Preseason Approval Ratings: Position Players

Many readers are familiar with the Approval Ratings that Daniel at C70 at the Bat does over the course of the Spring. With his permission, I’m taking them to the next level (cue cool voice voicer).

I’m a little late, but real life has kept me away from writing much for the blog the last couple days. Today though, the Redbird Dugout Approval Ratings make their debut as I talk about our position players.

As mentioned during Wednesday’s UCB Radio Hour, the man who is now without his appendix is the highest rated Cardinal. That would be Matt Holliday. Holliday, who is entering his second full season, scored a 9.3 with Cardinals fans. Out of all the fans surveyed, he scored just one 7 and one 8 and the rest were 9s and 10s. Personally, I gave him a 10 because I he has far surpassed my expectations. When he came in, I expected him to be a .300, 20 HR guy because those were his career averages outside of Coors Field. Then he had his 2010 season and that all changed.

The second highest rated position player is none other than Albert Pujols. He scored a 9.0 from Cardinals fans. I find it interesting that he slots in behind Holliday, and also did on C70′s approval ratings. There are two potential reasons that Pujols falls, in my mind. First would be last season where his 7.3 WAR was the lowest WAR he’s had since his sophomore season in the majors and combine that where he slumped while the Cardinals kept falling farther and farther behind the Reds near the end of last season. Second would be with his contract situation. I know that I knocked him a point for it to just an 8. It takes two to tango and if they really wanted to come to an agreement over this offseason, Pujols and the Cardinals could have.

Moving on, we come to Yadier Molina, who came in third with an 8.0. Molina has been one of the most durable catchers in the major leagues. I know he caught the most innings in 2009, and I suspect he did the same in 2010 even with his removal from the lineup in the closing weeks to rest his knees. The knees and high innings are an issue to me, but that’s got nothing to do with my approval for Molina. Rather that rests on the guy who pencils him onto the lineup card everyday. I gave him a 9.

Colby Rasmus will be entering his third year in the majors, and most will tell you that it will be the make-or-break year for him. Mental maturity has impacted his success to this point, but he definitely has the physical tools. Despite some lack in his play last year on the defensive side of the ball, Rasmus still scored a 7.3 with the fans. In his third year and getting the opportunity to hit in front of Albert Pujols, Rasmus is poised to have a breakout year. Can he overcome the mental aspects of the game and put it all together? I’m excited to find out, I gave him a 7.

After spending the last half of last year on the disabled list, David Freese makes his return this season to the lineup. Despite the injury, Freese is probably riding high on his quick return from the injury and the performance he put on last season, when he was one of the top rookies when he went down with injury. Freese ended up with a 7.0 from the fans, and he got a 9 from me. Hopefully he can stay healthy this year and can become the player we all hoped.

A little surprising to me, but the next three guys on the list are expected to be bench players. Jon Jay scored a 6.9 from the fans and a 7 from me. Last season he proved himself a solid defender and solid with the bat. Coming off the bench, he’s going to do all we need him to do.

Allen Craig scored a 6.6 from the fans and got a 7 from me. I was a little surprised that he got relatively high marks. Many fans that I know think that he is nothing more than the AAAA player who is great in AAA, but below average in the majors. Personally, I think he can turn into a successful major leaguer if he gets a chance. With Holliday’s appendectomy, he seems to be ready to get that chance. Hopefully he takes it and runs with it.

Meanwhile, Daniel Descalso is riding his successful September as he scored a 6.2 from the fans and got a 7 from me. It’s no secret that I’ve called shotgun on the Descalso bandwagon and feel that he’s ready to start at second base. I’d love to see him take the starting role at second base away from Skip Schumaker this season, but he will hopefully get his chance there next season at least as Schumaker’s in the final season of his contract.

Back to the starters with Lance Berkman who scored a 6.0 with the fans. I gave him a 7, which wasn’t too far off. He suffered the case of getting a lot of 5s from people who didn’t want to make early judgements on new players.

Skip Schumaker comes in with a 5.7 from the fans. Schumaker had the largest disparity, as he was the only player to get a 1 and a 10 on his card. On the UCB Radio Hour, Mike Metzger of Stan Musial’s Stance said he would have given Schumaker high marks because he accepted the move from outfield to second base. I can understand that, but I gave him a 3. With experience, he should be improving at second base, but he’s not. And his bat fell off last year with the defensive struggles. To me, he’s just got more to show me before I can give him anything higher than a 5.

After Schumaker, comes Gerald Laird who scored a 5.6 with the fans. As the backup catcher, he doesn’t have much to do. I gave him an 8, but a lot of guys were reluctant to move him above a 5 because he’s new.

