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Recently in Approval Ratings Category

Two Men Enter, But Which One Leaves?

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 6:59 AM
Yesterday's game was billed as the deciding factor for the fifth starter slot.  Joe Kelly would start the game, Shelby Miller would come in afterwards, and we'd all get a good idea of who was going to take the last place in the rotation.  Mano a mano.  Let's get it on.  Mike Matheny even provided what could be the opening day lineup, save that Oscar Taveras and Tony Cruz were in for the World Baseball Classic guys.

And after all of that, we know....about as much as we did before.  Kelly was a hair better than Miller, if it was to come down to what they did yesterday.  He allowed a run, but didn't walk anyone (which was his major issue coming into the game) and went four innings with his pitch count.  Miller wasn't quite as sharp, going only 2 2/3 with his pitch count and being charged with three runs, though two came when Trevor Rosenthal allowed the runners he left on to score.  He did strike out four and was working on his changeup during the game.

Even though we still don't know who the pitcher will be (though Matheny is talking a lot about what Kelly did last year, which may mean he's in the lead), this had to be a fun game to watch and Fox Sports Midwest couldn't have gotten any luckier with the game that was their first broadcast.  You had Kelly, followed by Miller, followed by Rosenthal, followed by Michael Wacha.  All of the young guns of the spring in the same game makes for some wonderful baseball watching.

That's the last time that'll happen, though, as Wacha was reassigned after the game to the minor league camp.  We knew that was going to happen and with the minor league games starting up, it makes sense, but there's no doubt Wacha is moving up the lists with a bullet.  Springfield seemed to be the default place for him when the spring started, but now Memphis isn't out of the question at all.  It was an incredible spring for him, as he finished with 11.2 scoreless innings (well, OK, he had one unearned run against him) and struck out 15 against one walk.  If he can keep that up at whatever level he's at, he'll be in St. Louis before the end of the season.

Derrick Goold writes that the moves help clarify the Cardinals' plan for the hurlers this season.  He writes that it seems it's down to Fernando Salas versus the loser of the competition for the last spot in the 'pen.  To me, that means that Kelly has the lead, because I'm pretty sure they'd take Salas north and I don't think they'd send Kelly to Memphis.  It would make sense to see Kelly as the fifth starter (to at least start the season), Salas in the 'pen and Miller to Memphis, much more than Miller in the rotation and Kelly to the 'pen and Salas to Memphis or vice versa.

Miller's the exciting one, there's no doubt about that, and part of me starts to feel disappointed that Kelly is going to get the slot (apparently).  Really looking at it, though, as much as it is going to be fun to see Miller eventually in St. Louis, Kelly isn't a bad hurler at all.  He may not be quite as exciting, but he's proved he belongs in the big leagues and the rotation doesn't take a hit with him in there.  This isn't one of those cases as we saw during the La Russa era with a boring, mediocre veteran getting the time over an exciting prospect. Kelly has a legitimate claim on the spot and should be fun to watch as well.

Also being reassigned, according to the article, were Victor Marte and Eduardo Sanchez.  There's not much to say about Marte--if he were going north, the bullpen was in more trouble than we thought--and I don't think it's a big surprise about Sanchez either.  While he's looked better in the spring than he did last year, he needs to prove he can do it on a regular basis down in Memphis before trying his luck in the big leagues.  If his command really is back, though, he could well be the first callup from the minors this season.

For all the focus on the pitching during yesterday's game, the Cards did hit the ball a little bit against the Braves.  The Cards scored four runs in the fifth inning, batting around and featuring a two-run triple by Matt Carpenter (who also had a double in the game).  After the Braves came back to tie it, Matt Adams pinch-hit in the eighth and doubled in the winning run.  As Matheny said after the game, "The guy can hit.  He doesn't really have to prove that to us."  More and more, it looks reasonable for Adams to be on the bench this season as he's proving he can pinch-hit with the best of them.  It's not likely a coincidence they keep using him as a pinch-hitter in big slots.

Being that I've taken a couple of days off this week, let's double up and finish off the approval ratings, what do you say?  Our first player up is the closer, Jason Motte.  Motte's had a busy offseason, getting a new contract and becoming a new dad, and there's no doubt that his 2012 season was a great one as well.  This is Motte's first year on the ballot and he checks in with a very respectable 86.9%.  Of course, closer opinions can fluctuate depending on the last outing, but Motte's got a lot of goodwill built up.

Our last player is Adam Wainwright.  Looking back over things, Albert Pujols lost 8% of his approval rating the spring that he came into camp looking for a contract.  Contract talks didn't affect Yadier Molina last year, though, as he upped his by 3.5%.  So how will people view Wainwright as he is in the midst of negotiations?  He slipped last year (due to missing a year, I'd guess) but still ranks very highly.

This year, he checks in with a 88.2%, his lowest mark yet and down 3.7% from last year.  While one commenter said that Waino still hadn't proven in his mind that he was back from surgery, I'm not sure what the rest of the decrease is from, unless it is the vagaries of a smaller sample this year or maybe there is a little downgrading because he hasn't gotten a contract.  I would hope that people aren't just knocking him for last year's bottom line and I think that the fan base is smarter than that.

On the media side of things, somehow I miscounted and only got eight of them in there instead of the expected nine, so all we are looking at today is Joe Strauss.  Which might be appropriate, because I don't know of anyone outside of the FSMW booth that engenders more angst than Strauss does.  Commenters said things like "goes too far trying to play the heel" and "how does he still have a job?"  One, though, summed up my feelings on Mr. Strauss pretty well: "Strauss has a huge network of contacts inside the organization and lands a lot of scoops. As an internet presence and team writer, he is/was a hateful troll. As a columnist, he's been surprisingly good."

I don't think there's any doubt that Strauss is able to break news and to write well, but his snark doesn't always play well when you are trying to read a game story and heaven forbid you get on the wrong side of him on Twitter.  I do think a lot of it is an act--those bloggers that covered the Warmup in 2012 said that he was nice enough to them--but it still is a wearying one.  Strauss did get a few high marks, but the overall negativity toward him brought him down to a 54.3%.

Some people wondered why I put Albert Pujols on the list this year.  After all, he's not a Cardinal anymore and we should all move on.  That's really what I wanted to see.  Last year's voting was taken while the move to Anaheim was still fresh, as evidenced by the plunge from around 90% to Straussian levels.  (Heck, Joe rated OVER Pujols last year.)  I wanted to see if the wounds had healed some, if people were able to appreciate what Albert did in St. Louis and separate that from the way he left.

For the most part, it seems people still are holding a grudge, at least the ones that voted here.  There were some high marks, an 100 and some 90s, but there were a good number of single digits and more than one 0.  All of that summed up to a 59.2% mark, which is about five percent better than last year, so maybe there is a bit of thawing.  I'll probably wait a couple of years before returning Pujols to the ballot for another check of the temperature.

