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UCB Project: 2013 American League Predictions

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM
It's that time of year again.  When hope is new, the grass smells clean, and people foolishly put down what they think will happen in the baseball season to come.  The United Cardinal Bloggers are no different.

Every year we take a crack at these things.  Sometimes it goes pretty well--Pittsburgh's late fade last year kept me from nailing them being third and over the .500 mark.  Sometimes it goes disastrously--I had Boston winning the AL East last year.  Yeah, that was pretty much bad from the get-go.

However, terrible performances don't stop us from trying it again anyway.  (Kinda like Mike Matheny continuing to use Victor Marte last year.)  So we'll do it again on the same kinda schedule--the entire American League today, then each division in the National League gets a day before wrapping it up on Friday with postseason predictions and awards.

Since we hardly pay attention to the American League--we all know real baseball lets a pitcher hit, don't we?--let's try to make a quick pass through there today.  If you want to use these as a guide, odds are you better figure the opposite is really going to happen!
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Playing Pepper 2013: Seattle Mariners

Posted on March 22, 2013 at 2:30 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.   

Seattle Mariners 
75-87, fourth in the AL West 

You've got to feel for the Mariners somewhat. They sit in a division with the free-spending Angels, the Rangers who went to the Series in back-to-back years, and the A's who decided to become relevant again.  Thank goodness they get Houston in that division this year, hopefully cushioning themselves from the cellar somewhat.

Seattle never did really get on track last year and, save for Felix Hernandez's perfect game and the combined no-hitter by the pitching staff, there weren't just a ton of highlights for them.  They are changing the configuration of Safeco this year, much like they are down in San Diego, so we'll see how well that works for them.

To find out more about this team, I asked questions of Tim Chalberg of Seattle Mariners Musings (and on Twitter @msonmnd24, plus he's got his own podcast as well).  So stay tuned to find out about the Mariners' offseason and which Cardinal he compares their most impactful rookie with!
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UCB Prediction Week, Part I: American League

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 11:30 AM
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.
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Playing Pepper 2012: Seattle Mariners

Posted on March 23, 2012 at 11:30 AM
In 2009, I decided to get a feel for other teams around baseball by asking bloggers for those teams some questions about their squad.  Not only has this series been very popular, but it spawned the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With camps opening up again and spring training getting into gear, it's time once again to play a little pepper.

Seattle Mariners
67-95, fourth in the AL West

You know it's a rough year when Ichiro isn't even hitting.

After being the offseason darling a couple of seasons ago, Seattle has struggled to find that spark that would get them back on the upward path.  Last season, they ranked 30th in a number of offensive categories and while hitting machine Suzuki still led the team in average, it was a paltry (for him) .272.

To try to show us what Mariner fans are going through and how they are keeping their optimism, I talked with Tim Chalberg of Seattle Mariners Musings.  In addition to the blog, you can find Tim on Twitter at msonmnd24.

Stay with us as we talk about the Mariner offseason and who will slide into the rotation after the big trade with the Yankees.
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Playing Pepper 2011: Seattle Mariners

Posted on March 14, 2011 at 4:15 PM
Two years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come.  Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.

Seattle Mariners (61-101, 29 GB and fourth in the AL West)

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

After being lauded for their offseason moves, Seattle was expected to contend for a divisional title.  Instead, the bottom fell out and even Felix Hernandez's Cy Young season and a partial year of Cliff Lee couldn't stop the slide.

Expectations are different for 2011.  There are no postseason plans being bandied about for the coming season.  To take a look at what's to come, two Seattle bloggers weigh in.

Jeff Engles writes for Jeff's Mariners Fan Blog, so it's pretty obvious what you'll find there.  You can find out more about the Mariners by following him on Twitter or on Facebook.

SoDo Mojo is the Mariners' entry into the FanSided blog network.  Griffin Cooper is the lead writer over there and you can find him Tweeting and Facebooking.

Keep reading to find out more about Eric Bedard, who might just be the Mariners' answer to Mark Mulder.

