Monday is the day. Yes, baseball season is only a weekend away from starting. It’s crazy, but I’m ready for it. I think it’s going to be a heck of a baseball season this year all-around. I noticed on Yahoo! Sports that there were season predictions up, and one particular article caught my eye: player awards and individual leader predictions.
After reading these, I decided to do my own.
So, here goes:
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez. Another monster year and a big one for the Yankees could easily give him the award again. Look for Miguel Cabrera to come in second place with the Tigers, who will be the best team in baseball this year despite a weak bullpen.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols. Guys, here’s an interesting point that came to my mind while reading that Yahoo! Sports article. Not one writer picked Pujols as the winner or as a dark horse. Is it possible at all that after a "down" year last year that Phat Albert is being overlooked? I think so. And in all honesty, I really and truly believe that 2008 is going to be Albert Pujols’ best campaign yet. I think he’ll put up the best numbers of his career and take the MVP. I also believe that Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies has a great shot to win it. That team is going to be just as good this year, and he’s a great player.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander. I think this guy has everything in takes in his third season to be a star. He was a great rookie in 2006, had a little slump last year, and is going to come back on fire with a great surrounding cast in 2008. The Tigers are loaded, and Verlander is leading in my opinion one of the best rotations in baseball (not to mention a great defense behind him). My dark horse candidate is Josh Beckett. He was great last year, and we all know what Boston is capable of as a team. Can he stay healthy? Who knows…but if he does, watch out for Beckett.
AL Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria. Longoria is going to be a BEAST for the Devil Rays, and he’ll put great numbers his frosh year as a pro. If he doesn’t win the ROY award though, it will be Jacoby Ellsbury of the BoSox who brings home the hardware. Both kids are going to be stars, it just depends on who rises to the top the fastest.
NL Rookie of the Year: Kosuke Fukudome. The Cubs got a great player in Fukudome, and he’s going to really help that team reach the next level. (It pains me to say that, but it’s the truth.) If he can produce consistently, his impact on the team itself and getting the Cubbies over the hump will give him this award. Johnny Cueto, starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, will also make a lot of noise. Don’t be surprised if he wins the award. I’ve heard some great things about him coming out of camp…
AL Home Run Leader: Alex Rodriguez. This was an easy pick, and the same pick as all of the Yahoo! Sports writers. If A-Rod doesn’t lead the American League in home runs, I’ll eat my shoe (barring Rodriguez getting hurt). David Ortiz could pull it off though, but Big Papi had a somewhat down year in 2007.
NL Home Run Leader: Albert Pujols. I’m telling you, this isn’t even my Cardinals bias setting in, this is what I really believe. He’s going to put up sick numbers this year, possibly 45-50 home runs with Glaus batting behind him and Rick Ankiel in the lineup. (Also worth noting is that Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports said Ankiel was his dark horse candidate for this category…) Ryan Howard is who I think could take the award from Pujols. Injury can always change everything though, but if Albert stays healthy, look out in Big Mac Land.
Well, there are my individual predictions.
I want to talk about the Cardinals right now though.
A lot of people have been saying the Cards aren’t going to be any good this year. Sports Illustrated’s most recent issue has the Cards finishing second to last in the division, above only the Pirates, and 18 games back of the Cubs. I do agree, the division is the Cubs’ to lose. But here’s why the St. Louis Cardinals are going to be right in the thick of things come September.
10 Reasons Why the Cards Can Win the Division:
1. It’s the Cubs. They choke, what more can you expect out of them? 100 years and counting 😛
2. The Astros have no chance of being a contender this year. They have more of an aging team than the Cardinals have had recently.
3. The Brewers are going to struggle because Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, and Prince Fielder are going to go into slumps this year. Braun has to stay healthy, Weeks is not the star he was supposed to be, and Fielder has gone on a vegetarian diet and isn’t approaching things the way he used to on the field.
