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The Last Of The Non-Essential

Posted on March 30, 2011 at 10:30 AM
Filed Under: Miami Marlins | St. Louis Cardinals
We can draw the curtain on the spring, as the Cardinals have left the nest, as it were, and headed home for tomorrow's Opening Day game against the Padres.  Starting tomorrow, "it's only spring" gets replaced with "it's still early".  Can't remember how long that lasts--I'll have to check my calendar.

Anyway, while the Cardinals lost their last game and finished under .500 for the spring, there were a lot of positives out of it.  The biggest, of course, was the fact that Jaime Garcia had such a strong last start.  Were the Marlins perhaps ready to wrap up their spring as well?  Could be, though that didn't stop them from rallying late (more on that in a bit).  No matter what the reason, it was very good to see Garcia getting out there and going six innings while allowing only one run.  Things seemed to be clicking for him, so that seems like a good way for the team's X-factor to go into the season.

So things looked good for Garcia and even Jason Motte, who had been struggling this spring, had a successful outing.  Everything was going well for the Redbirds, who even benefited from a Colby Rasmus home run, until Mitchell Boggs got into the game.  Boggs had a terrible end to a checkered spring, giving up the lead on a bases-loaded walk.  

I'm not exactly certain of what Boggs's spring has been like, save for the back problems he had early on, and I'm not at a place where I can look them up.  (Good thing this is a blog and is held to absolutely no standards, right?)  However, Dave Duncan said that Boggs was the only pitcher that wasn't where he wanted them to be going into the season.  Sounds like Boggs might be used sporadically or when games aren't in doubt for a while to help him get back into his best baseball shape.  I'm sure the downtime with the back has hampered him somewhat.

Allen Craig led the team with a .359 average in the spring.  You think this guy's ready to show what he can do in the bigs?  If Lance Berkman doesn't get a handle on his old self, Craig may find himself with a lot more playing time than he expected.

Which leads us to the last part of this post.  The Post-Dispatch had some questions about the upcoming team and, in a play on Tony La Russa's slogan, they called them a hard 9.  Let's take a look at them. Most of them are very subjective and we won't find out until we watch the season, but that won't stop me from offering opinions.

1. What does Lance Berkman have left?

The offseason regimen and the weight loss made me optimistic that Berkman could return to something approaching his Houston form.  So far, though, he's not shown that in the spring.  It may be that he will be a slow starter and finally kick it in and there's obviously not been enough to judge him yet.  That said, even a middling spring might have been more encouraging.

2. Is this David Freese's year?

Talking about Freese is like stepping on a crack--you don't want to risk injury to someone you care about, whether it's your mother's back or David's ankles.  So far, though, Freese is looking durable and, more than that, like the expectations fans have had of him while he was recovering were justified.  With the experience of last year, I think we'll see a very nice year out of Freese.  He won't hit for the average he was hitting at, but he should have more power. A .275 season with 25 home runs wouldn't be out of the question, I don't think.

3. Will Kyle Lohse contribute?

For the first time since 2009, Lohse is being talked about without epithets or qualifications.  Heck, even his fan club is back open for business.  Lohse has been amazing this spring and it really looks like the surgery has done great things for him.  I don't think he'll be as strong as his Jupiter outings show, but he can be a slightly better than league average pitcher, and when you have that as your fourth starter, you are doing pretty well.

4. Can Skip Schumaker rebound?

I don't know about rebounding.  Even at his heights, Skip's not the strongest second baseman.  Obviously he has more value when he's hitting .300, but since it's not a powerful .300, he's got no room for slipping up.  I think he hit better down the stretch last year, but I don't think we'll see another .300 season out of him.  Couple that with his lack of range and issues on the defensive side and, if he stumbles, Daniel Descalso may get a lot more playing time.

5. Is team chemistry better?

That's something that can only be answered by being around the players, though the best way to have good chemistry is to win more than vice versa.  Berkman seems to bring a responsible levity, as it were, to the group and if Brendan Ryan really was that much of an issue (sorry, Diamond Dolls), then it's probably best he's gone.  So I'd say it's likely that it has, but a .500 season and nobody's going to be happy.

6. Can Ryan Theriot slow the shortstop carousel?

This is about the time you wish Pete Kozma had lived up to being a first round draft pick.  A young, upcoming shortstop would be really good right about now.  Theriot will do fine at the bat and likely get back to his Chicago numbers, but again, with a groundball pitching staff, having the middle of the diamond manned by him and Schumaker puts a lot of runners on or double plays not turned.

7. Could a long shot end up sticking with the team?

I think we've already seen that in Bryan Augenstein.  He's at least stuck enough to go north with the team, which of course is no guarantee that he'll still be a St. Louis Cardinal at the end of April.  Augenstein has been impressive, though, and obviously the organization saw something in him when they got him off the waiver wire, so I think he'll be around for most of the season.

8. Who's the number six starter?

I think it has to be between the two guys that lost out to Kyle McClellan this spring, Lance Lynn and Brandon Dickson.  Each outing in Memphis for both of those guys is going to be like an audition.  Whomever is doing better whenever a starter is needed will likely get the call.

9. What's the bullpen alignment?

Obviously Ryan Franklin has the ninth.  Jason Motte still probably has the eighth, at least for a while, but may be on a short leash.  Once they are comfortable with Boggs, he'll have the seventh.  Trever Miller will be the go-to lefty, with Brian Tallet perhaps coming out of the pen first to face a lefty depending on the situation.  Augenstein and Miguel Batista will absorb innings when a starter goes out early.

Agree? Disagree?  That's what the comments and Twitter are for!

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1 Comment | Leave a comment

Nice! I still think you are too optimistic for Theriot, even at the plate. He will be out by June.

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Carlos Beltran (6)
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Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
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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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