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March 2010

UCB Predictions, Part III: NL Central

Posted on March 31, 2010 at 10:24 AM
Now we get down to brass tacks.  The NL Central is the division that we'll be watching on a daily basis, the division that we should know the best.  I feel pretty confident about the top slot and, really, that's all that matters, right?   Continue Reading

UCB Project: NL East Predictions

Posted on March 30, 2010 at 10:56 AM
Day two of the UCB Prediction Project has us in the relevant league, though still a division over.  The NL East generates a lot of press, not just because of the East Coast teams, of course, but because the last two NL representatives in the World Series have come from there.  (Same team, but still...)  So let's see how this one is going to pan out.
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UCB Predictions: American League

Posted on March 29, 2010 at 9:51 AM
My apologizes for any typos, etc., but my right hand is still wrapped from my surgery and will be for a couple of weeks.  So the blog posts may be short and irregular for a while.

That said, since I scheduled this week's UCB project, I've got to try to do it, right?  This week the UCB is doing their predictions on the 2010 season.  Today is the American League, followed by the different NL divisions and then, on Friday, the post-season and award predictions.

So, after the jump, we'll take a quick look at the inferior league.
  Continue Reading

Cardinals Continue To Battle Injuries

Posted on March 25, 2010 at 9:56 AM
Things were rolling along.  Matt Holliday was back from his rib cage injury and starting to find his groove.  Albert Pujols was back from his back, relieving a lot of worries in Cardinal Nation.  Everything was great, until yesterday's game, when Yadier Molina pulled up lame, left the game, and was diagnosed with a strained oblique.

Strained obliques aren't anything new in the Cardinal clubhouse.  Woody Williams had one a few years back, and more recently Pujols and Chris Carpenter have had to deal with them.  The problem with obliques is they take a while to heal (unless you are Pujols, who does everything better than a normal human).

The hope is that it's a mild one, he takes a few days off, and is ready to go for the beginning of the season.  However, I'm a little doubtful it'll happen that way.  A catcher has to be able to throw out baserunners, get into the crouch, and move in different ways than anyone else on the field.  I can't imagine that if the oblique isn't completely healed, Yadi will be able to be back catching anytime soon.

Which poses quite a dilemma for the club.  It was noted at the Post-Dispatch that Yadi might be the second-most indispensable Cardinal, because his backups aren't nearly to his caliber (sorry, Jason LaRue and Matt Pagnozzi).  While LaRue especially can hold down the fort for a limited period of time, you don't want to see him out there on a regular basis.  If Bryan Anderson had developed the way that he looked like he was going to, this would have been a great opportunity to see what he could do.  However, being that Anderson only got one at-bat in camp this year, I think we can safely assume he's not in the picture, at least right now.

The Cardinals will have to wait and see with Yadi, but hopefully, no matter how much they need him, they don't rush him back.  Those obliques can flare up again at the slightest provocation.

Switching gears to those that throw to Molina, it looks like the honking worked.  Jaime Garcia is expected to be named the fifth starter by the club for the regular season.  Garcia has had a dominant spring and it would be hard to overlook his work.

This is in no way to short Kyle McClellan, though.  I know I was a little concerned about the switch from reliever for McClellan, but he's handled it like a champ, putting up numbers that, in any other camp, would have solidified his standing as the last starter.  However, with the bullpen still in a bit of flux, having the established hand like McClellan in there wouldn't hurt any.

You have to figure McClellan will get a lot of two-inning, three-inning looks this year.  If Garcia falters, is he the first in line to take over?  With a promotion of a Mitchell Boggs or an Adam Ottovino, whichever doesn't make the club, as the fill in for him?  If Rich Hill starts getting it together in Memphis, where does he fit in?  Still a lot of questions to be answered this season, though if Garcia keeps going like he has this spring, most of them aren't even going to come up.

