Thursday, May 28, 2009

We Should Celebrate This Third Base Debacle

Ok, so now we know that Glaus is pretty much in shut down mode and will never wear a Cardinals uniform ever again, but like everything else, there is a silver lining to this situation. Some options to solve this matter could be to keep the platoon of Thurston/Barden alive and ride them out and see where that takes us or make a trade. I am a definite believer of both options, but am more of a fan of the latter. I would lie if I said that I wasnt and you would be too. The July 31st trade deadline is one of the biggest highlights of the entire baseball season because it gives you hope, it gives you something to look forward to, well thats if you are on the winning side of things. The Cardinals are buyers especially when it comes to third base. We need help! I am not saying that I dont think Thurston/Barden cant do it (how about just leaving Thurston there?), but what if we added DeRosa and put him in that slot? Jorge Cantu? Yes his defense is not great, but Sandwiching him between Ankiel and Ludwick would be a sight to see. I think we are one power bat away from being looked at as kind of contenders to the real deal. Obviously, if a trade went down, we would have to give up an OF. For instance, lets say we trade some minor league pitchers and Ankiel/Duncan/Ludwick (one of the three) for Jorge Cantu. We would put Cantu at 3B (by the way, he does play third base) move Thurston to second base and either move Skip out into the outfield or platoon Skip and Thurston at second base. Our lineup would look something like this:

2B: Skip (Thurston; Obviously, dont bat Thurston lead off if he starts at 2B)
CF: Rasmus
1B: Pujols
LF: Ludwick
RF: Duncan (Skip)
3B: Cantu
C: Yadi
SS: B. Ryan/T. Greene
SP: Carp/Wainwright/Lohse/Pineiro/Wellemeyer

Now thats one hell of a lineup. I might be a little off on adding players etc... but still, that would be an amazing lineup that could put some serious runs up on the board. Then you have to think about our chances in a best of 5 game series or even a best of 7 game series when the opposing team has to face Carp, Wainwright, Lohse and if Pineiro is on, even Wellemeyer for that matter, we are going to be THE team to beat. Now if we dont add Cantu, but trade for DeRosa, just replace Cantu with DeRosa. I am a huge Mark DeRosa fan because we have seen what he is capable of when he played for the Cubs. I think that the Cubs are falling this year due to the trade of DeRosa which was purely fueled as a salary dump. Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Ultimate Cardinal Killers

There have been many, many players from opposing teams who the fans, or players for that matter, call "The Ultimate Cardinal Killer". These players usually strike fear into the fans, hit home runs that usually land 800 ft away and the most inopportune time or make us feel that our pitchers are throwing beach balls instead of baseballs. Some guys are mediocre, but then again, most of them are just great baseball players. Not to mention, pitchers (young and old) who seemingly have the best game of their careers against the Cards. So, let's start on fielding the starting 9 of "The Ultimate Cardinal Killers". Any suggestions of anyone I missed is welcome as are any comments.

SP - Roy Oswalt - 9-7 career mark v. the Cards, 3.11 ERA, 170.2 IP, 170 Hits, 59 ER, 128 SO. Kills us in the playoffs ('05 NLCS anyone?)

SP - Carlos Zambrano - 9-6 career record in 22 career starts, 3.52 ERA, 148.1 IP, 128 H, 58 ER, 117 SO, 7.1 SO/9 IP.

SP - Tom Glavine - 20-6 record in 37 starts, 3.46 ERA, 3 complete games, 236.2 IP, 230 H, 95 R, 91 ER, 11 HR

SP - Randy Johnson - His record says otherwise (6-7), but he definitely put up some big numbers against the Cards. In 15 starts, he had 4 CG, 102.2. IP, 96 H, 49 R, 47 ER, 121 SO and 10.6 SO/9 IP.

SP - Jeff Francis - Some might disagree with this choice, but everytime we face this guy, he absolutely dominates us. In 7 starts he is 4-1, 2.61 ERA, 1 CG, 48.1 IP, 32 H, 14 ER, .194 BA, .268 OBP, .297 SLG,

C - Mike Piazza - I had some trouble finding a catcher who did some serious damage vs. the Redbirds, but Piazza seemed to be a destroyer versus Cards pitching. Yes he sucked defensively, but he was making the big bucks for his bat. In 97 career games: 112 H, 24 HR's, 65 RBI, .331 AVG., .401 OBP, .995 OPS and 201 TB.

