to ground into 219 double plays this year.

The biggest single offender to this point has been none other than Albert Pujols, who started the season of the DP off with such a bang and hasn’t really looked back since. He’s already hit into 10 on the season (in 30 games), which puts him on pace for roughly 52 double plays this year, depending on his exact playing time from here on out. That number would easily break the old record of 36, set by Jim Rice in 1984 with Boston. (The NL record belongs to Miguel Tejada in 2008, when he hit into 32 with the Astros.)

Yadier Molina has been a big offender as well, perhaps unsurprising considering his marked lack of speed and propensity for putting the ball in play. He’s hit into 4 in 25 games. Matt Holliday’s game-ender last night was his fourth of the season as well. Surprisingly (to me, anyway), considering his speed, Colby Rasmus has hit into four. Ryan Theriot has hit into five, despite his supposed speedy leadoff-ness.
Skip Schumaker may be the worst offender of all, with three double plays grounded into. Oh, sure, that’s not as many as lots of others on the roster. The difference, though, is that Skip hit into those three in just fourteen games. Extrapolate it out and he’d be right up there with Albert, only without the power numbers and other positive stuff. Of course, considering the fact Skip hits a grounder to the second basemen three out of every four times up (note: statistic may not be accurate), it shouldn’t really be too shocking to see him getting doubled up on a regular basis.
So what can we glean from all this double play trouble? Is it a real problem, or just a weird statistical quirk?
Well, first off, such a high number of double plays is actually indicative of something pretty positive. Hitting into a ton of double plays is a direct result of the Cardinals having an enormous number of men on base. The Cards currently lead all National League teams in hits, runs, batting average, and on-base percentage. They’re third in walks, second in at-bats, first in total bases, and even first in hit by pitches with twelve. When you put as many hitters on base as the Cardinals do, there’s just more opportunity for double plays to happen.
Second, you could look at a lack of team speed as part of the issue. Pujols doesn’t run very well. Molina looks like an optical illusion heading down to first. When either of them put the ball in play on the ground there’s a chance they could be doubled up. Same with Schumaker, who looks like he should have fast player skills but just doesn’t.
Even more than a speed issue, though, the high number of double plays is probably indicative of players hitting the ball hard. Notice Colby, despite having good speed, has hit into several already. The reason? He’s been hitting the ball hard, even on the ground. Same with Holliday, who has been absolutely blistering the ball this year. When he hits one of those screaming one-hoppers at a fielder there’s plenty of time to execute the double play.
High contact rates play a part, too. Theriot makes contact with everything, Molina does the same. Pujols hardly ever swings and misses, meaning there’s lots of contact coming off his bat. What’s worrisome about Pujols is that he’s hitting a higher percentage of grounders in 2011 than he ever has before. (He’s hit 48% of his balls in play on the ground this season, compared to just over 40% for his career.)
So what we have here is a team with more baserunners than any other team in the league, lots of hard contact, and mediocre speed at best. To be honest, as frustrating as it is watching the Cards hit into so many double plays, I would argue the high number of DPs is actually a positive sign, rather than a negative one. Sure, it sucks to see opportunities go down the drain, but lots of double plays actually seems to me to be an indication of a healthy, robust offense putting tons of scoring chances together.
Will this crazy pace continue? Well, probably not. They’re on an historic pace, and I could definitely see this team coming close to the records, but it will almost certainly slow down. At the very least, Pujols should see his batted-ball profile regress more toward his career rates and his GIDP numbers should go down.
In the end, though, I would argue that if the Cardinals do manage to break some double play records in 2011, it might actually be the best sign of just how good this offense is. That doesn’t mean I won’t complain about it, though.

Cardinals – 7 Marlins – 5

Daniel Descalso Let His Bat Do The Talking Tonight, Going 2 For 3 Including A 3 Run HR To Bring Home A Victory (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Cardinals – 7 Marlins – 5

The Cardinals jump out to an early lead and once again get involved in a close matchup they finally win in the end. The first inning saw the Cards jump out to an early lead on the strength of a two run home run off the bat of Matt Holliday to bring end the inning 2-0 Redbirds. The second inning was more fuel to the fire as they are able to load the bases before the Marlins walk Allen Craig to score Daniel Descalso 3-0.

Kyle McClellan’s good streak ended up turning around in the top of the 3rd. He walks the first two batters and the pitcher hits into a fielders choice to bring the runners to second and third. Chris Coghlan is the next batter and hits into a force out at second base, but this allows John Buck to score, 3-1 Cardinals. The next batter is Omar Infante and he sees a wild pitch that allows Emilio Bonafacio to score, before he grounds out to Ryan Theriot. Inning ends 3-2 Cardinals.

The top of the 4th is no different as it sees the Cardinals struggle to get out alive. The Marlins hit two more RBIs on the strength of singles by Gregg Dobbs and John Buck, the inning ends 4-3 as the Marlins take their first lead.

Luckily the bottom of the 5th the Cards begin to battle back as Matt Holliday singles to lead things off, Berkman walks, and then Colby comes in to single and score Holliday for an RBI, who for Colby has seemed a bit of a rarity as of late to tie the game at 4. The bottom of the 5th is also where both teams sub out their pitchers, the Cardinals subbing Jon Jay in his batters slot and Edward Mujica takes the mound.

Fernando Salas took over and played the next two innings well but allows the go ahead run in the top of the 7th to bring the score to 5-4 Marlins.

