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?
In thinking about fantasy baseball this morning, my mind turned to Pirates' SS Jack Wilson and his stand-out 2004 season. Fantasy players and other followers of baseball stat lines really notice those stand out seasons because they come back to burn you the next year, as a gamer or even as a fan.
Look at Wilson's 2004: .308/.335/.459, 201 H, 41 2B, 12 3B, 11 HR, 26 BB, 71 K
Not too bad, huh? Now let's look at his 2003 and 2005.
2003: .256/.303/.353, 143 H, 21 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 36 BB, 74 K
2005: .257/.299/.363, 151 H, 24 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 31 BB, 58 K
Jack Wilson had an odd-ball season in 2004, that really sticks out when you look at the rest of his lines versus ML pitching. Now, Wilson's only 28 this season, so he probably doesn't need to retire. It did get me thinking about other players with those big season that stick out like sore thumbs among their major league totals. The one that came to mind immediately from 2005 was the Brewers' Brady Clark. I found a similar perspective over at Rotisserie Baseball Musings. Clark isn't as flukish seeming as Wilson, as his numbers, other than batting average, aren't wildly disparate in every category.
Someone else whose 2005 numbers look a little fishy is none other than our own Juan Encarnacion. His 2005 line was: .287/.349/.447, somewhat out of place with the rest of his career, not this subject hasn't gotten its fair share of attention in the land of Cardinal bloggers.
How concerned are you if you're a Derrek Lee fan?
Trolling the news for content, for bloggers, seems a bit like chasing around Britney Spears, taking pictures of her buying Aqua Net, just waiting for that one moment when you can snap a shot of her endangering the lives of her new baby and fellow motorists by holding the pup in her lap while she drives a car. Nevertheless, you can find interesting stuff out there with a gazillion different media outlets.Ozzie Smith is becoming rather adept at golf, and is playing the in Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this weekend. You can learn more in an interview with The Wizard over at the San Jose Mercury News. If you're not so inclined to read more puff "journalism" today, I'll sum up the dramatic climax of the interview.Asked if he would vote McGwire into the HOF, Ozzie responded in the finest traditions of Congressional testimony:
I don't have a vote. I don't have a vote. I don't have a vote, so I don't know.
I want my warm and fuzzy relationship!Now, if you've been trolling around the internets today, you've no doubt come across some debate about the financial commitment of the Cardinals' ownership and questions about their intentions to sell the team. Today's flurry of activity seems largely to stem from Will Leitch's contribution today at Baseball Prospectus, in which he muses over the business moves being made by the team and the corrosive effect on the relationship with the best fans in baseball.There's not much to add that hasn't already been said, and I said my piece over in the comments section over at VEB, which you have probably already read. I'll summarize my points quickly. Some of these moves, in terms of adding assets such as team-owned media outlets, are they way business is going to be done in the new baseball world (I have more issues as a member of an 'independent' media about the vertical consolidation). The KMOX thing hit Cards fans because it represented the end of tradition, and worst of all it was handled incredibly poorly from a PR perspective. Messing with tradition seems to smack baseball fans more than others. CardNilly echoes the idea of the PR mistakes made by the team this year. My second point, which I stated in the VEB comments section, is that reconnecting with the fan base is going to require a more sophisticated PR/marketing approach, and not complaining to the Post-Dispatch about being unfairly criticized. DeWitt, Jocketty, La Russa, and everybody should be out there working the press - from the big boys in St. Louis to hometown rags and local, small-market TV stations around the geographic base of fandom - explaining decisions, personnel moves and everything else ALL THE TIME. DeWitt should know something about this strategy since he's good buddies with the President, whose staff has successfully used this approach to sell the country a needless war and a whole mess of other stuff. Society has moved beyond baseball PR as charity golf tournaments, promotional days at the stadium, or disco record burnings for that matter. The Cards have simply not gotten themselves to the level of other teams in this regard. You can't approach the best fans in baseball with a "trust us" approach.
I'm starting to rant, and that's not what I want to do. There's another really important point to be made here that should resonate with readers of sites like this and the others mentioned above. Baseball and the Cardinals specifically need to recognize the power of new media, such as the blog. (See Leitch's other article today at Baseball Analysts.) The "professionals" offer a very limited perspective, and for the team, a very limited means of reaching fandom. If the Cards want to connect with the diehards and get their messages heard out there, then it's time to recognize what impact bloggers have, at least as much as the paid beat writers - with all due respect to them. Go try to get press credentials through MLB Advance media - which is just going to get you email press releases anyway- you can't do it. If 10,000 people a day read your blog, you're still shit outta luck. To me, this seems incredibly short-sighted. The blogs reach as many or more people - with money to buy things like memorabilia and tickets, demographic research show - as lots of 'official' media outlets. Some teams have gone a lot further recognizing this, you've seen Billy Beane and Omar Minaya show up on fan blogs for their respective teams. Have you seen Jocketty or any other major officials from the Cards 'round the 'unofficial' quarters of the web? Go try to find one instance of Cardinals management give press time to a blogger. Has any other blogger received a polite form email declining or flat-out ignoring their requests for interviews? I bet I'm not alone. Anyway, it's just one small measure for getting the team's message out to fans, but it shouldn't be ignored anymore than stumping in Pottsville.
