They’ll do what they do every year. Play great, play like crap, lead the division, fall behind, pull away, get caught, and then go into the final series of the year against the Cubs needing to beat them to make the playoffs. They’ve been semi-successful with that plan, so there is no reason to think they’ll change now. One thing I do know is that LaRussa won’t do a retirement tour ala Bobby Cox.
Yadier Molina. He’s not a great hitter, but he’s not terrible, and he’s got the defense. He’s the second best catcher in the league, and deserves the accolades. Sure, no power, but he does get on base well for a defense-first catcher. But he’s not there for his bat, that’s all extra. He’s there for the glove, and he gets it done. He also doesn’t strike out very much and plays a lot of games. What more do you want?
Upside: develops some more power as he gets older
Downside: becomes a worse hitter than his brothers
Score: + 1
Albert Pujols. It’s kind of hard to say anything here that hasn’t been said 1000 times before. I’ve only given out two ‘3’s during these previews, and he gets the second one. He’s got it all with the bat and the glove, and can run. He’s been under a .400 OBP once in his career, and that was .394. He’s been under 1.000 OPS twice, and one was .997 He’s a stud.
Upside: the elbow stops bothering him
Downside: he really is human
Score: + 3
Skip Schumaker. My father loves this guy, but I’m just not sold on him as an everyday second baseman. There’s nothing wrong with. He had a down year at the plate last year, has an above average OBP most years, but absolutely no power and he doesn’t run. His defense isn’t great either, but he’s not there for that. I’m okay with him on the team; I’m just not a fan of him hitting leadoff.
Upside: becomes Tommy Herr
Downside: becomes Mike Tyson
Score: - 1
David Freese. A good rookie season was derailed by a busted ankle, but he seems to be healthy so far. He was hitting for average and getting on base, but no power. A few doubles, but you want this guy to hit homeruns with the size he has. His defense was good, and that’s a big help. He’s going to be 28, so this is his shot. He has to be healthy, and he has to hit.
Upside: the ankles are fine
Downside: still can’t get any power
Ryan Theriot. I just don’t get this move. I know Brendan Ryan didn’t hit, but he could pick it. Offense isn’t an issue for this team, and the more defense the better. Theriot’s defense is up and down, and his average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage are dropping every year. He can run, which is good, and he’s usually healthy, but he’s not bringing much more than that.
Upside: defense is good enough the pitching staff doesn’t mind
Downside: hits second all year with nothing
Score: - 1
Matt Holliday. Proved he could hit away from Coors, and does it quite well. A little bit of everything. Hits for average, gets walks, and has power, as well as getting doubles. He can even run, when needed. His defense has actually gotten better in St Louis, so maybe that’s a ballpark effect. Not sure, but he’s a big help to Pujols, and that’s sorely needed. They’re the big two and they have to hit a lot for this team.
Upside: gets back the Coors power
Downside: starts striking out like a power hitter
Score: + 2
Colby Rasmus. The next big star in the National League, and he’s getting better. He can do a little of all of it. Good power, which will get better. Really increased his on base percentage last year, but struck out way too much. I would like to see him run more, and his defense was down, but that’s a statistical issue more than a real problem. He’s also left handed and the Cardinals need a bat from his side.
Upside: stops talking and keeps hitting
Downside: gets himself traded
Score: + 1
Lance Berkman. A reclamation project, which I don’t get. It’s a nice gamble, but for left field, not right. He’s a good athlete, but I’m not sure he can do it. He’ll probably end up in a semi-platoon, unless he starts hitting like Albert. He’s only two seasons removed from one of his best, and the year after that was good. But last year was not, and he’s not that good on defense. I hope he can.
Upside: surprises everyone with his ability to play right field
Downside: no one is surprised by his ability to play right field
Pinch hitter/general utility:
Allen Craig. He’ll get time everywhere. First base, third base, left field, right field, pinch hitting. Well, not so much first. He was a hitter in the minors, and will have to do it in the bigs. Showed some power in his limited time, but too many strikeouts and not enough walks. He’s okay defensively everywhere but third, and could end up in a right field platoon.
Upside: they don’t need him to do more than pinch-hit
Downside: plays a lot of right field because Berkman is at first
Gerald Laird. A former starter who hits like a back up, the Cardinals always seem to have one of these guys every year. Some doubles, but no power. Too many strikeouts and decent amount of walks for what he does. His defense is good, and he shouldn’t have to start more than 30 games. He’ll give the team exactly what a back up catcher is supposed to give a team.
