Game Notes: Astros 4, Cardinals 3 08/27/09 -- An Ugly Loss
-- I hate Brian Moehler. A lot. It never fails to irritate me when the Cardinals get shut down by some journeyman pitcher, and it happens every single time they see Moehler. Somehow, he has still never lost to the Birds, despite being an incredibly mediocre pitcher overall. Hell, take out his numbers against the Cards, and I could almost see him being a below-average pitcher. It's maddening. Memo to any team who thinks they might see the Cardinals in the playoffs: pick up Brian Moehler. At any cost.
I also hate Moehler because he only seems to have one pitch. Probably 80% of the pitches I see him throw all seem to be this little cutter on the outside corner to right-handed hitters. He mixes it up a bit more against lefties, of course, but I just can't figure out how a guy can throw the same pitch in basically the same location all fucking day long, yet hitters just can't seem to make the adjustment and do anything with it.
-- More than anything, though, I just question how in the hell Hal McRae still has a job. This team's plate approach seems to get worse and worse all the time. Not only do they not take pitches, no one on this team seems too very interested in doing anything but pulling the ball. I said before Moehler throws the same crappy cutter to the outside corner against right-handers all day long; why, then, are they all trying to pull that pitch? I just don't get it. And yes, I'm well aware these are professional hitters who should know what they're doing, but someone is establishing this philosophy, and it just isn't working. Hitting coach, I'm looking at you.
This team's talent level on offense rivals that of the 2004 team (since the additions, anyway), yet we haven't seen anywhere near that level of offensive consistency. And when I watch this team play, I don't believe we're going to see it until the approach changes. That 2004 team was capable of wearing pitchers down, even when they weren't getting hits, by taking tough at-bats and working the count. This year, not even close. This philosophy of taking aggressive at-bats is taking all the bite out of what should be just a monster.
-- Of course, the worst part of the loss today actually wasn't the offense's continued ineptitude, it was watching the lead evaporate due to poor relief work. Kyle McClellan just isn't getting the job done here anymore, and I wonder if John Mozeliak didn't create a brand new hole in trying to fix the problems with the offense. The left side of the bullpen has been nothing short of brilliant (well, Trever Miller has been untouchable, and Dennys Reyes has been pretty good, so it averages out to about brilliant), but the right side suddenly looks a lot like Blake Hawksworth's Twitter feed. (If you need help with the punchline to this joke that would make a vaudevillian cringe, it's holy. I wish I had something better, but that's all I can come up with at the moment.)
Jason Motte has imploded, whether due to the league seeing him, Dave Duncan meddling with what works, or Motte just making bad pitches. (I'm personally going with a combo of numbers two and three. Or maybe he's hurt. Something isn't right.) Hawksworth has been very good, and is moving into higher-leverage territory all the time, but I would like to see a bit higher strikeout rate from a guy pitching in the late innings. Brad Thompson is strictly a mop-up guy. That leave McClellan to try and set up for Ryan Franklin, and I'm not at all sure K-Mac is good enough to be pitching with the game on the line. He isn't getting hit all that hard, but his walk rate is over 12%, which is not at all confidence-inspiring.
-- While we're on the subject of right-handed relievers, I know I promised I wouldn't make the Chris Perez update a regular feature, and I still won't. Nonetheless, Perez is now up to 16 scoreless appearances in a row, covering 16 1/3 innings. He hasn't walked a batter in his last seven outings. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
-- Still tough to be too very down, I must admit. The Cards are nineteen games over the .500 mark, and they did win the series, after all. Still, I watch this team and I worry. They look awfully good most days, but I wonder what they'll look like come October.