Albert Pujols – The most obvious and most talked about returner to the Cardinals lineup. Pujols represents the “no doubter” in the Cardinals lineup. Plays first and bats third. So automatic that even with all of LaRussa’s lineup tinkering, this isn’t likely to change. The only exception to that would be if LaRussa decided to flip flop him with Matt Holliday, if Holliday is slumping. Pujols is also one of the few guarantees in the lineup when it comes to production. Pujols slump lasts long and when he comes out of one, it’s usually with a bang. He’s also never been injury prone in his career. Some minor flare ups here and there, but nothing major. We all know it’s up in the air if Pujols is going to be a Cardinals in 2012 and beyond, so for now, just enjoy him while we got him.
Matt Holliday – This was the guy they shelled all the money into last year as a free agent, in order to form a solid team around Pujols. He serves as protection at the dish and a decent defender in left field. This is an all-star caliber player and when he’s hot, he’s HOT, but like many a Cardinal outfielder before him, he can be prone to a cold streak or two. His consistency in protecting Albert will be huge to the success of 2011 Cardinals.
Yadier Molina – Believe it or not, Yadi is now a griseled veteran with seven years under his belt. His season ended a couple weeks early last year due to injury and what else can you expect? He had already caught way more games than pretty much every other catcher in the league. Yadi’s a gamer, no doubt about it and the pitching staff has expressed their appreciation. They trust Yadi behind the plate and having a guy like that back there makes our pitchers that much better. They don’t pay him for his offense, but I’d like to see him bump it up a touch this year. On a completely other note, I’d also like to see him kick the crap out of Brandon Phillips. 🙂
Colby Rasmus – It’s hard to fully appreciate Colby when a guy like Jimmy Edmonds is retiring. But he’s also still very young and making a name for himself. He’s a good hitter and fielder, but I don’t believe he’s reached his potential yet. He needs to be a tad more patient at the plate and lower his strikeout rate. Part of the problem is probably his lack of focus. Last year, he made headlines for comments about “wanting a trade.” Hopefully, he can learn from a guy like Pujols when it comes to that sort of thing. There’s a time to talk and during the season is not it. Put your head down, shut up and play the game. If he can do that, he has the makings of being a big time player. If he can’t, just call him J.D. Drew and trade him already.
Skip Schumaker – It’s still unclear what Skip’s going to be in the world of baseball. Infielder? Outfielder? Lifetime utility guy? Journeyman? Whatever it is, I have enjoyed his contributions to the Cardinal team. He always seems to be working hard at whatever role is thrown his way. And when he asked, he turned himself to a pretty good 2nd baseman. He also had a down year at the plate in 2010, hitting well below the .300 mark he had reached in his previous three seasons. With a plethora of utility type players on the lineup, it’s likely that Skip will see some time at a variety of positions and places in the lineup, but you have to think that he’s going to see a lot of time as the leadoff guy. But in LaRussa’s crazy world, nothing is guaranteed.
David Freese – Though he hasn’t spent much time as a Cardinal due to injury, I’m still including him in the returning players, as he was THE 3rd baseman for the first part of last year. The Cardinals are needing much longer from him this year. Reports have been that he is taking it easy during Spring Training so as not to re-injure anything. During his brief stint, however, he did show a lot of promise. He has the potential to be a great contributor this year and years to come, especially as we inevitably lose higher paid players.
Jon Jay / Daniel Descalso / Tyler Greene / Allen Craig – Four guys who saw various amounts of playing time last year at the Major League level. Where they fit this year remains to be determined. Right field that became a platoon on the departure of Ryan Ludwick last year is back to probably a one-man show upon the acquisition of Lance Berkman. It remains to be seen who is in St. Louis and who is elsewhere upon the arrival of Opening Day. At least a couple of these guys will find themselves filling utility roles and backups for starting guys. Greene was used quite a bit last year when Freese went down. And rumor has it that he might even see some time at center. But that shouldn’t be surprising. LaRussa has a tendency to want a team of guys that can play multiple positions to allow for creative lineups and subbing situations. My main hope is that Jay gets another hot streak going like he had last year and is a force off the bench.
On paper, the returning guys are pretty solid. But injuries and down seasons can certainly change things. This team is built around Pujols and Hollliday and I expect both of these guys to deliver what we’re used to seeing. If the other guys like Molina, Freese and Skip can up their game, it looks to be a good year for the Cardinals.