The final one on the ballot is the United Cardinal Bloggers.  Now, obviously, this is a personal favorite of mine (and, since it's my ballot, I get to put it on here).  I always want to see if the UCB name is getting out there and getting favorable reviews.  I don't know about the former--fewer people expressed an opinion on this than any other, and being that we had less than 60 to start with, that may say something--but the latter seems to be coming along well.  The UCB is up to an 85.2% mark this year, something that we'll continue to try to improve on during the year.

Cards host the Nationals today in another game that'll be on Fox Sports Midwest. Should be able to see just about every game between now and the end of the spring!

Getting It Out Of The Way

Posted on March 13, 2013 at 7:06 AM
Let's look at the positive side.  At least these games don't count for anything.  Better to have this in the spring than in May or June, right?

That's the way to look at this because otherwise, this losing streak would get kind of annoying.  The Cards score no runs on Sunday or Monday and only three (all in one inning) on Tuesday.  Now, there wasn't anything close to the regular lineup in play, so that's understandable to some degree.  You've got Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran playing for Puerto Rico, you've got Matt Holliday still battling illness, you just got David Freese back on the field after busting his tail--literally--and yesterday's lineup had players like Justin Christian and Stephen Piscotty.  Nothing wrong with those guys, but they won't be playing in St. Louis this year.

The pitching had been pretty good until the last couple of innings yesterday.  Jake Westbrook went four and wasn't all that sharp, walking three and giving up two runs.  Still, the Cards were in the game, especially after Christian helped along that three-run inning with a two-run triple.  Then the bullpen came in, poured gasoline and lit the match.

I don't guess it's surprising that after Edward Mujica allows five runs and Jason Motte allows three (none of which were earned) that we have a number of stories on how the bullpen is fine and they are just testing out their pitches.  There's a lot of truth to that and it's good to know that both of them have had high spring ERAs before and been solid in the regular season.  I don't think fans were worried--much--just yet, but it would be nice to see Mujica's ERA under 10 before the end of spring.  We'll see how they do in the last week or so of camp, when they should be pitching under more regular conditions.  If they still struggle then, there may be an elevated level of concern.

(BTW, it's always nice to see a Matthew Leach byline on a Cardinal game story.)

Cards are off today, but then get back at it against Atlanta tomorrow in the most anticipated game of the spring, most likely.  It has nothing to do with the Braves and rematching yesterday's blowout.  No, the fifth starter spot is likely to be determined after this game.  The team thinks (and rightly so) that they need to start settling the rotation so that pitchers can build up to 100 pitches before the season starts.  (That also means the end of the Michael Wacha experience pretty soon, most likely.)

Joe Kelly will get the start on Thursday, with Shelby Miller coming in behind him.  While the club has said not to read into the order that much, there does seem to be some chatter now that Kelly is the front-runner for this, with Miller possibly going the Adam Wainwright route and being a long man in the bullpen as he earns major league experience.  I don't necessarily think the Cardinals are wrong if they go that route, but that wouldn't be the selection I'd make.  Even in the Post-Dispatch roundtable (yeah, they don't call it that, but that's what it is) shows a split in the thinking.

I don't think that there's much debate that Miller is the more talent pitcher and he's ready for the big leagues.  However, there is an argument that Kelly's been through it before and you would have less of a chance of the floor dropping out on him.  That may be so, but the ceiling isn't in any danger either and with a missing Chris Carpenter, having someone that could break out would be huge.

In case you are keeping up with friend of the blog Barret Browning, he was reassigned to the minor league camp yesterday along with Kevin Siegrist and Cody Stanley.  Barret pitched in two games with the big club, giving up two runs in two innings but striking out three and walking none.  I still think that if a lefty falters, he might get another shot at St. Louis this season.

Great story on Daniel Descalso today and how he rebuilt his swing during the season last year.  We all noticed some extra pop out of Descalso in the postseason, with two home runs (and one robbed by Jayson Werth) but I don't know if any of us thought it was anything more than a player getting hot at the right time.  If this swing holds and it can continue to generate offense, days when he's in the lineup and Matt Carpenter is on the bench may not be such a downgrade.

Let's see who is up in the Cardinal Approval Ratings.  Today it's Yadier Molina for the players.  Even without doing the numbers, you know that Molina is likely to be the top of the class.  I mean, what's not to like?  He's put up incredible offensive numbers while still playing spectacular defense and handling the pitching staff like a pro.  Seriously, how do you downgrade that?  Most people didn't--there were a lot of 100s on this one and the overall was 96.2%.  At a quick glance, only Albert Pujols in 2009 and 2010 ranked higher since I've been doing these.  An impressive result.

For the media, it's Mike Shannon, who is the icon of Cardinal radio now.  Shannon grows on you, or at least he did for me, and now he comes across as that kindly uncle you have that might not be up to date on everything, but is friendly and has some fun stories.  Not everyone feels that way--I did see a 20 and a 45 in the results--but enough do that Shannon comes out with an 85.1% mark.

He's been called a manager in waiting.  He has worn the Cardinal uniform longer than just about anybody but Red Schoendienst in the current organization.  But how do people feel about Jose Oquendo?  The third base coach actually comes off pretty well, chalking up a 87.1% mark, which was just a little bit higher than last year's result.

We'll be stepping right up to meet the Mets this afternoon and there's a lot of great bloggers that helped with that one, so be prepared to stay a spell!

Halfway Home

Posted on March 11, 2013 at 8:15 AM
We've hit the midpoint of spring training.  Three weeks from today, we're avoiding stupid April Fool's jokes and focusing on the pitching matchup out in Arizona.  It's a long spring this year, what with the World Baseball Classic going on, but you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

If Allen Craig can't see that light, now he can afford some glasses that help.  Craig signed a five-year, $31 million deal Friday, a contract that bought out all of his arbitration years and his first year of free agency.  This is the kind of deal that we've come to expect from the Cardinals, a contract that gives them cost-certainty and keeps them from having to make some forced decisions down the road.

Since Craig is older for the amount of experience he has--he's already 28--this means that all of Craig's prime years will be in St. Louis.  This will possibly also be his biggest contract, though if he continues to rake like he has been, he could get another five year deal or so when it's up with payment for what he's done in the past built in.  It's just a good thing to be able to put solid numbers in the payroll matrices for the next few years and at a pretty reasonable rate as well.  Kudos to John Mozeliak and the front office for getting this done.

It does make you wonder a bit on what the outlook is for David Freese, however.  Freese was in a similar situation this year--he actually had arbitration on his side, whereas Craig did not--and he only got a one-year deal.  There are differences in the situation, of course, but there are a lot of similarities.  Will Freese get a deal similar to this next year if he's proven he can stay healthy?  Does Freese not fit into the Cardinals' plans as well as Craig does?  That's something for much later, of course, but worth considering when you are talking the bigger picture with the Cardinals.