4. The MV3 is back…well, sort of. The St. Louis Cardinals had Albert Pujols at first, Jim Edmonds in CF, and Scott Rolen at third base to make up the MV3 in the past. All three put up MVP like numbers but recently faded into the distance. Rolen and Edmonds were inconsistent and injury prone. Now, the Cardinals have Pujols at first, Rick Ankiel in center, and Troy Glaus at the other corner spot. Pujols and Glaus are used to putting up MVP like numbers and Glaus is primed for a major comeback. Ankiel is going to stun the baseball world, as well. The MV3 makes for a dangerous lineup…
5. The Cardinals starting rotation is going to surprise people. Many see that as the biggest team weakness, but believe it or not, Kyle Lohse is going to win some games. Adam Wainwright is going to lock down that number one role. When Matt Clement gets back, he’s going to be a reliable number three guy. Todd Wellemeyer is going to be inconsistent, but he’s going to pitch well when he’s got his head on straight. Braden Looper needs to work on his day game performances (correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t he struggle in day games last season) and he will be the best number three or four starter in baseball. Brad Thompson is going to struggle at times but when he is doing well, he’s going to win games. He used to have a problem with giving up the long ball (strangely enough for a pitcher with a great sinker) but I think he’s fixed that problem now. Oh, and guys, this isn’t the rotation. Remember that. If this group of pitchers can keep the Cards at LEAST around .500 by the All-Star Break, the Cards can have a rotation of Chris Carpenter, Wainwright, Lohse, Mulder, and Looper/Piniero. That’s a darn good rotation that can help this team win the division.
6. Skip Schumaker and Brian Barton. There’s something about these guys. Chris Duncan has struggled mightily in ST, but these two kids keep producing. And I think they’ll be great corner outfielders for the Cardinals and will hit anywhere from .285 to .310 (both of them) this season. It’s optimism, but I really am impressed from what I’ve seen so far. Great bat speed for both.
7. Rick Ankiel. He’s going to hit a lot of home runs and hit for average this year. He’ll be as feared in this lineup as Pujols and Glaus. And my friends, that’s saying something.
8. The Reds are not going to be any good. If they are, I’ll eat crow, but the way things look, Adam Dunn isn’t going to do much but strike out and their pitching staff is very, very young.
9. Tony La Russa. He’s the winningest CURRENT manager in baseball. Like him or not, he’s doing something right.
10. The bullpen. Jason Isringhausen will be back to his normal game as closer this year, and that’s a huge boost to the bullpen. I’m not sure Anthony Reyes is suited for long reliever, but either he or Kelvin Jiminez will be able to provide bullpen support. Ryan Franklin is a great reliever as evinced by 2006 and 2007, and Russ Springer is the most underrated guy on the team. He’s going to pitch consistently well yet again.
Do you feel better about the Cardinals? I know I do. I now say we finish second in the division, but our odds of winning it keep rising in my opinion. It’s going to be an exciting season, and the possibility of disappointment is always there. But I truly believe the Cards are going to compete. That’s what they do. They play a hard nine. That’s all you can ask for.
BTW, check back soon for Civil Rights Game coverage. I’ll be there tomorrow afternoon!
Two more days to the Civil Rights Game. I’ll be bringing you coverage right here on the blog after I get home and have time to write and upload pictures. It’ll be a great experience.
Wanted to update everyone on some things. Matthew Leach said on www.stlcardinals.com that Juan Gonzalez is done for now, being placed on the temporarily inactive list this week. He also said that reliever Kyle McClellan and outfielder Brian Barton are going to almost for sure make the roster. (http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080326&content_id=2459106&vkey=spt2008news&fext=.jsp&c_id=stl)
Another great article written by Leach details the battle between Anthony Reyes and Kelvin Jiminez for the final remaining bullpen spot (likely the role of long reliever). Go here to read about it. My personal opinion is that Jiminez should get the job and the Cardinals should trade Anthony Reyes for either starting pitching or infield help. He’s pitched well enough this Spring to have trade value again, so it would be a smart move for the Cardinals. Of course, if he can be a dominant long reliever, I vote to keep him, but as inconsistent as he has been over his time with the Cardinals, I’m not sure about it. Jiminez has earned my respect as a reliever, and I think he fits that role perfectly. I just don’t think Reyes will be what the Cards are looking for.
An update on today’s game, Kyle Lohse is on the mound, and I have very high hopes for him. He’s pitching very well so far in Spring Training, and so far today he has allowed two hits and no runs in three innings to the Florida Marlins. Skip Schumaker, Chris Duncan, and Cesar Izturis have the only hits for the Cardinals and Albert Pujols reached base his second time up via a walk. Duncan had a two-out RBI single, bringing home Izturis to put St. Louis up by a score of 1-0. A live box score can be found here.
Well everyone, as I sit here at 1:04 P.M. central standard time, it is 4 days, 2 hours, 12 minutes, and 40 seconds til opening day. It’s baseball time, and I’m pumped…let’s get your season predictions in! Let me know what place you think the Cards will finish in and what their record will be. I’ll put the comments up as a post and average them out to find what the fans overall think what the Cards will be this year.
