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The Daily Mail: Diaz Demoted?

The Daily Mail, a St. Louis Cardinals Q&A

The Redbird Daily is proud to introduce our newest feature, The “Daily” Mail, an all new St. Louis Cardinals Q&A. We encourage St. Louis Cardinals fans to write in to us with your Cardinals questions/concerns/comments, and once a week one of our writers will give their perspective on a select number of messages. So without further ado, let’s get this started.

What is the first move you would make regarding this team? A hitter, starting pitcher, closer, etc?  — Russ R.

Well after Tuesday night’s debacle maybe relief pitching is the way to go. Kidding aside, if we are talking about bringing in a player, then the first move I would make would be for a hitter. Although the rotation is showing cracks, there are a number of rising pitching prospects in the minor leagues, Michael Wacha has not been written off yet, and a Lance Lynn extension is still a possibility. Reinforcements are there on the pitching side. They simply aren’t there on offense, at least not to the degree that this team needs. Most of the close hitting prospects (and those that have already been called up this year) are similar to Stephen Piscotty, good (maybe very good) but not great. The missing piece is a GREAT hitter (or two).

Who that hitter will be is up in the air. Depending on what the division looks like at the deadline, they could go with a rental like J.D. Martinez. I think it’s more likely they attempt to get someone for the long-term, such as Christian Yelich (among others). Even adding just one middle-order bat will push the current bottom half down and make it look much better. For instance, being forced to use Piscotty as a 3-hitter makes for an unimposing lineup, but having a Yelich or Martinez hitting 3rd and pushing Piscotty to 5th instantly makes it a much deeper, and better lineup.

What becomes of Michael Wacha if he can’t last as a starter? Is he really an option for the bullpen?  — Chris J.

Wacha is an interesting pitcher. In spring, I made the case during spring training that he had found the right training program to overcome his shoulder issues. With the Cardinals claiming that his health is good, that could very well turn out to be true. Which would mean it becomes a question of stuff/stamina. Consider that Wacha was drafted in June of 2012 and in the Major Leagues by August of 2013. That is a fast rise. I remember hearing John Smoltz expound on Wacha last season, basically saying that he had such early success and limited innings in the minor leagues, he never truly learned the in’s and out’s of being a pitcher. Pure stuff can only carry you for so long.

I will take this a step further. Many very, very good relief pitchers are, for lack of a better word, washed-out starters. Sometimes, such as the cases of high-profile pitchers Wade Davis and Zach Britton, this happens in the Majors. For many the conversion is in the minors or when they’re promoted (see: Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Bowman). Perhaps Michael Wacha was never going to stick as a long-term starting pitcher, but his early success and a need in the rotation cast him in the role and it’s never been reconsidered. Basically what I am saying is, Wacha didn’t have the usual time in the minors to define himself. As time goes on it appears less and less likely that he sticks as a starter.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as he absolutely fits as a relief pitcher. We have seen him touch 98 mph with his fastball this season and his change-up has been his best pitch since college. A two-pitch pitcher, especially one that can throw 95+ can be very successful in the pen. Additionally, this season he sports a 3.40 K:BB ratio and a .183/.248/.357 opponent slash line the first time through the lineup. That ratio falls to 1.92 and the slash line climbs to .351/.408/.495 the 2nd time through. It only gets worse the 3rd time. Everything about him screams good relief pitcher, but the success and promise of 2013-15 has kept him in the rotation, for now.

What do you make of the Aledmys Diaz demotion?  — Eric S.

Diaz was such an exciting player last season and he seemed poised to be a star. However, he has taken a major step back this year. His defense has improved, although he is still a below average SS, but his hitting has tanked. When he was signed out of Cuba, many reports said that his choppy swing would limit his offensive upside. Well, with a huge number of groundballs to the left side of the infield, it appears they may have been right. He is struggling at the plate and it was time for a refresh, a la Randal GrichukIn the meantime this is an excellent opportunity for an extended look at Paul DeJong.

Diaz is a pull hitter, but last season he showed the ability to hit to the opposite field, doing it 20% of the time. This year that number has dropped to 13.9%. What makes this particularly alarming is that pitchers are pounding the outside of the plate, and he is failing to go with the pitch. Instead he tries to pull the outside pitch, which typically results in a groundball. He has also been impatient with the same pitches, swinging at them rather than taking them for balls as he did last year. I see a guy that was pressing early on and has continued to dig a hole. Perhaps a chance to relax and reevaluate at Memphis will do the trick. The talent is still there, but a major adjustment to his approach needs to happen.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter for more Cards talk.

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Rusty Groppel
I'm a diehard Cardinals fan that feels privileged to write about his favorite team in this corner of cyberspace. I'm also the bass player for the best damn band in the 618, Tanglefoot. Check us out some time.
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