Tagged: St. Louis Cardinals

2010 St. Louis Cardinals Preview

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cardinals.gif2009 Record: 91-71, 1st NL Central

2009 Prediction: 86-76, 2nd NL Central

2010 Prediction: 2nd NL Central

 

Impact Player: Albert Pujols

Impact Pitcher: Adam Wainwright

Top Prospect Player:
OF Daryl Jones

Top Prospect Pitcher:
RHP Shelby Miller

 

Manager: Tony LaRussa, 15th Season
(1232-1034, .544)

 

Significant
Acquisitions
: LHP Rich Hill

Significant Losses: UTIL Mark DeRosa, OF Rick Ankiel,
3B Troy Glaus, UTIL Joe Thurston, OF Chris Duncan, INF Khalil
Greene
, RHP Joel Pineiro, RHP Todd Wellemeyer, RHP John Smoltz

 

The Cardinals have been the class of this division since
manager Tony LaRussa arrived 15 years ago. 
They’ve consistently had great pitching and middle-of-the-order power
that is unrivalled in the NL Central and last year was no different.  Chris
Carpenter
came back from yet another
near career-ending injury to be in Cy Young conversation and he was joined by Adam Wainwright who established himself
as a true ace.  The game’s best player Albert Pujols won another MVP (ho-hum)
and was joined late by trade-deadline acquisition Matt Holliday to form a dynamic 3-4 combo with the ability to
punish any team.  With the loss of the
middle part of their rotation and some veterans from their lineup departing in
the offseason, can the Cards repeat as Central champs and get back to the
playoffs?

 

Pitching

AdamWainwright_2006_002.jpg

How many more times can Carpenter suffer a major arm injury
and come back to pitch among the elite in the game?  If he had stayed healthy throughout his
career with both the Blue Jays and the Cardinals, he might be a
Hall-of-Famer.  Last season, he was
terrific coming off of shoulder surgery that saw him pitch only a few games in
two seasons; he went 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA, finishing second behind Tim Lincecum in Cy Young voting.  With Carpenter, you always have to worry that
he’ll suffer another arm injury, and at 35, another major one would probably
end his career.  Adam Wainwright led the NL with 19 wins last season and was 3rd
in Cy Young voting.  Over the last two
years, he has a 30-11 record with an ERA under 3.00; there’s little doubt that
he is one of the best pitchers in the NL. 
Kyle Lohse had a comeback
season in 2008, winning 15 games, and he’ll need another one in 2010 after starting
only 22 games and winning only 6 in 2009. 
Brad Penny was terrible with
the Red Sox in his comeback attempt last season, but seemed to figure it out
after joining the Giants in August, going 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 6 starts.  The Cards basically handed Penny a contract
and a spot in their rotation based on those 6 starts, so they’re really hoping
that pays off.  The fifth spot will
likely go to lefthander Rich Hill
who has never since been able to find the form that saw him have a solid 2007
with the Cubs.  Kyle McClellan, Mitchell
Boggs
, Canadian Blake Hawksworth,
and prospects Jamie Garcia, Ben Jukich and Adam Ottavino are among a few of the pitchers who have a shot at
making the rotation instead of Hill.

 

37-year-old Ryan
Franklin
had a breakout 2009 (odd for a guy his age) with 38 saves and a
fantastic 1.92 ERA.  A repeat of that
performance would be terrific, although it shouldn’t be counted on.  Jason
Motte
enters camp as the likely setup man after showing signs of brilliance
a year ago; he also showed his fare share of inconsistency.  Veteran lefthanders Dennys Reyes and Trever
Miller
return and both were solid last season; Miller had a 2.06 ERA.  McClellan was very good in the middle innings
last season and will be back if he’s not starting and the remaining spots
should go to other pitchers who don’t make the rotation.  Tyler
Norrick
, Francisco Samuel and P.J. Walters could also get a look.

