Rumor Check

First off, the rumor that died about as fast as it arose.  Apparently, Mike Lowell had been contacted by the Cardinals.  Bernie put that to bed pretty quickly, which was good, because it didn’t really make much sense from the Cardinal point of view.  You’ve got a guy under contract that would probably be cheaper than Lowell would be that you are trying to dump.  Why would you move him just to sign a guy that will probably decline significantly over the life of the contract?  I thought part of the reason for trading Rolen was to reduce payroll.  All and all, not a good idea if it was even broached seriously.

There’s another one floating around that the Padres have asked about Edmonds.  It wouldn’t be out of the goodness of their hearts, either–they’d expect the Cardinals to throw some cash into the deal.  With Edmonds’ new restaurant, I don’t think he’d be real excited about moving and he should be a 10/5 guy who gets some say in it.  I think the Cardinals are reconciled to having Edmonds back next year, even if they have to move him to a corner slot.  Besides, if Rasmus continues his ascent, I wouldn’t be surprised if management wouldn’t want Edmonds to pass on some tips when the rookie comes up.

The Cardinals are apparently interested in free agent pitchers Carlos Silva and Kyle Loshe.  I can’t say either of them is all that exciting and probably both will be overpaid.  However, if I was to choose one, it’d be Silva.  His pitch-to-contact style is right up the Cardinals alley and, if the defense can improve somewhat, he could be a pretty good pickup.  Loshe reminds me of Gil Meche from last offseason–never been much but will get paid like they have been.  At least Meche had shown some flashes of talent.  Loshe is a league-average pitcher, at best.

In case you’ve not seen it, Matthew Leach got an interview with John Mozeliak.  Mozeliak doesn’t really say anything that gives definite direction, keeping a lot of things close to the vest.  I do like that he doesn’t think there’s a front-line starter in free agency–because there’s not–and I hope he keeps that in mind when negotiating with whatever pitchers he might be talking to.

In my mind, the only way we get a good solid pitcher is to trade Duncan.  But to do that, we have to bring in an outfield bat to protect Pujols.  We’ll see if either of those happen.

Curt and Colby

The GM meetings start today in Florida, and Derrick Gould has a good primer on them and the off-season activity that may get started at those meetings.

The biggest name tied at all to the Cardinals is former World Series MVP Curt Schilling.  Owner of three rings and one of the top pitchers in the game, at least in his prime, a team that was hurting so much for pitching last year has to be in contact with a guy like that.

I’m not seeing the attraction.  Well, to be more accurate, I don’t share in the attraction.  Don’t get me wrong.  Schilling still has some left in the tank, as evidenced by his 9 win, 3.87 ERA season in a very tough division.  Schilling could move to the NL Central and probably post 10 wins and a 3.60 ERA.  So that’s not the problem.

The problem is, without a fairly serious makeover, the Cardinals aren’t going to be that competitive in 2008.  Sure, there’s hope that Rolen will rebound from the surgery (and I do think his numbers will improve over last year’s) and Pujols shouldn’t have that slow start again, but you can’t count on Edmonds to be better and this team was deep on the wrong side of the run differential issue last year.  It’s not that one pitcher will get us over the hump.  Make the team better, sure, but is it worth $12-$13 million to finish over .500?

I’d much rather see them save up some of that money and go after some of the stud younger pitchers that are going to be on the market after 2008.  To be able to invest in a top pitcher to go along with Wainwright and Carpenter, plus some of the young talent that is starting to work its way to St. Louis would be a much better idea, even if 2008 has to be sacrificed. Read the rest of this entry »

Daydreaming

Mike Claiborne of AM 550 said it last night on the pregame show.

“I want Santana.”

Well, duh, who doesn’t?  That’s something I’ve been talking about here for a little while.  However, can we make it happen?  I was expecting that we’d have to wait until the 2008 offseason, when he’d be a free agent, to even be able to consider it.  That’s probably still true, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do some daydreaming.

I’ve never been good at coming up with trades, so I would expect ridicule in the comments for this one.  (Hey, at least then I’d be getting comments!)  I’ll explain why I think it might be feasible, but let’s lay it out there.

Johan Santana for Chris Duncan, Anthony Reyes, Bryan Anderson, and another prospect.

OK, so let’s look at this semi-rationally, if at all possible.   Minnesota will have to decide 1) if they are going to contend next year, 2) if they have a chance of resigning Santana and 3) whether it makes sense to maximize the yield by trading him in the offseason rather than the trade deadline.

Santana’s contract for next year is $13.25 million, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.  There are a few bonuses, and as I read it he does have a no-trade clause.  However, after his comments at the deadline, he possibly could be persuaded to have that bought out.

