Sunday, May 03, 2009

First Month Analysis

With today's rain postponment, the Cards are essentially through the first month of the season. They've played 13 games at home (10-3) and 12 on the road (7-5). They have a 3 1/2 game lead on the Reds and Cubs in the Central. Obviously, you have to be pretty happy with the start to the season, especially with Carp only making two starts Can the rotation hold-up without him? That's probably the big question because the offense has been great, and the bullpen looks much improved. Here's how I grade the team to this point:

Offense: A

Obviously, everything has revolved around Pujols so far, as he looks extremely locked-in. The Cardinals lead in the NL in runs scored and are near the top in about any offensive category you can think of. Ludwick has shown that last year was not a fluke and the rest of the outfield has been productive as well (though Ankiel continues to be the definition of streaky). Barden and Thurston have combined nicely at third, and though Glaus is missed, it's not as badly as I feared. Probably the only negative on offense has been Khalil Greene, who has not been able to carry over his hot spring to the regular season and is now struggling with an arm injury of some kind.

Defense: D

Definitely the major area of concern right now. Only the Reds and Nationals have worse fielding percentages and only the Nationals have allowed more unearned runs. So far, it doesn't seem like the defense is costing us in the most important area: the W-L column, but the team needs to tighten things up or that will come in time. One major positive here: Shumaker has been way better than I expected at 2B and is not a major cause of this issue. In fact, he has only one error while playing second so far, which is excellent.

Starting Pitching: A-

Pineiro, Wainwright, and Lohse are a combined 10-1 so far, and have been great. I'd like to see Waino and Lohse get a little deeper into the game consistently, but that's a small complaint really. Pineiro lost yesterday, but three of the four runs he gave-up were unearned. He's suddenly become a very effective ground-ball pitcher. If the defense tightens-up behind him, he'll be that much better. Boggs looked great his last start and whatever he give us in lieu of Carp is a bonus. The only weak link seems to be Wellenmeyer. He's 2-2, but his 5.28 ERA and 1.76 WHIP show he is not pitching well. We need him to turn it around while Carp is out for sure.

Bullpen: B+

We have 5 blown saves so far, which is not good, but unlike last year, we haven't lost all of those games. I can think of two (Motte's blown save to start the season and one by McClellen) were the bullpen blew it the offense couldn't get it back. Franklin has been absolutely outstanding. Perez has been quite good since being called back-up. Why they sent him down in the first place, I don't know. Motte, after giving up four earned that first game, has yielded only one in 10 innings since. McClellen has been similar, one bad outing, but nails otherwise. Miller's ERA isn't good right now, but I think him and Reyes have been a big upgrade from the left side compared to last year. This area is obviously one we will watch closely all year long after what happened last season, but so far most of the signs are positive.

If you look at the schedule for the next month, it's not too scary. Two series against the Pirates, Reds and Brewers. One with the Cubs. Games against Giants, Rockies and Royals as well. Toughest two games are the next two against the Phillies. It's a good opportunity to pile-up some more wins as we hopefully look forward to Carp's return at the beginning of June.


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