You know, nobody likes their bills, but damnit we've got to do it. The old new CD will return shortly, before the end of the 3 day weekend. It seems someone's predictions about deadlines has indeed come to pass, as I've ADDicked myself here. Sorry for the trouble.
You know, it's also a good time to see where we were at and what we said about the Cards last spring.
If you've come here, let me first say thanks for your continued support. I've moved the Diaspora to a new location on the web, www.cardinalsdiaspora.com, so update your links if've you got them. also, i'll be getting the RSS online there soon...obviously this is more of a process than I thought. it was also significantly disrupted by a new found PS2 addiction with MVP Baseball 2005.
you may notice some temporary technical problems here at the Diaspora. we're in the process of upgrading, and things have gotten a bit screwy. the migration to word press isn't as easy as promised - stay tuned
Inspired by the opening of the first major Dada art exhibit in the U.S. today, I combined that excitement with the elation of Spring Training getting underway to create my own bit of baseball Dada. Why Mark Mulder? It just seems kind of appropriate, the blank look on his face when he's in the 7th inning of a 6 hitter, with 4 BB and 2 K and a 4-0 lead, probably thinkning about that blonde in the fifth row above third base. If he could truly become Glavine-light, he'd be worth a contract for the next couple years, at the right price. The yellow spots...highlights, of course.Speaking of art fans, I'm pulling for Tyler Johnson to make the roster after reading the article about him on the official site the other day.
"I drew it up with a friend of mine. It's an outer space city and the city's being taken over. It's something I designed three or four years ago. It's me. I'm from Southern California, I live near the beach and it's how I grew up...I knew I wanted a tattoo and I wanted something no one else had. Maybe it's a little overboard, but I'm into abstract art and colors. It's something I'm fascinated with, so I wanted it to be my own special one. I wanted it to be unique."Mom, can I get a tattoo?
Haven't I Seen You Before - or - Albert Belle: Tracker
Turns out that man at the grocery store was Albert "Joey" Belle. Going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing that this pretty much torpedoes his shot at Cooperstown. The Veterans Committee could vote him in later, but there's way too many people and way too little time to stalk all the veterans, or "track" as Belle seems to describe it.
But maybe Albert is, once again, being misunderstood. After all, isn't stalking just the Nancy Grace word for trying to track down a significant other and hope that they'll hear the case for having you back?
Since that comment just got my named added to the rest of the security watch lists out there, let me introduce an exciting new feature here at the Diaspora: Bad Hops. Bad Hops will feature my favorite personal gaffes by professional athletes over the years. These are more of the Vince Coleman throwing a firecracker (you bet that one's on my list) into a crowd personal screw ups than the nobody showing up at Ty Cobb's funeral because he was such a bastard type stories with morals.
Series starts this weekend, because it's five minutes to 5 p.m. on a Friday before a three day weekend so I'll be damned if I'm staying in my office any longer! Have a great weekend.
The start of Spring Training also means the start of preview season for bloggers, columnists, and all of the other unsavory and "unofficial" types. Thus without further ado, let me make my bold mid-February prediction for the players that will make it onto the 25 man roster come April.
Position players, starters (only two limbs to go out onto here)
C - Molina, R
1B - Pujols, R
2B - Spivey, R (to start the season); Miles (replaces Spivey around mid-June)
3B - Rolen, R
SS - Eckstein, R
LF - Bigbie, L/Taguchi, R platoon (contain your excitement)
CF - Edmonds, L
RF - Encarnacion, R
R - Carpenter
L - Mulder
R - Suppan
R - Marquis
R - Ponson/Reyes
I really think Reyes will start games this season. It's hard to say if that will happen if at a set point in the summer when/if Ponson falters or tires out, or if he just gets worked into the rotation splitting starts with Ponson as the season rolls on. I'm putting him next to Ponson via slash, and stating that I think they'll both be on the active roster. Surely they would stick Reyes back in Memphis?
