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February 2009

Take the Good, Take the Bad

Posted on February 28, 2009 at 8:20 AM
Cards win, Cards win!  Always nice to get that 0 out of the win column, even if it is just the first week of spring training games.  And, really, is it ever bad to beat the Mets?

That said, it definitely wasn't an unqualified success.  For the second straight day, a starter has trouble in his second inning of work.  Todd Wellemeyer gave up three runs, but had command as he didn't walk anyone.  You have to figure (and hope) that it's still a little rust, a little about not having pitched in competition in a while.  But next time around, you'd like to see better results.

Adam Ottovino and Royce Ring didn't do much in the relief department either.  Ring allowed a bomb to a right-handed batter, something that probably doesn't happen in the regular season.  Tony LaRussa has to know Ring's splits, that he's almost worthless against righties.  However, if someone like Charlie Manning shows he can get the occasional righty out, Ring may be on the outside looking in at the end of camp.

The other lefty, Trever Miller, had a good start to his Cardinal career.  One scoreless inning with a strikeout.  PJ Walters isn't going to make the team, but he at least got some attention with his two innings yesterday.  As pressed as the Cardinals apparently are for arms, he may get more innings than normal.  What he does with them may draw enough focus that he could get a cup of coffee at some point this year.

Offensively, it was a day to forget for Colby Rasmus, who so far isn't having the spring training he had last year.  An 0-5 dropped his average under .200 and an error didn't help matters.  Lots of time to make that up, of course, but with him having options, any kind of outfield squeeze could have him starting in Memphis.

Rick Ankiel, Jared Hoffpauir and Jon Jay all had two hits yesterday.  TLR apparently thinks that Ankiel should be protection for Albert Pujols, which is understandable.  Assuming Rick's not traded this spring, of course. Ankiel held that protection job down some last year and did a fairly good job with it.  It's going to be hard to pitch around Pujols if Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick are following him.   They aren't Pujols, of course, but they can definitely hurt you more often than not.

Today's game against the Nationals will get a lot of attention because Chris Carpenter takes the mound.  Carp's just thinking about it as just another game, which is good, because that means he feels like his a pitcher, not a rehabber.  Still, it'll be very good to see him on the mound and see what he's got.  The game should be on XM 176, though yesterday's game was supposed to be on XM and for some reason wasn't.  KTRS is covering the game as well.

Matthew Leach has his first projections for the 25-man roster up at his blog. There's not much to quibble with there.  I'd really like to see Brian Barton make the team, as I believe his right handed bat and his speed give a dimension to the team that's missing with all those southpaws in the outfield.  He also has Jason Motte losing out in the bullpen numbers and Ring making the cut, but part of me still feels like we should keep an eye on Manning.

Enjoy the game today!  

A Shot To The Optimism

Posted on February 27, 2009 at 7:45 AM
Don't get me wrong.  I'm not this guy, who is trying to write off the season after two spring training games.  The traditional spring disclaimers of "the games don't count" and "it's early" and everything else definitely still apply.  Still, as a Cardinal fan, you hate seeing games like yesterday's.

Like Rick Hummel says, there wasn't much good out of yesterday's game.  The Orioles got to Kyle Lohse for two two-run home runs on a day when the wind was blowing in.  Ian Ostlund didn't do anything to claim that second lefty job.  And Brad Furnish showed why he was just added to camp when the Cards were running short on arms.

Putting all that aside, let's look at what went right.  Joe Mather continued to cement his chances at being the Opening Day third baseman with a diving catch.  Not a great day at the plate, but when there were only six hits, not many people were bringing the lumber.

Joe Thurston hit a home run, which was probably surprising to everyone in the park, including Joe.  Colby Rasmus went 0-2, but did draw a walk and score a run.  Yadier Molina drove in two runs, giving the team an early lead.  Jess Todd pitched fairly well in his outing, Chris Perez got some work in on his slider, and Charlie Manning got two outs without incident.  So there were positives, just not many of them.

But the grand thing about baseball is today is another day.  The Cardinals can move on and face the Mets, who may have more important things to worry about.  I've not seen lineups or schedule pitchers yet, but I do know the game will be on XM 177 today, which is a beautiful thing.

