My first wish for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals is for the team to remain healthy. I’m doing an in depth look at comparing the Cardinals against the Reds and Brewers in the next few days, and the first thing that jumped out at me about the Brewers and Reds was that they have some glaring holes on offense. The Cards don’t look as bad as some might think compared position by position against the two teams. The offensive holes might point to the Cardinals being the weaker team at first glance, but I think we match up quite well.
It looks like the Reds are going to go with Paul Janish at shortstop, while the Brewers are going with Yuniesky Betancourt. If you look at their stats, neither one of them are going to make Ryan Theriot look bad. I’m going to combine sabermetrics with more basic stats as a way to show that in both the starting 8 and the 5 man rotation, as long as the Cardinals stay healthy, we should win the NL Central. The Brewers did scare me a bit, but do a little less now.
In the article I posted yesterday, I posted the Vegas odds on the Cardinals, Reds, Brewers and all the teams with better odds than them to win the WS. I put a lot of stock into those odds because the bookies don’t want to make mistakes that might cost them millions of dollars. Let’s just say I put more emphasis in those than I do Yahoo’s power rankings, for example. I’m getting away from Christmas wishes here, but let’s just say I feel better about seeing the Cardinals at 15-1 odds to win the 2011 WS than I would at 50-1.
Again, I’ll go into more detail in the next few days with some detailed stats. For now, I want to point out a few things, like Rickie Weeks striking out 184 times in 2010. He’s a great leadoff hitter, and put up career numbers across the board. Weeks hit 29 HR’s, had 83 RBI’s, had a .269 AVG and a .366 OBP and was 11 for 15 in stolen base attempts. However, it was the first time in his career that he had more than 475 AB’s. So while we worry about the health of Freese, Carpenter and Lohse, the Brewers and the Reds have plenty of players who have a history of health problems as well.
One player I’m hoping to see some good production out of is Tyler Greene. We can all see the potential in Greene. He’s shown flashes, and he put up some good numbers in AAA Memphis in 2009, showing off his power and speed in 340 AB’s, hitting 15 HR’s and was 31 for 34 in stolen base attempts.
I’m hoping Greene can adapt to the super sub role, and hopefully he shows the Cardinals enough to make him a starter in the future. I think he smiled the most when we traded Brendan Ryan. I haven’t given up on him yet, and I hope the Cardinals give him some more time. He might be an important piece of the 2011 Cardinals, especially if Freese, Theriot or Skip goes down with an injury.
As far as the minor leagues, I’m hoping Matt Carpenter can continue to impress and not skip a beat as he moves to AAA Memphis. Another player that looks impressive on paper is Aaron Luna. Luna’s OBP and OPS, though a small sample size, has been impressive. I’m hoping to see him play in a trip to Memphis this year. I don’t see much talk of Luna, and he was only an honorable mention in a recent article on the Cardinals top 20 prospects by John Sickels. I’m curious if he has a future at 2B, where his numbers would shine much better. I also want to see Shelby Miller pitch this year. It doesn’t look like the Cardinals know exactly what level he’ll start from. I talk of the minor league players here because of how vital their success will be if we sign Albert Pujols to a lifetime contract.
So, that’s one Cardinals Christmas wish list for me; to be able to make it to plenty of minor league games this year, something I have failed to do most years. I only named a few, but I’m really anxious to see a lot of our minor leaguers at all levels.
Back to the big club, I want to talk about Dave Duncan. I don’t think enough can ever be said about how great he is. I think this might be the first time in a while that he’s starting the season with the rotation he wants, 1-5. I’ve mentioned it before, but I believe Duncan when he spoke highly of Kyle Lohse on the Bernie Miklasz show a few months back. He really believes Lohse is going to be a strong starter again if healthy.
The fact is, Lohse underwent a procedure normally only needed on motocross and distance runners, so maybe the injury will end Lohse’s career, or reduce him to a long man in the bullpen. If Lohse is healthy though, he will be pitching from the 5th spot in the rotation, and the pressure should be off somewhat. I really don’t think the Cardinals would have given Lohse the 4 year, $41 million contract extension back in 2008 if he didn’t have the ingredients that Duncan desires, and you have to think that Duncan felt good enough about Lohse to give the Cards the green light because he wanted to keep him around. If Lohse can come close to his 15-6 record with a 3.78 ERA in 200 IP from 2008, we probably have the best 5th starter in MLB.
The Cardinals have focused on team chemistry this offseason. Barring injury and a few comebacks, their stats compared against the Brewers and Reds don’t look that bad. So it’s not as if talent was sacrificed just for team chemistry. The Cardinals have a lot to prove in 2011, and it will take the health of a lot of players to come out on top. If someone goes down, I hope that Allen Craig, Tyler Greene and Daniel Descalso can fill in nicely and are given the opportunity to do so.
On top of my Cards Christmas wish list to take in a few games at all levels in the minors and having a healthy big club, I’m going to spring training and will hopefully have the oppurtunity to buy a couple of tickets to the 2011 World Series. I’m approaching 2011 with a full glass of Cardinal Kool-Aid, and while initially I was a little hesitant of some of the moves, I think we have a lot to look forward to.
For some Christmas spirit, after Jack’s Take below are a few pictures of my dog Cain in his new Cardinals sweater. I think his Christmas wish list is complete with a new rawhide bone, knucklebone, a new Frisbee. First, here’s Jack’s Take on his Cardinal Christmas wish list:
Jack’s Cardinals Christmas Wish List is that hopefully a player is going to come along from the minors soon that resembles Scott Rolen. He wants to see a youngster come up, hit a HR and motor around the bases with his head down, and act like he’s been there before. Also on Jack’s list is for us to be able to take in a Cards game at Wrigley and Coors Field, along with our trip to spring training in Jupiter, Memphis, and Springfield.
Here are the pics of my dog Cain in his new Cards gear: