Redbird Review

Season Series: Dodgers lost the 2010 series 3 - 4
Manager: Tony LaRussa (5-7),  Lifetime (4945-2642) 33 Years, .535 Winning %, 5 pennants, 2 world series titles

Rob Neyer's take on the team

The Cardinals were struggling when the week began but they got healthy in Arizona scoring 28 runs in the last two games. To put that into perspective the Dodgers have scored 41 runs in 12 games.  Not hard to see why they got healthy as the meat of the lineup (Rasmus, Pujols, Berkman, and Holliday) feasted on the young Diamondback pitching.

Key Additions:  Ryan Theriot, Lance Berkman

Key Subtractions: Adam Wainwright (lost for year), Brendan Ryan, Blake Hawksworth

 Position Breakdown:

1st Base - Greatest hitter I've ever seen but in case you have not heard, Albert Pujols started April cold as ice with his average after ten games a microscopic .150. Two games later he's reached base six times in his last nine plate appearances and will probably be hitting .350 by next Monday.

2nd Base-Skip Schumaker is back to man 2nd base; the Cardinals never seem to have anything more then an adequate  2nd baseman.

Second baseman this decade for the Redbirds.

                                                     
Player OPS+ G Year BA OBP SLG OPS
Skip Schumaker 102 153 2009 .303 .364 .393 .757
Fernando Vina 100 154 2001 .303 .357 .418 .775
Aaron Miles 99 134 2008 .317 .355 .398 .753
Fernando Vina 96 123 2000 .300 .380 .398 .779
Mark Grudzielanek 93 137 2005 .294 .334 .407 .741
Tony Womack 91 145 2004 .307 .349 .385 .735
Skip Schumaker 83 137 2010 .265 .328 .338 .667
Adam Kennedy 82 115 2008 .280 .321 .372 .692
Fernando Vina 79 150 2002 .270 .333 .338 .670
Aaron Miles 76 133 2007 .290 .328 .348 .676
Aaron Miles 74 135 2006 .263 .324 .347 .672

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/13/2011.

Shortstop - Old friend Ryan Theriot is where he should be. Not playing for the Dodgers. Since Eckstein was the World Series MVP things have been a bit short at SS, offensively wise.

                                                     
Rk Player OPS+ G Year BA OBP SLG OPS
2 David Eckstein 93 117 2007 .309 .356 .382 .739
3 David Eckstein 80 123 2006 .292 .350 .344 .694
4 Cesar Izturis 67 135 2008 .263 .319 .309 .628
5 Brendan Ryan 57 139 2010 .223 .279 .294 .573

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/13/2011.

Some great defense with Izzy and Ryan but not much of an offensive return. With Theriot they have neither.

3rd Base - 28-year old 3rd baseman David Freese was hurt most of 2010 but is now healthy and expected to help provide some punch to the lineup.  Seems to be an average fielder, kind of a Casey Blake at age 37. Decent average, below average OB skills, below average power.

Catcher - Perennial gold glover Yadier Molina is trying to win his fouth in a row. His glove is what makes him special, not his bat.

Left Field - Matt Holliday is already back from his appendectomy just in time to take up his spot as one of the best, if not the best, LF in the NL.  If you thought he was a Coors special, you'd have been wrong as he's been even better for the Cardinals. He's now won four silver slugger awards and gives the Cardinals a potent 1 - 2 punch.

                                                                           
Player OPS+ G From To Age PA BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
Matt Holliday 146 677 2006 2011 26-31 2968 .328 .400 .571 .971 *7/D
Ryan Braun 142 589 2007 2011 23-27 2589 .308 .366 .557 .923 *75/D
Adam Dunn 132 787 2006 2010 26-30 3282 .252 .378 .524 .902 *73/9D
Pat Burrell 127 562 2006 2011 29-34 2187 .256 .381 .507 .888 *7/D
Josh Willingham 121 635 2006 2010 27-31 2545 .265 .367 .478 .845 *7/9D32

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/13/2011.

Right Field - So far Lance Berkman is proving he can play the outfield on a regular basis. If he can continue to stay healthy and hit, he gives the Cardinals a nasty weapon. As was the case last year Berkman is killing RHP, but still struggles against LHP. Limited at bats, but he has yet to collect a hit against a LHP this year.  He's a switch hitter in name only these days.  From the left side however he's beasting with four home runs, which matches the whole Dodger team sans Barajas.