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Sweep Incomplete

Posted on June 16, 2010 at 11:45 AM
Busy couple of nights at the ballpark, with most of the focus on the bump in the middle.

First off, the Jeff Suppan return tour kicked off in a manner that didn't shock me too much, though I will admit I didn't think it'd be that strong.  You had a guy that'd made some adjustments, who got back into a situation he liked, and was facing one of the weakest hitting teams in the big leagues.  Just because he made a good start doesn't mean that it was a good idea or that it's going to work out for the Cardinals.  Remember, Mike Maroth had a fairly good first start as well.

All that said, you do have to give him some kudos.  He obviously has a little left in the tank, as indicated by his four strikeouts and only the one run.  We'll see how it goes when they stretch him out.  He goes up against Oakland next time out, a team that's not seen him much and is just barely better than Seattle when it comes to putting runs on the board.  After that, it's KC, which is the best of the AL teams that he'll face, even if that doesn't say a lot.  Arizona at home after that--we know about the D'Backs' issues with the bats, at least in part, though they have seen him.  The biggest test may be when he faces Milwaukee at the beginning of July.

I'd like to give the Hero tag to the whole bullpen, but that'd break the rules I've set up for this conceit, so I'll give it to Kyle McClellan, since he threw two innings and didn't allow anything.  A stellar job by him, though the rest of the pen did a solid job as well.

Offensively, the second night of the Matt Holliday Hitting Second Era wasn't quite as successful as the first, but I don't think that was a huge surprise.  For one, they were facing another lefty, who was marginally better than the one on Monday night.  Second, well, you can't expect to put up eight runs every night.

The team was able to get 11 hits, but honestly getting hits isn't this team's problem.  The problem is getting hits when you need them.  Two hits an inning would get you 18 for the game, but that also could be 18 left on base if they don't come at the right time or aren't of the extra-base variety.

Still, some hits are better than no hits, which is what Matt Holliday got in his new position.  He did draw a walk, but the theory is hitting before Albert Pujols equals more fastballs equals more hits, and that didn't pan out on Tuesday.

Is Colby Rasmus's groove right now amazing or what?  Seems like he's hitting a home run a night.  And always nice when AP goes yard as well.

Last night, it was back to more of the same.  The best lefty of the bunch Seattle was throwing at the Cards was on the mound and the results proved it.  Jaime Garcia didn't deserve a loss in any respect, giving up just five hits and walking just one.  That may have been his best game of the year, or at least right at the top, when you factor in the command he had and how long he went in the game.  

Kudos to David Freese as well.  Even though he did strike out in the ninth with the tying run on second, he managed three hits on the night, equaling what the rest of the team did.

Another rough day at the top of the lineup.  Felipe Lopez and Holliday both go 0-4, which doesn't put a lot of guys on for Pujols.  Rasmus had an 0-4 as well, even though he has been hitting lefties much better this year and especially lately.

We talked at length on last night's UCB Radio Hour (one of our better ones, I think, so go listen or download) about the lack of a leadoff hitter.  Rasmus seems to be the obvious choice to put there, but for some reason I don't think that's a great idea.  I was in the minority on this one and I will say the stats seem to back it up, but I'm not sure you can just transfer what his mindset and approach is and move it to the top slot.  Maybe you can, I don't know.  But until Holliday gets going, I think you need his pop later in the lineup.

If you want outside the box thinking, though, Freese actually has the third-highest OBP on the team at the moment at .380.  He's been a good RBI man so far this year, so you probably don't think about it too much, but he's not hitting for power on a regular basis, with just four home runs.  What if you slipped him in there?  He's not a speedster, but I think he could get from first to third or score on a double.  I don't say I'm advocating that, just throwing it out there.

Off day today.  A few things for you to think about before Chris Carpenter faces off against the A's.

The Cardinals signed a good number of their recent draft picks, including their third, fourth, fifth and seventh round selections.  That gives them a good base for their negotiations with the top guys, plus Austin Wilson.