Money-wise, this would be a slam dunk for the Twins.  From the same site, Duncan made $400K this year.  You’d expect that will go up a bit, but he is not arbitration eligible yet, so the Cardinals don’t have to do anything big.  Reyes made just under $400K, and the same applies to him.  Anderson would make the league minimum, whenever he made the majors, and likely the other prospect, maybe Jamie Garcia or Mark Hamilton, would do the same.  So, add that all up, you get not even a million for next year.  That’s a large savings for Minnesota, which has often been pinching pennies in the past.  That would let them make a run at Torii Hunter, if they wanted, or come to terms with people like Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan or Justin Morneau.

So, financially, it’s good for them.  How about talent?

Read the rest of this entry »

PECOTA And The Injured

Baseball Prospectus has a prediction tool they used called PECOTA. PECOTA has a ton of different facets to it, most of which I would be at a loss to explain. However, I always enjoy picking up the yearly preseason book, looking at the projections and reading the comments that go with them.

This year, CCH took a page out of VEB’s book and did some community projections. While we didn’t do all the players, as it ran out of steam after a while, it gave us a good idea on what we thought a few players were going to do in 2007.

In hindsight, it’d appear that neither system stood a chance this year.

With injuries, death and general lack of playing time, the odds of any prediction system getting much correct was pretty much slim and none. The only players that could have been close to their preseason projections would have been Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper, Yadier Molina, Jason Isringhausen and possibly David Eckstein and Chris Duncan.

Since the season is over for a large number of the Cardinals, I thought I’d get a head start in seeing how far off these projections were. I’m taking the projections from the Baseball Prospectus 2007 annual, which doesn’t list at bats or hits, for some reason.

Read the rest of this entry »

Picking Out Tombstones

Yesterday’s game against the Cards was termed a “must-win” by some.  As you know, they didn’t win, as Pineiro’s luck ran out and those hard hit balls started dropping.  Mike Maroth’s ninth, even though it didn’t matter in the big scheme of things, should have been enough to guarantee he will be DFAd this offseason.  And the Brewers lost, so the Cubs are tied for first again.  Yuck all the way around.

Cincinnati helped us get well last time around, but can we really count on that happening again?  The Cardinals walk into a ballpark designed, it seems, for home runs and come in with really no rotation to speak of.  We’ve written off this team time and again.  Can we do it for good this time?

I think so.  First off, three games back.  I know there are still 4 left with the Cubs this weekend and three with the Brewers in a couple of weeks, but the Cards would pretty much have to go 15-6 in the last 21 to really make a dent, I think.  Maybe a little less, but in that area.  Right now, the team is in a four game losing streak, there are only three pitchers that are guaranteed starts, and Mulder is only one of those so they can get him ready for next year, not because they expect him to win every time out.   So that leaves Wainwright and Looper, and you never know when Looper is going to blow up like he did out in Arizona.

Couple that with the fact that basically half the lineup is gone for the season and it’s time to start picking out burial plots.  If St. Louis had a healthy Scott Rolen, Juan Encarnacion, Chris Duncan and an Albert Pujols that was more like 85% instead of 70%, maybe you think they can score the runs to stay in this thing.  Rick Ankiel, whether it’s because the story got into his head, he’s just in a slump, or people are starting to figure out how to pitch to him, is 1-14 since the HGH bit came out.  When your good luck wonder bat is slumping, you know you’ve got problems.

But think about this winter dream, not for 2008, but for 2009.  All the money saved this year and next is used to sign Johan Santana.  Put him in a rotation with Carpenter and Wainwright.  Chris Perez is closing.  The lineup has Pujols, Rasmus, Ankiel, Duncan, Rolen.  You think that team could win some games?  Hopefully ownership does……

.500 At Last

Hard to believe that this team hasn’t had an equal number of wins and losses since the 12th game of the year. It’s been a long year, when they’ve been left for dead so many times, but here we are just over a month from the finish line, and not only to they return to .500 (which would be a minor achievement no matter what the standings), but they move into second place. Granted, I’d rather be in third place and one game out than second and two out, but it’s still nice to have only one team ahead of them.

I plan to continue to give Braden Looper a hard time, because maybe if I do he’ll keep throwing games like he did last night. As I talked about yesterday, I really didn’t know what to expect out of him, but a traditional quality start (3 runs in 6 innings) would have been great in my book. To get seven scoreless out of him, at a time when we will need to be conserving the bullpen anyway–just priceless. To be able to step up and produce these kind of games this late in the season after being a reliever for so long, well, I find that amazingly impressive. I still don’t trust him and I’d consider resting him more once Mark Mulder makes the team, but he’s doing his best to make that a tough decision and you have to respect that.