Next up will be the returning pitching staff.
Solid veteran lineup,
I have one piece of advice to the Cardinals: Eat more chicken. Zaxbys chicken to be exact. Rasmus is a Georgia native, born a couple hours south of where the Braves call home and decided to pick up some chicken before the game, giving some to Wainwright to eat as well.
Watch video here.
Wainwright’s took a little bit longer than Rasmus’ to take effect, but in the end, both guys were key components of the Cardinals’ thrashing of the Atlanta Braves. There isn’t an Zaxby’s in Missouri, but I’m willing to have it shipped to the Cards for the rest of the season if that’s what it takes. Who’s in with me?
Though in order for the chicken to work today, LaRussa has to be willing to play Rasmus against a lefty. Something he has been reluctant to do, which irritates the crap out of me, as I expressed in my previous post.
Eating chicken for lunch,
I enjoyed last night’s lineup. I love Skip Schumaker leading off because at this point, I think he’s our best leadoff guy. And this lineup seemed to work as well. Why you feel the need to tinker with the lineup every single day is beyond me. Why you feel the need to tinker with the lineup after a win, especially, is beyond me. Colby had a good day. He’s always hit Atlanta pitching well. Why not give him another shot? Probably because you will want to do something ridiculous with the lineup. I’m old school and I believe that pitchers should hit 9th, but I know that’s too much to ask, so I won’t. All I do ask is for you to find a lineup, let the guys build some chemistry and trust (which is so obviously lacking in this team) with each other and then only do slight tweaks from time to time. No more overmanaging!! Or else you make me want to do this.
I don’t think it’s too much to bat your best guys 1-8, stick the pitcher 9th, and then bring in the other guys from your bench as needed. In 2006, he had no problem sitting the very talented Scott Rolen in favor of the extremely hot hitting Scott Spiezio. In fact, he did this, despite the rift that it caused between him and Rolen. Yet, with this lineup, he feels the need to start guys who have no business starting, unless they’re giving a regular a break every couple months.
Pitching change. Good time for an update.
Prior to Sunday afternoon’s series finale against San Fran, I predicted that this would be the game that the Cardinal bats would finally break free and that Jaime Garcia would be good. Well, I was certainly right about the bats. The offense did, indeed, come alive in a BIG way. So far, still in the 7th inning, the Redbird offense has put together 8 runs on 13 hits. Every starter (including Jaime) has a hit to his credit and all but two have an RBI. Even Allen Craig got in on the act! I’ve given him a hard time on here for his lack of production, so now I gotta give him props for his 2 run shot over the left field wall.
But I was wrong about Garcia. He has not simply been, “good.” He has been OUTSTANDING. He’s pitched 7 innings and has only thrown 67 pitches. Are you kidding me??? That’s less than 10 pitches per inning. And with the big lead, I see no reason for LaRussa to move the kid. But with LaRussa, you just never know; he does tend to overmanage.
But barring any tinkering by the Cardinal skipper, Garcia should get his first complete game today and possibly his first shutout as well. Add that to his 11th win and Garcia is a dark horse for Rookie of the Year. I didn’t think he had a shot because it’s harder for a pitcher to win this award than a fielder and because there has been so much made of Jason Heyward. But if Garcia continues to add to his resume with a few more wins, don’t count him out just yet.
We’ll come back to the game with Holliday at-bat with the bases loaded and 2 out following a walk to Pujols. After Pujols walked the first time, Holliday did nothing. He must make them pay this time.
Rooting for a shutout for the rookie,
The pitchers have been adequate in our losses, but the bats had fallen
asleep. But our stopper, Carpenter pitched yesterday and hopefully got
us back on track. So I have no reason to think that Jaime Garcia won’t continue to be good today.
And for some reason, I think this is the day that the offense fully wakes up. There were glimmers of it yesterday, but it’s still not where we all know this Cardinal lineup can be. Sometimes all you need is a good shakeup and that seems to be provided for in the acquisition of Pedro Feliz, who hit an RBI triple yesterday. Additionally, Tony LaRussa has decided to join the ranks of every other manager in baseball by hitting the pitcher 9th. He hasn’t done this for two months or so.