Then we have Tyler Greene who scored a 5.3 in the ratings. I gave him a 6 and was honestly surprised I had rated him that high. I’ve not been very impressed with Greene at any time. Well, except maybe that one diving catch in the outfield during spring training. But in general, I’ve not thought of him as a special player. I do hope he can prove me wrong though.

And the final player of our major league run is the new Ryan Theriot. Theriot scored a 4.9 in the ratings, and I had given him a 4. I’m not expecting much out of him and the slow start in spring training didn’t help that any. He was bouyed up with the 5s that a lot of guys gave new players. I think he is the player that is poised to vary the most this season.

I also had two minor league position players on the list. Last season’s first round draft pick, Zack Cox scored a 7.3 riding high on the way he finished the Arizona Fall League and the stories of him showing up early and working hard in the spring. Then Matt Carpenter is riding his strong spring to an 8.1 rating. I expect that to fall over the course of the season as people stop paying as close attention to him. Freese will likely have to get hurt before Carpenter is given an opportunity in the majors this year, and I don’t think anyone is wishing for that.

Look for the breakdown on pitchers on Monday morning. I’m about to dig in for game 2 of the 2011 season. Hopefully this one is better and the guys just had some Opening Day nerves on Thursday.

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Matt Holliday Undergoes Appendectomy

After a challenging offseason and Spring Training that saw our best pitch require Tommy John all Cards fans were waiting for the season to start and hope it would turn our luck around. Opening Day didn’t go as well as we had hoped but the bright spots were Chris Carpenter, Colby Rasmus and Matt Holliday. Well earlier today we heard that Holliday was undergoing an appendectomy and will miss at least 2 weeks and up to 6 weeks. So after validating this wasn’t just a bad April Fools joke I started to think what will the Cards do now with Holliday certainly hitting the DL?

First off let’s look at the bright side of this injury: Its only 2-6 weeks and not another injury that loses a key member of our team for the year. We are taking the glass is half full approach. Next we need to take a look at who will replace Holliday in the starting lineup? And what will our batting lineup look like without Holliday? And lastly what prospects will have a chance to get an early call? I will attempt to answer these questions though TLR is very hard to read so I might be way off base!

Who will start in place of Holliday?
To me its an obvious approach based on how TLR typically manages. Jay and Craig will share the duties and if 1 of them gets hot TLR will most likely ride out the hot streak. I personally see Craig as a bigger contributor offensively yet a step behind Jay defensively. Craig has the pop to provide a legitimate threat in the lineup. Jay will provide better overall defense but will spray the ball around and pop an occasional double. One thing is for sure…this is a great opportunity for both of these guys to showcase their growth from last year and might be a chance for opposing teams scouts to take an extended look at each for a potential trade later in the year. My vote is give Craig a chance first and see if his bat will come alive.

What will the batting lineup look without Holliday?

Another great question with a complex answer! TLR likes to shuffle the lineup so I am not sure we will see a consistent batting order. But my guess is more times than not they will stay with Theriot and Rasmus at the top and Pujols stays in teh 3 hole with Berkman sliding to the 4 hole with Freese in the 5 hole. Beyond the 5 hole is where the shuffling will happen. I would say put Craig or Jay in the 6 hole depending on who is starting. That will leave Molina and Skip going 7-8 respectively with the pitcher batting 9th.

What prospect will get the early call?
I would warn any Cards fan that the choice will most likely not be a sexy pick. I don’t think Adron Chambers is ready and there are no other upside OF’s that will be considered. To me if they choose to pick an OF it will be Stavinoha. Not that I don’t like Stavinoha it just isn’t a sexy pick. But the experience will be key and they will be looking for a bat off the bench which Stavi has shown the ability in the past to provide value in this role. But who says it will definitely be an OF that is called up? I personally think with only 1 day off for the next 2+ weeks it would be more beneficial to call up a reliever. The obvious choice is Fernando Salas who was the last cut and had a terrific spring. With McClellan maybe not ready to go more than 6 and Garcia having a very rough spring we might need an extra RP early in the year. My vote says we call up Salas and have that extra arm.

***Edit: Forgot Stavi is no longer on the 40 man roster which probably negates him getting the call. The only OF on the 40 man not on the big league club is Chambers which I don’t feel is ready. This leads me to believe Salas will be the man called up***

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Game 1: Padres 5, Cardinals 3

It was a game that the Cardinals had every opportunity to win. Chris Carpenter turned in 7 stellar innings for the Cards, but that wasn’t enough for the bullpen to hold on. Or the offense to secure the win.