Also, the article relating to Craig's contract points out that the team signed him for his bat, not necessarily to be the first baseman.  That seems to indicate that Craig will need to keep his outfielder's glove handy, which may mean we'll be seeing Matt Adams in a Cardinal uniform this year as well.  Someone is going to have to spell Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran and if Oscar Taveras isn't going to do it, it might as well be Craig, though I'm sure Shane Robinson (who seems to have played his way into starting the season with the big club) and/or Adron Chambers will get a whack at that too.

One of the more intriguing stories to come out this weekend was the fact that the club now considers Matt Carpenter to be acceptable at second base, not only as a temporary measure but also as a starter.  Apparently--and to be fair, this is spring and spring coverage, which can at times run more optimistic than the regular season, Joe Strauss notwithstanding--Carpenter has impressed all those involved and has been fielding well and correcting any errors that he may make.  We all know that Carpenter has been able to hit, though we'll have to see if having a new position on his mind affects that--it hasn't so far this spring, as he's hitting .370/.469/.519 in 27 at-bats--so being able to put his bat in the lineup without creating a significant defensive liability is huge.

If he is being so proficient, that means a few things: 1) that Daniel Descalso might see time at short if Pete Kozma fails there.  If nothing else, Dirty Dan will become a utility player and defensive replacement; 2) that Carpenter might not have to be taken out in the seventh or whatever for defensive purposes, at least not consistently; 3) that the bench becomes a little weaker in that regard, again pointing to the need for someone like Adams.  If Carpenter starts, the bench would be Descalso, Tony Cruz (who will never get into a game as a pinch-hitter, of course), Ronny Cedeno, Robinson and Chambers.  While Robinson has played lights-out this spring and Descalso has a couple of home runs to his credit in Florida, there is no one on that bench that you bring up when you are down by two and need a double or a homer.  Adams is more likely to be that guy, so we'll see if he bumps Chambers back to Memphis.

We saw Joe Kelly have a bit of trouble Thursday against the Yankees in his bid for the fifth slot in the rotation.  Shelby Miller came out against the Nationals on Friday and seemed to impress some people, most notably during an 11-pitch at-bat against Bryce Harper that ended with Miller blowing a pitch past him.  Miller did give up a couple of runs, though it sounds like part of that was due to a bad hop over Craig's head on Harper's next time up.  All in all, if it had been a tie for the last slot before these outings, Miller likely pulled a smidgen ahead after them.  They both will probably get one more start, maybe two, before the decision is made.

All in all, the pitching was pretty good this weekend, but the offense didn't show up at all.  Maybe it was due to Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina being in the Puerto Rico lineup instead of the Cardinals, maybe it was due to Matt Holliday still being sick, but whatever the case, the team that scored 16 against the Nationals scored two against a Marlins' split squad team and none against the Mets in back to back games.  The roller coaster continues.

Adam Wainwright, who credits looking at a picture a fan had him sign for some adjustments, had a stellar outing, allowing no runs in 4.2 innings against the Marlins on Saturday.  Michael Wacha followed him (after a couple of relievers bridged the gap) and--ho hum--threw two scoreless innings with two strikeouts.  Wacha still has yet to allow a run in just shy of ten innings this spring.

For all the talk about Rafael Furcal and how he should have had the shoulder surgery earlier, no one is pointing out (which is a classy thing for Mo to do, because I think many would say, "Hey, look there.") that Jaime Garcia also was in a situation where most people thought he needed surgery, but Garcia has been fine this spring and, indeed, hurled five scoreless innings against the Mets.  Garcia is giving up a few extra hits--his BAA sits right at .300 in the spring--but he's not letting those turn into runs.  Dare we hope that Garcia's game has matured?  Because if he can consistently be the left-handed guy we've seen him be on occasion, this rotation takes another step up.

The biggest disappointment in yesterday's game was seeing Eduardo Sanchez have a relapse.  Sanchez, who had not walked anyone all spring, walked the first two batters he faced yesterday, both of which came around to score insurance runs.  Before that, though, he'd gone 5.1 innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.  If yesterday was just a blip on the radar, Sanchez has a good chance of making the bullpen.  I think he'll start in Memphis but, well, more on him later today.

Mike Matheny has headed back to St. Louis to have back surgery.  When I hear back surgery, I think of a significant procedures that's going to keep you out for an extended period of time.  Apparently medical technology and advancements are some impressive things, because Matheny is having the procedure today and should be back in the dugout on Thursday.  That's just amazing to me, really.  I understand that he's not playing and so the recovery time is quicker, but still, to be able to fly just two days after having your back opened up?  That's something.  Best wishes to the skipper and hope the surgery goes without a hitch.

Today's approval ratings focus on Lance Lynn, John Rooney and the general manager.  It's the first year for Lynn on this ratings, as he didn't crack the list after his 2011 stint in the bullpen.  You had a tale of two seasons for Lynn last year, though, and I was curious to see how people reacted to him.  Some of this voting was done around his comments about "his job to lose" in the rotation, which didn't sit well with some folks either.  All that combined, Lynn comes out with a 79.5% mark.  That's a pretty solid standing for a guy that we aren't completely sure what we have with yet.  A good 2013 and that number might jump by double digits.

Lynn's on his first approval rating, but Rooney has been here since the very first one.  He's been remarkably consistent as well--his lowest mark was 76.2% in 2010, his highest was this year's 84.5%. I think the partnership between Rooney and Mike Shannon has been a great one for Cardinal radio and hopefully it will continue for a long, long time.

Finally, we get to the architect of the team.  There are always going to be critics--though how people put 0 and 10 on this rating form is beyond me--but for the most part, Mozeliak has done an exceptional job at keeping a small-market team competitive and viable even with a larger-than-mid-market salary.  The farm system has been rejuvenated under his watch and the team has always been competitive, even when major injuries strike.  The fan base seems to agree, giving him an 86.5% score, his highest ever.

Besides the fact that the Cards play the Yanks today on ESPN for your afternoon enjoyment, there's plenty coming here at the blog.  Later this morning, I'll be posting the transcript for the last UCB roundtable question and this afternoon, we play pepper with the Milwaukee Brewers.  So continue to check back through the day!

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Confirming The Obvious (And Not As Obvious)

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 6:54 AM
You know, during the winter, there were a lot of days where there just wasn't anything to talk about.  Things were slow and we grasped at whatever crumbs we could find.  Yesterday, well, yesterday wasn't one of those days.

Let's start with the biggest news.  Rafael Furcal will be having Tommy John surgery next week, effectively ending his season.  OK, sure, after last year and Chris Carpenter you hesitate a bit to put "season ending" down in print, but I think we can be pretty sure of this one.  The Goat curse continues in a unique way, because it seems unlikely Furcal will ever see the field in a Cardinal uniform again.