Some information regarding Travis Hanson slipped by us in the last few weeks, or it just wasn't all that blog-worthy at the time. The 25-year-old third baseman will start the season with AAA Memphis this year (hat tip to the Springfield News-Leader).
If you recall, Hanson's development was delayed a bit by a nasty broken ankle that caused him to miss most of the 2004 season. His line with AA Springfield last year was pretty solid: .284/.347/.458, 20 HR, 97 RBI, 54 BB, 99 K, 546 AB.
Considered a particularly strong defender, he got off to a poor start in '05 due to little tentativeness with his ankle. He's blocked at 3B by Rolen for a couple years at least, if Rolen's health holds out. Depending on he performs in Memphis, it could be interesting to see what his future with the team is. Cribbing from some of the info over at the Birdhouse, Hanson played SS in college. Given his likely hitting stats in the majors, it would be difficult to justify him as a corner infielder anyway. However, as a second baseman, he might have much more value.
Look for three possible scenarios this year for Hanson, figuring he assumes a normal course of development in AAA this year. One, he stays in Memphis, develops as a player, and makes a run in Spring '07 for a starting spot with the team (this track assumes the normal September call up). Second, he does well and joins the club as a utility infielder this year. Finally, he does well in Memphis and get tossed into a deal Jocketty makes.
With the flotsam and jetsam of Aaron Miles and Deivi Cruz behind the quasi-flotsam Junior Spivey, it's unlikely they'll need another keystoner (tee hee) this season. However, if this year's reclamation pick at second, Spviey, doesn't work out, there may be more of a case to search for a solution within the organization. I think we will be able to gleen much more insight once the season begins and we see how Hanson does in Jupiter and whether or not he plays 2B in Memphis. It merits watching.
Mets Geek has a piece up today comparing the Mets and the Cards for "class of the NL." While their overall analysis hands that title to Cards, the Geeks find them to be pretty similar teams. Couple of interesting notes here.
The potential difference maker for the Mets would come if the team adds a true second starter. This would give the Metropolitans of Queens the edge over the Cards' rotation, according to the Geeks. I think it would depend on who that acquisition is. Inspired by another Geek article looking at the Mets' starters, I compared the two rotations, finding some interesting similarities and giving the edge to the Birds.
Okay Spivey fans, get ready for this one: Geeks give the hated, underachieving Kazuo Matsui the edge, slightly, over our latest second base rehab project. I might have to agree on this one. Until he proves otherwise, I'm down on Spivey. It's not the most rational position to take, but one good season (2002) does not a star make.
Go check it out, and then see what you think, Cards or the Mets best in the NL?
Cardinal greats Willie McGee and the late Curt Flood will be among seven athletes honored this Friday in San Jose at the annual African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame (link) induction ceremony. Flood played for the Cards from 1958-1971, and McGee played for the team from 1982-1990 with a second stint from 1996-1999. Both Bay Area natives, they were indispensable parts of the the Cardinal dynasties of the 1960s and 1980s. I loved watching McGee (and the whole team) play in the 80s, and his 1985 MVP season was extra special to see as an awe-struck 9-year-old. When I went off to college, I didn't pay much attention to baseball for few years as other things captured my attention. McGee's return in 1996 played a big part in rediscovering the joy baseball brought me. While I never saw Flood play, I admired him as much as any player from his era because of his willingness to stand up for what was right when tradition was being used as the reason for treating players like team property. He brought the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s into baseball.
"I guess you really have to understand who that person, who that Curt Flood was. I'm a child of the sixties, I'm a man of the sixties. During that period of time this country was coming apart at the seams. We were in Southeast Asia. Good men were dying for America and for the Constitution. In the southern part of the United States we were marching for civil rights and Dr. King had been assassinated, and we lost the Kennedys. And to think that merely because I was a professional baseball player, I could ignore what was going on outside the walls of Busch Stadium was truly hypocrisy and now I found that all of those rights that these great Americans were dying for, I didn't have in my own profession." Curt Flood
Congrats to both players. You'll always be hall of famers to us Cardinals fans.
