Posted on February 4, 2013 at 11:27 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
| United Cardinal Bloggers
As you know, the intrepid band of opinionated writers known as the United Cardinal Bloggers
has put together another annual. This time, as again you know, it is on Amazon as an ebook for $4.99
. For you what you get, I still think that's a huge bargain. It's like 3 cents a page! Where else can you get that kind of value?
However, you are wondering what exactly you might be getting. While I would rather sample Pip's discussion of Mike Matheny's bunting habits or Tara's discussion of The Amazing Whacker Guy, it's probably best if I just stick to my stuff. I know, I know, it's not exciting but at least it's mine.
While my major contribution to the annual was the season review, I also have a look ahead at 2013. Below are some sections from it--hopefully this will help tip those scales and get you over to buy your own copy. You will be glad you did!
As I write this, we are a couple of weeks away from the Winter Warmup, one of the first signs of a new season. Less than a month following that, Cardinal players will start congregating in Jupiter, escaping the cold of winter for sunny climes, early golf times, and some baseball as well. Before we know it, that first pitch on April 1 in Arizona will be upon us and we'll start up the engine on another season.
What can we expect in 2013? Obviously, if you are reading this compilation, you are a smart individual and, as such, know that expectations and predictions have a funny way of being rendered moot just about the time you make them. No season goes as planned on paper; injuries, slumps, breakouts and trades all make sure of that. However, sitting here in the cold of winter, there are a few things that Cardinal fans might be looking forward to come next season.
First of all, it must be acknowledged that St. Louis hasn't finished on top of the division since 2009. That's not hindered them much, of course - a nice, shiny World Series trophy and a win away from playing for another prove that. Still, as Cardinal fans we aren't completely content with backing into the playoffs. We'd like to add another division flag to the decor at Busch Stadium.
The road for that flag, though, continues to go through Cincinnati. The Reds won the division by nine games last year and didn't stand pat in the offseason either. Their acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians gives them another potent bat in an already deep lineup, though it does raise some defensive questions. Their plan to move Aroldis Chapman from the closer role where he was so dominant to the starting rotation puts some uncertainty into the mix as well. Can Chapman be as effective over five or six innings every fifth day as he was in the bullpen? If so, Cincinnati is going to be even tougher. If not, the Reds may have weakened two spots with one move.
The rest of the division doesn't seem to hold the same challenge. Houston has gone to the AL West, though we'll see them for a series again this season. Pittsburgh continues to look like an up-and-coming team and should break that .500 barrier this season, but we've said that the past two or three years and they've still not broken through. The Brewers almost caught the Cardinals at the end of the season last year, but they still look like a roughly .500 squad. And then, well, there's the Cubs, who will likely be missing those Astros keeping them out of the cellar when it's all said and done. There's a strong possibility that the NL Central will be a two team race between the Reds and the Redbirds.
Let's move on to something else that should be a strength for St. Louis in 2013, the rotation. First off, it's headed up by an Adam Wainwright who will now be two years removed from his Tommy John surgery. While Waino struggled at the beginning of last season and hit some potholes all along the way, he also was back to his Cy Young form at times as well. Last year Wainwright was burned by an above-average number of home runs; he'll likely reduce that number this year and the rest of his numbers will improve as well.
Following Wainwright is the one-rib-short miracle man known as Chris Carpenter. "Season ending" means nothing to him, of course, but even for him, the clock is ticking. Carp will be 38 in the first month of the season, which is not old in real world terms (says the writer who was born four months after him) but kinda is in baseball circles. How will Carpenter respond after an offseason of rest? Carp didn't look himself in September and the playoffs when he hurried back from his procedure, though he acquitted himself fairly nicely. Time will catch up to Carpenter no matter how much he glares it down, but he should have an above-average season still in stock.
The rest of the rotation is strong on potential. We know how, shall we say, erratic Jaime Garcia can be, but if it ever clicks, a young lefty with his stuff in the rotation is a wonderful thing. Jake Westbrook got his contract extension, then pitched badly and got hurt. Will we see the Westbrook that was so effective at the beginning of 2012? Or will time catch up to him as well? Perhaps we'll get a hint when he reports to Jupiter. Last season, he came in having lost a significant amount of weight. If he's kept it off, it would seem to indicate a chance at a repeat of his good work.
Who fills out the rotation? When you get to pick one of Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Lance Lynn or Joe Kelly for that honor, you are living right. All four of these guys could be starting for pretty much any other major league team. Rosenthal showed that he could be a dominant bullpen presence, which adds dimensions to any decision made by Matheny and John Mozeliak. If he doesn't get the starting job, does he got to Memphis to stay on a starter's schedule or does he move into the bullpen? The same question could be asked about Kelly as well. Kelly did fine in the rotation but handled the bullpen well also. It would seem pretty likely he'll be in St. Louis one way or another.
Lynn would have the inside track on that last rotation spot, what with 18 wins and an All-Star appearance to show for his first year as a starter in the bigs. That said, Lynn did seem to tire down the stretch and was ineffective during the playoffs as well. While Lynn will come to camp with his name in that rotation slot, it's written in a very fine pencil.
The player to watch the most in the spring just might be Shelby Miller. The long-time top pitching prospect in the organization, Miller turned it around after a terrible second half and was able to make the big leagues. While he usually came out of the bullpen, he made one start after the wild card berth was clinched - and took a no-hitter into the sixth against the Reds. Miller will be a starter somewhere and with an above-average spring, that's likely to be St. Louis.
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