The Pen R - Isringhausen
R - Looper
L - Rincon
R - Thompson
L - Flores
R - Nelson
R - Reyes/Ponson
C - Bennett, R
OF - Rodriguez, L
OF - Taguchi, R
IF - Luna, R (at the expense of Cruz, he's a known commodity)
IF - Miles, S
Chris Duncan will be the first one up when one of the regular or bench OFs get injured. Last year, La Russa took six benchers to St. Louis in April, but with the 5th starter situation, I tend to believe that he'll carry the extra pitcher. I also wonder if they bring up Travis Hanson if anything happens to Rolen (please God don't let that happen)? Another wonder: If Hanson starts some time, successfully, at 2B in Memphis, as speculated before, they bring him up when the 2B situation starts really stinking with Spivey/Miles? LBoros posts his speculation on the infield and bench situation in the community Spivey projection today. He's going with Cruz rather than Luna as the backup for Eckstein. I still think Luna because of his status as organizational man, but if he ran afoul of Tony or can't contend with La Russa's love for aged role players, he's in Memphis and/or part of a trade package.
I see Bigbie as the primary starter in LF, mostly because he's a lefty and that allows TLR to keep the R-L-R-L-R thing from the top thru the middle of the order. Eventhough lots of others are predicting Spivey to hit second, I still think Bigbie gets the nod for that spot, at least for the lion's share (mmm, Lion's Choice) of PAs. I'm honestly not as cynical with Bigbie as I am Spivey; I really think Bigbie might do okay in left and hitting second. If he doesn't work out, I'd rather see Rodriguez in there with his lefty bat, and that would almost definitely mean a platoon situation with Gooch.
The seven man bullpen is interesting, and is probably the area most apt to change as spring rolls on. Izzy's a given, as is Looper. Thompson, Rincon, and Flores are 99.9% sure things too. Right now, I think one of the Reyes/Ponson (probably Reyes) slots into the Cal Eldred role. Again, I find myself most frustrated with the high value TLR places on age and experience, even at the expense of talent and ability. I'm too excited to rant though.
Interested to hear your feedback.
You'll excuse me if I'm just a little overwhelmed at the moment, and the sporadic posting of the last week. This week went from a gentle meander to a deafening roar all at once with pitchers and catchers reporting, fantasy baseball sign up, the opening of the first major Dada exhibit in the U.S., and the DC premier of Neil Young: Heart of Gold. Nervous twitches and turrets outbursts aside, I think I finally caught my breath.
Up here, another day of a false spring is upon us, a cruel joke after being snowed in last weekend. Down in Florida (or Arizona if you follow one of those teams) spring is in full force. The players are getting warmed up for the season and answering seemingly endless media queries between the sprints, batting drills, and throwing sessions.
Right now, the biggest question surrounding the Cards (besides the usual mulling over about who will make the roster come April) seems to be Mark Mulder's contract status. To be honest, I don't know where I come down on that issue. Part of me thinks that they should lock him up for a couple more years because he's a lefty that can give us solid innings and a decent chance to win games, even if his pitching style fails to excite. Then come the questions of how much money. He's hardly as important to the team as Carpenter, but by current market standards he could easily garner $10M a season. For that, I'd rather have another power arm, which probably comes at a higher price than that come next winter. If Jocketty can lock him up under that price (isn't 2005 Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter playing for $6M a year?), then by all means. Then you have to start looking at how this affects the team's total payroll, which we have been assured will not be increasing substantially anytime soon. You can see where the Mulder contract issue is a minor quandary.
And maybe it's my inherently cynical nature, but does anyone else detect a bit of insincerity in Mulder's stated desire to stay in the Lou?
Whatever. Let's just hope he gives us one of those contract year performances.
I'm a bit late on this, but a two way guy that stinks of Jason Marquis (or Jason Marquis stinks of, whatever), Brooks Kieschnick, for his pitching and pinch hitting ability has called it quits. [hat tip to Brew Crew Ball via Baseball Musings]
Brooks had a career G/F ratio of 1.55. Marquis' G/F ratio is 1.59. neither generated much excitement from the mound. How about with the stick you ask. Kieschnick's career BA was .270 compared to Marquis' .310. Useful pinch hitters indeed.