 

ROTATION

Age

B/T

Adam Wainwright

28/9

R/R

Chris Carpenter

35

R/R

Kyle Lohse

31

R/R

Brad Penny

31/2

R/R

Rich Hill*

30

L/L

 

 

 

BULLPEN

 

 

Ryan Franklin

37

R/R

Jason Motte

27/8

R/R

Dennys Reyes

33

R/L

Kyle McClellan

25/6

R/R

Trever Miller

36/7

R/L

Mitchell Boggs

26

R/R

Blake Hawksworth

27

R/R

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

Josh Kinney

31

R/R

Ben Jukich

27

L/L

Jamie Garcia

23/4

L/L

Tyler Norrick

26

L/L

Adam Ottavino

24

R/R

Francisco Samuel

23

R/R

P.J. Walters

25

R/R

*=newly acquired

 

 

Lineup

albert-pujols.jpg

Considering the Cardinals have some middle-of-the-order
firepower, it was sort of surprising to see them only 7th in the NL
in runs scored in 2009.  In leftfield,
the Cardinals re-signed Holliday and are hoping he can keep up the pace he had
after being dealt to St. Louis from Oakland at the deadline.  Holliday hit .353 with 13 homeruns and 55 RBI
in just 63 games with the Cards.  The
7-year, $121-million deal is considered by some to be a lot for someone who’s
had only half a great season outside of Colorado’s thin air, but without
Holliday, the Cards lineup would be in big trouble outside of Pujols.  In centerfield is young Colby Rasmus who could be a mainstay there for years to come.  Rasmus showed major promise in his rookie season
and will look to build on that going forward; he’s also a terrific defender who
could win a Gold Glove someday.  Ryan Ludwick will look to have another
good year after a solid 2009.  His
numbers dropped from .299/37/113 to .265/22/97, but that’s still solid.  A full year with Holliday hitting in front of
him should help; however, the late-bloomer alert applies here.

 

Pujols is the best player in baseball.  He’ll obviously be at first after another
ridiculous season that saw him hit .327/.443/.658 with 47 homeruns and 135
RBI.  He was once again the runaway
winner of NL MVP; his second straight and third overall.  Skip
Schumaker
is back at second base after a seamless conversion from the
outfield defensively.  Schumaker is also
a solid contact hitter, hitting .303 with a .364 OBP last season.  Brendan
Ryan
hit .292 last season and appeared to finally play the way the Cards
have been hoping he would for years, however, he’s 28, putting him, like
Ludwick, in the late-bloomer category. 
27-year-old David Freese is
the expected opening day third baseman, although Tyler Greene could challenge him. 
Neither is expected to be a long-term solution.  The catcher is the solid Yadier Molina who can do it all. 
He hit .293 with 54 RBI last season and is widely considered the best
defensive catcher in the game, winning his second straight Gold Glove in 2009.

 

Veteran Jason LaRue
is back as the backup catcher, but the Cards will likely try to upgrade there
during the season, while veteran infielder Julio
Lugo
is back as an extra infielder. 
Greene has a better chance of being put on the bench than Freese simply
because he’s more versatile, being able to play third, short and second.  The extra outfielders will likely be Joe Mather and Nick Stavinoha although 25-year-old Jon Jay may get a look in the Spring.

 

Pos.

 

Age

B/T

2B

Skip Schumaker

30

L/R

SS

Brendan Ryan

28

R/R

1B

Albert Pujols

30

R/R

LF

Matt Holliday

30

R/R

RF

Ryan Ludwick

31/2

R/L

CF

Colby Rasmus

23/4

L/L

C

Yadier Molina

27/8

R/R

3B

David Freese

27

R/R

 

 

 

 

 

BENCH

 

 

C

Jason LaRue

36

R/R

INF

Julio Lugo (SS, 2B)

34

R/R

INF

Tyler Greene (3B, SS, 2B)

26/7

R/R

OF

Joe Mather (RF, LF, 1B)

27/8

R/R

OF

Nick Stavinoha (LF, RF)

27/8

R/R

 

 

 

 

 

POSSIBILITIES

 

 

C

Matt Pagnozzi

27

R/R

C

Bryan Anderson

23

L/R

OF

Jon Jay (CF, LF, RF)

25

L/L

 

 

The Cardinals will be favoured by many to win the NL Central
again this season, and although they certainly have as good a chance as anyone,
they won’t come near the 91 wins they had last season in coasting to
victory.  The Reds and Brewers are better
than they were last season and the Cards lack depth everywhere.  Their lineup has a nice 3-4 combination, but
unless Ludwick returns to his ’08 form and Rasmus has a breakout year, they
could have trouble doing anything outside of Pujols and Holliday.  Their pitching is top-heavy and injury prone
with an aging closer and very little to bridge the gap to him.  Add on top of that that there are no big-time
prospects ready to make the jump this season and you have the recipe for a step
backward.