After our interview with McClellan earlier in the spring, I'm not surprised to hear him saying things about whatever the team needs and it's just nice to be wanted and valued.  It's got to be tough when you want to be a starter, you pitched lights out, and it still wasn't enough.  I don't think he'll carry that into the season and he'll be just as effective a reliever as he's been a starter this spring.

If you've not seen it yet, Pujols is going to have his own "Got Milk?" ad.  We discussed on last night's UCB Radio Hour about Pujols's increased profile and whether he's becoming a household name in households that don't even follow baseball.  I'm not sure he's there yet, but he is working on it.

Time to finish up the Cardinal Approval Ratings with the last three on the ballot.  Last year, we were wondering exactly what Tony La Russa was thinking, moving outfielder Skip Schumaker to the infield.  Skip wasn't on last year's voting ballot, but after a year of solid work at second, it was time to get a feel for what Cardinal Nation thought about him.  On 66 ballots, Skip wound up with a respectable 81.1% mark.  The Schu man topped out at 99 and bottomed out at 50.

Mike Shannon was on last year's questions, racking up a 91.6% rating.  The long-time broadcaster was more of the same in 2009, but his approval rating dropped dramatically.  Shannon only got a 80.3% tally this year, with numerous zeros on the 64 ballots that named him.  It's possible that some put in zero instead of leaving it blank for no rating, but it could be that Shannon is more polarizing than I thought.

Adam Wainwright came into his own last year, challenging for the NL Cy Young.  That obviously helped him in the eyes of the respondents, as he wound up with a 95.6% mark, the second-highest on the club.  Over 15 different 100 ratings and the lowest on the 66 ballots was a 77.

Hope y'all enjoyed the approval ratings.  It was interesting to see the differences between this year and last.  No post tomorrow, as I'll be in getting carpal tunnel surgery.  They say I'll be able to type soon afterwards, so hopefully it won't be too long before we are talking Cardinals again!

Playing Pepper 2010: Toronto Blue Jays

Posted on March 23, 2010 at 3:11 PM
Last year before the season began, I posed five questions to a blogger for each team, so as to get to know the rest of baseball.  I focus so heavily on the Cardinals that sometimes the rest of MLB can pass me by.  That went very well, so much so that it spawned not only a postseason edition but was part of the impetus for the formation of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

So this year, I've brought 
Playing Pepper back, with a little bit of a twist.  Instead of five questions, I posed 10 questions, and this year every team got the same set.  Plus, tapping into those BBA connections, I sent them to every blogger representing that team in the BBA.

We'll try to do two a day in a general alphabetical order---ah, who are we kidding, we'll get them up when we get them up.

Toronto Blue Jays
2009 Finish: 75-87, fourth in AL East

It had to be extremely tough this offseason for Jays fans to see Toronto icon Roy Halladay get shipped on.  Sure, they knew it was coming sometime, and they'd had the dry run for the whole thing around the trading deadline last year, but that couldn't have made it any easier.

The BBA is stocked with great Blue Jay bloggers, so I was able to round up Dick from 1 Blue Jays Way, Ian from The Blue Jay Hunter, Chris from Infield Fly and Mat from Jays Journal to take a look at the season to come via the Playing Pepper Ten.
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A Pain In The Back

Posted on March 23, 2010 at 8:08 AM
The Cardinals split up the squad yesterday and wound up with two wins, including a huge eighth inning that brought them from behind against the Red Sox.  So what's the major story today?

Albert Pujols's back, of course.  The man gets a hangnail, Cardinal Nation hyperventilates.  With good reason.

This is starting to trouble me just a bit.  I know that the front office is saying they aren't concerned, and obviously they would know much more than I do on the subject, but to have this happen again this spring just seems disconcerting.  While it sounds like if this was the regular season he'd probably play, it worries me that this will be something that carries into the season. As most of you probably do, I get the twinges in my back and wouldn't want to try to be swinging a bat with that kind of discomfort.

