Siberian Baseball

Thursday, March 30, 2006

St. Louis Cardinals (100-62, .617, 1st in NL Central)

Is there some stat about teams in a new ballpark? I know that traditionally teams play well when there is a measure on the ballot to fund a new park, but what about the first season in? How did Seattle do? Or Baltimore? Screw Milwaukee, they'd have lost games in Pony League in the mid-90s.

Does any of that matter when it comes to St. Louis? Not really, I refuse to pick against a team that has both Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter. Further, I won't think twice about it when you add Mark Mulder as a No. 2 man behind him and have decent depth in the outfield.

Say what you will about windows of opportunity and what the Cardinals should have done the past five seasons, they are still a viable contender. This might hinge on Scott Rolen staying healthy, though. His injury last year crippled this team and it'll happen again this year if he goes down.

Pujols is one of the top clutch hitters in the league, trailing only David Ortiz in terms of big hits in tight spots - just ask Brad Lidge. He probably still has nightmares about that one.

I remember watching that game, seeing Houston fans starting to celebrate and doing the math about when Pujols would be coming up - would he get one more at-bat? To go into the Astros house and crush a ball like that? I'm honestly shocked that the Astros came back from that. Just a demoralizing, soul-crushing home run. And the thing is that most folks outside of that park could just feel it coming.

Oh, and this season he's 26. And he's never hit under .314. Really, is there any other hitter you'd rather avoid in the league? It's got to be a toss up between him and any other hitter you can name right now. A power hitter who has contact numbers like that? It's just unfair.

I'll get off my knees and quit blowing Albert now as we move to the pitchers. Carpenter and Mulder at the front of the rotation and solid guys Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis and Sidney Ponson looking to save his career after wearing out his welcome and eating his way out of Baltimore.

While Jason Isringhausen isn't a dominant closer, he is a solid pitcher who can come in and nail down a game in the ninth. This puts the Cardinals over 80 percent of the teams in the majors right now.

It's tough to find a true dominant closer these days, and even Mo Rivera is on his way out after his reign of terror. There are plenty of better than average guys now, but the new crop of lights out guys has yet to emerge.

The point? The Cards aren't being hurt with their closer situation and are better off than most. Depending how Lidge comes back after his Byung Hyun Kim performance last year, they have the top closer in the NL Central (and may have had that before Lidge's meltdown anyways).

Lat thing here is that Larry Bigbie was always a quiet guy in Baltimore, so it'll be interesting to see how he does with his first full season in the National League. He has 23 games under his belt with Colorado last year after being moved from the Orioles and I think he should see decent numbers out in left field. If not, I've liked So Taguchi out there as well, so they have options.

Keeping in mind that this is the team that had Reggie Sanders for two seasons, I see a lot of their players in his mold - older guys, not head cases, been pros for a few years or more and while they aren't going to be perennial All-Stars, they will give you solid production.

That's not such a bad thing.

St. Louis Cardinals
C: Y. Molina; Bennett; Michael Hernandez
1B: Pujols; Chris Duncan
2B: Spivey; Miles; Luna; Cruz
SS: Eckstein; Cruz; Luna; Ryan
3B: Rolen; Cruz
LF: Bigbie; Taguchi; Rodriguez; Gall
CF: Edmonds; Taguchi; Encarnacion; Schumaker
RF: Encarnacion; Taguchi; Rodriguez

SP: Carpenter; Mulder; Suppan; Marquis; Reyes; Ponson
CP: Isringhausen
RP: Looper; Rincon; Flores; Thompson; Wainwright; Mateo

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1 Comments:

  • Good preview. My largest concern is the loss of second tier players such as Grudz, Morris, Sanders and Mabry. It may just be me, but I think that the reserve corps is depleted, and we have reserve quality playrs at Left, Right, 2nd. If Edmonds goes down or Rolen has to ease back in, I think there will be some problems.

    The rotation seems better though, than last year....wainright and reyes seem to be more consistant than morris was, though morris was a winner with heart, and the jury is out on reyes and wainright....

    the bullpen seems shaky, apart from isringhausen.....again....no proven second line players here...

    Gornab...

    www.abirdonthebat.blogspot.com

    By Blogger gornab, At Saturday, April 01, 2006 10:22:00 AM  

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