1B - Ryan Howard - 27 Games plaved versus the Cardinals with 13 home runs, 37 RBI, .376 BA, .508 OBP, .802 Slugging pct., 1.310 OPS. YIKES. Please, stay away Mr. Howard.

2B - Jeff Kent - Ooooh, Craig Counsell (only if you killed us OUTSIDE of the playoffs would you have leap frogged Kent into 2B) almost made the list, but Kent definitely had some monster numbers against us to obtain the 2B spot. 137 Games: 146 hits, 41 2B's, 22 HR's, 92 RBI's, .857 OPS and 259 total bases. Oh yea and a walk off home run to force a game 6 in the 2004 NLCS off of Izzy.

SS - Barry Larkin - Larkin was an absolute pest to the Cardinals for nearly 20 years. In his prime he was one of the best shortstops around especially against the Cardinals. In 175 games: 94 R, 174 H, 18 HR, 73 RBI's, 28 SB's.

DH - Lance Berkman - One of my least favorite players ever, but you have to give credit when credit is due. He is a ballplayer. Even though he has the weirdest body type for a baseball player as well as being one of the most unorthodox CF's, he will serve best at the DH position due to his offensive mangling abilities vs. the Cards. In 140 Games: 158 hits, 35 2B's, 36 HR's (really?!?! More home runs than 2B's?? Holy Jesus), 112 RBI, .313 BA, .411 OBP, .604 SLUG pct., 1.015 OPS and 305 total bases.

3B - Aramis Ramirez - I hate playing the Cubs for one reason: ARAM. This guy destroys us and the thing that sucks is that wherever we pitch him, he seems to hit us. Also, great trade Pittsburgh! Career v. Cards: 131 Games: 150 hits, 33 2B's, 24 HR's, 86 RBI's, .299 BA, .356 OBP, .872 OPS.

LF - Barry Bonds - Yes he has grown physically, as well as socially, odd over the years, but that doesnt take away his ridiculous numbers vs. the Cardinals. Take a look. 209 career games v. Cards: 137 runs, 51 2B's, 39 HR's, 119 RBI's, 34 SB, .514 SLUG pct, .899 OPS. Thank God Bonds is out of baseball because he kills us in all aspects possble.

Back up LF - Adam Dunn - This guy definitely strikes fear deep into my soul. Yea he strikes out a lot, but he straight up mashes against us. 118 games: 28 HR's (5 off of Mark Mulder), 67 RBI.

CF - Carlos Beltran - '04 NLCS and everytime he comes up to bat against us. 'Nough said.

RF - Brian Giles - This one almost slipped my mind, but you have to remember his prime years in Pittsburgh as well as with the Pads. Was a great rightfielder even though he can barely fit through a doorway without raising his arms above his head (which he also has trouble doing). 106 games v. STL: 76 runs, 124 hits, 24 2B's, 25 HR's (another guy who absolutely pulverized the ball against us with more HR's than 2B's!), 77 RBI's, .325 BA, .442 OBP, .596 SLUG pct., 1.038 OPS! 227 total bases.

Bench - Manny Ramirez - 16 Career games v. the Cards: 15 R, 19 H, 5 HR, 13 RBI, .380 AVG, .537 OBP, .740 SLG, 1.277 OPS and 37 TB. Oh yea, he tested positive for PED's and was suspended for 50 games as of today.

Bench - Mark Grace - He definitely lacked power, but he seemed like one of those traditional Caridinal Killer types. Especially in the heated rivalry between the Cards v. Cubs. 185 G: 205 H, 98 RBI, .311 AG., .828 OPS and 294 TB.

Bench - Ken Griffey Jr. - In his NL stint which was hindered by injuries, he still seemed to rise above the occasion when he played the Cards. In 74 Games: 74 H, 22 HR. 51 RBI, .605 SLG, .987 OPS and 155 TB.