Various quick links:

Dustin Mattison has another great article, this time comparing Rick Ankiel and Colby Rasmus.  I wouldn't necessarily expected Rasmus to be that far ahead defensively from cannon-armed Rick.

Chris Perez is working on his slider.  If he gets that clicking, the closer job is his and he'll do a great job with it.  Having that extra pitch, especially one that moves like that, could make him dominant.

Pujols, the face of baseball?  If so, that just shows you what a remarkable talent he is.  Who'd have thought someone from St. Louis could be the face of the sport instead of someone on the coasts?

Having Flashbacks

Posted on February 26, 2009 at 7:53 AM
Wonderful to have actual baseball to talk about.  Even if yesterday's game reminds us of the dead horse arguments and comments from last year.

Terrible numbers with runners in scoring position.  A bullpen that let the lead get away.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Not that you can extrapolate and expect that 2009 will be a repeat of 2008.  Those that let the lead get away won't be in St. Louis come Opening Day.  A number of the hitters won't be either.  And you can always chant the spring mantra, it's early.

What was good about yesterday's game?  How about Blake Hawksworth?  A strong 2 and 2/3rds, getting strikes and allowing no runs.  As we talked about last night in the UCB Radio Hour (which you really should listen to if you missed it--download it from iTunes!), with more performances like that, he'll move to the front of the line when it comes to a need for a replacement due to injury or Joel Pineiro's ineffectiveness.

Colby Rasmus had two hits, including a double, as he starts his quest to shove other outfielders aside and take a starting job. Skip Schumaker also had two hits, even if he didn't get a ground ball.  It was interesting that both outfielders in the infield (Schumaker and Joe Mather) caught popups for their first chances.

In other news, it was disclosed that David Freese's injury came from a car accident earlier in the year.  I don't know that it matters much--he told the team, it was a weather thing, not an alcohol thing, he'll be ready soon--but it does solve at least one minor mystery.

The only problem for him is that now Joe Mather is getting a shot to establish himself at third, at least in the minds of those that make the decisions.  Freese may have to work a little harder to overcome that head start.

Cards head over to Orioles camp for today's action.  Kyle Lohse will take the mound, followed by Chris Perez, Brad Furnish, Ian Ostlund and Charlie Manning.  Get our first look at a couple of the LOOGY candidates.  This is the first lineup I've seen:

Joe Thurston 2B
Joe Mather 3B
Colby Rasmus CF
Ryan Ludwick RF
Chris Duncan 1B
Yadier Molina C
Brian Barton DH
Jon Jay LF
Tyler Greene SS

Lots of intriguing things there.  Neat to see Colby sitting in the three slot.  That's a pretty strong 2-6 and I don't mind seeing Barton in the lineup either.  Thurston gets his first chance to make an impression, trying to at least earn the platoon spot with Schumaker.  Jon Jay probably better appreciate these ABs, because he won't be getting too many of them in the major league camp with all the other outfielders.

That's a pretty fun lineup.  I'm ready to see how they'll do.  The Cards will face Dannys Baez, who is trying to go from the bullpen to the rotation.  Everywhere you look, people are following the Cardinals lead....

If you've not signed up for Twitter, consider doing so.  Matthew Leach and Derrick Goold, along with 101 ESPN have been providing great detail on that format and, since today's game is only on Gameday Audio, it's a great way to keep up.  CardsClubhouse will have a game thread going as well if you want to talk to other fans.

Playing Pepper 2009: San Francisco Giants

Posted on February 25, 2009 at 5:00 PM
As the players start getting themselves ready for another season, I thought it'd be a good idea to do the same.  I contacted a blogger for each major league team and posted them five questions.  This is the result.  You can find the tentative schedule of teams here and today's main post is right here.

For our final installment of Playing Pepper, we take a look at the National League team out by the bay.  Another year removed from the shadow left by the larger-than-life presence of Barry Bonds, the Giants look to try to compete in an NL West that was weaker last year than expected.

