Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lohse-I think I'm gonna be sick

I don't honestly believe that Lohse deserves a $10M a year contract...and for four years. You mean we couldn't have gone after Sheets or Sabathia? This is the kind of contract we made a mistake with regarding Jimmy Ballgame and Izzy. I just don't see this going well. I thought the Cards' brass was going to make a move that would be more like Suppan, Marquis, and Weaver--let other teams overpay. Simple economics people. Honestly, I think Brad Penny is the perfect type of Duncan-rehab player. Don't be surprised to see him sign with the Cards.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Season Retrospective Part 3 - Bullpen

Before I get started, how about a hand for the guys playing out the season with pride. Five straight wins, and Pujols has gone on a nice little run that will hopefully net him his second MVP award. Now, on to the hard part.......

What went right: Well, not a whole lot really. McClellen pitched well the first 4 months before seemingly running out of gas in his first major league season. Springer was pretty tough for the most part. Perez should flashes of brilliance. Franklin had his moments, especially when he was not asked to close. Motte has been great in an admittedly small sample size. Kinney likewise (props to him for making such a long comeback attempt successful though).

What went wrong: Hmmm......where to start. Izzy was alternately hurt or disastrous. Franklin was unable to consistently close games either. Come to think of it, no one was. Perez probably has the best save percentage, but that's not saying anything really. Finding relief from the left side was equally difficult for the Cardinals. Villone seemed to be TRL's favorite, but his ERA is horrible. He does get some K's, but still not good overall. Flores was the left-handed Izzy this year basically. If the bullpen could have held a handfull of the leads this year that they gave up, we'd be talking playoffs instead of next year right now.

Bottom line: This is obviously the most glaring weakness/need on the team. Just because management did nothing to shore it up at the trading deadline, doesn't mean they won't do anything in the offseason. Right?

Plan of next year: First of all, the Cards have to figure-out who will close for them. Everything else will fall in line from there. I'm not a big fan of the idea of signing K-Rod. Granted, having him this year almost certainly would have given us 10-12 more wins, but he'll command a record salary for a closer (maybe $15-16 mil for 5-6 years) and I just don't think it is worth it for a player that will pitch a maximum of 80 or so innings a year. I'm not sure what other options there will be in free agency (I think Fuentes from Colorado is a free agent), but there will be much cheaper options. Regardless or whether we sign a closer, signing a steady veteran guy from the left side is a must. We have some good young arms, but they are mostly righties (or really totally if Tyler Johnson and Garcia can't come back from injury next year). Motte and Perez look like they will be future big cogs in the bullpen, but they need to work on finding secondary pitches to go with the plus fastballs. I loved Kinney before got injured with his wicked slider, and he hasn't given up a run since coming back, so he looks like a good combo to go with Franklin as the primary set-up guys. McClellen I've heard may be turned back into a starter, but if he isn't, I think he can be effective as a seventh inning guy with the other youngsters helping more over the full season. Springer may retire or move to a team closer to his family. He was good this year, but he's not a necessity for next year. I think if we sign two good veterans (one lefty, one closer), this area could quickly turn from a weakness to a strength. Lord knows, that would be welcome news to the Cardinal nation after this past season.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Season Retrospective Part 2 - Starting Rotation

Nice job by all the fill-ins last night. If you can't go to the playoffs, we might as well ruin the Diamondbacks season as well! Anyway, continuing with my retrospective:

What went right: Lohse was a serious bargain pick-up during spring training and was our most consistent and successful starter. Wellenmeyer pitched very well also for the most part, though he struggled in June and up to the All-star break. Looper was very steady, about what you'd expect from a #4 starter type. Wainwright pitched like an ace - when he was healthy. Carpenter showed signs of his old form for the brief time he was back.

What went wrong - Pineiro pitched quite poorly for most of the year. No one was able to fill Wainwright's spot in the rotation really when he was out, be it Boggs, Garcia or whoever. Mulder was unable to come back, and signing Clement also came to nothing. Carpenter's comeback was also eventually stopped short due to an apparent nerve problem in his shoulder, and he may require more surgery in the offseason. Wainwright was missed badly while he was out, and that may the the primary reason we are in the outside looking in for the NL wildcard.

Bottom line: You'd have to give the starting rotation basically average marks on the year. They were pretty good before Waino was injured, but only decent without him. Lohse, Wellenmeyer, and Looper had what I would term good years though.

Plan for next year: We all know that the Cardinals have a lot of money coming off the books after this year, and this is were I would spend the bulk of it. Even IF Carpenter can come back, and that's a big if you have to say with his long injury history, we could use another big arm. Wainwright and Wellenmeyer should be back (anyone know for sure if Wellenmeyer is free-agency elligible, or just arbitration, like I believe?). I believe we should let Lohse go - he'll command a salary higher than he should after his career year. Resign Looper, he'll be cheaper and fills that 4th or 5th starter role just fine. Relegate Pineiro to long relief/spot starts (the Brad Thompson role). If Carp is back, that still leaves one spot. The guy I'd prefer to go after is A.J. Burnett. He should opt out of his deal with Toronto. He's from the St. Louis area and almost signed with us last time. He'll cost a pretty penny. I'd guess $13-15 mill X5 years (he's earning 12 right now), but he seems to be just reaching his potential and should be even better in the National League. He'll be cheaper than Sabathia at least. He's not quite an ace in my opinion, but will be good as a #2 behind Wainwright, great as a #3 if Carp can come back. The only other big free agent I think the Cards should consider is K-Rod, but I'll describe tomorrow why I don't think that's a great idea.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Season Retrospective part 1 - Offense

