14 May 2007

Cardinals Preview: Payback Time!

by Joshua Worley

Last year the Cardinals won the World Series after grabbing only 83 regular season victories. This should never have happened, and now it's karma time for the Cardinals on the field. They used up all their baseball luck for the next decade last October. Nearly the entire team is in a horrific offensive slump. The pitching is nothing special. The Dodgers have no excuse not to adminster a payback sweep in realiation for last year's season sweep by the Cardinals.

Typical recent lineup:

Pos -- OBP -- Player

2B -- 0.280 -- Kennedy
LF -- 0.371 -- Duncan
1B -- 0.347 -- Pujols
CF -- 0.274 -- Edmonds
3B -- 0.283 -- Rolen
RF -- ???? -- Encarnacion
C -- 0.337 -- Molina
SS -- 0.282 -- Eckstein

The pitching matchups are Thompson v Tomko, Wainwright v Lowe and Wells v Wolf. The Dodgers should have the advantage in all three of these games, even the first one, which I'll be at.

Player capsules:

Preston James David Wilson

The Cardinals signed him to a one year, one million dollar deal in the offseason even though he had an on base percentage of 0.300 at a corner outfield position in 33 games. But he's hurt now and on the DL, so he won't be hurting the Cardinals in the series against the Dodgers. Pity. And I was also looking forward to Vinny talking about his step-father Mookie.

Juan de Dios Encarnacion

age: 31
bats: right

He was just activated from the DL on Sunday and went hitless, hence he has no batting line worth posting. He doesn't really have a career batting line worth posting either. He's the prototype right fielder for a bad team, even bad World Series winning teams. I guess the 2003 Marlins weren't that bad, though, and he played for them too.

He also played for the Dodgers in 2004 before being involved in the controversial trade with Paul LoDuca, Brad Penny and Hee Sop Choi. I remember that he was just awful for the Dodgers in 2004. I favored that trade if for no other reason than to keep Tracy from starting him because he was a proven veteran. His OBP was 0.289 with the Dodgers in 2004; to be fair he usually does a bit better than this, around the 0.310 range. Whoopee. At least the Dodgers don't have a corner outfielder with an upside OBP of 0.310, though Gonzo might make me eat those words later in the year. I hope not.

He's never cracked 20 home runs in a season, and likely never will, but he still has 147 career home runs. He has a shot of getting 200 career home runs without ever hitting 20 in a season. I wonder how many players have done that?

Adam Thomas Kennedy

age: 31
bats: left

0.230 -- 0.280 -- 0.290

I find it painful to look at this batting line. I can deal with a mediocre line around Juan Pierre-level; anything below that and I start to cringe. Oh yeah, 3 years and 10 million. That's the contract he signed. Ick.

Look, starting in 2002 Kennedy had a four year run of posting a 0.350 OBP and 0.400 SLG from second base: that's not too bad. But last year at age 30 the OBP was down to 0.334, and the Angels wisely let him go. This instance of the Cardinals employing an ex-Angel isn't going as well as their previous tried with Edmonds or even Eckstein. He should do better than he's doing so far, though.

The really funny thing about this, unless you're a Cardinal fan, is that Kennedy has actually been moved up into the lineup to leadoff because Eckstein, the former leadoff hitter, has been even worse!

David Mark Eckstein

age: 32
bats: right

0.207 -- 0.282 -- 0.234

La Russa told the press that his drop from the leadoff spot is temporary. Does it matter? With Eck and Kennedy the Cards virtually have three pitchers in the lineup every day. He will get better, as he's clearly under-performing. He's had an OBP of at least 0.350 the last two years, but he's now on the wrong side of 30 and may never see 0.350 again.

By the way, the man who by popular accounts is a great clutch player is 1-15 so far with runners in scoring position.

Christopher Edward Duncan

age: 26
bats: left

0.284 -- 0.371 -- 0.474

Finally, a nice looking batting line. When Duncan finally worked his way up to the majors last year he put up a lovely 0.952 OPS. That's better than anything he ever did in the minor leagues, so he might not be quite that good, but the Cardinals do seem to have found themselves a nice corner outfielder. That's the good news.

The bad news is that he leads the team in OBP and SLG.

Jose Alberto Pujols

age: 27
bats: right

0.248 -- 0.347 -- 0.426

Exhibit A in why Duncan leads the Cards offensively. The Dodgers still better watch out against Pujols. He has a career OPS of 1.037: that is his true level of ability, not his current little Luis Gonzalez line.

Pujols is striking out more than is usual for him this year. I wonder if he's carrying some sort of injury?

James Patrick Edmonds

age: 36
bats: left

0.208 -- 0.274 -- 0.264

Exhibit B in why Duncan leads the Cards offensively. Edmonds has been carrying an injury, or at least the after-effects of one. He had toe and shoulder surgery in the off-season. While he is better than his current Kennedesque line, he might not be better than Chris Duncan ever again. After an OPS above 1.000 in 2003 and 2004, he slipped to 0.821 last year.

Scott Bruce Rolen

age: 32
bats: right

0.204 -- 0.283 -- 0.306

Exhibit C in why Duncan leads the Cards offensively. I think he needs a change of scenery, after the feud and uneasy peace with LaRussa. Or better yet, LaRussa needs a change of scenery.

Yadier B. Molina

age: 24
bats: right

0.264 -- 0.337 -- 0.310

Maybe the B stands for "Bruce" as well? He is of the few Cardinals who hasn't declined from his previous production. At his current pace he will shatter his previous career high in strikeouts, though.

You know you're in trouble when a light-hitting catcher is one of your better offensive performers so far. Among Cardinal batters with at least 40 at-bats, their are just five with an OBP above 0.300, and a mere two with a SLG above 0.400.

Adam Parrish Wainwright

age: 25
throws: right

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
5.01 -- 41.1 -- 26 -- 18 -- 3

He was a reliever last year, a set-up man type, and he was good. He struck out a batter an inning and had a 3.5:1 strike out to walk ratio to earn a 3.12 ERA. Then he was the Cards closer in October. Starting hasn't worked out too well for him so far this year. The strikeouts are down and the walks are up.

Robert Kip Wells

age: 30
throws: right

6.51 -- 47.0 -- 36 -- 22 -- 7

He's an innings eater, but man does he leave a foul odor after he's digested those innings. His record is 1-7; I wonder if he'll get a chance to lose 20. He'd better lose his eighth on Wednesday.

Bradley Joseph Thompson

age: 25
throws: right

4.03 -- 22.1 -- 12 -- 9 -- 5

Today will be his second start of the year, after starting as a 'pen guy. He went 5 innings with one run allowed in his first start and got the win. Both he and Wells have allowed a ton of home runs, though. I wonder if the Dodgers can take advantage?

Joshua Morgan Hancock

He died when he drove his car into the back of a parked tow-truck. He was legally drunk and on his cell-phone at the time. I don't know what kind of effect his death has had on the Cardinals. The Redbirds have had a nightmare season on the field, but it's been worse off the field.

I can't help but think about the Cardinal fans giving LaRussa a standing ovation after his DUI incident when he fell asleep at the wheel. Not that their actions had anything to do with Hancock and what he did, but in retrospect their willingness to greet a drunk-driver as a hero looks even worse.

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