Every year about this time, the United Cardinal Bloggers take aim at their predictions for the upcoming season. It's a great way to look at the divisions, get a feel for what is going on, and write down picks that you will be trying to scrub from any internet search engine by probably July.
I'm far from an expert, so take all of these picks with a grain of salt. There are few gut picks that don't have a lot of basis in reality, so feel free to take that into consideration when reading them.
Since the American League doesn't really matter as much, we at the UCB just lump it all into one day. So keep reading to see how I pick the divisions to shake out.
Of course, coming from behind in a spring training game doesn't have the magical allure that similar rallies last September and October had. There's a strong chance that nothing in our lifetimes will be as magical as that, though, so it's a high bar to clear. Doesn't matter what the situation, though, a late-game rally always is a good thing to see.
Matt Adams hit his second home run of the spring and continues to show why he's probably the top prospect in the system not standing on the mound. Adams, who is also hitting .300, had a single to go along with that long ball. I think there are a lot of Cardinal fans anxious to see him in the big leagues and I think he gets there this year, but only later in the season. There's no reason right now why the Cards should rush him past AAA.
The offense banged out 15 hits yesterday, but the pitching staff had some troubles enjoying that bounty. Kyle Lohsedidn't make it through his projected four innings, leaving after allowing a home run to Darnell McDonald. Lohse admitted after the game he didn't have his best stuff, which I guess is somewhat encouraging. You'd almost think with the problems he was describing he'd have been hit around more, especially by a good lineup like Boston has.
Mike Matheny has been wanting to get J.C. Romero into situations that he'll be in during the season, facing a strong left-handed hitter with the game in the balance. He was able to do that Thursday, but the results weren't exactly what he was hoping for. It sounds like the Cards aren't completely committed to the two-lefty bullpen that we've gotten familiar with, which is a definite change from the past. Granted, Kyle McClellan can get lefties out when he's on (which he seemed to be yesterday, locking down the save), so you have that flexibility, but I'm still thinking unless Romero really bombs in the spring, they at least start the year with him in the bullpen.
Off the field, the biggest news of yesterday was that Craig took some batting practice for the first time this spring. Craig says he feels good and that he doesn't need to hold back, but the club is a little iffy on that. With less than three weeks (wait, is that right? Less than three weeks until the season?) until Opening Day, the odds of him being ready to go in that game against the Marlins is pretty slim. On the upside for the fans in the Springfield area, that probably means it's more likely that he'll play in that exhibition game against the AA team the day before the season opener. So that could be a silver lining for some folks.
Chris Carpenter update: Still playing catch, still not having any soreness. I wouldn't be surprised to see him start maybe Monday or Tuesday, which apparently would be about the latest he could back to work and still be ready for that opener down in Miami.
Playing Pepper will be a little bit earlier today. We've got the Oakland team taking its cuts today and look forward to sharing that with you. Pepper's on deck, and the Smith Regional of the All-Time Cardinal Team Tournament is in the hole. That'll be up mid-morning and the polls will be open until Sunday at 8 PM. Come back and check that out, because it's going to be a blast! I70 and PH8 already have theirs up, if you've not voted!
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 Garciaseemed 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!