It was nice to see Rick Ankiel get three hits last night. The more singles and doubles he gets, the more I think he can make it as a regular outfielder in the coming years. If he was just HR or nothing, well, those kind of guys get run out of the league pretty quickly (unless they are real big HR hitters, like Adam Dunn). I was really hoping that he’d get a hit his last time up, because having a four-hit game would be really big for him, I think. Still, he’s hitting over .300, playing pretty good defense, and showing power. And when you think that he’s basically learning this at the major league level, it’s obvious to see the talent that Walt Jocketty didn’t want to give up on. I’m looking forward to seeing him play on a regular basis next year, though the movie script would be for him to make an impact on the same postseason stage that the demons that unraveled him before first appeared.

Tonight is a tough matchup, as one of our recent favorites around these parts, the resurgent Kip Wells, takes on another stud in Roy Oswalt. We’ve rehashed Kip a number of times, and we know that, save the last outing, he’s been pretty spectacular down the stretch with an ERA in the low 2.00 range. Roy Oswalt is always a tough pitcher to face, so let’s mine the stats and see if there are any glimmers of hope.

On the face of it, not so much. He’s got a 2.17 ERA at home, a 1.46 ERA in August and a 1.13 ERA against the Cardinals in 2007. ERA doesn’t tell us everything, right? I think it gives us a darn good story there, though. His BAA/OPSA at home is .241/.634, which is very impressive when you consider that bandbox they play in. In the last three years, he has a 3.12 ERA against the Birds, though only a 5-3 record, so he can be beaten, as they’ve hit him for a .267 average over that span.

It’s not going to be the blowout last night was, for sure. Here’s the history of Oswalt vs. Cardinal batters. As you can see, Eckstein has hit him at the best clip (of anyone with an significant AB), while Pujols has a nice .290 average with 3 HR. Unfortunately, the averages plummet from there, though Edmonds and Duncan (wasn’t it nice to finally see him go deep again!) have home runs against him.

If the Cards play like they’ve been playing, they may pull tonight’s game out, but it’s going to be a battle. Hopefully they can get Oswalt’s pitch count up and get into the bullpen early. And maybe the Brewers can get a lead and hold on to it tonight, moving the Cards ever closer to that top slot.

One Goal Down, One Goal To Go

I thought that the Cards needed to go at least 5-2 in this seven game road trip through Milwaukee and Chicago. After a sweep of the Brewers, the Cards only need to split the series with the Cubs to obtain that result. A split is certainly doable, as is winning the series outright.

The Cards went 2-1 in a series in Wrigley in April. That seems to be their only trip up there, though they did lose two to the Cubs in April at Busch (with the third postponed due to the death of Josh Hancock) and lost two of three in July at Busch. However, this team in the last ten days seems to be a lot different than the team that faced them even in July. The pitching is coming around, the offense on the whole is clicking, and even the defense is doing better. I’d suggest the defensive improvement is directly tied to the better pitching. The players aren’t getting down with multiple hits and walks and they are staying focused in the game. It had to be disheartening to see runs score so early and often as was happening earlier in the season, giving that “Here we go again” type of resignation. Now, when things are going well and the pitchers are making their pitches, it’s easier to stay “in the game” mentally, as it were.

Today sends Looper to the mound vs. Rich Hill. Looper really has alternated between being pretty good and being terribly bad since he was the early surprise of the season. His monthly ERA has not been under 5 since April. Twice in his last five starts he has given up 7 earned runs. If Mark Mulder does make it back, my candidate for removal from the rotation would be Looper, especially since he long ago set a season-high in innings pitched. (Mulder’s rehab start last night could have gone better, but it was his first pitching of the year.) All those caveats against Looper aside, he did allow only 1 run in six innings last time out against the Dodgers and gave up only one run over seven against these Cubs in Busch in that July series, accounting for the only win. A fascinating note in ESPN’s game preview: Looper has a 6-0, 1.84 mark in day games, compared to 4-9, 6.78 at night. Glad we’ll be playing under natural light, then!

Rich Hill, on the other hand, has had a pretty good season. His August ERA is 5.71, but that’s very skewed by his last outing in the hitter’s haven known as Coors Field (7 ER in 5.2 IP). He’s a lefty, which always seems to cause issues for the Cardinals. Juan Encarnacion should make it back on the field for this game–LaRussa doghouse or no–and that could help a lot. That will leave players like Chris Duncan and Jim Edmonds on the bench for late-game pinch hitting, something that could turn out to be key.

Hope the wind is blowing in today at Wrigley. A slugfest is probably not what the Cardinals want–that blowout win streak notwithstanding.

Even though the Brewers are still in first, for some reason they seem fairly irrelevant to the race. Still, they are leading, so we still need to keep an eye on their games, even if the feeling is they will continue to drop down the standings. The Brew Crew open a series against Cincinnati this evening, so hopefully the Reds can continue to help out the Cardinals!

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