Final Prediction:
84-78, 2nd NL Central

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McGwire finally comes clean

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It took him five years, but Mark McGwire has finally come
clean.  In just a couple hours time, he
will sit down with Bob Costas of the MLB Network (live on MLB.com)

mcgwire.jpg

and fully admit to his steroid
use throughout the 90s; confirming what we’ve all known since well before his ‘pleading
the fifth’ performance in front of congress.

 

McGwire is widely regarded throughout the baseball annals as
one of the good guys, so it’s good to see that he’s finally admitted to
things.  With him being named as the St.
Louis Cardinals hitting coach this past November, it was only a matter of time
before he would have to make a public statement.  Thankfully for him, the fans, and all of
baseball that first public statement has been an admission.

 

The problem of course is that no matter how much he
apologizes, or how much he admits to, he can’t erase the legacy he’s left on
the game.  McGwire was undoubtedly one of
the most prolific power hitters of all time, and we all know why.  That’s not to say he wouldn’t have been
prolific without the steroids, but we’ll never know.

 

So now that he’s admitted to things, does he get into the
Hall of Fame?  He shouldn’t.  After all, he was still a cheater; admittedly
or not.

’09 Previews — St. Louis Cardinals

st_louis_cardinals.jpg2008 Record: 86-76, 4th NL Central
2009 Prediction: 2nd NL Central

Impact Player: Albert Pujols
Impact Pitcher: Adam Wainwright
Top Prospect: Colby Rasmus, OF

Significant Acquisitions: SS Khalil Greene, P Royce Ring
Significant Losses: 2B Adam Kennedy, SS Cesar Izturis, INF Aaron Miles, INF Felipe Lopez, 1B Josh Phelps, P Braden Looper, P Russ Springer, P Randy Flores, P Mark Mulder, P Jason Isringhausen

With all of the injuries the Cards sustained last season, it’s pretty amazing that they played as well as they did.  In spite of the fact that they had the second most man-games lost to injury in the NL, St. Louis finished with an 86-76 record.  This year, they enter camp healthy and so does Albert Pujols who won the NL MVP in spite of playing injured all of last year.  If the Cards get a fully recovered Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright gets close to 200 innings, Albert Pujols continues to put up his record-breaking-pace numbers, and Kyle Lohse pitces the way he did last year there is no reason why they can’t challenge for the NL Wildcard.  That may sound like a lot of “ifs” but none of those things are unlikely.

Pitching
If they can stay healthy, the Cardinals have one of the best potential rotations in all of baseball.  Adam Wainwright went 11-3 with a 3.20 ERA last year and steps in as the Cards’ #1.  His only problem in ’08 was that injuries limited him to 132 innings.  Kyle Lohse was a bargain-basement signing last spring and ended up to be one of the best pickups in league.  He went 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA and was the only Cardinal to register 200 innings.  He signed a 4-year $41-million deal in the offseason so it’s obvious that the Cards didn’t consider his ’08 a fluke.  The number 3 spot should go to Todd Wellemeyer who impressed managment and his teammates with a strong clubhouse presence and a 13-win, 3.71 ERA season.  The caution against him is that he’s 30-years-old and on his 4th team and hadn’t shown much before last year.  Carpenter has only pitched in 5 games since 2006 and is a risk for further injuries as he has been his entire career.  When healthy, however, he is one of the best pitchers in the game.  At 34, however, one has to wonder how much he has left in the tank, healthy or not.  The fifth spot should go to either Joel Pineiro or Mitchell Boggs depending on who impresses the most in the spring.  Pineiro, who hasn’t been consistent in a starting or relieving role since 2003 could be on thin ice and Boggs has upside but posted a 7.41 ERA in a 34 inning stint with the big club in ’08.  Prospects Adam Ottavino and Brad Furnish have outside shots at landing a spot if they have amazing springs.

