Previewing Sunday Night Baseball: Cardinals at Indians

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With the Cardinals and Indians less than an hour from first pitch, here’s a few things to consider:

A pair of aces:

– Chris Carpenter (4-0, 1.23) toes the rubber for the Cardinals. He’s
coming off his worst start of the season against the Marlins, which is
saying a lot, considering that he allowed three runs over six innings.
The 2005 Cy Young award winner has limited opponents two runs or less
in all six of his other starts. He’s holding opposing batters to a .163
batting average and has served up just one home run in 44 innings
pitched this season.

– Cliff Lee (3-6, 3.17) starts for the Indians. The defending Cy
Young award winner was hit hard by the Royals in his last start,
yielding four runs on 11 hits over six innings as part of a
no-decision. The four runs were the most Lee has allowed since April
11. Lee has a 2.31 ERA over his last 11 starts, after a 9.90 ERA over
his first two starts. Righties are batting .322 off the southpaw.

El Hombre en fuego:

– With his 27th career multi-homer game on Saturday, Albert Pujols
has went deep in three consecutive games. He’s tied with Raul Ibanez
for the National League lead in home runs with 22 and is second to
Ibanez with 57 RBI.

Missing Sizemore:

– With Grady Sizemore on the disabled list due to an elbow injury,
the Indians first turned to Ben Francisco to lead off, but mired in a
4-for-30 funk, the Indians inserted Jamey Carroll there on Friday. So
far, Carroll is 2-for-8 with a walk from the top spot.

Fantasy angle:

– With the Cardinals loading their lineup with right-handed batters against the southpaw Lee, rookie Colby Rasmus takes a seat.

– Kerry Wood hasn’t allowed a run in his last nine appearances, spanning 8 1/3 innings.

Kevin Kiermaier on Rays’ recent moves: “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset.”

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On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”

Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.

The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.

When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.