Closer - Billy Wagner - Billy the Kid was a menace to the Cardinals for many years with the Astros and for the Mets. He was one of the best closers in the NL Central for many years and his numbers definitely show what kind of damage he was capable of against the Redbirds. In 54 G: 1.30 ERA 29 Saves, 62.1 IP, 44 H, 81 K, 11.7 SO/9IP. Just dominant.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are We Settling with this Bullpen?

I know that some people hate talking about our bullpen, but this is our obvious achilles heel and this problem needs to be resolved. It was our achilles heel last year, it was the year before that and it was in 2006, until then rookie Adam Wainwright came in as our closer and dominated the playoffs and ultimately lead us to a 10th World Series. As much as our bullpen has let us down and as much as my heart rate goes up every game come the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, there is a silver lining. Some guys are actually stepping up and making pitchers. For example, Jason Motte seems to be settling in since his Opening Day meltdown (did you see that curveball he threw last night for a strikeout? It had way to much break to be a slider), Chris Perez is pitching to his ability and Ryan Franklin is 6/6 in save opportunities and is really pitching well so far in this young 2009 season. But on the other hand you have guys like Trever Miller, Kyle McClellan and P.J. Walters who come and seem to let the game fall through the cracks. I have been absolutely disappointed in Miller because it seems that he is having trouble getting left handed hitters out. His ERA might say otherwise, but look at his pitching line: 5.68 ERA over 6.1 IP and giving up 9 hits. Isnt that why we signed him? To be a left handed specialist? Still waiting for him to come around. As for McClellan, well, I find myself nervously biting my nails, lip etc... or anything else I can get my teeth on when he takes the mound. He is still young which is good because he has a lot of time to gain more confidence in his pitches (i.e. LOCATION), strengthen his conditioning and redefine his pitches. But my question regarding McClellan is: why are we so dependant on him? Why not bring in Franklin in for a 4 out save last night? He has all the confidence in the world right now and he also has all of the fans confidence which speaks volumes of what he has been able to do this year. Why not bring in Chris Perez? He threw 8 pitches the night before. Lack of confidence in the young reliever? I have yet to see McClellan come in and shut the other teams down in the 8th or 9th inning. I dont want to generalize and say that he has never been able to do that, but the bad outings overshadow the good outings. THATS JUST BASEBALL and its unfortunate that his bad outings outweigh his good outings too. Another thing, is it me or does he feel the need to load the bases and THEN execute his pitches and try to pull a Houdini to get out of the inning much like how Izzy would go about his business when he took the mound? It worked two nights ago, but not last night. I dont know if he lacks confidence or if his nerves are getting the best of him (see curveball BEHIND the right handed Diaz), but I think TLR needs to have a little chat with him behind closed doors. When you see Lohse pitch a gem like he did last night, you have to reward him with the victory much like the night before with Pineiro. Regardless of the score being 1-0 or 10-0, GIVE THE STARTING PITCHER HIS WELL DESERVED WIN because he went out there for 6+ shutout innings and didnt let up a run, so why cant a reliever go out there and pitch a scoreless half inning? That baffles me. Isnt that what they get paid to do? Isnt that the sole reason why they are on the big league ball club? Our bullpen needs to take it upon themselves to do their jobs and take pride in the fact that they need to help out their teammates and give them confidence that no matter what, they will take the game into their own hands and take care of business.

I know that McClellan is not the only guy to blame. You can blame our offense for not scoring enough runs (thats a first), you can tip your cap to Jo-Jo Reyes for keeping the Braves within striking distance or you can take the route that a lot of Cardinal fans do and just blame TLR or the FO for not getting a surefire closer. Whatever the reason, it came down to not executing pitches in the 8th inning with a struggling reliever on the mound. I believe that the Cardinals will be a great team this year with a 90+ win season, but if we want to make it deep into October, we are going to need to nail down our main issues at hand and that is our bullpen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The First Three Weeks