The same issues that plagued the Cardinals last season reared their ugly heads once again. Base running miscues and defensive mistakes cost the Cards this one. During the first seven innings, Skip Schumaker had a defensive mistake that was not credited as an error. Arguably it could have been, giving Carpenter 7 innings allowing just a single run.

Ryan Theriot miss the ball on a routine throw into the infield. In the ensuing play, his throw home was errant allowing the Padres to ultimately put two runs on the board in the top of the 11th.

But it wasn’t just the middle infield, Albert Pujols became the 100th player in major league baseball history, and the first on opening day, to ground into 3 double plays in one game. There was some thought that this was the major league record, but apparently Joe Torre had 4 in a game during his career. Obviously some fans will wonder if he’s lacking motivation due to the contract situation, but the motivation is exactly the opposite. He’ll want to put up big numbers this year because it will play into more dollars at the end of the season. However, trying too hard is something that he may have to worry about. I can’t have been the only one that sees him swinging at things he didn’t before since Holliday showed up.

While Matt Holliday nearly played hero with his solo shot in the bottom of the eighth to put the Cardinals up 3-2. He was still caught stealing and picked off, making two outs on the basepaths. Then Ryan Franklin could not hold onto the lead as he allowed a game tying home run to Cameron Maybin in the top of the ninth.

In the end, the Padres were just more efficient on offense. They scored 5 runs on 11 baserunners. Meanwhile the Cardinals just managed 3 runs on 15.

Seeing the 2011 Cardinals for the first time in action that counts, they have a long way to go. You might say that it’s only April and there’s 161 more games to play. While that’s true, every win you can get in April is one less you’ll need in September. Lots of work for this team to do. If they plan on playing baseball in October.


Hero of the Game: I’m going to give it to Chris Carpenter (7 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K). It was all set to go to Matt Holliday until Franklin blew the save. At that point, Holliday’s HR was just another homer and the fact that it wasn’t the game winning run

Zero of the Game: This one was a tossup because I felt Ryan Franklin was also deserving. However, after much consideration I felt that if Pujols had had a better day, we wouldn’t have needed Franklin. Plus, is it Franklin’s fault the offense failed to put more runs on the board with the number of hits they got? So the Zero of the Game goes to Albert Pujols (0-for-5, 3 GIDP, 5 LOB).

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2011 Predictions

AL East Winner – Redsox (#1 Seed)
AL Central Winner – Tigers
AL West Winner – Rangers
AL Wildcard – Rays
NL East Winner – Phillies (#1 Seed)
NL Central Winner – Cardinals
NL West Winner – Rockies
NL Wildcard – Braves
NL Winner – Rockies
AL Winner – Redsox
WS Winner – Rockies (in 6 games)
WS MVP – Tulo
AL MVP – Longoria
NL MVP – Pujols
AL Cy Young – Matusz
NL Cy Young – Gallardo
AL Comeback Player – Morales
NL Comeback Player – Chipper Jones
AL Rookie of the Year – Moustakas
NL Rookie of the Year – D. Brown
AL Biggest Surprise Team – Orioles
NL Biggest Surprise Team – Nationals
AL Biggest Bust (Player) – Sabathia
NL Biggest Bust (Player) – Greinke
Cardinals MVP – Pujols
Cardinals Cy Young – Westbrook
Cardinals Offensive Minor League Player of the Year – M. Carpenter (O. Taveras 2nd)
Cardinals Pitching Minor League Player of the Year – S. Miller (D. Hooker close 2nd)
Cardinals Biggest Surprise (Player) – D. Freese
Cardinals Biggest Bust (Player) – Berkman

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Opening Day Lineup Revealed!

The Post-Dispatch has posted the Cardinals’ planned Opening Day lineup for tomorrow’s afternoon game against the San Diego Padres. You can catch the game at 3:15 pm Cardinals time (central time zone) on ESPN.

The Cardinals will be facing the Padres’ Tim Stauffer tomorrow. Stauffer, 28, has racked up some service time on the major league roster, but has been unable to stick. However, last season he posted a 1.85 ERA between 25 relief appearances and 7 starts.

As a starter, he’s struggled in his career with an ERA of 4.54 and a record of 11-16 in his 38 starts. But last season he was 3-2 in his 7 starts with a 1.83 ERA. The downside was, that he averaged only around six innings a start, meaning that they will likely have to rely on the bullpen. Which isn’t a totally bad thing for the Padres, who had one of the best bullpens of 2010. But let’s get down to the action.