Carp, Mulder, Clement, and Piniero to start season on Disabled List…no surprise there. But, on the bright side, the second half of the season I feel confident in saying this rotation will be better than in 2007 by far.
Reyes pitched 6 shutout innings today and the Cards beat the Nationals 3-0. Besides not having Yadier Molina behind the plate and Waino pitching, Derrick Goold over at http://www.stltoday.com pointed out that is likely to be the opening day lineup (besides those two.)
We had Schumaker in right, Barton in left, Ankiel in center, Pujols at first, Miles at second, Glaus at third, Izturis at shortstop, LaRue catching, and Reyes on the mound today. Kennedy will likely get to start against righties this year with Miles going against lefties.
Getting closer, guys!
Civil Rights Game on Saturday, looking forward to it.
Here are three St. Louis Post-Dispatch stories I suggest you read:
With that said, I have a few talking points for the day.
The starting rotation (at least the opening day one) is starting to make me a little more comfortable. I expect production from Adam Wainwright, and rightfully so, he’s proven he can pitch in the big leagues. I think Braden Looper will be fine, albeit somewhat inconsistent. Kyle Lohse is going to be someone to watch this season, I think he’ll pitch very well to be honest. Todd Wellemeyer and Anthony Reyes are the x-factors, but I think Brad Thompson will come in and help balance things out.
As for offense, how about Rick Ankiel? .397??? My gosh. He’s going to have a HUGE impact this year for the Cardinals. Pujols will be great, although he’ll play less games than before. Glaus is going to come in and play very well in my opinion, as well. I only worry about Cesar Izturis. I hope he never sees the field the way he’s played. Pitiful plate appearances, and his defense has been horrid, too.
More as it happens, guys. Cards are tied 1-1 with Lohse on the mound. He got out of a jam in the first, and Kennedy had an RBI base hit earlier to tie it up after Glaus got on base via a double. Pujols is already 1-for-1 in this game, raising his average to .383. Glaus is at .378 and Kennedy at .341.
Cya later guys.
Yeah, there are negatives. Josh Phelps is batting .063. Cezar Izturis .175. Aaron Miles .200. Molina .209. Ludwick .267. Duncan .107.
Here’s the positives though. Just look at today’s game (at least through the 8th inning as I’m writing this)
Skip Schumaker: 3-for-6 today with a home run, 2 RBI, 3 runs scored. Batting .354 this Spring.
Brian Barton: 0-for-1 today with 1 run scored. Batting .341 this Spring.
Chris Duncan: 2-for-2 today with a home run, 1 RBI, 1 run scored. Still batting only .107, but this is a step in the right direction.
Albert Pujols: 2-for-2 today with a 2-run home run, 3 total RBI, 2 runs scored, and a walk. Batting a wicked .381 this Spring.
Troy Glaus: 2-for-2 today with 1 RBI and 1 run scored. Batting a very nice .368 now.
Rick Ankiel: 2-for-3 today with 2 RBI and 1 walk. He’s batting a yet again WICKED .380. Ankiel has me excited about what he can do this year.
Adam Kennedy: 1-for-3 today with a run scored and a walk. Batting .350 this Spring. A HUGE step up from last year.
Cezar Izturis: 2-for-4 today with an RBI and two runs scored. That’s a step in the right direction, as well. I don’t know if he can keep it up, but hey, I’ll take it. Only batting .175 though…I’ll still take Brendan Ryan over him.
Now, this game is not over as I started typing this, but those are positives to look at. Makes me anticipate opening day just that much more.
Cards are up 12-2 though, for your information (over the somewhat lowly Orioles).
Stop, I’ll take that back. Just checked the score, it’s now 12-3.
Check back with everyone later, hectic schedule right now!
Do I think it was the right decision? Not at all. But hey, it may work out for the best. It’s widely known that Tony La Russa doesn’t like to play young, raw talent. Heck, this is the man that only let Albert Pujols play in the Majors because of an injury on the team.
Anyway, six players were cut from the Cards today, as Joe Mather, Colby Rasmus, Mike Parisi, Jason Motte, Mark Johnson, and Clayton Mortenson. Mather, Motte and Parisi were sent to Triple-A Memphis and the other three (including Rasmus) are now at MiLB camp for the Cards. Special thanks to Matthew Leach for breaking the story (click me).