Remember what I said yesterday about the potential threat from the Brewers? Yes, lost in an analogy that is entirely too long, but one I was particularly fond of, is a warning for prognosticators to beware the Brewers youth movement forgetting their youth and playing like fierce competitors.
For an interesting (scary?) look at what a young team with a few key veterans on it is capable of see this excerpt from Dayn Perry's book, Winners, at FoxSports.com. Sure Koskie is no Terry Pendleton, but Jenkins and Lee fill similar roles. Oh, they've also got someone named Robin Yount on the coaching staff.
There is a low-level debate taking place right now around the topic of the Brewers' lot in 2006. Some feel like they are a year away from being a playoff team; others say they are a real threat to watch out for in 2006. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick picked them as his 2006 NL Surprise team. The reality is that they probably won't threaten the Cards for best in the Central; however, they're a good team with lots of potential, enough potential that they have to taken seriously.
The key here is youth. Two main elements on the team, Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder, are highly touted youngsters looking to complete their first full season in the league this year. The sage wisdom says that they're too young and inexperienced to mount much of a threat to the Cards, Cubs or Astros this year, and therein lies the central aspect of misunderestimation for the Brewers. If the kids on the team, with those two leading the youth movement, forget the rule that their age and inexperience precludes them from winning, watch out. Suddenly the onus of production wouldn't fall exclusively to veterans Carlos Lee and Geoff Jenkins. That's a team that can win a few more games solely on the basis of their offensive production, even with Koskie at the hot corner full time.
The pitching staff was effective if criminally unheralded last year. There's an analogy here with the starring cast from the 2001 film Ghost World. Each individual performance was excellent and made for a wonderful film (okay, the writing was pretty damn good too). However, other than Steve Buscemi, nobody else in the film was a marquee name in Hollywood. With Ben Sheets as the young, talented starter who has yet to appear consistently on the A-list, the rest of the cast/rotation delivered incredibly strong performances last season. If that continues this season, Ben Sheets and Capuano and Doug Davis will catapult their names into the minds of critics and fans around the league. One or more of those guys could become pitchers that compete for top billing, just like Ghost World's Scarlett Johansson, without the grrrrrr factor.
In mid-September the Brewers were contending with the Astros for the NL Wild Card. Like Oscar hopes for Ghost World, they faded, but the team went home on everyone's radar. This might not be their year to take home Oscar gold in the form of the NL Central title, but they could easily win six or seven more games to get the third place Best Adapted Screenplay statue, otherwise known as the Wild Card.
Player #1 is Dan Haren and player #2 is Anthony Reyes. I didn't put there numbers side by side to lament Haren's loss. I put them there to take a look at what two similar pitchers might be capable of in their early 20s, and I really intended to make the point that Reyes is ready to pitch in the majors this season. Haren got a pretty sizable chunk of major league innings under his belt as a 22 year old. Remember that 2003 season? Jeff Fassero started games for the Birds that year it got so bleak. Clearly, by his age 24 season last year he was more than ready. Reyes doesn't have that major league experience heading into his age 24 season this year, but he has clearly progressed about as far as he is going to in the minor league system. That sub-4.00 ERA in the PCL is pretty impressive; it's a hitters' league. Looking at the age breakdown, one could also make the case that Reyes might not be ready to start 32 games for the Cardinals this year. Letting a young pitcher assume a full-time starting role from the beginning of the season and going through all the ups and downs of learning to pitch in the league isn't a luxury that a team built to "win now" really has. That explains part of LaRussa's hesitancy to use younger guys like Reyes in the rotation. With Haren they didn't really have a choice, reclamation projects like Simmotacchi burned out in that 2003 season. I don't love the idea of using Ponson and Reyes as starters and bullpen pitchers. Part of it is the reluctance to stick a talented young kid in the bullpen and let his condition fall into that of a one or two inning pitcher. Also, he is only 24, so it's not necessary a now or never scenario either. He does pack tremendous upside, and could come in and have a great rookie campaign that makes everybody tell the person in the seat next to them how lucky we were that Burnett didn't sign with us back in December. Age wise, the kid is ready, and most likely he'll get the chance to prove himself this year in something more than a September call up role. Looking at the stats confirms that LaRussa would rather start an adequate veteran without much 'umph' than a talented young rookie with 'the stuff' and no experience. It's a lot that stupid job experience catch 22 we run into after graduating from college: must have experience for a job, but how the hell can I get that experience if nobody hires me because I'm unexperienced?!? While I generally like LaRussa's managing, this is a major point of disagreement, and if he starts listening to schulbs with blogs we can clash over the point. Again, I think this approach is also brought on by being in a 'win now' situation, which, like everyone's favorite animal lover, has its pros and cons.
