Judging the Royals

The St. Louis Cardinals: a scouting report

The Cardinals’ pitching is tops in the majors in runs allowed and ERA but the Redbirds also get offense from the likes of Matt Carpenter.
The Cardinals’ pitching is tops in the majors in runs allowed and ERA but the Redbirds also get offense from the likes of Matt Carpenter. AP

Friday night, the Royals start a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards are 27-14 and lead their division; the Royals are 26-14 and lead theirs. It’s hard to sweep a team this good and, yes, I could be talking about either team. If either team takes two out of three it’s had a very good weekend and if either team takes one out of three it has nothing to be embarrassed about. Against the better teams — as always — try not to get swept.

Friday’s pitching matchup is Lance Lynn (3-3 with an ERA of 2.96) versus Chris Young (3-0 with an ERA of 0.94). Lynn has pitched deeper in his starts than Young has been able to manage thus far. (And that’s the first time in my life I used the term “thus far,” but I like it and will use it at every opportunity from here on in.)

Both teams are very good at throwing out base stealers, so the stolen base might not be a huge factor — unless the right guy is on the mound in the right situation. (Was that vague enough for you?) Basically, recent numbers indicate you shouldn’t expect runners to go wild on the bases — but you never know. Someone may have spotted something that makes stealing a base a good bet.

I’ve heard stories about St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina actually showing a runner at first base the signs — we’re throwing a slider here — and daring the runner to go. If that happens Yadier is challenging the runner and don’t be surprised if a runner accepts the challenge.

St. Louis has been very good at converting their save opportunities and the Royals bullpen ain’t too shabby either, so whichever starting pitcher hands a lead to his bullpen has a decent chance of getting a win — the game might be decided in the first five or six innings. The Cardinals have a big edge in quality starts: 25-15.

The Royals had a day off on Thursday so — barring something physical — everyone in the KC bullpen should be available. The Cardinals played on Wednesday and Thursday, but the only reliever they used in both games was Randy Choate, so the St. Louis bullpen should be in good shape as well.

Which Cardinals are coming in hot?

Teams want to know what a hitter has done over the course of a season, but they also want to know who’s hot tonight. A guy with good overall numbers might be in a slump and guy who’s got an embarrassing number on the scoreboard might be smoking hot over the last week or so.

Assuming I counted right and made no mistakes transcribing — and I forgot my Star employee ID and had to be let into the building this morning — here are the Cardinals’ overall season batting averages followed by what those players have done over the last two series:

Kolten Wong: .309/.267

Matt Carpenter: .311/.259

Matt Holliday: .328/.292

Matt Adams: .244/.294

Jhonny Peralta: .296/.292

Yadier Molina: .294/.375

Jason Heyward: .245/.300

Randal Grichuk: .265/.292

A reader’s question

Yesterday I said that if you had a question, send it to me and I’d do my best to answer it. This question was waiting for me this morning:

Sometimes you hear pitchers say in an interview, I just didn’t have my best stuff today. More than likely that became evident in their warm-up. Especially with relief pitchers, why in the world do they still put them in the game?

My answer

Because warmups might not indicate what kind of stuff a pitcher will have once the game starts. I’ve heard of pitchers saying they felt great in the pen and then got hammered once the game started; I’ve also heard pitchers say they had awful stuff when warming up and then no-hit stuff when it counted. Bullpen mounds can be different than game mounds and that can make a difference as well.

Luke Hochevar once told me the first curve he threw in warmups went over the catcher’s head and hit the back of the bullpen wall. Luke thought; “Well, this, should be interesting.” Once he got in the game Hochevar told the catcher they’d have to work around the fact that he’d have no curveball and they did — despite a horrible warmup Luke had a good outing.

“Throwback” is out in paperback

I wrote a book with Jason Kendall last year and this year it’s out in paperback. So if you were too cheap to buy the hardcover version, now’s your chance. I can highly recommend “Throwback” because:

A. Eventually some of the money you spend could come trickling back to me and…

B. You’ll learn a ton of baseball — I know I did.

The book has enough inside information that big league scouts have been seen carrying it around in their briefcases, college coaches have bought it for their teams and Wade Davis said some of the information in it helped him get through a jam when he was pitching in Anaheim.

Jason was brutally honest about the game played at the big league level; so much so that we got a bad review by a guy who said we’d destroyed his childhood illusions. Sorry, there is no Easter Bunny and big league ballplayers sometimes cheat or play dirty.

Throwback will tell you how.

More self-promotion

Monday, I’m doing an live chat on KansasCity.com at noon that could be a disaster. When I do sports-talk radio shows I generally have to explain to the person interviewing me that I don’t cover baseball in a traditional way. I don’t know much about other teams and I’m only vaguely aware that the Royals have minor league affiliates. I can’t tell you much about Alex Gordon’s contract negotiations.

But I can tell you how veterans try to intimidate rookies, why some managers prefer the safety squeeze over the suicide — it’s a CYA move — or when the pitcher is scuffing a baseball’s seams to get more movement on a breaking pitch.

If that kind of thing interests you, join in at noon on Monday.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8.