Speaking of pitchers who hit and hitters that pinch and pinchers that pitch, the PD caught a little Rick Ankiel fever today, not to mention the headline writer's shared penchant (ha!) for word play around the subject. Beat writer Derrick Goold mulled over the former pitcher's situation as an outfielder within the organization. Most telling in the story are a couple of lines from higher ups, including Jocketty, that demonstrate the organization's belief in and commitment to the 26-year-old. It seems like they intend to try and find a way for him to get through the waiver situation and get him to Memphis for playing time this year.
There are lots of people out there who have doubts about Ankiel, but, as cynical as I am, I am not one of them. He's a pure athlete. He's one of those people whose natural athletic ability enables them to pick up and master almost any sport on a whim. In fact, if he tires of baseball this year he'd be a lock to make the Blues. I really believe he will pull it together enough to become a solid bench player at the very least. Think about like this, right now we are considering 28-year-old John Rodriguez as a potential starting OF this year. J-Rod's ability bloomed rather late, and he bounced around the minors until making an impression in Memphis last year. I have to believe Ankiel has the ability to play at that level. We'll see what he does in Memphis this season, but how far away can 2005's second half minor league phenom really be, on a team jammed with glorified platooners for the LF spot?
I won't explain the meandering thought pattern that got me thinking about leadoff hitters. It had something to do with thoughts about the Cards lineup and a recurring thought about finding a suitable option for the #2 hole. I've often wondered about Eckstein being the #2 hitter, not that he's turning in a poor performance as our leadoff man - far from it. Eck's numbers this year in the clutch, with runners on and in scoring position, exceeded his numbers as leading hitter in an inning (see below). I guess all the talk about outfielders connected with my formative years as a baseball fan watching the Runnin' Redbirds of the 1980s, and I started thinking about the speedy, base-thieving prototypical leadoff man.
Before considering what it would be like to have another Vince "firecracker" Coleman, I thought it would be useful to take a look at what everyone's favorite Li'l Slugger produced for the Cards last season.
2005: .363 OBP, 11 SB, 8 CS, 1.32 BB/K
Somebody must have put a flag on the little guy given the caught stealing numbers, but he measures up as a leadoff man overall. Now, here's the split I referenced above.
Leading off innings: 250 AB, .244/.341/.300, 31 BB, 18 K
Runners on: 211 AB, .336/.376/.479, 14 BB, 12 K RISP: 126 AB, .373/.420/.571, 12 BB, 7 K
That's pretty damn good. Obviously, he's not ready for the clean up spot, but the man knows there's more than one way to make an impact. He doesn't fit La Russa's mold for the #2 spot, not enough of a power threat for a manager who appreciates the demoralizing effect a homer from the second batter can have on opposing teams. In reality, Eck just can't put up the slugging percentage numbers desirable for a #2 hitter. I could see him hitting in the ninth spot in the AL though.
We can safely say that Eck's got the leadoff skeelz, even if he lacks the flashy speed. Next, I wanted to see what kind of production the Cards got out of the leadoff spot versus their NL counterparts. Below, I ran down the production each NL team got from the #1 spot. Of course, several teams lacked a regular leadoff hitter, while others just didn't have an adequate one. The runs aspect of the information below depends considerably upon the performance of the guys batting after the leadoff hitter, but the OBP is more exclusive to the individual performance of the leading men themselves.
2005 OBP and Runs for the leadoff spot by NL team, and % of total team runs scored:
PIT .368, 99, 14.6% STL .368, 103, 12.8% MIL .364, 104, 14.3% ATL .356, 113, 14.7% CIN .352, 115, 14.0% ARI .351, 95, 13.6% SF .351, 94, 14.5% WAS .349, 87, 13.6% SD .341, 97, 14.2% LA .340, 81, 11.8% PHI .339, 121, 15.0% FLA .328, 107, 14.9% HOU .317, 90, 13.0% CHI .299, 83, 11.8% COL .299, 96, 13.0% NYM .294, 99, 13.6%
The Cards are tied for the top in the NL in terms of OBP from the leadoff spot, but they ranked toward the bottom in terms of the percentage of runs from the leadoff hitter as a percentage of the team's total number of runs scored. The Cubs and Dodgers, the two teams ranked lower than the Cards in percentage of runs from the #1 spot, suffered notably for the lack of a leadoff hitter. Philly, Florida, and Atlanta make up the top of the list. Each of those teams have (or had) notable speedsters at #1 and potent bats after the leadoff hitter.