Of course, this news set off a ton of recriminations toward John Mozeliak, most of which seem to be unwarranted.  If what he says is accurate, that no doctor last year recommended surgery, then I don't think you can blame Furcal and the team for not going that route.  Getting cut on is not exactly a walk in the park, after all.  We have had amazing advances in medical technology and knowledge, but surgery still is one of those things that you tend to not have unless there are no other options.

And, if that's the case, it really hamstrung Mo this offseason.  He likely knew Furcal was going to have issues, even though the reports during the winter seemed to indicate he was healing, but what could you do?  You can't get a Stephen Drew to come in when he wants a guarantee he will start.  You can't use some of your significant trade chips to bring in a shortstop knowing that he'll be sitting the bench if Furcal is ready to go.  It was a tough corner to be in.

That said, you do wonder if he couldn't have shored up the backup role a little better in preparation for such an eventuality.  Pete Kozma looks to be the starter now (an obvious departure from the Tony La Russa days, where Ronny Cedeno would have been written into the lineup due to his veteran status) and if the team actually thinks he can be some part of the player that he was last year, even though his minor league numbers don't support that, then more power to them, I guess.  It could happen, sure, but it seems like a dangerous way to bet.  As for Cedeno, when the only person that was in favor of your signing (the general manager) says in relation to how he's been doing in spring with, "Um, not good," I don't think I'd get entirely comfortable, though it seems like he'll go with the team anyway due to a lack of other options and the fact that Mo inexplicably gave him a major league contract instead of a minor league one.  (However, Joe Strauss notes his contract isn't guaranteed, so we might not be seeing much more of him.)

In an ideal world, Mo would have made a move for a young shortstop who could have been the backup this year, being groomed to take over the role in 2014.  That way, if Furcal did go down, you could still use Kozma and let this new guy ease into things or throw him into the deep water and let him start.  However, I'll freely admit that save for Jurickson Profar, whom the Rangers are not going to part with, I don't know where said shortstop would have come from.

That said, there's no need to panic.  (Great idea for a Jupiter T-shirt: "Keep Calm and Kozma On".)  As Strauss writes, a full season from Furcal wasn't in the plans anyway, given all his health issues.  Most teams don't have All-Stars at every position, yet the Cards could make the case for one everywhere but the middle of the diamond.  If Kozma is as defensively adept as he's made out to be (which was better than a hurt Furcal last year), it won't matter too much what he hits.  I do have visions of rallies dying on the vine when Daniel Descalso and Kozma are stacked back-to-back at the bottom of the lineup, but it would also be reasonable to expect that Descalso will have a stronger season than last year and that might not be as terrifying a vision as it seems on first glance.  Couple that with the fact Matt Carpenter might start some games at second and the offense part of the equation fades into the background.

All in all, this feels like bigger news than it probably is.  Losing two players for the season before the first game starts is a tough thing for a team to deal with, but it looks like the losses of Furcal and Chris Carpenter can be absorbed and not put much of a dent in the playoff aspirations of this team.  Which says a lot right there, I think.

Right before the Furcal news came out yesterday, the club made it official that Trevor Rosenthal is going to the bullpen.  The Cards were excited about what he brings out of the bullpen and were afraid that he wouldn't get enough innings in spring to stretch him out (for which you can thank Michael Wacha's emergence mostly).  On the positive side for Rosenthal, this basically assures him a spot on the major league roster, which is what you want as a player anyway.

It always seemed like there were three outcomes for the three pitchers vying for that last spot in the rotation.  One was going to get it, one was going to the bullpen, and one was going to start in Memphis.  We've figured out part of the equation, so now what's left is to see which of Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly get to ride in the red convertibles and which one gets to enjoy some Southern BBQ.  Kelly pitched yesterday--more on that in a bit--and Miller goes today.

Let's not leave Rosenthal just yet, though.  The conventional wisdom is that starters are more valuable than relievers, so moving Rosenthal to the pen seems to be a short-term gain at a long-term loss.  I think there's some truth to that.  Rosenthal has shown in the past that he can be very effective as a starter and you hate to lose all those innings that he could give you.  While the club has said that they'll continue to develop him as a starter if he wants, it seems the longer he's in the bullpen the less likely you can flip the switch without losing some of his effectiveness.

That said, there are a whole lot of starter arms coming up.  Right now you still have Kelly and Miller and coming up you have Wacha and Carlos Martinez and perhaps Seth Maness and the list continues on and on.  Not all of these guys are going to get regular turns in the Cardinal rotation, there's just too many of them.  So the loss of Rosenthal as a starter can be offset pretty easily by some of these other arms.  I think we'd rather have Rosenthal as a reliever than him starting against the team somewhere, so this move is definitely not the worst thing that could happen.

This is getting a bit long and we've not even touched on yesterday's game.  Click the link to continue!
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Off Day Linkage

Posted on March 6, 2013 at 7:12 AM
As you know, the Cardinals were off yesterday, one of three off days before the end of the spring schedule.  Which means there was less to write about, unless you wanted a breakdown of Michael Wacha's boat ride or a comparison of the haircuts and shaves of Shane Robinson and David Freese.  Yeah, didn't think so.  Thankfully, I've been needing a chance to put up some of the links and information that comes through my inbox, so today's a great time to do that.

Before we do that, though, the off-day article in the Post-Dispatch is about the Cardinals' desire to have a more consistent offense, an issue I alluded to in yesterday's post. Mike Matheny went about that by introducing some competitions and focusing on situational hitting during camp. I'm reading the book Trading Bases (a review will be coming soon) and the phrase the author uses in there in talking about returns is "12 percent smooth vs. 15 percent lumpy", that is either a even return or a return that bounces from gain to loss and back to gain.  The Cardinals' numbers from last year were that 15 percent lumpy. They led the league in a lot of offensive categories, but there were times where that offense just couldn't be found.  While in the book the lumpy is preferred, I think Cardinal fans would rather a smoother offense.  You still don't get extra points for winning by more than one.

All right, on to the inbox.

First of all, our good friend Dathan Brooks every year organizes a trip to a different stadium as part of the Bachelor Stadium Tour.  You don't have to be a bachelor to go on these trips, though you probably do need an understanding wife.  Even if you aren't interested in going on this year's trip, which will be to Pittsburgh over Labor Day weekend, head over and fill out his survey.  If you do it between now and Sunday morning, you could win two tickets to see the Jackie Robinson movie 42.  That's worth a minute of your time, isn't it?

Last summer, I was proud to hit five years in the blogging arena.  After all, it's not easy keeping up with the regular pace of putting words to screen.  However, our friend William Tasker is blowing that away.  Earlier this week at his blog, The Flagrant Fan, he reached post #3,000.  (I think they took the keyboard out of play and gave it to him as a keepsake.)  Today (or yesterday, it appears, now that I check out his post on the subject) he marks 10 years at the site.  Ten years!  That's mindboggling, especially when it's been done as well as William has done it for this whole time.  If you want to know more about William, might I suggest Episode 23 of Conversations With C70?