The Hardball Times had up a great article about Pujols and his years in Kansas City, written by one of the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  I didn't realize how much AP dominated even back then, and even with some scouts questioning his age, you'd have thought he'd gone higher than 13th.

Seems like around the All-Star Break is when marketing efforts really kick off.  Dove for Men is focusing on three people from baseball to base their latest campaign around.  Andy Pettitte and Joe Girardi bring in the NY market, but to indicate where his stature in the game is, Albert Pujols joins them.  From the press release:

"Whether it's Albert locked in his batting stance, Andy staring into the catcher's glove or Joe controlling the flow of a game, baseball fans have come to recognize how comfortable these guys are on the diamond," said Rob Candelino,Marketing Director Personal Wash US, Unilever.  "The Dove Men + Care campaign takes a different look at these players and shows fans the stories and milestones these men have experienced on their journeys to finding comfort as husbands, dads, and friends." 

You can go to Dovemencare.com and see a video of Albert, plus enter into the sweepstakes to win a trip to St. Louis to meet him and take batting practice.  Not a bad prize, huh?

Card Shuffling Proves Effective

Posted on June 15, 2010 at 9:00 AM
The big news prior to yesterday's game was the fancy new lineup that Tony La Russa was running out there.  Matt Holliday was hitting second, Ryan Ludwick was hitting fourth and, to the great joy of some, the pitcher was hitting eighth.

Now, it's hard to know if the lineup switcheroo was at all to credit for the offensive outburst of last night, though you could make the argument that Ludwick's home run in the first was 1) key to the Cardinals getting on track and 2) wouldn't have happened (or at least, been as effective) if the lineup was in its normal configuration.

It was good to see an exciting and clicking offense again.  Having Colby Rasmus and David Freese in the lineup raised me out of my malaise, but the shifting of Holliday and Ludwick did a lot for it as well.  Plus you always have to smile when a team brings in Ian Snell to face Albert Pujols.  At least Snell kept him in the yard this time.

Of course, even in such a fun game, somebody has to get the Goat.  Felipe Lopez went 0-5 in the leadoff slot, which makes you wonder just how many runs this team could have gotten if he'd been able to get on base as well.

Last night was one of the rare times this year when the offense outshone an outing by Adam Wainwright.  Which is not to say that Waino's 100th start was a problem by any means.  As they say, you have to get to the good pitchers early, and Wainwright allowed two runs in the first.  After that, though, he cruised, with the third run scoring after he left the game (though kudos to Jason Motte for getting out of the inning fairly unscathed).  With Seattle's offensive problems, Wainwright should have had a good game and it was good to see him come through.

After all of that fun and good feelings, we come to tonight's game with the return of Jeff Suppan.  Hopefully he'll do well.  Hopefully they've figure out his issues.  He's going against a team that shouldn't beat him around too much.  Still, I can't say I'm sold on this move, especially since Adam Ottavino was sent down and Suppan's going to be the fourth starter, meaning he'll be getting regular turns through the rotation, rather than the oft-skipped fifth starter.

You remember in Star Wars when Tarkin says "I'm taking an awful risk, Vader.  This had better work"?  I have a hunch John Mozeliak has said similar words to TLR and Dave Duncan.  We'll see if the Force is with us starting tonight.

BTW, if you want to read more of me, here's this week's Baseball Digest and my long-delayed return to Baseball Reflections.

Playing Pepper 2010: Seattle Mariners

Posted on March 16, 2010 at 10:02 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.

Seattle Mariners
2009 Finish: 85-77, third in AL West

The Mariners have been the talk of baseball this offseason.  After a strong bounce-back year in 2009, they've made some interesting and impressive moves, capped off by acquiring Cliff Lee from Philadelphia to pair with Felix Hernandez for their own pair of aces.

Griffin of SoDo Mojo took the time to look over the Playing Pepper Ten and give me his take on the upcoming Seattle season.
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Playing Pepper 2009: Seattle Mariners

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

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

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

Posted on July 9, 2008 at 7:47 AM
The Cardinals showed last night that the road doesn't intimidate them this year.  They've struggled away from Busch the last couple of years, but this year they can beat people anywhere.  In fact, they have the best road record in the National League, one of only two NL teams (Philadelphia is the other) with a winning record on the road.