1. Ryan Theriot, SS
The decision to put Theriot at the top of the lineup surprises me, but signals that Theriot is expected to be the leadoff hitter everyday. I had speculated that Tony LaRussa would use Skip Schumaker to leadoff against RHP, while Theriot took the spot against LHP. The reason? Schumaker hits .307 with a .364 OBP against right handed starters while Theriot hits just .277 with a .338 OBP. Both are relatively good options, but for a manager who likes to play the stats and matchups, it wasn’t what I expected.

2. Colby Rasmus, CF
This move could be a big one for Rasmus. Instead of being in a run producing role deeper in the lineup, as he has usually been, he will be in an on base role. Hitting in front of the best hitter in the game should help him get good pitches to hit. If he can work on the strikeouts and work on hitting to all fields, Rasmus could have a monster year hitting in the #2 spot.

3. Albert Pujols, 1B
Was there really any doubt as to his location in the lineup? Potentially the best player in baseball and a free agent. Pujols’ season could go one of two ways. He’ll obviously be trying to put up big numbers, which should be a boon for the Cardinals offense this year. But there’s always the fear that you try too hard and you fail. Part of me wonders if that’s what’s led to his diminished numbers since Holliday arrived. There’s protection now and no excuse, so he’s trying things he wouldn’t otherwise try because of Holliday behind him. Pujols hits the Padres pretty well. Hitting .353, 18 HR, and 61 RBI in 65 games against them.

4. Matt Holliday, LF
After all the talk of him moving to right field to let Berkman have the easier to play left field, he returns to his customary home. I’ll admit that I heavily underestimated Holliday’s impact to the Cardinals last season, but he proved me wrong. I would love for him to keep proving me wrong. His homer rate at Busch Stadium is almost as good as it was at Coors Field, too. He averages a homer for every 4.5 games at Busch, while it was every 4.2 games at Coors.

5. Lance Berkman, RF
The Lance Berkman experiment begins. After being handled with care through most of spring training, Berkman will make his first outfield start since August 25, 2007. He’s obviously hoping to do better than the 0-for-4 he went in that game against Pittsburgh. But has hit .316 with 56 HR in 252 games as a right fielder, by far his best stats at any position he’s played.

6. David Freese, 3B
The man whose injury exposed the lack of depth in 2010 has returned. Freese will start at third base for the first time since June 27th of last year. The former Padres prospect was having a phenomenal rookie season when he went down, too. The Cardinals are hoping that he can recapture some of that magic and once again give them that RBI machine down in the lineup. Oh, and his glove would be the best third base glove we’ve had since he went down.

7. Yadier Molina, C
Fans will be relieved that Molina is once again hitting down in the order. With the injuries to the Cardinals last year, he had been hitting in the six hole. Right where his ability to ground into double plays with the league leaders would be to stifle many rallies. He gets credit for his difficulty to strike out, but he needs to work on that this year as he posted a career high in strikeouts last season. Of all the teams who he’s played more than 30 games against, he hits San Diego the best. However, he has yet to hit a home run off a Padres pitcher in his 128 plate appearances.

8. Skip Schumaker, 2B
Schumaker will hit eighth on Thursday afternoon, a surprise to many considering the ability to essentially have two leadoff men with Schumaker and Theriot who both hit right handed pitchers well enough to leadoff. Yet another phenomenon. Schumaker hits the Padres better than anyone else with his .338 average against them in 22 games, but still has no homers against them. Yeah, he doesn’t have much power to begin with, but only two other teams who he has played more than 20 games against have no home runs against them, and they’ve got much worse batting averages.

9. Chris Carpenter, P
A much bemoaned move by the guys over at Pitcher’s Hit 8th, Tony LaRussa has said that he plans on batting the pitcher in the ninth position this season. Me, and many other fans, thought this year would be the perfect year for the plan to hit the pitcher 8th, at least against right handed pitchers, because both Theriot and Schumaker have numbers capable of leading off against right handers. With Schumaker in the 9 hole to lead the lineup back around, it was thought to be a great move. It seems that the genius that is Tony LaRussa does not agree.

That is your look at the Cardinals’ Opening Day lineup for tomorrow. You can check me out tonight on the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour tonight at 9:30 pm Cardinals time as I will be hosting. We will be doing a bit of previewing of the Cardinals/Padres series as well as getting in some final notes on Spring Training action, including the final cuts. And if we have some time, we might discuss some of the Cardinals’ Approval Ratings that we should be seeing tomorrow here at Redbird Dugout as well.

So check that out, Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.

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