Starting Pitching

48 W, 72 L, 889 IP, 987 H, 115 HR, 321 BB, 532 K, 42 HBP, 5.04 ERA, 1.66 K/BB

That’s the line the St. Louis starters put up last year. Not real pretty, is it?

If there is any chance for 2008 to be more than a rebuilding year, for the Cardinals to actually contend, it may lie in the fact that last year’s team finished only 7 games out with starting pitching as bad as that. Can this year’s squad improve on those numbers? Let’s take a look.

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Transitioning

The last word on the Rolen trade: here’s a wrapup of his introductory press conference in Toronto. Sounds like he’s got a weight off his shoulders (no pun intended) and is ready to move on. I wish him the best up there and hope that he can get Toronto past those big obstacles that are the Yankees and the Red Sox.

So it’s over and we’ve got to move on. But to what?

It’s still just under a month until spring training. We pretty much know the starting lineup, or at least the players that will be in it. Shortstop still is up in the air, but all the options are likely on the roster. The rotation is pretty much set, though there has been talk that the Cards would try to pick up some sort of veteran innings-eater to help hedge against all the injury and rehab possibilities. Really, the signings are probably pretty much done.

For today, let’s talk fantasy. The numerous fantasy baseball leagues at CardsClubhouse are into their second week of drafting. Which Cardinals will draw the most interest from the average fantasy baseball player?

Obviously, Albert Pujols will be at the top of most people’s draft lists. His slightly-below-his-standards season last year might bump him out of the consensus #1 overall slot, but he’ll still be gone before the first round is over. The excellence that he has year in and year out can’t be overstated.

There will be a number of people taking Adam Wainwright as well, especially if they look past his overall numbers to what he did in the second half of the season last year. Wainwright and Jason Isringhausen may be the only pitchers that get much of a look from players, though.  Most people will take a wait and see approach with Mark Mulder, though perhaps Joel Pineiro might be attractive to NL-only players.

Back to the offense.  Troy Glaus will get some late-round attention, especially with him switching to the “easier” league.  Chris Duncan will go around the same time, maybe a bit earlier if people think he’s completely healed up.  Rick Ankiel will have people taking a few fliers on him.  With catching as tough to come by as it is, Yadier Molina’s season from last year should get him taken in the mid-to-late rounds.  And those with minor league systems might take a shot at getting Colby Rasmus.

Other than that, there probably won’t be much interest in the Cardinals from the fantasy players.  It’s not exactly the 2004 team in that regard.

Cardinals Sign Clement

According to sources, the Cardinals have signed pitcher Matt Clement to a one-year deal with a club option for 2009.

The best thing about it, in my mind, is the club option.  If Clement is healthy and effective, he’ll help out ’08 but would really be a boon in 2009, when Carpenter is healthy and the team has hopefully signed another top pitcher to go into the rotation with him and Wainwright.  A 2009 staff of Carp-FA-Wainwright-Clement-? would probably be enough to put the Cards back into contention fairly quickly.

This also may mean that the Cardinals are close to dealing Anthony Reyes.  Right now, the rotation is Wainwright, Mulder (if ready for ST), Pineiro, Clement and Looper.  That leaves Reyes and others such as Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson out of the picture, at least for now.  Of course, we don’t know how Mulder is going to start the season or if he’ll be ready, but I’d think a deal like this would give Mozeliak more breathing room to send Reyes somewhere for a hitter or perhaps package him with Duncan for a bigger name.

It’ll be interesting to see how this deal compares to the Mark Prior deal.

The First Annual Cardinal Blogger Awards

The votes have been cast. Now let’s see who won!

First off, a comment from Kujo at Rockin’ the Red for a new title for the group:

How about Cardinals Bloggers United, in the likeness of the soccer hooligan firms in England?

That’s not bad. Those involved, what do you think? Or perhaps United Cardinal Bloggers would be more your style? If we are going to keep doing projects, we gotta find a name. And I do hope we keep doing projects.

OK, to the awards. I’ll post some quotes from those bloggers that elaborated on their selections.

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Pineiro Signs

According to the Post-Dispactch, Pineiro has come to terms with the Cardinals. It’s a two-year deal, with financial terms not announced.

Those financial terms are going to make the difference between this being a good signing or a bad one. Pineiro had some success in St. Louis, it’s true, but he seemed to get hit hard a lot, even if those balls found gloves. I’m afraid he might come down to earth somewhat.

That said, if they can get him for #4 money, then that’s a good deal. The deal is supposed to be worth more than his $4 million contract from the Red Sox, so how much more will be key.