Well, Rasmus is now gonna start the season in the minors. He’ll finish up spring training in minors camp, but then he’s off to another stop in the farm system. He’ll likely start at Memphis with the Redbirds, but I suppose Springfield (the Cardinals) would be an option. Either way, I expect to see him in St. Louis by the end of this season. And after that, he’s a permanent fixture.
Mather really has impressed lately, and I think we’ll see him way sooner than Rasmus in Busch Stadium. Both players really should get fans excited, but Mather will get the first shot. Rasmus is just too young for TLR and management’s liking. As for some of the other players, everything I’ve heard about Jason Motte is that he’s a fireballer with a lot of potential, but that he has a lot of improvement on mechanics and control. I like potential, and I think he’ll make a bullpen appearance or two this year. He might even get to be a prominent reliever later on if the injury bug bites.
Anyway, the Cards won today, beating Atlanta 4-2. Rick Ankiel hit a two-run double to seal the game. Mather and Aaron Miles had the other RBI’s. While some are concerned about the Cards’ offensive production, I’m not so concerned. Once the everyday lineup plays EVERY DAY, I think the team will do fine.
Check out these batting averages…
Brian Barton: .349
Skip Schumaker: .333
Troy Glaus: .333
Rick Ankiel: .362
Adam Kennedy: .351
Ryan Ludwick: .293
Brendan Ryan: .278
Now, as for a position battle…the infield’s offensive production really separates a few players.
Obviously Albert stands alone…and always will…at first base.
At second, Miles vs Kennedy…well… .206 versus .351? Heh. Kennedy is back this year, I like his production and defense at second any day.
At third…Glaus is set in stone, and I think he’ll really do well this year. Just a hunch though.
At short, C. Izturis versus Ryan. I’ll take Ryan. Izturis hasn’t even been that good DEFENSIVELY this spring, and Brendan’s .278 average owns Izturis’s .139.
Behind the plate, Yadi has it. He wouldn’t lose this job unless Jason LaRue batted 1.000 in 200 at-bats. And right now, he’s doing better at the plate than LaRue.
I’m not gonna touch the outfield right now, though. It’s pretty jumbled up out there. I’d guarantee you that Ankiel has a spot. Duncan will get left field, although I like Barton there better. And right field will be a platoon of Schumaker and Barton and Ludwick, I imagine. It’ll end up being a battle between Skip and Brian though in my opinion.
Anyway guys, that’s about it for now.
Taking another page from someone I look up to (Matthew Leach), I figure since I am ALWAYS listening to music when I’m on the PC, I can list what song I’m currently listening to.
"Until the End" by Breaking Benjamin. Saw them live with Hurt, Seether, and Three Days Grace back in February…best concert I’ve been to, ever, hands down. Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin stole the show, and I really like this song.
I’m wishy washy, I have to admit to it. One day I want Rasmus in St. Louis, the next he needs to be in Memphis. I can’t make up my mind. Today, and I think I’ll stand by this from now on…Yes, I really will…Rasmus needs to be a St. Louis Cardinal on opening day. Leading off, playing center field. He’s batting .310 so far, and his OBP is higher than anyone else on the team (.500). Today in the Cards’ 10-3 win over the New York Mets (and Johan Santana to boot), Rasmus was 1-for-1 with a run scored as a pinch hitter. Put him on the team. Yeah, throw him in the fire. He’ll learn. He’ll have a steep learning curve, but get him in there early and let him start learning. He’ll get all the playing time he needs and start adjusting as the seasons goes on and will start establishing himself as a star by the end of the season. I believe that. I really do. So, I now begin my "START RASMUS" campaign. He’s the real deal, so Tony, LET HIM PLAY.
Anyway, I have come up with a revised lineup I love.
1. Colby Rasmus (CF)
2. Rick Ankiel (RF)
3. Albert Pujols (1b)
4. Troy Glaus (3b)
5. Brian Barton (LF)
6. Brendan Ryan (SS)
7. Yadier Molina (C)
8. Pitcher (I hate the pitcher being here but it’s going to be that way regardless of how I feel)
9. Adam Kennedy (2b)
BENCH: Skip Schumaker (OF), Chris Duncan (OF, 1b), Cezar Izturis (SS) Ryan Ludwick (OF), Aaron Miles (2b)
And yes, by the way, I AM excited about signing Kyle Lohse. I think he’ll be a big time help…despite his lack of great performances in the past seasons, I just feel optimistic about this signing. Gut feeling, I guess.