Daily Archives: March 7, 2011

NL Central Preview: Starting Pitcher #5

After a brief hiatus (thank you midterms), I’m back at the blog. Spring Training has begun and the pressure is on to get this preview done, but I think it has been pretty representative. So as we near an end, with just this one and the closer remaining, I think this little experiment has been quite the success.

Starting pitcher #5. For the Cardinals, this has changed with the recent injury to Adam Wainwright. However, I’m going to continue as I had them ranked originally and end up subtracting points for Wainwright’s injury. That doesn’t help the Cardinals who are already losing pace to the front running Milwaukee.

6. Kevin Correia, Pittsburgh (5.40, 10-10 in 26 starts)
Correia is expected to show up in a very weak Pirates rotation. There are some bright spots, but for the most part there is no clear pitching roles in their rotation. Just a whole bunch of average pitching. Correia has put up a handful of good seasons in the major leagues already in his career, but can he bring that to the Pirates?

5. Kyle Lohse, St. Louis (6.55, 4-8 in 18 starts)
The oft-injured Lohse is once again in a role where he will be heavily depended on by the Cardinals team. It was Lohse that, in 2008, pitched his way into his current four year contract in the absence of Cardinals’ ace Chris Carpenter. He will be asked to repeat that performance as the Cardinals have said good bye to their current ace Adam Wainwright. Ultimately, the season will hinge on Lohse and the new fifth starter’s performance.

4. Nelson Figueroa, Houston (3.22, 5-3 in 10 starts)
He is far from a prospect, but for Houston, Nelson Figueroa can be a stop gap until some younger talent gets ready to show up. It’s a tough spot for the Astros who have a solid 1-2-3 punch in their rotation, but very little behind it both in the 4-5 spots in the rotation and in the lineup. Figueroa came over from Philadelphia in the Roy Oswalt trade and continued to put up numbers that made 2010 his best career year in the majors. Look for him to get his shot to repeat that effort in 2011. 

3. Chris Narveson, Milwaukee (4.99, 12-9 in 28 starts)
The former Cardinals’ farm hand was brought back by the Brewers rather than bringing back their former ace Chris Capuano who was coming off of injury. After a successful 2009, pitching mostly out of the bullpen, Narveson regressed while given the opportunity to start regularly. If he improves a bit he will make a solid #5 at the tail end of the Milwaukee rotation behind the excellent front four.

2. Travis Wood, Cincinnati (3.51, 5-4 in 17 starts)
Travis Wood took a spot in the rotation mid-season and held on to it, pitching very well. In fact, in his third career game, Wood took a perfect game bid into the ninth inning against the Phillies. He would leave that game after 9 innings of 1-hit ball with the team losing 1-0 in extra innings. Cincinnati is in a great position though with their rotation. In addition to Wood, they have Aroldis Chapman and Mike Leake sitting there looking for an opportunity in the rotation as well.

1. Randy Wells, Chicago (4.26, 8-14 in 32 starts)
Wells should be the Cubs’ fifth starter. His win-loss record left quite a bit to be desired, but his ERA is solid and a second season in the rotation should help him improve. Last season he was the first Cubs rookie pitcher to win 7 games since Kerry Wood did it in 1998. For the Cubs, they need to take a good look at their young talent and that means letting Wells have his shot at the 5th starter’s role.

The points with one final position left to preview:

Milwaukee — 59 pts
St. Louis — 54 pts
Cincinnati — 51 pts
Chicago — 47 pts
Houston — 32 pts
Pittsburgh — 30 pts

Milwaukee looks to be stretching their lead in the division, leaving second-place up to a battle between St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Chicago.

Spring Training Week #1 Notebook

The Cardinals’ first week of Spring Training games went much better than the previous week. Despite opening up with a 3-8 loss against the Marlins, the Cardinals finished up their first eight days of playing games at 6 wins, 3 losses.

Some quick hits on my thoughts about some things from the first week of games.

Farm hands getting lots of ABs early in Spring Training. Jon Jay, Mark Hamilton, and Allen Craig lead the team in at bats through the first week of Spring Training. Colby Rasmus joins that trio as the only players to score more than 20 at bats. And each of those four are hitting well over .300 which, even though its the first week of Spring Training, makes me feel good that these guys are already well adjusted as they begin warming up for the season.

It’s been interesting watching Hamilton get a few chances to play in the outfield. He is one of 5 Cardinals to have gone deep so far, and the only one with multiple home runs. Could he become a dark horse candidate as a backup outfielder?

Tyler Greene is getting every opportunity to play himself into or out of a roster spot. He hasn’t hit as well as the four guys in front of him with more ABs, but he hasn’t been an embarrassment. For the record, I would be okay with being proven wrong on Greene. Anytime he’d like to prove me wrong, please do.

Matt Carpenter is also getting a chance to play a lot of ball early in Spring Training as David Freese only made his debut today. Carpenter took advantage of it as he is 6-for-16 (.375). He also has 5 RBI, which ties him for second on the team so far.

I’m enjoying the fact that LaRussa is giving the young guys a seemingly legitmate shot this year and the young guys are giving him something to think about. That’s always better than either of the alternatives.

Battle for the fifth starter. Kyle McClellan still appears to be the leader in the clubhouse for the fifth starter role. He strengthened that after a strong appearance in his spring debut, going 3 innings with 2 hits and 3 strikeouts.

Lance Lynn was the early choice as #2 on the list after his strong debut, but his second appearance was much less impressive. Brandon Dickson was also good in his debut while PJ Walters did not help himself.

Those three guys are likely fighting over McClellan’s bullpen role at this point, anyway.

The K-happy Albert Pujols? The good news is that after posting his highest strikeout total since his rookie year, Albert Pujols met 2011 by striking out 3 times in his first 3 at bats. Wait, maybe that wasn’t the good news. Better news is that he hasn’t struck out in the 10 ABs since.

Daniel Descalso blogging. Daniel Descalso has a MLBlog up with a couple posts up. Hopefully the Cardinals’ infielder will continue to blog about his season as it goes. Check it out here.

Some other UCB notes. Check out the February Round Table with all the posts linked at the UCB homepage. Unfortunately I was too busy to participate this month, but there are definitely some good posts there.

“Natural Positions.” I once again read an article describing a player’s “natural position” as short stop while defensive statistics show that they are much better at another position. What makes a position a natural position? And shouldn’t someone’s natural position be whatever position they are best at?

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Three more weeks until Spring Training games are over and we begin anticipating the season opener against San Diego.