The bottom half of the inning provided not only the firepower, but that game winner as well. Lance walks, Colby singles and the Marlins soon turn to pitcher Clay Hensley to replace Ryan Webb…bad idea. Little did they know little Daniel Descalso would step up in such a big way as the first batter he faced and hit his first HR of the season to score all three runs to get the Cardinals the 7-5 lead.

This would prove to be all that was needed and the Cardinals pull out a big victory!

Winning Pitcher: Fernando Salas (1-0 : 1.46 ERA)

Losing Pitcher: Ryan Webb (0-3 : 3.60 ERA)

Save: Eduardo Sanchez (2 SV : 1.64 ERA

What does Albert drive?

Ever wondered what St Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols drives? Today we take a look at his ride of choice. The Lamborghini:

Recent photo showing AP arriving to Busch Stadium

The Lamborghini Gallardo is a sports car built by Lamborghini . The Gallardo is Lamborghini’s most-produced model to date, with over 5000 built in its first three years of production.  Each car costs about $180,000 to $210,000. The car is named after a famous breed of fighting bull. The Spanish word gallardo translates into “gallant,” and from Italian into “striking”.

The Gallardo offers two choices of transmissions, a conventional (H-Box) six-speed manual transmission, and an advanced six-speed electro-hydraulically controlled semi automatic robotized transmission, which Lamborghini abbreviates to “E-gear”. The “E-gear” allows the driver to make shifts much faster than a manual transmission would. The driver shifts up and down via paddles behind the steering wheel, but has also the automatic mode.

Could Albert Pujols pull a “Lebron”?

LeBron James did one thing exceedingly well these past 72 hours- raise his profile to pass the mom test, as Bill Simmons donned it. Ask your mom if she knows who LeBron James is this morning and I’m pretty sure that she’s aware of the guy and has at least a cursory understanding that he’s involved in some contract/city drama.

Perhaps a week ago your mom knew LeBron James. Today she definitely does.

And that means one thing for LeBron James… more money. And don’t kid yourself,  professional athletes care about winning- they care more about money. Mainstream brands that might have been leery of pushing a LeBron backed product to market are looking right  now at the overnight ratings from ESPN and calling his business manager to ‘run some ideas by him’. When people see they can make money off you and get eyeballs focused in one direction on TV, Radio and the Internet? You’re fucking golden.

LeBron chose to go to Miami and play with the Heat. They’ve already sold out their season tickets. Today they’ll probably sell out most of their road games. Conversely, Cleveland is devastated. Not only is one of the best players in basketball leaving their city without a championship and in the prime of his career. But he’s also handing the Cavs a roster of bums. Bums that they’re stuck with since most of the good free agents are committed to other teams.

He’s lauded in one place, castigated in another.

Come 2011, Albert Pujols may be in the same situation as LeBron. In the prime of his career, carrying the weight of his small Midwestern city on his back for years, fielding calls that involve more than X’s and O’s, but plans on how to create a global Pujols brand. More succinctly, if he wants what we saw last night… Pujols can have it.

But Hooks- Albert would NEVER do that to St. Louis. He loves it here. The Cardinals wouldn’t let him leave. Fill in whatever your hopeful argument is here.

Maybe you’re right. Hell, I hope you’re right. But we’re about a season and half from finding out. And we have some things to consider.

1) The Cardinals have done a pretty poor job of getting Pujols the mega-deals he deserves in marketing. Ryan Howard and Subway, Derek Jeter and Gillette, Joe Mauer and EA Sports… these guys are building their brands. And until Wheaties hastily got Pujols involved with a partial deal with their new ‘Fuel’ line of cereal, Pujols has pretty much been stuck in regional marketing hell. Reactor watches anyone? Why isn’t he the face of any national Latino brands? Shouldn’t he be worthy of video game headlining gigs? Dammit- doesn’t he like subs? He likes subs right? Some of this is on his business management. Some of this is on the Cardinals. But most of it has to do with the fact that he’s not in a major market… ahem… just like Cleveland isn’t.

2) Pujols likes money. Guys who buy Lamborghini’s and build 20K square foot houses like money a lot. If you think Pujols is going to sign another reasonable deal to stay in St. Louis again… you’re fucking insane. And I mean that kindly. Pujols will be looking for the best possible deal out there and I’m not sure, again, that a small market like St. Louis can support the payroll that would entail.

3) Cleveland has their dicks in their hands today. Johnny Mo sees this and wonders if he isn’t able to lock in Pujols this off season, if he shouldn’t start seeing if he can get something for his crown jewel. We’ve put this on the back burner for a couple of years now. But 12 months from now isn’t as long as you think. This high stakes game of poker is coming to a head. We’ve seen the flop and people are sizing up the moves… but the dealer is ready to draw soon.

I hate to even throw out the hypothetical of how St. Louis would react if this exact scenario played out with Pujols. Because as much as LeBron meant to Cleveland, I think Pujols means twice as much to this city. He’s won a championship here. He’s broken records held by Cardinals legends. He’s been the literal and figurative face for the franchise going on a decade. There are kids in college right now that don’t really remember a life without Albert Pujols batting 3rd and killing opposing pitchers.

Fuck. That makes me feel old. It’s the truth though. And those 18 year olds wouldn’t take kindly to a Pujols exit on national team. Neither would 28, 38, 48, 58, 68 or 78 year olds.

So let’s hope it never comes to this. But remember… I could if Albert wanted it to, I could.

Back in 2009, nobody in Cleveland would have believed you either if you told them how it all played out.