When you are talking Giants, you have to go to one of the most respected bloggers in the fan base.  El Lefty Malo is the most-trafficked baseball-only blog here at Blogs By Fans and Lefty took a little time to talk about the Giant kids and a former Cardinal shortstop.

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Playing Pepper 2009: San Diego Padres

Posted on February 25, 2009 at 3:30 PM
As the players start getting themselves ready for another season, I thought it'd be a good idea to do the same.  I contacted a blogger for each major league team and posted them five questions.  This is the result.  You can find the tentative schedule of teams here and today's main post is right here.

A big new ballpark.  San Diego weather.  A team that came within inches (and questionable ones at that) from playing in the playoffs in 2007.  Life should have been good in Padre-land for 2008, but instead the bottom fell out.  It was a rough year for the Padres and that wasn't even counting Albert Pujols's swath around the bases that took out Chris Young and Josh Bard when the Cardinals visited out there.

I was lucky enough to get responses from not one but two Padres blogs for this outing.  Clay from Downtown Padres and Myron from Friar Forecast talk Jake Peavy and contention for the Friars.

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Playing Pepper 2009: Texas Rangers

Posted on February 25, 2009 at 11:30 AM
As the players start getting themselves ready for another season, I thought it'd be a good idea to do the same.  I contacted a blogger for each major league team and posted them five questions.  This is the result.  You can find the tentative schedule of teams here and today's main post is right here.

Since I live in Arkansas, I get to see a lot of Ranger games.  Over the past few seasons, I've come to enjoy watching them and rooting for some of their players.  (Josh Hamilton's story blows me away, but then again, who isn't impressed?)  Sadly, they've never seemed to have the pitching to put together with that typically high-powered offense.

Adam from Lone Star Ball was gracious enough to answer some questions ranging from the rotation to Hamilton and points in between.

  Continue Reading

Let's Play Some Ball

Posted on February 25, 2009 at 7:51 AM
After a long winter, full of debate, rumor and activity, baseball returns to the sun-splashed fields in Florida and Arizona today.  It is a beautiful thing.

We even have a lineup for today's matchup with the co-tenants of Roger Dean Stadium, the Florida Marlins.  At least, we have the players and the positions.  You can make your own guess on how it'll show up in the boxscore.

C Jason LaRue
1B Albert Pujols
2B Skip Schumaker
SS Khalil Greene
3B Joe Mather
LF Colby Rasmus
CF Rick Ankiel
RF Ryan Ludwick
DH Chris Duncan

Starting pitcher, Blake Hawksworth.  Not sure who is on the schedule to follow him on the mound.

Fairly interesting configuration, getting five of the outfielders--six if you still consider Schumaker one--into the lineup at the same time.  There's a good possibility that would be very close to the Opening Day lineup, save no DH, of course, and likely Adam Wainwright as the starter.

What will be interesting to see is when the subs start coming in and who they will be.  It doesn't sound like Brett Wallace is going to play a whole lot this spring, just because he's not going to make the squad due to all the various factors.  I'm also interested in seeing if Hawksworth is making strides.  Having another arm in the minors ready to go would be a very, very good thing.

There are 35 games this spring, which means that the Cardinals should be pretty ready to go by time April 6 rolls around. There are a lot of questions to answer in those games and those answers start forming today.

Yesterday in camp, they had a creative coach-pitch game, which allowed Tony LaRussa to flex some authority and make the rules of baseball a little different than what we are used to.  You've never seen drama until there are four outs and a runner on second.  No word on a ruling about Derrick Goold's protest.

Mather also got some good news in regard to his chances of going north with the squad.  He got to move down the number list to #7.  Not too often they plan on a single-digit guy opening the season with Memphis.

No TV or radio for today's game.  You can check out Brian Walton's schedule for those things over at his blog.  Not too many of the games being televised by St. Louis TV this season.  Seemed like in years past they'd do the Saturday and Sunday games the last couple of weekends.  If you just want to listen to some baseball, here's the XM schedule for this week. I'm looking forward to listening to some games this afternoon at work.