If you have SiriusXM, you probably listen to the baseball channel quite a bit.  (I know I did when I was a subscriber.)  Today, their Power Alley show will be carried from Cardinals camp, so you'll probably hear a lot of talk about the Redbirds and interviews with the players.  Should be a lot of fun.

If you are in the mood for a little more prospect talk (and with the crop of players we have, why wouldn't you be?), head over to Bullpen Banter.  They've got their top prospects for each team, including the Cardinals.  No major surprises on their list, but it's still worth checking out.

Sunday, the ever-reliable and fairly awesome Chris Jaffe pointed out that it had been 5,000 days since Jose Jimenez no-hit the Diamondbacks while facing Randy Johnson.  If that isn't one of the most improbable no-hitters out there, I don't know what tops it.  The rematch was the next week and Jimenez threw a two-hitter then.  That week was not entirely the highlight of Jimenez's career, but it was darn close.

One of the Cardinals' legends is going to be honored this spring.  Omaha is going to put up a statue to native son Bob Gibson in front of their ballpark.  You can read more about it, including ticket prices to the honoring dinner, over at I70 Baseball.

Finally, a couple of researchers at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom have put together the first database of baseball statues.  Want to know where a player might be honored or if there is going to be one in the area of your next vacation?  Search the database to find out.  (I guess they'll have to add that Gibson statue pretty soon!)  Interestingly, the earliest statue identified has a St. Louis connection--it is none other than Chris Von Der Ahe and can be found at his gravesite.  Go check that out and see what else you can discover!

OK, to today's Cardinal Approval Ratings. Today's player is Jaime Garcia.  I probably missed a trick by not splitting this into "Home Jaime" and "Road Jaime."  There's little doubt that his inconsistency has frustrated Cardinal fans for a while now.  Garcia didn't make last year's sheet, but his mark this year is 64.1%, which is not terribly surprising and probably not much of a drop from where he'd been previously if it'd been measured.  One commenter pointed out that he docked Garcia because he hid injuries and didn't perform after getting a big contract.  That said, Garcia is probably primed for the biggest jump of anyone for next year, because a solid, consistent year and he could move up twenty points.

We stay with the pitchers as we move to the media.  Ricky Horton joined the Fox Sports Midwest rotation a couple of years ago and the reviews among voters has been mixed.  Horton hasn't cracked 70 in the last two years and this year is no different, continuing his slight downward slope with a 65.5%.  There was one 100 in the mix, so Ricky still has some fans, but there were a lot of below 50 marks as well.  The comments that I received weren't all that positive either.  In fact, the highest praise might have been, "He's better than Hrabosky only because he can't be worse."  Ouch.

Finally, the pitching theme finishes up with Chris Carpenter.  Carp isn't listed with the active players because of the strong likelihood that he won't pitch for the team again, whether this year or in the future.  And while some did note that their opinion of the former ace had dimmed because of his unwillingness to go to spring training, there were a lot more that gave him perfect scores due to all that he's done for the club.  Average it all out and he gets a 89.8% mark, just a tick below where he was last year.

Cards take on the Marlins today back in Jupiter and we're talking Angels baseball this afternoon in Playing Pepper.  Lots of fun for your afternoon!

The Ride Starts Early

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 11:15 AM
Last year, the Cardinals were a feast or famine team at times.  Score big or score none.  You weren't always sure what team was going to show up.  While the traditional spring caveats (it's early, it's spring, not the makeup of the regular season team, etc.) still apply in full force, we're seeing a bit of that this spring as well.  Last week, the Cards were scoring double digits on a regular basis.  Yesterday, their first shutout of the spring.

The Redbirds didn't have many bright spots yesterday, falling to the Twins 7-0.  Lance Lynn got the start but struggled, Jason Motte allowed two runs on a homer by Aaron Hicks, and the bats didn't get a hit until Daniel Descalso poked one in the fifth.  The box score shows an almost unmitigated mess as even Edward Mujica and Oscar Taveras were caught up in it and even our old friend the double play made a return.

In fact, the only bright spot from yesterday was, again, Michael Wacha.  He threw 2.2 innings, struck out three and the Twins announcers were raving about him on the radio.  He allowed two hits and a walk in his time out there, but was able to work around them.  Eventually the Wacha bubble is going to take a pinprick or two, but so far so good.

(We got to see our old friend P.J. Walters out there as well.  Walters threw two innings and only allowed one hit, which was erased on a double play.  I'm always rooting for P.J., because he seems a great guy and he's been a Conversations guest, so best of luck to him making the Twins roster.)

So there wasn't much to talk about on the field.  Let's talk about what's surrounding the team, mainly in the way of injuries.  Before we get to the one that most of us are most concerned with, let's acknowledge that the left-handed side of the bullpen took what is hopefully just a temporary hit recently.  Marc Rzepczynski has a sore arm and won't throw again until at least Thursday.  Sam Freeman is also out with a sore biceps and will be seeing a doctor about it shortly.  It doesn't sound like Scrabble's issue is too serious, but you know this is giving our friend Barret Browning some extra motivation, if he needs any.

The main injury, of course, is the one to Rafael Furcal, who will see Dr. Andrews on Wednesday for a second opinion the elbow.  There seems to be still the possibility that surgery won't be required, as it seems to be more due to inflammation and the bone spur than the initial ligament damage.  Still, it seems like a tough situation for the Cards, because if it's not surgery, there's no guarantee that we won't be back in this same situation months from now.

Of course, there's going to be a lot of criticism leveled at John Mozeliak.  Whether that criticism is fair or unfair depends on your point of view, of course.  Mo tends to think that it comes down on the unfair side of the equation and he does have significant points to back that up.  I can't fault him for not getting Stephen Drew because you couldn't guarantee him that he could be a starter.  You couldn't make a major trade for the same reason.  While I'm not sure what Mo could have done (and I don't know what he tried to do behind the scenes), the idea that Furcal was going to make it through the year completely healthy and completely effective was a high-risk bet.  Even if it wasn't the elbow, his back was bothering him last year.  Odds were he was going to miss some time one way or another.

Perhaps Pete Kozma can do it.  I mean, he is only 24 and did have the talent to be a first-round pick.  However, if you are putting significant money on that outcome, please call the Problem Gambling Helpline.  That's not the way to bet, though baseball does have that pleasing tendency to show us that we don't have it all quite figured out yet.  I'd love to see Kozma be one of those examples.