Center Field - Colby Rasmus gives the Cardinals yet another above average player in the outfield. He was close to, if not the best, center fielder in the NL last year.  He does everything well including pissing off Tony LaRussa.

Offensively the Cardinals have three above average hitters in the outfield and one Albert Pujols. As the Diamondbacks found out, that will git it done.

Starting Pitching for our Series:

Game 1: Jaime Garcia was the best rookie pitcher in 2010 and so far in 2011 he's even better. With two starts under his belt Garcia has an ERA triple line of .060/1.46/1.94 with 18 K, 3 BB, in 15 innings. Given how the Dodgers handle LHP, Kuroda best be on his game. This will be his first start at the Ravine. Last year he made one start against the Dodgers and was knocked out before the fourth inning.

Game 2: Kyle Lohse is back after missing a good chunk of time in 2010. Lohse was lousy when he wasn't hurt but he appears to be healthy now and pitching like he did in 2008.

Game 3: Back-to-back Kyles as Kyle McClellan takes over the the injured Adam Wainwright and so far is showing the world that just maybe relief pitchers should be given more then one shot to start. McClellan was a solid bullpen man for the Cardinals for the last three years amassing 202 games in relief with zero starts. He won the job with a good spring and has continued to pitch well into the season. It is only two starts, but he's given them 12 innings of a 2.25/3.56/3.48 line.

Game 4: Old stalwart Chris Carpenter will get the call for the finale. He was roughed up on Tuesday night to the tune of eight earned runs in four innings but had made two quality starts before that. When healthy he's been one of the 10 best starters in the NL for about five years with two years of nothing due to surgery.

Bullpen: Ryan Franklin continues to tread water as a closer. He's been doing the job in the 9th for about three years which, given his stuff, seems like three years too many. If you think Dodger fans are uneasy when Jonathan Broxton takes the 9th, just imagine what Cardinal fans feel like. So far this year he has not been doing the job, giving up key runs in three of his four appearances. Jason Motte is supposed to be the closer in waiting on the current roster but he's struck out one, walked four, in six innings. Recently recalled Eduardo Sanchez struck out five in two innings so we shouldn't see him on Thursday but we will have to deal with him this weekend so here is a baseball hq scouting report:

4/14/2011 - Eduardo Sanchez (RHP, STL)
Despite his small size (5'11" 170 pounds), Sanchez's velocity has ticked up over the past two seasons and now sits in the 92-95 mph range and tops out around 98 mph. The 22-year-old combines the heat with a power slider to give him two plus swing-and-miss offerings. His slider has nice late break and sink to it. Sanchez possesses solid command of both pitches, though he can be wild at times. His ability to induce groundballs gives him the potential to be a dominant reliever in the Majors. He has a closer's mentality and stuff, but will need an opportunity to rack up saves in the big leagues. Sanchez signed with the Cardinals in '05 and has a career 3.15 ERA, 3.9 Ctl, and 9.9 Dom.

Here is the BaseballHQ scouting report on the condition of the Cardinal bullpen after Franklin and Motte.

The Cardinals put Bryan Augenstein (RHP, STL) on the DL with a right groin strain and as this column was written were still trying to determine if Brian Tallet (LHP, STL) will need to join him, after Tallet fractured his non-pitching hand on Tuesday.

In the short-term, the Cardinals may need to lean more heavily on Mitchell Boggs (RHP, STL) and Trever Miller (LHP, STL). Boggs has been quite effective, with nine strikeouts in his first six innings, but he has been used primarily in low leverage situations (LI 0.51). Miller has been used in higher leverage situations (LI 1.66), but he has pitched only three innings, with no runs allowed.

The Cardinals brought Fernando Salas (RHP, STL) and Eduardo Sanchez (RHP, STL) to Arizona Wednesday night with the apparent intent of activating one or both prior to the game.

Tallet did hit the DL, so the Cardinals at the moment only have Trevor Miller as the lone lefty in the pen.

***

I was skeptical of Lance Berkman surviving playing every day in the outfield, but so far he's done it, and he's mashing. The Cardinals are light at the top and bottom but when Rasmus, Holliday, Pujols, and Berkman are in the middle, that is a formidable four, Freese will contribute. The rotation is solid; even with Wainwright gone they don't have any glaring hole. The bullpen is where we will have to make our mark if our rotation can keep the games close.

With a fresh off the DL Jon Garland pitching Friday against their weakest link, our best matchup would appear to be Saturday when Clayton Kershaw takes the mound against the inexperienced McClellan.

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