And after you've done all that, heard about how the Cards did, and are winding down from the first day with "real" baseball, tune into the UCB Radio Hour tonight.  Yours truly will be one of the guests and we always encourage callers so we don't necessarily have to make it up all by ourselves.  I'm sure we'll be talking about today's results and what's coming in the next few days.

Playing Pepper finishes up with the Rangers, Padres and Giants today, so be sure to come back for that!




Playing Pepper 2009: Los Angeles Dodgers

Posted on February 24, 2009 at 3:30 PM
As the players start getting themselves ready for another season, I thought it'd be a good idea to do the same.  I contacted a blogger for each major league team and posted them five questions.  This is the result.  You can find the tentative schedule of teams here and today's main post is right here.

The Dodgers are one of those storied, crown-jewel type franchises in baseball.  You have the Yanks and Red Sox in the AL and the Dodgers and the Cardinals in the NL, when you factor in history, winning, etc.  There are some others that could make the claim to join these four, but I don't think too many would argue with these.

Los Angeles has had some media focus this offseason for various reasons.  I talked to the author of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness to get the latest on Manny Ramirez and opinions on Joe Torre's first year at the helm.


  Continue Reading

Playing Pepper 2009: Seattle Mariners

Posted on February 24, 2009 at 11:30 AM
As the players start getting themselves ready for another season, I thought it'd be a good idea to do the same.  I contacted a blogger for each major league team and posted them five questions.  This is the result.  You can find the tentative schedule of teams here and today's main post is right here.

There was a lot of expectations for the Mariners last year.  Adding Erik Bedard to a team that had been contending was expected to push them into October.  Instead, every possible wheel fell off and the team collapsed into the basement.

To see if Seattle could shake off the dust and rise again, I contacted Jeff from Lookout Landing and asked him about Bedard, King Felix and others in the system.
  Continue Reading

The Hot Corner Cardinal

Posted on February 24, 2009 at 7:49 AM
As the players start their last day before games, a few news items stand out.

Matthew Leach Twittered that he thought Joe Mather had the lead at third at the moment and he followed that up with a story on the official site.  I knew Mather had been mentioned about taking over for the injured Troy Glaus, but I really didn't think much about it, focusing instead on David Freese.  Obviously, no matter how good he is, it's not a permanent switch, unlike Skip Schumaker's transition to second, but as Leach points out, having utility on a Tony LaRussa ballclub is a great thing for job security.

Getting his right-handed bat into the lineup wouldn't be a bad thing either, assuming he's over the wrist injury.  The Cardinals, with the potential of a all-southpaw outfield, could use a little pop from that side of the plate. Well, pop from other than the first baseman, of course.

Mather is also getting a little boost in the third-base derby by the fact that Brendan Ryan is having to sit out a few days of hitting with tendonitis.  He can still field, but hitting seems to bother him.  Since Ryan's going to need to be able to hit, probably, to outshine some of his competitors, that could be a rough thing for him.  I believe Ryan's out of options, though, so there's a good chance he'll make the roster as a utility guy at least, even with this setback.

Josh Kinney wasn't exactly as sharp as he wanted to be in BP yesterday, but when you are coming back from not playing the game, you don't worry as much about balls in the dirt. Kinney's fairly assured of a job, I'd think, assuming he doesn't have a terrible spring.  He does have options, so he might be moved if they think he could use a little work in AAA, but I'd expect to see him riding the convertibles on Opening Day in St. Louis.  Once he works out the kinks on the delivery, he could be an effective option out of the pen.

Apparently Adam Wainwright is having no such issues, though.  His last live BP session had him looking good, even against Pujols.  I honestly can't wait to see him and Carpenter on back-to-back days.  This team hasn't had such a 1-2 punch since, what, maybe Darryl Kile and Matt Morris?

The latest UCB roundtable transcript has gone up.  Cardinal Nation Globe asked us, if we could choose anyone in baseball, who would you replace Albert Pujols with as franchise player of the Cardinals?  It was a tough question, but there were numerous good responses.

Today's Playing Pepper looks at the Mariners and the Dodgers, so be sure to check in for that! 





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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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