You probably thought this was just going to be another dull Monday at the office, lousing your way through the motions until 5 p.m. rolled around as you nurse that Super Bowl party hangover. Nope. Excitement abounds in the Diaspora, as we kick off today's two-parter with a guessing game. Unless you've been too busy trying to figure out why the Rolling Stones are still performing live or even living, it will be pretty easy to guess who these two guys are. Note the emphasis on age being the central factor for analysis, that will be a key plot point when I get Act 2 posted later today.Player #1In desperation, LaRussa and Duncan asked this 22-year-old hurler to be part of the rotation as injury claimed their bargain basement reclamation projects. With unruly locks of hair flailing from the sides of his cap, this young man admirably stepped up. Although the results of his first exposure to the bigs were less than striking, progress was made. He returned to Memphis at the start of the next season to continue his development at the age of 23, but he returned to the big club to post solid results that year. By 24, this player was deemed fit for a full time major league role, and got his chance somewhere else in strange league where pitchers don't bat. Who is player #1?Age 22AA: 6-1, 0.82 ERA, 8 GS, 55 IP, 6 BB, 49 K, 8.02 K/9, 0.76 WHIPAAA: 2-1, 4.93 ERA, 8 GS, 45.6 IP, 8 BB, 35 K, 6.90 K/9, 1.27 WHIPMLB: 3-7, 5.08 ERA, 14 GS, 72.6 IP, 22 BB, 43 K, 5.33 K/9, 1.46 WHIPAge 23AAA: 11-4, 4.15 ERA, 21 GS, 128 IP, 33 BB, 150 K, 10.55 K/9, 1.32 WHIPMLB: 3-3, 4.50 ERA, 14 G (5 GS), 46 IP, 17 BB, 32 K, 6.26 K/9, 1.35 WHIPAge 24MLB: 14-12, 3.72 ERA, 34 GS, 217 IP, 53 BB, 163 K, 6.76 K/9, 1.22 WHIP
-----------Player #2 seems as level on the mound as the bill of cap, and possess talent very similar to player #1. He breezed through A and AA ball, and found himself in AAA at 23. Clearly, management has been stingy about giving this pitcher much playing time in the major leagues, eventhough he appears to have maxed out what he could do in AAA. Who is player #2?Age 22High A: 3-0, 4.66 ERA, 7 GS, 36.6 IP, 7 BB, 38 K, 9.33 K/9, 1.31 WHIPAA: 6-2, 2.91 ERA, 12 GS, 74.3 IP, 13 BB, 102 k, 12.35 K/9, 1.01 WHIPAge 23AAA: 7-6, 3.64 ERA, 128.3 IP, 34 BB, 136 K, 9.51 K/9, 1.08 WHIPMLB: 1-1, 2.70 ERA, 13.3 IP, 4 BB, 12 K, 8.10 K/9, 0.75 WHIPAge 24?????????
Have Jocketty & Co. started a new "moneyball" trend? Other teams around the league are scooping up all the "projects," very bandwagonesque. The idea itself makes perfect financial sense in a market gone mad, where Paul Byrd has to deposit his paycheck with a dump truck. The upside of it's huge, see Carpenter, Chris. However, like so many other trends, you kind of have to wonder about some of the actions taken in an effort to keep up, see Simontacchi, Jason.
I could be way off here, and this idea has been around for a long time. I don't have the time or energy to research that point and present it in chart form, come on it's Friday afternoon, I shouldn't even be sitting here at this point in the day. If my observation is correct and this is a recent trend, we can start watching for the various extremes of it now. Reactionaries will continue to pay Paul Byrd oodles of money to round out their rotation, and the faithful will continue to sign Simontacchis and Ponsons. It merits some attention.
Former Cardinal starter Jason Simontacchi has resurfaced. Cub Town spots a footnote in the Chicago newspapers reporting the Cubs have signed Simontacchi to a minor league deal. Looks like St. Louis isn't the only place in the NL Central for broken toys.
Potential irony alert: Watch for Simontacchi to start for the Cubs as a fill-in for injured pitchers and get the win against Sidney Ponson. Ugh.
Exercise your right to pursue nerdiness, and join the Cardinals Diaspora fantasy baseball league!
Yahoo! has opened registration for fantasy baseball. As discussed earlier in these pages, I've put together a free league for Cardinal fans, bloggers, and other aficionados. This league is a standard 12 team roto league, so sign up before all the spots are taken. To give this league a little extra identity, I added sac flys and sac hits into the stat categories for hitters as well as batters grounding into DPs for pitchers. Those additional categories add a little flavor Cards fans will be readily familiar with.