Bernie Miklasz says the Furcal injury gives more impetus to put Taveras on the team.  While I'm one that would be excited to see Taveras start in St. Louis and I do believe the rotation plan is a winning one, I disagree with his premise.  I don't think that even with Furcal in the lineup the offensive equation changes that much.  It might have been better than Kozma or others, but I don't think it would have been significantly.  Having him go down doesn't, in my mind, add a point for Taveras.  Again, though, there are some really good arguments for his promotion.

Before I get into today's Cardinal Approval Ratings, I'd like to call your attention to a post at what typically isn't a baseball blog.  A reader of this blog (yes! I have a reader!) directed me to something he had wrote about Jon Jay and what he saw as a negative perception of him by Bernie and others.  It's worth your time to see how Jay stacks up against some others at the position, so head over and check it out.

All right, let's take a look at today's three approval ratings.  First up is David Freese. World Series Hero, local boy-makes-good, but also a guy that only has one full season (a good one, mind you) under his belt.  Everyone took a swing at this one and Freese came out with a 82.9% rating.  I thought it was interesting that he came in under Allen Craig, honestly.  Still, it's a good mark and there didn't seem to be any under 70 in the results, plus it is well in line with his mark from last year, when he was coming off the October heroics.

Our media member of the day is Jim "the Cat" Hayes from Fox Sports Midwest.  As much as anyone on that network, Hayes is the personality but can also do the serious interviews as well.  I thought he did a good job during the Stan Musial tributes and programming, for instance.  Of course, not everyone agrees with me on that point and Hayes comes in with a 73% mark.  This is his third year on the ballot and that 73 is right in the middle of his first two years, so we are probably finding his spot.  There were 17 people that didn't register an opinion and one at each endpoint (100 and 0).

We move on to a former Cardinal for our last one of the day.  Lance Berkman made an impact on the fan base in his short time in St. Louis and even though he's gone on to Texas now, his legacy won't be forgotten.  There were a good number of 100s in his ratings (though there was at least one 0 as well) and 50 of our 58 rated him, with an average of 80.6%.  That's down from last year's high of 88%, but given that he's not on the roster anymore, it's still a fine mark.

Off day today but the Playing Pepper series continues, talking about that other Missouri team, so come back this afternoon for that!

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Losses On And Off The Field

Posted on March 4, 2013 at 9:25 AM
While the Cardinals had trouble with Washington this weekend, the focus by Sunday was on what they lost away from the diamond.  The news most of us had been anticipating came along and Rafael Furcal was shut down from baseball activities and was to be reevaluated.

This is not a shocking blow to anyone that follows the Cardinals.  Ever since Furcal disdained surgery for rehab and therapy, it seemed only a matter of time before this happened.  Adding the bone spur to the mix didn't help matters at all either.  Furcal will be examined by Dr. George Paletta today and options will be discussed after that evaluation.  It would seem surgery would be the most likely outcome, meaning Furcal might well miss the entire season.  (Interestingly, that would kinda keep the Goat streak alive.  Since I started them in 2008, the player that was the Top Goat hasn't been with the team the next year.  Furcal looked to break that streak, but if he's out for the season, again the Top Goat wouldn't play a game for the Cardinals.)

The biggest problem with this that there is no depth behind Furcal, something that most all bloggers have been pointing out with regularity (and, to be fair, the club was aware of as well).  There's no confidence that Pete Kozma can do what he did the last six weeks, even though he is having a fairly strong spring.  Ronny Cedano doesn't appear to bring a lot to the table.  Ryan Jackson seems to have fallen out of favor with the club.  It's gotten to the point where the suggestion is to start Daniel Descalso at short and let Matt Carpenter have second and it might be the most reasonable one of the bunch.

Bernie Miklasz points out that this situation is of the Cardinals' doing.  I do think the club was hamstrung this offseason in dealing with shortstop, though.  As Bernie points out, they couldn't actively pursue Stephen Drew since they weren't sure he'd be the starter.  That same uncertainty probably precluded them from dealing any prospects for a shortstop that might or might not be on the field this season.  With Furcal not having surgery and therefore the club really not knowing what they had (despite the off-season assurances that he was doing fine), it didn't leave them with a lot of great options.

And there aren't a lot of great options out there.  I was fortunate enough to have lunch with Dennis Lawson, who now writes at Phat Bunneh Baseball, and we talked about the shortstop position, concluding that the main reason that names like Troy Tulowitzki continue to pop up even with significant arguments to the contrary is that there just aren't very many shortstops worth their salt out there nowadays.  Texas probably won't move Elvis Andrus because of that as well, plus if they do put him on the block, the bidding is going to go fairly high.  Who else is out there?  Asdrubal Cabrera?  J.J. Hardy?  The list of shortstops worth pursuing is short.

The Cardinals came to camp with two different players having avoided surgery.  I guess 50/50 is the best you could really expect there, though I think given the depth in the organization the club would have been more comfortable with a healthy Furcal and a down-for-the-count Jaime Garcia. Garcia, though, actually does seem to be fine, starting yesterday's ballgame and went three innings, giving up two and striking out four on a day when the wind was whipping.  The Cards wound up losing the game against Washington in the ninth, but Garcia pitched about as well as you'd expect under the conditions.  Every time he's out there, a little more worry about him going a full season evaporates.

Shane Robinson hit another home run yesterday, continuing his rampaging spring.  He's 10-for-18 in his six spring games this year with two home runs and seven RBI.  At 28, he is likely in the prime of his career and most likely will be the right-handed option of the bench this season.  It's still early and we'll see how he does in the last couple of weeks, but if he can give the Cardinals something in the pinch this year, that'd be wonderful.

If the injuries on the field weren't enough, they've moved to the dugout as well.  Mike Matheny has a ruptured disc in his back.  (The Cardinals say he's fine.  He just can't make a pitching change or fill out a lineup card.  They are taking it easy and hope he'll be ready for opening day.)  Actually, it sounds like he might have surgery quicker than some of his players, but first he's going to get an epidural shot.  That sounds to me like a temporary solution and with all the traveling he's going to be doing, surgery is probably more likely than not.  I would guess Mike Aldrete would take over the team in any interim role.

With the Cards playing Washington this weekend, there was the opportunity to hear a couple of Stan Musial stories from the phenoms of the Nationals.  Both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper had interactions with The Man and had signed jerseys from him.  Musial reached out to both in what was likely his way of welcoming new stars to the game.  I wonder just how many other players along the way have gotten a request for a signed jersey from Musial?  Likely a great number.

Today's the first day we get to talk about the results of the Cardinal Approval Ratings.  We'll do three a day, a player, a media member, and one from the assorted column as well.  Today, we look at Allen Craig from the players.  I received 58 entries in this year's voting and Craig (as I expect most all the players were) got an opinion from everyone.  He got about four perfect ratings and his lowest seems to be a 70, meaning Craig is, unsurprisingly, well received in Cardinal Nation.  Comments included, "Allen Craig is in the same boat for me that Freese was last year. I want a solid 140+ game season out of him, then I'm convinced" and "I'm still worried about Craig's legs" but overall, he received a 88.3% favorability rating in his first year on the ballot.

