Saturday, June 12, 2010

Good ole days?

After going with a very young and inexperienced bench/back end of the rotation for several weeks, the Cards have recently brought-in several veterens. Jeff Suppan is the latest addition to go along with Randy Winn and Aaron Miles. LaRussa has long-favored having a veteran-heavy team, so this isn't a big surprise for me, but it is also a questionable decision in my opinion. Here are my reasons:

1. There's a reason these players were available. All three are past their prime, and stuggled mightily this year. Granted, we aren't going to count on any of them (except perhaps Suppan) for major contributions, but I'm not sure they will be able to give us even a minor boost.

2. John Jay deserved to be there. He showed great power and even better defense in the limited time he had. Personally, I thought it was great to have a power left-handed bat off the bench. He also showed he had the best outfield arm of anyone on the team this year, making him a nice substitute for Rasmus late in games.

3. Versatility is over-rated. Both Winn and Miles are switch-hitters, which makes subtitutions and pinch-hitting easier for LaRussa. Well, if neither of them can really hit for either side, what good does that really do? I think having Jay, Stavinoha and Lopez (who is also a switch-hitter) as the primary guys off the bench was a lot more dangerous.

The Suppan pick-up bothers me the least. We need at least a stop-gap until Penny returns, and Walters/Hawkesworth have not shown anything good so far. Suppan almost has to be better than them. If he works out, he may end-up being the permanent fill-in for Lohse. No one seems to know when either Penny or Lohse will be back. Penny's injury was supposed to be minor, but he's been out a month now. Lohse seems likely to miss most, if not all, of the rest of season.

Anyway, the bottom line is that this is now an older team, but one LaRussa is probably more comfortable with. Most other teams in MLB are trying to get younger, so we'll see which approach is the wise one as the season wears on.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Cards After Memorial Day

So, obviously, things aren't quite as rosy as when I analyzed the team at the end of the first month of the season. Still, after losing to the Reds in a tough game tonight, the Cards are only a game out of first. Here's how I grade the month of May:

Offense: C+

The struggles of the offense have gotten a lot of attention in the press, and rightfully so, but they haven't been the only issue. Even Albert seemed to go through a mini slump. A bigger problem has been Matt Holiday and Colby Rasmus. They got off to a good start in April, but really struggled in May. Fortunately, both have shown signs of life the last week or so. The middle infielders have continued to be pretty bad, though actually better than in April. David Freese continues to be a big-time bright spot. You have to think that this line-up is too talented to not put together a big hot streak soon. At least I hope so.

Starting Pitching: A-

Carpenter, Wainwright and Garcia. You can't ask for anything more from those three. Lohse is now hurt, but it's hard to say if that's a bad thing or not, because he was terrible all year. He had surgery on his forearm last week, so it seems like he'll be out for a while. Penny continued to pitch pretty well despite taking a few loses. He is on the DL also, but hopefully not for long. It will be tough if we have to continue filling two spots with minor leaguers. Anyway, the starters have held us afloat so far, and it's time for the line-up to do their part.

Bullpen: A

This has continued to be a surprise for me. Franklin has been great, but the primary middle relievers have been awesome also. Motte and McClellen have been great from the right side, and Reyes (well, until tonight) and Miller very good from the left. Hawkesworth and Boggs have struggled at times, but we are less reliant on them. Really, I don't think we can ask for much more in terms of pitching overall. The Cards (at least going into tonight), were first in team ERA in NL. They aren't best in runs allowed though because.......

Defense: D

I might actually be giving a generous grade here. The defense was great the first month, but has been horrible the second. The Cards have fallen from the top the NL in most defensive categories to the middle of the pack. They had allowed 27 unearned runs on the season, tied for second worst in the NL with the Cubs. I was surprised that the Dodgers have actually been worse in this category, because I didn't think that was possible. Shu, Ryan, and Freese have made at least 7 errors each. Poor Ryan seemed to carry his struggles at the plate into the field for a while, and he is usually among the best defensive shortstops around, so that was too bad. Rasmus has really had a hard time in center as well, especially throwing. This has led to John Jay and even Ludwick getting a lot time in centerfield, especially late in games. Really, only Holiday, Molina and Pujols have been themselves in the field. Again, it seems players can carry their struggles at the plate out onto the field, so hopefully the defense will improve with the offense.

Final thoughts:

It was a rough month, but the everyday players seem to be playing better the last week. LaRussa seems maybe convinced to not tinker so much (though we know he will still tinker some!) and let the guys play themselves out of their funk. Hopefully, Penny is back soon to solidify the rotation. Even if Lohse is out the rest of the year, we can win a lot of games with the other four starters. The key is the offense, especially Holiday and Rasmus. If they can hit, we will be golden. I would be a shame to waste all this great pitching, that's for sure!