Sunday, March 13, 2005

 

2005 Season Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

I am not picking the Cardinals to repeat as division winners because they improved the most; I am picking them because they regressed the least. There was a huge shift of talent out of the NL Central this year, and the team that may have improved the most was probably Milwaukee. Sadly, they are not in a state where they will compete for the division yet, so St. Louis gets my call for first place.

"Hall of Famer" Einar Diaz, C: Thank you for that nickname Jerry Remy. Diaz has a long ways to go to make the Hall of Fame, since as of now he only has 20 homeruns, but he should not let that stand in the way of his goal of being taken seriously.

David Eckstein, SS: What can I say positive about David Eckstein? He is considered a leadoff hitter, but he's merely adequate, he was considered good defensively; again adequate, and his salary is well...more than adequate. Renteria may not be the greatest shortstop in all the land (bring me the finest meats and cheeses) but he sure as hell beats Eckstein on his best day.

Mark Grudzielanek, 2B: This is a move I like, because if healthy he will produce more than Tony Womack. Not enough to cover the Cardinals loss of Renteria though, even subpar 2004 Edgar. I also like it because Todd Walker gets the starting job in Chicago, finally.

Mike Myers, LOOGY: Good old Left-Handed-One-Out-Guys (thank you John Sickels). Myers isn't the best at what he does, but he's good enough, as evidenced by him going through Garret Anderson and Hideiki Matsui (most of the time successful anyways) in the playoffs. He does scare me though because he seems to walk his one batter half the time, then face a righty. Good pickup since they lost Steve Kline, but he definitely is not Steve Kline. That reminds me, do you think Kline already dirtied an Orioles hat with spit and whatever else he uses? Or do you think he is going to wait until he's played there a little, worn it in some?

Acquired Mark Mulder for Danny Haren, Kiko Calero, and Daric Barton. Mulder will replace Woody Williams pitching production (if not injured like he says) with a little more, but he is not a true ace. He is very, very good, but he is lacking the dominance of an ace and relies greatly on his defense. Sadly this defense now includes David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek. It could be worse, he could have Nomar and Grudzielanek like the Cubs last year.

1) David Eckstein
2) Mark Grudzielanek
3) Albert Pujols
4) Scott Rolen
5) Jim Edmonds
6) Larry Walker
7) Reggie Sanders
8) Yadier Molina

This lineup remains extremely dangerous, solely due to the fact that it has Pujols-Rolen-Edmonds-Walker, and then Reggie Sanders out of the 7 hole. If Walker can stay healthy (I want to laugh at that, but its too sad) than the lineup will remain formidable. The issue is, there are holes in it. Eckstein is not a leadoff hitter. At all. .276/.339/.332? Yuck. Grudzielanek is a capable #2 hitter though (.307/.342/.432). One good thing is that Yadier Molina cannot possibly be as bad with a bat as Mike Matheny at catcher. Of course, on the pitching end of it, all pitchers seem to love Matheny and his ability to call a game. As a Varitek fan, I can't discount that. It is a real good lineup, but due to the decline of Reggie Sanders and the addition of Eckstein and Grudzielanek I cannot say it is as good as last years.

1) Mark Mulder
2) Matt Morris
3) Chris Carpenter
4) Jason Marquis
5) Jeff Suppan

If Mark Mulder and Matt Morris are healthy, then they should get really good production out of the 1-2 spots. But...it will be on the same idea as last year, where this team has 3-4 #2 caliber starters, and no true ace. Chris Carpenter is supposed to be healthy and ready to go as well, which would give them a great 1-3. I am interested to see whether Jason Marquis can duplicate his performance from last year. His GB/FB ratio was way out of line with the rest of his career, and the defense behind him has taken a step backwards. His K/BB ratio was also much better than normal, and he had 21 double plays from the defense (previous career high during his struggles was 11). What I am trying to say is that numbers like these can fluctuate and give off the appearance of improvement rather than real progress. Ask Derek Lowe how a GB/FB ratio and low strikeout rate can hurt you, or how a defense that does not turn enough double plays can really mess with your numbers. National League Jeff Suppan is a real good (not great) starter. American League....eh not so much.

The bullpen is not as strong as last year, since it has lost Steve Kline, Kiko Calero, and Danny Haren. New addition Mike Myers will try to fill Kline's key role in the bullpen, along with Ray King, Julian Tavarez, Cal Eldred, and that Jason Isringhausen guy. He's ok I hear. He's actually extremely good when he's healthy, unless serving up a monstrous homerun to Jeff Kent in the NLCS.

This team is very talented, and capable of returning to the World Series. It remains the team to beat in the National League, with Atlanta, Florida, and Los Angeles creeping up behind them. St. Louis should win the division easily, but not as easily as last season.


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