Below is the league info. To join, head over to Yahoo's fantasy sport page (http://baseball.fantasysports.yahoo.com/b1) and navigate your way to the baseball part of it. When you sign up just enter this league's info, create your team, and it's fun time. The draft will take place on Monday, February 20 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time. If that time becomes a problem for people, let me know, and we can change it.
League name: Cardinals Diaspora
League id#: 8894
Come ready to compete, in as a much as you can compete wafting through stat reports and spending even more time on the internet. If you're a blogger, even better, we can tie the blogs into the league to talk trash, commiserate, discuss, etc.
If demand runs high and you can't get in, leave a comment or email me, and we can add another league. Alright, get ready to rumble, or something like that. Be part of this groundbreaking (?) one-of-a-kind blog experiment that promises to be more fun than the Stanford Prison experiment.
Related fantasy question for readers/fans: Do you have a keeper league with an opening OR would there be some interest in starting a keeper league (however one does that)? If so, let me know. Thanks.
In an effort to further alienate the people in my life, I have been thinking lately about purchasing a baseball video game for the PS2, an Xmas gift. The problem here is that I know next to nothing about baseball video games. I have no history with them from the Atari 2600 to the current gaming system.
Therefore, I'm calling out a favor from the Diaspora readership. Please give me your suggestions for a good way to insert even more baseball into my time. This seems like a much better approach than trolling the online reviews or asking the kids at Best Buy. I trust the opinion of the Cardinals fan, eventhough I don't know you, you obviously have good taste as evidenced by your choice of baseball teams to support and your decision to kill precious moments of your life reading the mad ramblings of this blogger.
My interest in this goes back to some Flash-based game MSNBC had on their site in the summer of 2004. You were a pitcher and threw sliders, curves, etc. to different hitters in different situations. It was nothing complex, but I could have played it all day. In fact, I think I might have spent more than a few days in an old job playing that game. It's gone now, and there's a hole in my life that needs to be filled. My corporate masters now are a bit less understanding, so this activity will have to be conducted from home via the PS2.
I do have a few criteria in game selection. First, I'm not the world's most gifted game player, so I need a game with a relatively low learning curve. The thought of having to manipulate three buttons at a time to pitch intimidates me. Second, I won't be spending more than 3-4 hours a week playing this game. I play casually here and there. That said, I wouldn't mind something were you could go online and play a game or two every now and then. I guess I don't really have any other major criteria. I'm not married to the idea of a game using real Cardinal players, and in fact I have seen some pretty positive feedback on the NCAA baseball game that is out now. Is that one really complex? I know you can't play as the University of Wyoming (undergrad) because they cut the baseball team while I was a freshman, some years back.
Oh, one more requirement: the ability to type in childish, immature names. As a young lad I reaped great amusement typing in a-s-s for my Centipede high score on the arcade version that sat in the movie theatre lobby. G-F-L later became my gaming moniker in ironic tribute to Snoop Dogg.Give me your thoughts on this, and help me find a suitable baseball game for the PS2.
It seems like every spring when people are making their predictions that the Astros are pretty consistently left out of the mix in the NL Central. Certainly that was the case as teams headed to spring training in 2004. In 2005, they got a little more attention, but few could look back and point to picking them over the Cubs or the Cardinals (who usually were picked as the division's second place finisher). Maybe, I'm wrong here, so, unless you're a rabid Astro's fan who obviously picked your team, please correct me. They have become the very team that embodies the spirit of misunderestimation when it comes to making preseason picks. For the first month or so of the season, the Astros live up to the analysis. Then, somehow, they turn things around, whether it's hiring Garner or trading for Beltran or lighting a fire under Morgan Ensberg's keister. There have been some changes with their team this year, and those Bee Guys are older. New Astro Preston Wilson hit for power to right field, a nice place to have a power alley if you play half your games in Houston with that Seafood Surprise Deck in right. As of now, they've lost Clemens, management refusing to bite the Farve-esque retirement waffle. Clemens may, however, may merely be stalling for time, signing with the team in May to get an extra month of rest after looking gassed by the time the "-ber" months rolled around. If they win the Bagwell insurance battle, they'll have some money to spend. I don't know what they'd spend it on, besides Clemens, but some extra dinero is hardly a liability in today's game. The Houston Spacemen will be back and competitive next year; you can bet on it. The main reason I make this statement confidently: they haven't made any moves that actually weaken their team and the essential components of the 2005 team are back ready to play. They never seem to be a threat, but they always turn out to sting you right on the Ass-tro (cheesy pun, I apologize).