Upside: Molina starts 150 games
Downside: Laird becomes the starter
Score: + 1
Backup first baseman:
Lance Berkman. But let’s get this straight. If the Cardinals actually need a back up first baseman, they can pack in the season. Unless it’s a trade that brings the Royals farm system. But if Albert is out for any extended time due to an injury, the team is finished. He’ll get an occasional day off, but this is a guy who doesn’t even DH during interleague games. Nick Punto is hanging around also.
Upside: don’t need one
Downside: has to play more than 5 games
Tyler Green. Doing what a utility infielder does. Doesn’t hit particularly well, but isn’t terrible. He could fill in for a couple weeks around the infield if needed, and will get some time at second base against lefties. The defense is average, but he plays all over the infield and has been seeing time in the outfield during spring training. He’s not going to hurt the team.
Upside: shows he can hit if he has to
Downside: ends up in a platoon
Score: - 1
John Jay. A pretty good year last year. Hit for average, and got on base well. Hit a good amount of doubles for the playing time, and popped a few homeruns, but that’s not going to be his strength. Didn’t run particularly well, but did in the minors, so it’s something to work on. Good defensively in the minors. He’ll get some time in right defensively, and will get a fair amount of at bats.
Upside: could take over for Berkman if needed
Downside: playing right field because Berkman is at first
Score: + 1
Rotation (front 3):
Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, and Jamie Garcia. A good front three, which will help the team a lot. They need to be more than defense and hitting. Wainwright’s loss is a huge loss, and they can’t really replace him. Carpenter goes deep in the game, but Westbrook and Garcia need to make it deeper in. They should all be good for 15 wins. Westbrook is the key and he needs to return to his better years.
Upside: they all stay healthy and pitch like last year
Downside: any kind of injury
Score: + 1
Rotation (back end):
Kyle Lohse and Kyle McClellan. Typical back end of a rotation. They’ve had some success, and some failure. As long as they are both back end, then it shouldn’t be any kind of problem. The main thing the team needs from them is innings. As long as they don’t implode and force a revolving door in the rotation, the front three should do all the heavy work.
Upside: just have to be steady
Downside: don’t make to the break
Jason Motte, Trevor Miller, Mitchell Boggs, Brian Talent and Fernando Salas. A hit and miss bullpen. Not enough innings, and way too many walks. There are some quality arms, and some suspect ones. As long as the starters can go deep, and they should, the bullpen will have less of a load and be fine. If the starters can’t make, it will be a problem.
Upside: none of them will have to pitch too many innings because of LaRussa’s way
Downside: they’re forced to
Ryan Franklin. I’m just not sure about this guy. Most closers only get two or three years to shine, and he’s had two already, and at a late age. He’s getting the job done, but he’s also been pulled from the role before. He doesn’t pitch a lot of games, which is planned, so that should keep him fresh. He doesn’t strike out many for a closer. His lack of work will force the bullpen to go more innings, which they might not be able to do.
Upside: has one more year
Downside: not really suited to the role
Team speed (which includes base running):
Not good. It should be better, but it isn’t. They don’t steal bases, they don’t hit doubles or triples, and they don’t have good range in the field. A team like the Cardinals is usually a team that can run, but it just isn’t there this season. Individually there are a couple of guys, but just not for the team.
Upside: could do it if they really needed to
Downside: if they need it that bad, it’s not good
Score: - 1
Good. Strong up the middle except the infield, and strong on the infield corners and weak on the outfield corners. Its’ not as good as it could be, but it is good. The big problem is turning the double play and anything into the corners, but Rasmus will help over in right field some. They will help the staff, particularly with Molina. The pitchers are all good fielders also.
Upside: some more Gold Gloves
Downside: the lack of double plays kill them
Score: + 1
Good. They hit well for good average, get on base at good rate, and have okay power. Some breakout years for the young guys and healthy years for the older ones would make it a great offense. They’ll score a lot, which will take a lot of heat off of the pitching staff. They won’t be as good as the Reds, but it will be more than enough to get them near the top of the division.
Upside: good enough to overcome any problems with pitching
Downside: won’t be enough to get them to the top
Score: + 1
Neutral. The front three will okay, and the back end of the rotation shouldn’t be a problem. The bullpen is good enough, but not spectacular, and the closer isn’t an elite one. They’ll pitch well enough, but they might have some problems. I’m not convinced this is a good staff, but I don’t think it will implode either. As long as they can all be average, they should be okay.
Upside: stay healthy and don’t walk too many
Total score: + 8