Our media member of the day is Derrick Goold.  Over the offseason, Derrick got a bump up to lead Cardinal man at the Post-Dispatch as Joe Strauss moved up (or is that over?) to columnist.  It seems impossible to find anyone that thought this was not a good move.  Derrick is fair with his reporting and is good about interacting with fans that have questions.  It looks like he'll now have regular chats as well, which is another great thing.  Not everyone votes for the media types (only 44 respondents there) but there were comments like "I think that Derrick Goold is amazing in his presentation, and one of my favorite sources of sports news, overall" and "He's basically everything the modern internet-savvy baseball fan could want out of a team reporter."  It's no wonder he wound up with an 89.1% mark, well up from last year's 82.8% and a new career high for the three years he's been polled.

Finally, we reach our last person, which actually is an idea.  With Ballpark Village finally getting underway, I wanted to see what people were thinking of it.  There were only 42 votes on this one, but the results weren't nearly as high as our other two.  Due to the delays and, frankly, the expectation that it would never get off the ground, many people were down on the whole thing.  While nobody left any comments on it, the overall rating was 58.3% with a couple of zeros and a few in the single digits.  (To be fair, there was at least one 100 as well.)  I think this will be fun to track over time and see if it doesn't get quite a boost when there are actually restaurants and the like up and going.

Cardinals take on the Twins today before an off day tomorrow.  Lance Lynn gets back on the mound and tries to shake off his first outing, when he gave up two runs in two innings.  The Twins radio network will be covering the game, so if you have GameDay Audio, you can listen in.  Hopefully the Cards can get back on the winning track! 

Last Call: Cardinal Approval Ratings

Posted on March 1, 2013 at 10:39 AM
Today's the last day to get your opinion in on the players, management and media people surrounding the Cardinals.  Right now there are 46 entries in and I'm hoping to get to last year's mark of 65 at least.  So I'm making it easy--no link to click or things to remember.  The form is below and it'll take you 5 minutes, maybe.  There are nine in each group and a couple of questions at the end, so be sure to scroll down and get them all.  No excuses!  Get to approving!  :)

That's Our First Winner!

Posted on March 9, 2012 at 6:58 AM
I don't think there were any champagne celebrations or any Gatorade showers, but Mike Matheny is now the proud owner of a "1" in the win column on his managerial record.  Well, any managerial record that shows spring results, which is pretty much none of them, but quit trying to ruin the moment, will ya?

Before we talk about all the positives out of the 9-3 win over Boston, you have to say it was a little bit disappointing to see Mitchell Boggs implode in his first time out.  Given a three-run lead, Boggs did his best magician act and made it disappear, helping the cause with a couple of walks.  The walks are the worst part, because being that we couldn't watch the game (though it was on KMOX), we don't know how windy it was and other related issues.  Walks, though, they'll get you every time and that's something you can't see from a reliever.

I've speculated before that the last slot on the pitching staff may be between Boggs and Lance Lynn.  Of course, Lynn hasn't been perfect this spring either, so the competition may still be close, but that's not the first impression Boggs wanted to give.

That said, the Cardinal offense was rolling yesterday, especially in the six-run eighth.  Before that, it was Matt Adams coming through again with a three-run triple (something you wouldn't expect with a man that size) to give them the lead Boggs eventually relinquished.

It's been a lot of fun to see Adams mash this spring.  He's probably had the biggest offensive impact so far, what with a grand slam to go along with his results from yesterday.  He's hitting .417 in the four games so far, which makes you drool when you put that with his power.  That said, it's the first few games of spring.  What's the phrase Tony La Russa used to use?  Never fall in love early in the spring?  That probably applies here, though there's no doubt Adams is a talent that's making an impact.

I continue to maintain he's going to Memphis, but I think there is a way that he starts the season in St. Louis.  That's a technicality, though.  I could, in theory, see that if Allen Craig was only supposed to be out two weeks and Adams had this outstanding spring, the Cards take him north for the two weeks then send him down for regular play once Craig is healthy.  Then again, that is service time and that may cause a complication the Cardinals don't want to get into.  It's a very small chance, but you can't say for 100% certain that he's Memphis-bound.  99.8%, maybe.

Adron Chambers had a big day, going three for four.  Chambers would be a fun player to have around in a bench role, but again, I think the Cards probably want him playing on a regular basis, and there are already going to be four outfielders vying for time once Craig returns.  Shane Robinson also had a bases-clearing double in the eighth, padding the lead into secure territory.

On the pitching side of things, Jaime Garcia seemed to come out on a mission.  Four strikeouts in just two perfect innings is a remarkable occurrence and makes for the tantalizing possibility that Garcia is going to be more focused and tap into his talent more this year.  It's just two innings so you can't draw any conclusions, but to have him rocking and rolling behind the two big guys could make for a lot of winning streaks this summer.

Eduardo Sanchez looks good in the box score as well.  He had two innings and four strikeouts, though he did have a couple of walks as well.  Still, it appears he's back to the Sanchez we saw before the injury and, if so, he's going to be an incredible weapon in the seventh or eighth innings this season.

Of course, the news wasn't all good coming out of Cardinal camp.  Chris Carpenter is dealing with neck stiffness and doesn't know when he'll pitch in a game yet.  He's penciled in for one of the split squad games, but that's sounding kinda iffy.  It doesn't sound like it's a major deal and you'd much rather hear about Carpenter's neck than his elbow or shoulder, but it's still something worth monitoring.  Hopefully he'll be able to shake that off and move forward in the spring.  If nothing else, it'll curtail the innings he's throwing in Florida, which was the plan anyway.  That also may mean Shelby Miller will get another start with the big club before being sent over to minor league camp.

Speaking of that, the Cards made their first cuts on Thursday.  Nothing too surprising, but Kolten Wong and Tyrell Jenkins were among the names heading over to that side of the complex.  That doesn't mean we've seen the last of them, of course, as sometimes minor league players get called over to play a game here and there when there's a need.

Today is the widely anticipated return of Adam Wainwright to the center of the diamond and, by happy coincidence, he's also the player we examine on our last day of the approval ratings.  Wainwright's got quite a following in St. Louis, which is no surprise when you are a genial player who has two top-3 finishes in Cy Young voting.

Even with the injury, we still love Waino.  He had eight perfect scores and garnered a 91.9% mark, which is the highest of any player we've looked at this year.  That score is actually down a bit from the 94-95 range that he's used to, but a number of people factored in the injury and the uncertainty about what he'd be like when he returned.  If he has a Wainwright-like season, I expect that to be back to normal next year.