Everything will be fine, right?  It's only spring, it's only spring.....

However, with AP not being able to go yesterday, we weren't able to see Pujols and Holliday back-to-back.  Matt Holliday was back in the lineup, which helped alleviate some concerns, because if both of them hobble to the starting line, there's going to be a lot of concerned Redbird faithful.  Holliday seems to be completely healed up from the rib cage strain, swinging at full speed and getting a double against the Red Sox.

The biggest on-the-field news came on the pitching mound, though.  Jaime Garcia threw against the Astros and was very solid, allowing only one run over four innings.  As a pitcher, if you get Yadier Molina testifying for you, that has to go a long way.  Garcia has done all he can this spring to get a roster slot and it does sound like Tony La Russa is watching.  If Kyle McClellan or Rich Hill gives them a reason to send him down, they might, but right now Garcia might have edged in front of both of them.

Adam Ottovino got his relief appearance in and did fairly well.  He struck out two, though he did allow a run.  I don't think he pitched himself out of contention for a slot at all.  As we examined yesterday, it's possible that he and Garcia would go north, though it'd take some other work to make that happen.  I still think he's a bit of a longshot, but it could happen.

There are 31 left in camp after the Cards sent out some players yesterday.  That leaves six more to remove, mainly in the pitching staff with Ruben Gotay getting sent down.  Just two more weeks until the bell rings!

Two more Cardinal Approval Ratings to get to.  Last year, Colby Rasmus was an unknown quantity, which was reflected in his low 66.0% score.  After a full rookie season, Cardinal Nation has warmed somewhat to the quiet outfielder, bumping him up over ten points to 76.8%.  Colby topped out at 95 and bottomed out at 49 over the 66 ballots.

John Rooney also was ranked last year, pulling in a 80.9% score.  A number of voters didn't express an opinion this year, as he only showed up on 60 ballots but he stayed fairly steady, slipping down to 76.2%.  Rooney hit both extremes, with one 100 and one 0.

Off-day for the Cardinals today, so hopefully Pujols will be back to work tomorrow!

UCB Project: February/March Roundtable

Posted on March 22, 2010 at 9:31 AM
Starting at the latter part of February and running through last week, the United Cardinal Bloggers held one of their regular roundtables.  I tend to always take the last slot so that everyone else can get their questions in, but eventually I've got to come up with one as well.  In keeping with the spirit of the season, I asked the following:

"What are you most looking forward to in the season to come?"
After the jump, see what the members of the UCB want to see in the upcoming season.
  Continue Reading

Dark Horse Comes Galloping Up The Stretch

Posted on March 22, 2010 at 7:56 AM
The Cardinals had a pretty eventful weekend, even with their Sunday game being rained out.  More data points for decisions were made and one possible move was revealed.  Spring training is so much fun, isn't it?

The biggest news of the weekend was likely the announcement that Adam Ottovino is in the running for a bullpen slot.  While it was a surprise to me, apparently it wasn't to everyone.  Ottovino has been an intriguing prospect for quite some time--I'm pretty sure I saw him throw down in Little Rock for the Springfield squad a couple of years ago--but hasn't been able to keep the command necessary for a big league promotion.

However, he's looked sharp this spring and has been able to make adjustments to his game.  Dave Duncan, who apparently called and worked with him some last year, is very much in his corner, which is a great person to have on your side.

I was wondering if this was going to affect Jaime Garcia getting the fifth slot.  As you can see by the badge on the sidebar (graciously provided by the guys at Pitchers Hit Eighth), I'm in favor of having Garcia start in the fifth slot.  Can that happen if Ottovino gets a relief role?  Let's take a look at the staff in that case:

Starters: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Brad Penny, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia
Bullpen: Adam Ottovino, Kyle McClellan, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Ryan Franklin, Trever Miller, Dennys Reyes

Such a bullpen would force out Blake Hawksworth, which I don't think the club wants to do.  They might, however, send Boggs down to Memphis to work on being a reliever.  More likely, though, it's between Garcia and Ottovino for that last slot, so today will be a very interesting one.