Plus, we have several guys in the lineup who have tore up Giants pitcher, Barry Zito, over the years. Of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Any pitcher that has ever been a decent pitcher, we seem to be able to handle fine. (Case in point: yesterday vs. Tim Lincecum.) It’s the no name pitchers that we seem to struggle against.
So, here’s hoping that Zito grooves a couple over, especially to Albert. Wouldn’t it be great to see him get to that 400 mark today? I think so.
Come on, Redbirds….let’s go get this rubber game match!
Looking for offense,
If you listen to the words, you will quickly realize that this song is old with references to guys like Gary Gaetti and the Benes brothers.. Nevertheless, I am posting it in honor of the Cardinals manager beginning his 2 game suspension today.
Indeed, the dust has settled and the punishments handed down from the powers on high at Major League Baseball. It breaks down like this. The only people suspended in the 7 minute “scrum” (I adore Carp) were Cardinal manager, Tony LaRussa (left), Reds manager, Dusty Baker, (right) and roundhouse kicking, “I’m a scared little girl” Reds pitcher, Johnny Cueto.
I also agree with the fines. Even though I 100% support Molina in what he did, he was going to get fined and I don’t think he’d even argue with that. I have no idea what Carp said, but clearly he was saying something and the umpire was right there. Obviously, the umpire felt that what he said warranted the fine, but it wasn’t bad enough for a suspension. Phillips deserves the fine as well for starting the whole mess to begin with and then purposely agitating Molina before his at-bat. Apparently Springer was fined only because he was on the DL and was on the field. I had no idea that was even a rule. Wonder if he did. Plus, let’s be honest….as much as these guys make, a fine is a slap on the wrist at best.
The only one that really matters in all this is Johnny Cueto and frankly, I’m disgusted that he only got a 7 game suspension. That’s basically one start. Big deal. The guy was KICKING PEOPLE IN THE FACE WITH SPIKES. There’s no way you can justify that, although if you read enough message boards with Cincy fans, they try to find a way. No, he wasn’t trapped. If he was trapped, how did he manage to bicycle kick Jason LaRue so hard in the face that he split his lip, gave him stitches, a concussion and a trip to the DL? Carp was trapped and he stayed calm. Suppan was on the freakin’ bottom of the pile and had to crawl to safety and he didn’t hurt anyone. I would say a 21 game suspension or 3 starts would be a lot more appropriate.
And still Baker has the nerve to whine to the office about Carp and Molina not getting suspended. What an idiot. Carp was only going to suspended if what he said was laced with completely inappropriate comments and obviously it wasn’t. And if you’re going to suspend Yadi, you definitely have to suspend Phillips. Is that what he wants? Don’t tell me Molina was more involved than Philips was. Come on. And again, he’s lucky that he didn’t lose a starting pitcher for a lot longer. Then again, I never did like Dusty Baker. And even getting out of a Cubs uniform didn’t help that.
But what’s done is done. Even if Cueto appeals, I don’t think it will matter. The most he would get reduced would be a game and that would still mean missing a start. In any case, it’s over, and we move on from here.
The one positive from all this is that the Cardinals were playing with a little fire in their belly and that’s the first time we’ve seen that in awhile. I hope the veterans in the clubhouse are able to harness that and show the youngsters what it means to really stay focused and compete hard. There are several guys on that team who played for the championship 4 years ago and I think the sparring match with the Reds only wet their appetite for more October baseball.
For now it’s just a matter of getting there. I think we proved against the Reds that when we send Carpenter, Garcia and Wainwright to the mound, we have a pretty good shot at taking the series, if not the sweep. And that will do in the postseason, but to get us there we’re going to need either Westbrook, Suppan, Hawksworth or Loshe to get going and be a competitive number 4 and 5.
The Cardinal bats were hot this series. For all the doubters that said Albert was slumping because he was putting up “only” great numbers instead of super human numbers, he’s back to being super human. Holliday has picked up the pace as well and John Jay has been the best table setter we’ve had in quite some time. And if these last couple games are any indication of what Ryan, Schumaker, Rasmus and Molina intend to do from here on out, I’ll take it. We knew the Redbirds had it in them all season, but apparently it took a punk like Brandon Philips to bring it out of us. And for that, we thank him.
Serving my one game suspension today,