You can't say enough about the job Joel Pineiro did last night.  He had a tough draw, going up against Cole Hamels in a launching pad, but he kept the powerful Phils off the board.  The Cards really needed a win after the weekend and all the trading activity in the division and he provided.

Tough to give anyone a Goat tag when they go up against someone like Hamels, but Troy Glaus gets it not only for his 0-4 but his double play he hit into in the ninth against Lidge.  An insurance run there would have made me feel a lot better about Ryan Franklin facing Utley, Howard and Burrell in the ninth, though it turns out it wasn't necessary.

The Cubs called the Brewers' raise in the pitching department, getting Rich Harden to add to their stable.  We all know the caveats on Harden, but if he is healthy, that gives the Cubs the 1-2 punch they've been lacking.  I've always thought that Zambrano was basically the only pitcher on that staff and they were getting by with the rest of them.  Adding Harden makes me a lot more concerned about their postseason life--they may have enough to go deeper in October, if they get there.

So what do the Cardinals do now?  Both of the top competitors have added aces.  I know Mozeliak is going to say things like "no need to do anything," "nothing on the burners", "the calvery will be like a trade," but is that really true?  I know that Wainwright will be back sometime in August, which does give a boost, but that's just getting the team back to health.  If Carpenter does make it back this year, he's not going to be able to provide significant innings, so as nice as it'll be to see him on the mound, will he really be the difference maker if he's going two times a week out of the pen?

I'd like to see the Cards make a run at Erik Bedard, if they can get him at a reasonable price.  These last couple of trades may make that unlikely, since both the Brewers and the Cubs gave up some good talent and, more notably, a good number of bodies, but the flip side of that is that two of the teams most likely to be in any Bedard derby are now out.  I'm not sure any AL team will be that excited to get him after his Seattle showing, which may mean the Cards just need to compete with Philadelphia, the Mets, or teams like that to get him if Seattle puts him on the market (and they'd probably be crazy not to.)

If a package that didn't really damage the farm system (i.e., no Colby Rasmus, Jamie Garcia, Jess Todd) was put together, I'd be in favor of it.  A couple of days ago Larry at VEB mentioned moving Mitchell Boggs or Clayton Mortenson would not be a bad thing if they could get value.  If Anthony Reyes or Chris Duncan had value, I'd suggest some sort of modification on the Santana deal I proposed last winter, but that's wishful thinking.  If the price is dropped because of the reduction of teams, I'd think the Cardinals might be able to be in contention for someone like Bedard.  If it hasn't, though, then they should go ahead and pass.  Anything that happens this year is gravy, since this team is really designed for 2009 and beyond.

Of course, tonight's game might go a long way toward showing whether any kind of deal is really necessary.  Mark Mulder takes the mound against rookie J.A. Happ.  If Mulder can be somewhat effective, it might lead to hope that he can be a part of a second half surge.  I don't expect he'll get past the fifth, just because he's not thrown that much lately, but if he could give five innings and just a couple of runs, there'd be a lot more optimism in Cardinal Nation.  Whether that'll happen or not is a different story.

And, before I forget, it's XM Radio ad time!  XM will be all over the All-Star stuff.  Shows will be hosted from New York, the Futures Game (featuring four Cardinals, don't forget!) will be on XM 175 on Sunday, then the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game itself will be on XM 176 on their respective days.  If you want to stay up on what's going on with the All-Stars, tune in to your XM!

Speaking of the All-Stars, I see where AP is saying he'll do the Home Run Derby if asked.  Last time it didn't affect his swing (I think he hit more homers after the break!) so I'm all for that.  I love seeing Cardinals do anything during the All-Star festivities.  Seeing all the different jerseys (well, that's only in the game now, so they can make more money on All-Star sales) on the same field is really neat.

Just keep an eye on Philadelphia tonight.  A big part of the rest of the season could be riding on it.






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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