From one extreme to the other, as our media member of the day is Joe Strauss.  It can't be denied that Strauss is a good reporter and often has things before other outlets.  That said, hmmm, how do I say this diplomatically?  Perhaps that his personality tends to rub people the wrong way, especially when you follow him on Twitter.  You, gentle reader, can fill in whatever wording you like to explain that phenomenon.

Anyway, Strauss must be growing on some people because he registered a 67.7% mark this season, up about 10 points from where he was last year.  While there were a number of people that gave him a zero, there were a fair number of people that had him in the nineties, perhaps giving more credence to what he does than how he does it.

When I was putting these together, I wanted nine in each category, since nine's a good baseball number.  The players were easy.  The media was pretty easy.  However, this last category took some work.  After rating management and rating our former members, there was still one slot left.

So I decided to get feedback on what the readership thought (if they did) about our merry band of United Cardinal Bloggers.  This fall will mark the fifth anniversary of our founding and I thought it'd be good to see if we have a high opinion among those that read and know about us.

I'm not sure the experiment was a success, as almost half of the respondents to the survey left that one blank, much higher than any other person on the ballot.  Of those that did respond, though, the group managed a 78.9% mark with about five perfect scores.  It is always gratifying, though, to have comments such as "I think they have the potential of being irreplaceable" and that was are "MOSTLY knowledgeable and educated Cardinal fans."

Happy Wainwright Day to you all!  Waino's facing the Twins and the game will be on their radio station if you have MLB GameDay Audio.  Look forward to seeing what he can do!

Making Progress Toward A Win

Posted on March 8, 2012 at 7:02 AM
Well, it wasn't a loss.

I don't want to say it's troubling to see two games in a row given up by the bullpen, because it really isn't.  It's spring and when the results don't matter, you are going to see pitchers doing different things, working on things that they need to work on.  You are going to see batters that aren't going to make the team come through as they try to impress.  You just can't get worked up about spring games, especially those in the first couple of weeks.

That caveat out of the way, it's still a little disconcerting to see a guy that should make the squad and has been in the bigs like Lance Lynn come in and cough up a lead.  Just a little--Lynn worked a scoreless eighth and should have had one out in the ninth had Koyle Hill and Matt Adams figured out what to do with a popup.  Sounds like Hill called for it, but it was closer to know the drill.

With the same caveat in place, it was good to see Tyler Greene come through in a close-and-late situation off of a proven pitcher in Nationals closer Brad Lidge.  We continue to hope that a relaxed Greene is a good Greene, and so far in the spring he's hitting .333.  It's only been three games (and I can't swear he started all of them) but if you are looking for good signs, I think that's one of them.

Of course, yesterday was a great day for prospect watching.  Shelby Miller started the game and had a good outing.  If that one is any indication, he's already got one of the traits associated with a good pitcher--get to them early.  Miller said he felt that he settled in during the second inning and was able to get the curveball over.  Two innings doesn't tell us much and there's no guarantee he'll make another start, but he didn't do anything to derail his train to St. Louis.

It also sounds like things are going well for him on the personal maturity side, with the comment that he's been much more subdued and focused in this spring training.  Of course, if he's following Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter around, you'd hope he's not wasting that opportunity.  If he's starting to use his offspeed pitches more, he probably is absorbing some of what they have to say, at the very least.

After Miller was gone, a couple more prospects took the stage.  Tyrell Jenkins threw a scoreless inning and Oscar Taveres got a couple of at-bats, though he was unable to muster a hit.  Mike Matheny had good words for Tavares especially, but Jenkins was impressive with his ability to control himself in what was a big moment for him, as he admitted later on.  Can you imagine being a teenager and out there playing with and against guys that you've watched as you grew up?  That'd rattle anyone!

Looking over the box score, two hits (including a home run) for Daniel Descalso, who wants to make sure he's not overlooked when it comes to roster spots.  Another nice day for Adams, who got two hits and reached on an error.  Jon Jay also got two hits, which is good to see as we watch him to try to figure out exactly what to expect from a full year of a starting Jay.

Adam Ottavino got to do something most pitchers don't ever have happen--he struck out four men in an inning.  A wild pitch on one of those strikeouts allowed the runner to reach, but apparently Ottavino had it going yesterday and the National batters didn't know what it was.

You know, I think we take for granted that these former ballplayers know exactly what they are doing when they come to spring training.  They hang out, have a good time, teach and talk some baseball.  However, there's more to it than that and if you've never been through it, it can cause some nervousness.  Jim Edmonds is going to be in camp next week, but it's possible this is just an entryway into a more administrative role.  Edmonds and John Mozeliak were both noncommittal on that, but we've seen a lot of ballplayers get into situations like that.  That's what Matheny had, which obviously led to his managerial selection.  If you enjoy the game, it's probably good to be involved in this way and hopefully Edmonds will be.  If nothing else, though, he should be around the club more in the coming months and years.

There's a great article about Jason Motte over at the official site.  Motte realizes just how close he was to getting his release from baseball.  If he hadn't been willing to convert to pitcher (or if no one had suggested it), he'd been at home or at another job last October instead of being on baseball's biggest stage.  I wonder if the team has had Motte talk with Robert Stock about the conversion and how to go about it.

Next-to-last day of the approval ratings!  Today's player is Skip Schumaker.  Skip's been a guy with a lot of attention the last couple of years, especially with his conversion to second base.  While he definitely has his fans, where does he stand with Cardinal Nation as a whole?

Skip attained one 100 and was as low as 35, but most seem to put him in the 70-80 range, giving him a score of 73.3%.  That's up about nine points from last year, which could be because of any number of things, not the least the warm feelings about a World Series title bumping up anyone that played on the team.

For our media selection, we'll go with the current voice of the Cardinals, Mike Shannon.  I've mentioned before that Shannon has grown on me and now can be viewed as that harmless uncle who tells funny stories.  Technology has helped Mike in my mind--when you can find out the score on your phone, you don't mind as much when he rambles and forgets to let you know what's on the scoreboard.

That's me, though the opinion seems to be well-shared.  Shannon received six perfect scores and a number of them that were close to that mark.  Overall, he ranks at 85.3%, right around where he did last year.

In our miscellaneous section, we again take on a former player who doesn't necessarily have the warmth of Cardinal Nation at their back.  Colby Rasmus was dealt away in July in a trade that was a key part of the Cards World Series run.  Rasmus has since come out and said some negative things about his time in St. Louis, though that came out after these surveys were taken.  Even when Colby was here, he didn't exactly go off the scale.  Last year's 81.8% was the highest in his career.

Rasmus got six or seven zeros and his high of 90 was a bit of an outlying one.  All in all, he fashioned a 46.5% mark, as it appears he'll never be one asked to return often to Busch Stadium.

Tomorrow, we'll finish those up.  I do appreciate everyone that took the time to register their opinion!  Los Angeles Dodgers are today's Pepper subject, so be sure to come back and check that out!

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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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