As we come to the end of the third week of the 2009 baseball season, there have been many unexpected surprises. For instance, the uninspired play of the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. All of the "experts" had the Cubs running away with the Central division and also had the New York Mets atop of the NL East. I know it is still early in the season, but the Mets look like they are in trouble and so do the Cubs. Then you have the Florida Marlins who have been slowed down after their torrid start, but they look like they are here to stay. The main thing that sticks out to me and that I pay the closest attention to, obviously as a Cardinals fan, are the Chicago Cubs. We are better than them and it should not be a surprise that we are in first place in the NL Central. We have drafted better and we have progressed forward by adding by subtracting (i.e. not re-signing Aaron Miles). If you compare the Cubs lineup and roster to ours, I believe that we have an advantage in all positions except one. That exception falls within the third base position. Although our platoon has been way better than expected, you can never count out Aramis Ramirez who is the ultimate "Cardinal Killer" (some might say Carlos Beltran is the other player who could also assume this role). I no longer have that fear of the Cubs like I have had in the past couple of years because they are all one year older (see Derreck Lee) and that they are set up for disaster in regards to the future with some of the players they have locked up ( Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano). Yes, their pitching looks great on paper, but the only one that has shown up this year is Rich Harden. Some could say Ted Lilly, but he is getting older and I am not sold on him yet for the 2009 season.

As we progress into the 2009 season, some major questions face the Cardinals. For instance, how will the starting rotation hold up? Will Kyle Lohse and Joel Pineiro keep this up all year? Will Todd Wellemeyer become more aggressive and return to his 2008 form? Will Chris Carpenter return to the rotation in 2009? Will the bullpen finally figure things out and remain in their recent form? I know that these are a lot of questions to face, but every team has these types of questions. I am not going to say that all of these issues that face the Cardinals are irrelevant because some look at these questions with the glass half empty approach. For me, I am very positive about our answers to these issues posed above. For instance, I think Mitchell Boggs will be able to hold his own as Carpenter remains on the DL. I think that when Carp returns, Wellemeyer should be relegated to the bullpen and Boggs should be placed in the fifth slot of the rotation. I have no confidence in Wellemeyer and this just isnt stemming from this season. I cannot get myself to get excited when I know Wellemeyer is pitching because he reminds me too much of Braden Looper (too inconsistent and lacks a plus third pitch). He isnt aggressive and he doesnt attack hitters on the inside part of the plate with his fastball. It seems like he throws the same pitch over and over again while missing his location. To me, this is the biggest issue that faces the Cardinals in '09.

I have been looking at our overall performance from position to position. I think that we have the best offense in the National League, if not in all of baseball. If we had Troy Glaus, we would not have a weak spot in our whole lineup. And it all starts at the catchers position.

C - Yadier Molina/Jason Larue - While Yadier remains the starter, he is showing that he is growing as a hitter from year to year and this year he is not slowing down. Not only is he becoming a clutch hitter, especially with 2 strikes, but he is also becoming one of our most dependable hitters down in the lineup.
Grade - A

1B - Albert Pujols - Dont have much to say because his name says it all, but expect another MVP trophy in his trophy case by the end of 2009.

Grade - A+

2B - Brendan Ryan/Skip Schumaker - This platoon (along with a little Joe Thurston) is very dynamic. Brendan Ryan has great defensive capabilities with very good range along with an average major league bat, while Skip shows glimmers of hope in regards to his defense with better offensive attributes. This platoon will continue to improve as the season wears on.

Grade - B

SS - Khalil Greene - While Khalil gets the brunt of the play at SS, he is off to a slow start. Even though he has surpassed the home run total from our shortstops last year, he has yet to really show us what he is capable of at the plate. I am not embarrased by my praise of him in the offseason and spring training, but something seems to be a little off with Khalil, especially defensively. I dont think he gives up his at-bats (although sometimes it seems like it), but as each game passes, it seems like he is a total guess hitter with minimal approach. His defense is normally above average, but thus far in this young '09 season, he has yet to show the flash that helped him make his name in the Major Leagues.

Grade - C

3B - Joe Thurston/Brian Barden - This is the best platoon so far for the Cardinals. Not only can they hit, but they have proved that they can play some stellar defense at the hot corner. I know that they have committed a few errors, but that is expected as they have never been everyday players at the major league level in their careers. As long as they can contribute offensively and play average defense, we should consider ourselves lucky because they have exceeded everybody's expectations.