As you may recall, the injuries had a notable effect on our lineup this year, taking away some of the protection from the #3 hitter, Albert Pujols, albeit slightly. Edmonds' slump and the absence of Walker and Rolen took away 3/4 of the most imposing part of the lineup that could have sent the Li'l Eck into score a few more times. I think this is the primary reason that the Cards had a lower percentage of their runs come from the leadoff spot. Please note, 103 runs is hardly cause for disappointment. If Eck were more of a base thief, that number of runs might be a little higher, but other factors might negate that line of thought too.
The bottom line, Eck is more than adequate at the leadoff spot; in fact, you can say he's pretty damn good. That's not to say a leadoff man with some speedy legs and a shift for Eck into the #2 spot would preclude success. With Rolen back, Pujols being Pujols again, and Edmonds making up a little bit of territory from last year's slump, Eck will continue to be a fine leading man, even if his performance slips just a little bit as the professional predictors are predicting. And we're right back to what comes out of the number two hole (wow, that sounds bad) as the big question for the lineup.
Tomorrow, [or you know like whenever] I'll take a comparative look at Eck against the rest of the NL's leadoff hitters.
I suspect that the Cardinals don't really quake in their cleats at the thought of facing any major league pitcher. They are professionals and professionals go to bat against whoever. However, there are probably a few pitchers around the league that the Birds hold a healthy respect for and prefer not to face them in a close race for the division lead. Here are the five NL starters with the best WHIP against the Cards. I listed Vazquez, who is now in the AL. Pettitte was sixth on the list, so I listed him to make the list the top five starters that will still be in the NL this season. Sheets got 3 starts versus the Cards and lost all of them. His ERA against the Redbirds was still 2.84. Just a little tidbit for you this morning as your thoughts turn to pitchers and catchers reporting on Thursday.
Javier Vazquez - 0.33 WHIP (1 GS, 9 IP)*
Gavin Floyd - 0.43 (1 GS, 7 IP)
Jake Peavy - 0.50 (1 GS 8 IP)
Tom Glavine - 0.57 (1 GS, 7 IP)
Ben Sheets - 0.72 (3 GS, 22 1/3 IP)
Andy Pettitte - 0.80 (3 GS, 20 IP)
I suppose you saw this bit about Larry Walker making an appearance in Spring Training as a special instructor via the PD this morning. He's also a coach for the Canadian team in the WBC, eh. All of this made me wonder if Walker will return to baseball in the next few years on the coaching side of things. It makes sense. The guy obviously had the skills. He also seems to have the temperament to be a good coach, more importantly than the baseball skills. Baseball would benefit greatly with Walker's presence.
I realize that you're probably just now getting ready for your Oscar pool, making your picks, and deciding on what the grand wager will be. It might seem early to start thinking about next year's slate of Academy Awards nominations, but here's a little inside info for you.
In the Best Documentary Feature category, go ahead and pencil in, Hello Again Everybody, a look back at the life and times of Harry Caray. Looks like the film will be a summer release, a possible distraction when an air conditioned movie theatre appeals to you more than a humid, 100 degree day game against the Reds in August.
Sure, everybody knows Caray for his unique style of broadcasting, but what about Caray the pitch man for Bud or Falstaff, when he was on Chicago's South side?
"Ah, what I wouldn't do right now for a plate of barbecue ribs and an ice-cold Falstaff!"
Hopefully, good documentarians won't get too hung up on the official nostalgia and leave out gold like that. It remains to be seen.
Does Will Ferrell make an appearance?