Last night, we were officially eliminated from postseason play. The sad thing is, the Mets and Brewers have played very poorly the last three weeks, if we could have just been decent, we would have had a chance. Alas, a team that was probably playing over their heads finally came back down to earth, and in a big way. I just hope now we can finish over .500 and finish ahead of the Astros. The next few days, I'm going to do a 3-4 part series examining what went right this year, what went wrong, and what the team should do in my opinion next season to make in back to postseason baseball. Today, I'll start with the easiest part, the offense:

What went right: Albert had his usual stellar season, despite having the fewest proven bats around him that he has had in his career. Ludwick had a great year, probably a career year. Ankiel was quite good when healthy. Miles, Shumaker, and Molina were all better than expected. Glaus was probably only about average, but with his better than expected defense, there is no question that we got the better of that trade.

What went wrong: The middle infield provided almost no power, with our shortstops and 2B hitting a COMBINED 10 homeruns this year. Chris Duncan was either injured or ineffictive this year. Ankiel was unable to come back from an late July abdominal injury, Joe Mather was lost for the year just as he was finding his way, and Molina and Glaus also struggled with late season injuries. The combination of those things had the Cards with little left in the tank in September.

Bottom Line: The Cardinals currently rank 1st in BA, 7th in HRs, and 5th in runs per game in the National League. That's got be considered a successful season from an offensive standpoint.

Plan for next year: If it were up to me, I'd shut Albert down right now, and have him get the elbow surgery he needs immediately. He may still not make it back quite in time to start next season, but it should be close. I believe Miles and Izturis are free agents. I'd resign Miles, and let Izturis go. His plus glove isn't enough to make-up for his minus bat. Kennedy wants to be traded - if we can find a taker, I say good. Lopez has hit pretty well since coming over, but is weak defensively. I think he'd be worth re-signing if the price is right. Ideally, I'd like to trade for or sign a better hitting SS (a return for Renteria maybe?), start Lopez at 2B and let Miles be the main back-up at both middle infield positions. Glaus, Molina, and Albert are back next year. Ludwick, Shumaker, and Ankiel as well I assume. I'd have Mather as the 4th outfielder/platoon with Shumaker. Rasmus doesn't seem ready for the big show yet it seems, but we have enough good outfielders to allow for another year in the minors. All in all, I think only one big move needs to be made to give us another good offensive team next year, that being the shortstop position. The really big question in all honesty is whether Ludwick can repeat what he did this year. A little more consistency from Glaus and Ankiel to back-up Albert wouldn't hurt either.

Coming up next, I'll examine the starting rotation.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

When it rains, it pours.

It may be close to the end, and here are some signs of that:

1. Four losses in a row, including two to the lowly Pirates.
2. Carpenter has been shut down for the rest of the year. Apparently, he is having a nerve problem in his shoulder. Not sure what that means for next year........
3. Ankiel is also shut down for the year, and will likely have surgery to correct the abdominal problem that has plagued him this last two months.
4. Yadier and Glaus are also hurting. Both are supposedly getting better, and Yady may play today. Lopez has certainly not looked good defensively with Glaus out. Izturis played third at the end of the game last night, and that was much better.
5. Even our rock, Wainwright, had a bad game last night.
6. Ludwick is also losing steam. He and Pujols can only do so much with the other big boppers out. You want to have the September call-ups get some time, but we are having to out-right rely on them with all the injuries we've had.

Anyway, things look pretty grim. I'm of two minds at this point, I'm happy with the way the team has played (i.e. overachieved), but I feel we've wasted a golden opportunity as well. Lots of questions for next year, mostly about the pitching, but you have to wonder if guys like Yady, Shu and especially Ludwick can repeat their offensive production. Anyway, I'll talk more about those issues when the season is officially over. We're not quite there yet I think.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm Baaack

Finally got my new laptop just in time to say, dang. We aren't out of it yet, but it doesn't look good. Although we are only 3 1/2 games out, we are behind the Brew Crew and the Phillies for the Wild Card. Not to mention the rented mules of the NL Central breathing down our necks only 1/2 a game back. It can be done, but I doubt it. Nevertheless, no matter what the outcome, I have been thrilled with the season. It vastly exceeded my expectations. And you know what....we have one really bright future.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Could Wainwright have made the difference?

As I mentioned last time, I'm not quite ready to write the epilogue on the the Card's season yet, but I did want to throw one "what if?" out there. I've railed a lot about how the bullpen cost us a bunch of close game from basically mid-may to mid-august. After seeing Wainwright be great in his three starts back, however, I've come to think that MAYBE his injury is the biggest reason we currently stand 5 1/2 back of the Brewers. Having that "ace" in the rotation takes so much pressure of the rest of team. The offense relaxes because they know they don't need much to win that day. The offense has relaxed so much, in fact, that in two of the three games he has pitched since he has been back, they've scored a bunch of runs. The bullpen also has the pressure off them because they know they likely won't have to pitch too many innings (though TRL yanked him early yesterday, probably not wanted to overtax him so soon back), and if they do come in, it will likely be with a nice lead. Having him out for two months put extra pressure on everyone on the team. The team held-on OK, but was basically .500 while he was gone. I mentioned way back that I thought Wainwright was the most important cog on the team (aside from Albert at least), and I think that has proved true over the course of the season. It would certainly be of great help to have him and Carp for an entire year next year, but it's a darn shame that didn't happen this year with some many of our hitter's having career years. Anyway, we gained one on the brew crew yesterday and they are down big early to the Mets as I write this, so maybe we can do it again.