Grade - B+

Outfield - Chris Duncan/Colby Rasmus/Rick Ankiel/Ryan Ludwick/Skip Schumaker - These guys can absolutely hit. BOTTOM LINE. But dont look at them as one dimensional players (i.e. Chris Duncan). Their defense will always be overlooked due to their offensive production, but these guys have given us more than we expected and then some defensively. The one thing that has stuck out to me is Colby Rasmus. I cant believe this kid is a rookie. He has above average strike zone discipline and has an uncanny knack to draw walks, which will play a major factor throughout the '09 season especially when he hits in front of Albert. KEEP COLBY IN THE 2 SPOT!

Grade - B+

Starting Pitching - I think that we are an average rotation, but our potential seems unlimited due to Dave Duncan. There are not many other teams that have the luxury of having a great pitching coach along with some guys that have some real talent and that are willing to develop themselves and follow the philosophies of their pitching coach for the greater good of the club. The only guy that worries me is Wellemeyer due to his inconsistency this year along with the lack of a multitude of pitches. He resembles Braden Looper with his arsenal of pitches and seems to have a good outing every four or five starts. On the other side of things, Wainwright, Lohse and Pineiro have been very solid and continue to give us good outings. Lets hope that Carp can comeback and remain healthy (I know, I know, that we cant do that anymore, but I am not giving up on him) because if he does, we will have one of the best pitching staffs in the NL.

Grade - B -

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Are There Even Options for Third Base?

As we take a trip down memory lane, we notice that we are in a far too familiar place already in the 2009 season. If you haven't figured out what I am talking about, I am referring to the recent news of Troy Glaus. We have seen this time and time again in regards to Mark Mulder, Chris Carpenter, Scott Rolen etc... and how these situations end up. I think Troy Glaus is a tremendous talent and what he did for us last year is only a testament of his abilities, especially on the defensive end. But as we move forward in this debacle which acts as a dark cloud over what seems to be a bright 2009 season, we find ourselves asking ourselves the same old question: When will (fill in the blank of whatever star player we have had) return? The medical staff, P.R. people and front office always seem to have a hard time answering this question. We always hold high expectations on the return of these players, but the people behind all of this do not help on setting these unrealistic timetables. But when they do return our hopes and prayers have been answered, but usually only for a short time. For example, Chris Carpenter just last year in the 2008 season. When he returned, you knew something wasnt right. I liked the fact of trying to ease him for only 3-5 innings per outing, but you could tell something was nagging at Carpenter and he was far from the Carpenter of old. Result: Season ending surgery. Then the Mark Mulder saga. I always held high hopes for him and I wanted him to return to the Cardinals healthy and prove everybody wrong, but what happened? The same old story. He returned to only reaggravate his injury. And now Troy Glaus, a solid piece of the Cardinals lineup and who also seemed to be a defensive mainstay is out for an unknown period of time. Glaus' timetable went from reasonable (May) to whoah! (June) to Mark Mulder status (After the All Star Break). Surprising? Absolutely not. So I am trying to help spread the word on not getting our hopes up and to trust what we have in house as well as our front office. I understand that the Cardinal faithful do not want to do that, but we are paying Glaus $11.5 million dollars this year to NOT play the hot corner. When are we going to learn?

So, what are our options? Staying in house.....again? Which is a tough one to swallow, but is the only reasonable answer at this time. One question that sticks out in my mind is: How is that Edmonds trade looking right about now? Jim was my favorite Cardinal of all time and yes it was hard to see him go, but the guy we got in return (David Freese) is paying dividends and its looking like he is going to be our Opening Day starting third baseman. Who would have thought that that would have happened? I am very high on David Freese and I think that his talents will only excel when he gets more time at the major league level. We also have Wallace in the minor leagues, but his defense is far from major league ready. I was kicking around some ideas. Lets play "What if this situation doesnt work?" game. Meaning, what if David Freese doesnt pan out at third base liked we thought he would? What would you like the Cardinals to do? Here are some possible options:

1.) Stay with Freese
2.) Take a flyer on any capable player out there
3.) Make a trade

