Looking ahead to the 2011 season, I wanted to run down some of the topics that have been discussed lately. For starters, I wanted to give my opinions on the Cardinals defense being better in 2011. The first thing I thought when I saw the headline was no way. How could it? The Cardinals are replacing Brendan Ryan with Ryan Theriot and the combination of Jon Jay and Ryan Ludwick with Lance Berkman. I think making the case for the defense to actually be better is a weak argument, but I do like the potential of the offense to be something special. I’m not sure it’s a long shot to think that Skip Schumaker can bounce back to a .300 AVG and .360 OBP and a WAR around 2. For Ryan Theriot, his 2008 stats of a .307 AVG, .387 OBP and a WAR of 1.8 would be nice to see. Both Theriot and Schumaker will have to hit to make up for their lack of range in the field.
Another topic I wanted to touch on was the batting order. At first, I thought the smartest move would have easily been to put Berkman in the two-hole, considering he has a career .409 OBP. I’m still not so sure that’s not the best option. The case for Berkman hitting 5th does make a lot of sense, as some have pointed out, considering the trouble with his knees. It’s hard to see Berkman going 1st too 3rd to often. The case made against Colby hitting second because it will cut down on his stolen bases is a bad one, I think. Yes, Albert Pujols doesn’t like people to run in front of him. I’m not sure Colby or any other members of the Cardinals are going to do much base stealing for Tony LaRussa anyway, though. Anyway, I think the best lineup the Cardinals could go with if all players were healthy and had average years would be:
If that lineup stayed healthy all year and produced at career average offensive seasons, the Cardinals will be in good shape, and defensive problems can be overlooked a bit. Scoring early and often will allow for late inning defensive replacements as well.
The last thing I wanted to quickly touch on was Albert Pujols. As I’ve stated before, I don’t think the Cardinals can sign him long term and be competitive, assuming they are not going to raise payroll significantly. It seems to me if the Cardinals were going to get a deal done with a hometown discount, it would be done. I’m not sure if Pujols wants to be paid A-Rod money or not, but like I’ve pointed out, even if he gets a $200 million dollar contract, it’s going to be hard for the Cardinals to stay competitive. I think the Cards have to look long term and put winning ahead of Pujols being a lifetime Cardinal.
My point is, if Pujols wanted a deal to be done with the Cardinals, I think it would have already been done. I really will be surprised if Pujols is wearing the Birds on the Bat at this time next year. It will hurt his market that the Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox all have multiple years tied up in first basemen, but I think someone will overpay just for his name. I just hope the Cardinals don’t give out a record contract to an aging 1st baseman.
Well, Happy New Year everyone. I’m not sure about you, but I am excited about the possibilities for the team assembled to this point.