With the rainout and the split squad, you are going to have Brad Penny and Adam Ottovino going against Boston with Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia going against Houston.  Today won't be the deciding factor, but it could go a long way toward determining who goes where.

On the positive front, it looks like Matt Holliday will be joining the lineup today in the Boston game.  It's good to get him back on the field with two weeks to spare.  Hopefully the layoff won't affect his timing and conditioning too much and he'll be hitting his stride as the season starts.

Shelby Miller was finally sent down to the minor league camp, lasting a day more than the more highly-touted draft pick of last draft, Stephen Strasburg.  (Who, by the way, tore up the Cardinals on Saturday.  You know Tyler Greene and Allen Craig let their teammates know about those home runs they hit, because that was the only blemish on Strasburg's spring, basically.)  Per Joe Strauss, the plan is to have Miller start at extended spring training (to stay away from the cold weather minor league stops) and move up to high A ball when the weather warms.  There's no doubt they are watching him closely and, with a good year, he could be in Springfield by the end of July.

Quickly, let's take a look at the Cardinal Approval Ratings for today.  Somehow, John Mozeliak got skipped in the voting last year (Really?  What was I thinking there?) but I corrected that oversight this year.  He was on 65 of the 68 ballots cast (one came in this weekend) and, with a year like he had last year, it's not a surprise that he averaged out to 86.1%.  I have a feeling that would have been a little lower last year.

Albert Pujols, of course, was on last year's forms and racked up the highest approval rating of them all, coming in at 97.9%.  Really hard to beat that one, isn't it?  Yet he did, moving to a 98.7% on the 67 ballots he was named on.  We really are lucky to have him.

Enjoy the games today!

Subtle Shifts

Posted on March 19, 2010 at 8:03 AM
While no major news came out of Jupiter yesterday, there were a couple of things that could have an impact on the season to come.

First, the Cards returned Ben Jukich to the Reds.  For a Rule V guy, he didn't get a lot of looks in camp, only getting two innings in one game.  I'm slightly surprised that the Reds didn't work a trade for him, since to take him back they have to spend $25,000, and right now the Reds are pinching every penny they can.  Still, while it would have been nice to have him in Memphis as a potential backup, the Cards didn't look at him as a LOOGY type anyway, so there are probably other options.  Be interesting to see how Jukich does this year, though, especially if he makes it to Cincinnati.

Secondly and more importantly, there seemed to be an organizational shift in regards to Jaime Garcia.  Going into the spring, some of us wanted to see him as the fifth starter in St. Louis, but the injury issue seemed to be influencing those that make the decisions, inspiring the signing of Rich Hill.  Garcia was seen as an afterthought to Hill and Kyle McClellan going at it for that last slot.

As your bracket will likely attest to this morning, afterthoughts have their way of making their way to the foreground.  On Twitter yesterday, Derrick Goold reported that Tony La Russa had declared that Garcia would be a starter somewhere, or at least that the organization wasn't looking at him as a reliever.  As I said earlier this week, I expected him to take that long relief role that Adam Wainwright had a few years back.  That's not the case anymore.

Then, Rich Hill pitched yesterday and it was another ineffective outing.  Hill walked five in three innings and, for a guy that needed to work on his command to be successful, that's a step back.  So we wake up this morning to see in the paper a story that Garcia will be given a start Monday against the Astros.  As Darth Vader said, "The circle is now complete."  (Well, almost, but when you get a chance to toss Vader into a blog post, you have to take it.)

Tom from CardinalsGM mentioned on Twitter yesterday that it was the point where he started to take results seriously.  There is just over two weeks left.  A lot of the guys that never were going to make it have been weeded out and sent to minor league camp.  Starters are starting to go five, six, seven innings.  The regulars will be playing.  Things that happen from now on are going to have a huge impact on the decisions that are left to be made.

So if Garcia goes out and throws on Monday like he's been throwing the rest of the spring, that very well may put him in the lead in the fifth starter derby after being on the outside looking in for so long.  That's what spring is all about, right?  The unexpected making a run.  A young third baseman making it so that you can't leave him off the roster.  The hometown pitcher fighting his way onto the roster.  There is a reason spring training lasts this long!

Approval rating time!  Even though I didn't plan it this way, so far every day has been one new person and one person we rated last year, and today is no different.

If we'd have rated Mark McGwire last year, it would have been as the disgraced and retired icon.  You'd have to have factored in the uncertainty (well, at least proven uncertainty) of his steroid usage and how you felt about all of that.  It's a new year, however, and we aren't rating just the icon, but the hitting coach who has made his confession.  It was possibly the most interesting name on the approval ballot.

McGwire wound up higher than I thought, with 64 people giving him an average score of 73.2%.  There was an outlier of 5, but the next-lowest was 20, while his high was one 100.  A lot in the 70-80 range, it looks like.

On the other hand, we have Yadier Molina.  A lot of Molina love last year, as he piled up the second-highest rating at 93.4%.  Not a lot has changed with Yadi, and this year he drops just a bit to 92.0%.  That'll put him behind Carp this year as well (likely) behind Albert.

Cards play a split-squad schedule today.  The noon game features St. Louis playing against their complex partners, the Marlins.  Not sure who is going in that game, though it should be Chris Carpenter, I'd expect.  The game is also supposed to be on FSN, so if you are in the viewing area, you get a lunchtime treat.

Most of us would have probably rather they televised the other game, however.  This evening, 5 PM start, the Cards go over to Washington and face Stephen Strasburg again.  Not only that, but McClellan tries to hold off Garcia for that fifth slot with a strong start.  Should be a lot of interesting things out of that one!

Off Day Miscellany

Posted on March 18, 2010 at 8:17 AM
I hate off days, even in the spring.  Yeah, I know they are necessary, but once you get in the habit of seeing or hearing baseball on a daily basis, those gaps really can throw you off.

The Cards have another day off next Tuesday and have the Sunday before the season free as well.  Otherwise, it's all baseball all the time until the beginning of the season.

The day off meant things were pretty quiet in Cardinal camp.  Allen Craig has been a popular focus this off-season, with a story earlier this week by Matthew Leach and now a feature by Derrick Goold.  I don't think there's much doubt now that Craig makes this team as a backup, though I guess a slump here at the end of the spring could see him back in Memphis.  I just hope that he'll be able to keep hitting even with only semi-regular work, pinch-hitting and the like.  If he needs to be in there every day to keep his swing working, that's going to be a problem.

Not much time and not much to talk about today, so let's get to the Cardinal Approval Ratings.  Today, we look at the skipper and the number three starter.

Tony La Russa has always been a polarizing figure in St. Louis and there's no doubt people will register opinions on him.  Last year, he checked in with a 79.1% rating.  Then he led the Cardinals to another divisional title.  Would that be reflected in this year's mark?

Perhaps it was, as TLR moved up to an 80.6% level this year.  Interestingly, there were two of the 67 voters that didn't give him a rating, something that surprised me.  Two 100s and a 38 made up the range of the votes.

Kyle Lohse was just under TLR last year, with a 77.3% mark.  That was after a successful 2008, even.  So with an injury plagued and ineffective 2009 now in the books, where will Lohse stand?

Lohse tumbled almost 11 points to a 66.8% rating this year.  Three people didn't vote, his high-water mark was 85, and there was at least one zero in the mix.

Cards take on the Braves today with Rich Hill making another important start in his bid for the fifth starter slot.  Should be a fun game to listen to, if you can!





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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)

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%)

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%)

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%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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