It also lends credence to the idea that John Mozeliak will be the GM, because right now the off-season is running on auto-pilot as they bring back a lot of the players that were on such a weak team last year. These are deals that Jocketty would have done. Heck, they are deals a trained monkey could have done by now.

I was hoping to see more of a shakeup and a different direction from the front office if Walt was going to be let go. Right now, I’m not seeing that. Which means many of the arguments for Walt’s departure are ringing hollow now.

EDIT: CCH thread and VEB thread.  Two very different perspectives on the deal, which is 2 years/$13 million, apparently.

LaRussa Returning?

Dustin at Whiteyball took the words out of my keyboard.  “It seems as each day passes, it is more and more likely that TLR is returning.”  No doubt.  And one of the biggest incentives happened this weekend.

Dusty Baker is returning to the NL Central.

Think about that.  LaRussa gets one of his old adversaries back for 18 games a year.  That gives Tony personal motivation against most of the NL Central managers.  He’s friends with Lou Pinella of the Cubs and he had words at the end of the year with Ned Yost of Milwaukee, an incident that LaRussa is not likely to forget.  Toss in the fact that Houston is Houston, no matter who is managing there, and you only have Pittsburgh as a “down” series, and they haven’t named a manager yet.  Just imagine if they hired Lloyd McClendon back………..

Anyway, between the matchups in the Central and the fact that there aren’t too many other jobs out there, I think TLR is back next year.

Who will he be working for?  That’s a different story.

Joe Strauss wrote a story this weekend saying some are looking cautiously at the Cardinal GM job due to what happened to Jocketty.   However, houstoncardinal at VEB did point out that it’s likely the old-school Friends of Walt are the ones Strauss is talking to, and that is not where the Cardinals are looking.  We’ll see if that pans out.

The smart money seems to be on John Mozeliak taking the interim tag off and getting the job.  I’m not so sure about that, though.  I think the organization wants to make some house-cleaning type changes and would rather bring someone in.  Whether that person would agree to take LaRussa on, though, is a different story.  Ownership seems pretty invested in Tony, even though he’s not committed to returning.  It would be a shame if that commitment didn’t allow them to hire the best person for the job.

In other news, it doesn’t look like Juan Encarnacion will be back next year, to few people’s surprise.  He’s got to worry about his eyesight first, and according to the article, well, even that doesn’t look good anytime soon.

Also, MLBTradeRumors.com reports (from the Post-Dispatch) that the Cardinals are negotiating with Joel Pineiro.  I think he’ll test the market and get more than he’s worth, but if the Cardinals can lock him up with a contract appropriate for a fifth starter, I’m all for it.

Spoiler

It’s a different feeling here in late September. The Cardinals are playing games that matter, but they matter for the other team. However, it’s a credit to the “hard 9” mentality of the team that they’ve been able to pull out wins the last couple of nights, crippling other teams’ postseason dreams. Not that you take a whole lot of joy in that–especially the Brewers, because it looks like the Cubs are going to October–but it’s something to take solace in.

Nice to see the Cards take care of business against Pedro Martinez last night. Not having Pedro was one of the reasons the Cardinals were able to take care of the Mets last October, I think. So it was nice to know that they, at least for one night, could beat a top pitcher.

More impressive was Joel Pineiro spinning 8 scoreless innings with only three hits. There has been a lot of talk about Pineiro coming back next year. It seems to me that he’s gotten better as he’s gone along. I thought that when he first came around, a lot of balls were being hit hard at people. Then he had some games where the ball was hit hard–period. A rough calculation of his BABIP is .278. If he could maintain that, he would be a serviceable fifth starter. If the price is right, the Cards probably should bring him back.

Albert scored another run, bringing him to 97. He’s also just 2 shy of 100 walks, which was his goal coming into the year. For all the talk about his good eye and discipline, 98 walks is a career high. He’s disciplined enough to wait for his pitch, but he usually gets it and doesn’t miss. Also, in the past he’s had more potent of a lineup around him, so he’s never gotten the Barry Bonds treatment since Edmonds or Rolen would come up and make pitchers pay.

If Pujols can hit like he has in the past in Pittsburgh, he’ll get both of those marks this weekend. I’m still not sure he can get 3 runs in 3 days, but it’s definitely in the realm of possibility.

Apparently the NL Central is going to be won the way it was played most of the year–by last team standing. The Cubs have done their best to give the division away, being swept by Florida. Milwaukee, though, won’t take advantage of it. They hit Pujols in Wednesday night’s game, opening the floodgates, then make 5 errors last night against the Padres. I can’t see the Brewers winning all three games left against San Diego, so I think we are resigned to Cubbie blue going into October. Hopefully it won’t last long. I’m not sure I could handle a deep Chicago run!