They have already lost Waino for the season, and the odds suggest that it will be difficult for the other 4 to collectively match or succeed there years last year, simply becuase they were so good.
Rasmus is very interesting, but the rest of the team is very blah.
Anything can happen in baseball, but I think that the Cards, with few good young players and a lack of quality prospects are more likely to regress than do better.
Their fielding is unspeakably bad, especially at SS and 2nd.
Unless some guys like Berkman find the fountain of youth, the Cards are likely in trouble.
LF and CF are average. 3B is likely average. 1B and catcher are above average.
I think the fact that SS and 2B are so below average that makes their total defense appear so bad. Defense up the idle is crucial to a pitch to contact staff. So, I guess it's not unspeakably bad, as I was able to speak about it.
Call it speakably bad.
Felipe Lopez at 3B was unspeakably bad.
ESPN's first batch of power rankings came out today. It seems the Reds have impressed, and sit at #5 right now. Cubs are at 14, and no other NL Central team is better than 20th.
Yanks and Phils, of course, are 1 and 2.
On a side note, I fear the Reds will do the same thing with Valaika when Phillips leaves and only hope that the Reds will extend Phillps for a couple years until Hamilton or Torreyes is ready.
Back to the Cardinals, I just don't see them higher than 3rd w/o Wainwright, with the horror in their MI and with Berkman in RF. I'm not a believer that Berkman will bounce back offensively and I think that even on offense he'll be below average in RF. They also have significantly weakened the pen. I thought Motte and McKlellan in the late innings was a pretty good tandem. I'm not a big Franklin fan, but with those guys holding the fort until the 9th, thought he'd get them by. Now with McKlellan in the rotation and so much reliance on Batista and Miller, I think the bullpen could be a problem spot. Dave Duncan is going to have to come up with an arm or two to save the day (and I think Brian Tallet and Mitchell Boggs might be the kind that could step up under Duncan) but the Cardinals have come to depend on that too much IMO and they are going to get burned eventualy when there just isn't enough for him to work with. This might be the year.
"All I can tell them is pick a good one and sock it." --BABE RUTH
Having better players makes "the right time" or "the big hit" happen a lot more often. PLUS PLUS
So of your big 3 last year, you've got 1 out for the year, 1 at 37, and the other coming off a huge jump in innings. Obviously there not going to perform up to last year's standards, just based on Waino being out for the year alone, but it will be hard for the other 2 to meet, or exceed the numbers posted last year.
As for the other spots, Westbrook doesn't excite me. Sure he'll eat up innings, but at what, league average results? Perhaps Duncan works his magic with Lohse, it would be all that shocking, but Lohse seems like such a mental miget on the mound. Great stuff, great results one day, the next time out he throws them over the middle and gets rocked.
The defense has been well covered. Offensively, Pujols & Holliday are good enough to carry any offense. However Berkman's bat looked as slow as Junior's bat towards the end of his Reds tenure. The cards are smart to hit him in front of Pujols, so he'll see more fastballs, which I'll assume he's cheating on to a similar extent that Junior did, but eventually opposing pitchers will figure it out, start him off w/ heat, and throw him a low of changeups and breaking stuff that he'll have trouble hitting. I've seen the proverbial "best shape of my life" talk with him, perhaps there's some truth to that that helps his bat this year over what I saw last year, we shall see, but how much wear & tear is playing in the OF going to put on his legs and therfor his swing? Didn't he have bad legs last year? I saw a lot of talk about Molina's "bad year" last year and expected a bounce back. Molina has logged a ton of innings behind the plate, a position notrious for wearing down a player's body. I'm sure he'll still be great defensively, but I don't see a big bounce back season from him at the plate. Rasmus & Freese could be solid, if not great, don't see much from SS or 2b.
Overall, I think this team is significantly worse than last season. If I'm wrong, happily send me a plate of crow, I've got my ketchup ready, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them under .500 when the season wraps up.