I think the most illogical option is option number three, making a trade. Even though there have been some rumors about trading for Ryan Raburn from Detroit, that would not be a wise decision. If we were to trade for a player, they would have to be more than adequate at defense at third base. Meaning, basically trying to obtain an everyday third baseman. This is the last thing that we should do for two reasons: (1) That player would only be a rental due to Freese and Wallace waiting in the wings. We would also have to give up pitching most likely and that is the last thing we need to be doing right now. And (2) There is no way that we will try to obtain an everyday third baseman because that means he will be a proven, older player who will be expensive. For instance, a guy like Melvin Mora who would probably be available due to the fact that the Orioles have close to zero pitching. The next option posed that I am a little mixed about is taking a player through waivers. I dont think this would help, nor do I think it would hinder our current situation. For instance, Dallas McPherson who was just released by the Marlins. He hit 42 home runs last year in AAA along with 98 Rbi, yet nobody seems to be giving him a look. So why dont we take a waiver on him? I think our hands are tied. I personally dont want to pick up McPherson because then we would have a logjam at third base which is something that we are already dealing with in the outfield. Lastly, I think the most logical decision would be to stay in house. I know, I know you are saying, "NO! NO! God we are so cheap if we do that" etc... which may be the case, but in our recent penny pinching ways, the way that I see it, will only help us in the future. If we are able to fill the holes on our Major League club with the guys that we have that are ready to make the jump from the minors, we are at a huge advantage. An advantage that not many clubs out there have. We are going to have to buy into what the Cardinals are doing right now because it is the way of the future. We could look back a few years from now and talk about the major mistakes that we made, but by that time, especially in this instance, this decision will not be one of those mistakes.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


AL - EAST - Rays
CENTRAL - White Sox
WEST - Angels
Wild Card - Yankees
ALDS - Rays v. White Sox, Yankees v. Angels
ALCS - Rays v. Yankees
AL Champions - Rays

NL - East - Phillies
Central - Cardinals
West - Diamondbacks
Wild Card - Cubs
NLDS - Phillies v. Cubs, Cards v. D'Backs
NLCS - Cubs v. Cards
NL Champions - Cards

World Series - Cards v. Rays
W.S. Champs - Cards

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Will Rick Stick?

Everybody knows that Rick Ankiel is at a crossroads in his career. Who would have thought that he could actually come to a crossroads when his career looked more like Highway 1? What could possibly be going through his mind during the 2009 season? Does he take the money and run to the highest bidder after the 2009 season (depending on how his season goes)? Hometown discount for all the years the Cardinals stuck by his side and let him revive his career as on outfielder? Do we trade him at the trade deadline? There are a few possibilities floating out there to say the least. I would love for Rick to stay in a Cardinals uniform, but then you have to look at The Kid (Colby Rasmus) who is on the cusp of making the big league roster this year. I think the decision will become clearer as soon as we see Rasmus play and see what he can do. If it looks like he can hit and handle his own at the ML level and that his future is as bright as ever, then we should explore the opportunity to trade Ankiel because we already have our answer in house. I hate thinking about Ankiel playing in a different city, with a different uniform on, but as they all know and as we all know, baseball is a business and even the players have to look out for whats best for themselves as well as their families.

Rick Ankiel has definitely exceeded expectations on what his abilities are as an outfielder. There were some skeptics at the beginning of his comeback, but I was there that night when he hit his first home run as a Cardinal Outfielder and you could just tell he was going to be able to hold his own. Jim Edmonds said that he was not surprised at all because they used to see Rick do all of the things that he is great at during batting practice and while taking fly balls in the outfield and we saw him hit a few home runs as a pitcher too. Are we surprised at his freak-like abilities helping him become of the top Centerfielders in the National League? Absolutely not. Should we be surprised on what sort of situation we could be in because of this? Absolutely. We could trade Rick and finally get what we have always wanted: Young, top of the rotation type prospects. But what if we try to keep him. What will it cost? Do we try to resign him to a possible 3 year, 27 million dollar deal in September? Is that too much? If he hits .280+, 25 + home runs and 90+ Rbi's he is definitely worth it. But what if Duncan hits 25+, Mather holds his own and proves to us that he can hit ML pitching and Rasmus has a great year, would Rick's absence be that big of a loss when we have two to three other capable OF's to make up for his slack? I am way too interested to see what happens with him because we will have to wait until the middle of the season, but that is still a few months away. Tim Dierkes at said that Rick Ankiel is the second most intriguing name on the trade market behind Roy Halladay. Now if that doesnt tell you on what his potential value might be, then I dont know what else to tell you, but no matter how you look at it, we are in a win-win situation. What do you think?