In the bullpen, the Cardinals are strong overall but lack a true closer.  The early thought is that manager Tony LaRussa is prepared to go ‘closer-by-committee’ but, as we all know, LaRussa likes his dominating closers (see Eckersley, Isringhausen, etc).  23-year-old Chris Perez has the stuff but lacks in experience; he had 7 saves last year with a 3.46 ERA.  Ryan Franklin does not have typical-closer makeup but is a solid reliever.  He had 17 saves in ’08 and a 3.55 ERA.  Kyle McClellan and Brad Thompson should be in the ‘pen as well in spite of inconsistent ’08s.  Josh Kinney has great stuff and should be given a full-time bullpen spot providing he continues to show improvement and Jason Motte allowed only one earned run in 11 innings in a September callup.  The Cards are short on lefties but signed Royce Ring to a minor-league contract and Furnish could also be in the mix.

Rotation (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)

  • Adam Wainwright (R/27)
  • Kyle Lohse (R/30)
  • Todd Wellemeyer (R/30)
  • Chris Carpenter (R/34)
  • Joel Pineiro (R/30)

Bullpen

  • Chris Perez (R/23)
  • Ryan Franklin (R/36)
  • Kyle McClellan (R/25)
  • Josh Kinney (R/30)
  • Brad Thompson (R/27)
  • Jason Motte (R/27)
  • Royce Ring (L/28)

Lineup
The Cards made only one change to a lineup that led the NL in hits and batting average in ’08; adding Khalil Greene.  In the outfield, Ryan Ludwick will start in Right, but buyer beware: last year was his breakout year and he was 29.  Centerfield might go to Colby Rasmus who almost got the job last year.  Rasmus is a potential 5-tool player who needs to mature before he can be a impact major league player.  Converted pitcher Rick Ankiel should start in Left unless Rasmus doesn’t make the team.  In his first full year as an outfielder, Ankiel showed plus defense and hit 25 home runs.  If Rasmus doesn’t make the team there are many other options in Chris Duncan, Skip Schumaker, and Brian Barton.  In the infield, the Cardinals have the best hitter in the NL in Pujols.  He was apparently injured all of last year yet still won an MVP hitting .357 with 37 home runs and 116 RBI.  Pujols is on pace for some truly remarkable career numbers; at only 29, he already has 319 home runs and 977 RBI.  At Third Base is Troy Glaus who can still hit when he’s healthy and is an underrated defender and Greene is the only new offensive addition coming over from San Diego to play Short.  Second Base will be a wide open Spring battle.  Schumaker is apparently being converted to play the position and Brendan Ryan, Brian Barden, prospect Tyler Greene, and veteran Joe Thurston are all said to have a shot.  Catching is Yadier Molina who has become one of the most solid catchers in the NL; he hit .304 in ’08 and won a gold glove.

Because of uncertainty in Centerfield and at Second Base, predicting who will be on the Cards’ bench is futile.  Schumaker, Duncan, and backup catcher Jason LaRue are likely locks to make the team, but Barton, Barden, Thurston, Greene, and Ryan will be involved in a heated battle.

Lineup (Handedness/Age on June 30, 2009)

  • SS  Khalil Greene (R/29)
  • 2B  Skip Schumaker (L/29)
  • 1B  Albert Pujols (R/29)
  • 3B  Troy Glaus (R/32)
  • RF  Ryan Ludwick (R/30)
  • LF  Rick Ankiel (L/29)
  • C    Yadier Molina (R/26)
  • CF  Colby Rasmus (L/22)

Bench

  • INF Brendan Ryan (R/27)
  • OF  Brian Barton (R/27)
  • OF/1B Chris Duncan (L/28)
  • C    Jason LaRue (R/35)
  • INF Brian Barden (R/28)

Outlook
The Cardinals have a very good lineup and one of the game’s best hitters.  Their pitching staff looks solid on paper and if they can remain healthy they could be one of the top units in the NL.  Khalil Greene isn’t much of a defensive downgrade from the departing Cesar Izturis and if he can regain his former offensive form, the Cardinals will be very tough to beat.  Final Prediction: 86-76, 2nd NL Central