Here's what the Cardinals shouldn't do

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burrell.jpgThe Cardinals are in a sort of hot stove limbo, waiting on Matt Holliday to accept or reject their rumored five-year, $80 million offer and at the same time working on a proverbial Plan B if he lands elsewhere.

What “Plan B” involves isn’t exactly clear.  We know the Cards have been keeping tabs on Mark DeRosa, but he’s just moments away from officially signing with the Giants.  The Cardinals have also been linked loosely to Xavier Nady this winter, but it’s quite possible no actual negotiations have taken place.  Pursuing Adrian Beltre would make some sense, and perhaps they’ll even take a look at Jason Bay.

We can dabble in our own set of hypotheticals all night, but what we do know is the Cardinals have a hole in left field and are seeking some offensive protection for Albert Pujols.

Rob Rains of the newly resuscitated St. Louis Globe-Democrat has an idea.  A hypothetical, if you will.  The problem?  It’s not a very good one.

Considering the lack of in-house candidates available,” writes Rains, “…there might be an increasing possibility that the Cardinals
will have to pursue a trade to acquire a left fielder, should the
Holliday stalemate finally reach the breaking point

If, or when, the Cardinals do reach that point, here is a name they
should consider: Pat Burrell

This is not FireJoeMorgan,
and I’m not Ken Tremendous, or dak, or Junior,
but it’s pretty easy to see where Rains’ Globe-Democrat piece goes wrong.  The Cardinals should pursue Pat Burrell?  I’ll agree to disagree.  Actually, I’ll just disagree.

Burrell, 33, finished the 2009 season with an ugly .221/.315/.367 batting line, only 14 home runs and 109 strikeouts in 412 at-bats.  He was unable to stay healthy despite manning designated hitting duties for the Rays and would do little to protect the great Pujols in St. Louis.  Yet, today we read this:

RAINS: “Burrell would fit right into the middle of the lineup as the protector
of Albert Pujols. 
Even though he hits righthanded, much of his power has
come against righthanded pitchers – 164 of his career home runs, as
opposed to only 71 career homers against lefthanders.

Burrell has more home runs against right-handers than he does against lefties.  That’s quite an observation.  Maybe that’s because he has faced 4,331 right-handed pitchers in his career as opposed to just 1,533 southpaws.  In fact, just about every major league hitter with legitimate service time has batted more often against right-handers.

Manny Ramirez, one of the most feared right-handed hitters of all time, has 406 career home runs against right-handed pitchers and just 140 against lefties.  Does that mean he’s a better hitter when facing right-handed competition?  Of course not.  And neither is Burrell.

Burrell vs. RHP:  .249/.348/.463
Burrell vs. LHP:  .269/.403/.513

Ramirez vs. RHP:  .305/.400/.579
Ramirez vs. LHP:  .337/.444/.624

RAINS: “Burrell also is a classic cleanup hitter, which is a status none of the
other potential left-field candidates can claim.

And what, exactly, defines a “classic cleanup hitter?”  Bengie Molina hit cleanup the last two years in San Francisco.  He also finished this season with a lousy .265/.285/.442 batting line and has only reached the 20-homer plateau once in his career.  Is he “classic?”  Mark Teixeira posted a .948 OPS and blasted 39 home runs this season for the Yankees but batted third during 605 of his 609 at-bats.  What’s his status?

RAINS: “Burrell also is not a terrible left fielder. He has played more than
1,100 career games in the majors in left field, averaging about seven
errors a season.

Sure, if you want to ignore all of the progress that has been made in the last 15 years with fielding metrics.  Burrell had a -7.1 UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games) as a left fielder for the Phillies in 2008.  His UZR/150 was -25.2 in 2007 and -13.5 in 2006.   So, yes, Mr. Rains, Burrell is a terrible outfielder.  And your hypothetical Plan B article probably wasn’t worth printing.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.