Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cardinals Sign Nick Punto

My hope when I heard this was that it means they won't bother with Aaron Miles because Punto could do everything Miles could, only better. Having since actually looked at their stats, I guess I'm getting my wish, though Punto hasn't been as good as I'd imagined.

Over the last 3 years (per Baseball-Reference), Punto's been worth 3.4 wins above replacement, but only 1.3 the last 2 years. Aaron Miles has been worth 0.3 WAR the last 3 seasons, and -1.5 the last 2 (most of the negative value was his disastrous 2009). Punto has higher value both defensively and offensively, though again, not by the margin I'd hoped for. Then again, if he was as good as I'd hoped, he probably wouldn't have been available for less than a million dollars.

Miles seems better able to hit for contact, Punto a little better at drawing walks. Neither has much power. They both play multiple positions, but Punto seems more adept. Punto's a year younger, but also seems more injury-prone (or unlucky). It's doubtful he'll be starting, so maybe that isn't a concern. What does concern me is the idea I've seen bandied about online that if David Freese isn't ready to go at the start of the season, Punto could be the starting 3rd basemen until Freese is ready.

Please no. Punto as an occasional sub for Theriot, or a defensive replacement (or platoon partner) for Schumaker, sure. The offensive drop won't be horribly severe, and might even be made up for by the defensive upgrade. But assuming Freese's early 2010 results weren't a complete mirage, the drop from him to Punto at the plate is concerning. I'd much rather they take their chances with Allen Craig at 3rd, and perhaps let Punto sub for him late, rather than make Punto the starter.

Hopefully, that's a non-issue, either because Freese will be ready to go when the season starts, or because LaRussa doesn't see Punto as anything more than a super utility, occasional starter at 3rd base.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

They're Older, I'm Not Sure They're Better

At this point, the St. Louis Cardinals seem content to sign free agents to minor league contracts. Hopefully they won't need Ian Snell or Miguel Batista this year, or if they do, they opt for P.J. Walters, Lance Lynn, or one of their minor leaguers who might actually have a major league future. Considering their manager, there's little chance they'll go that way, but I can hope.

Looking over the moves they've made this off-season, it's hard for me to believe they've improved. Jake Westbrook for an entire year should be an improvement over what they trotted out as the 4th starter in between Brad Penny's injury and Westbrook's arrival. It has the added bonus of relegating Kyle Lohse to 5th starter, which means the bar for him to be acceptable got just a little lower. The bar for him to be worth the contract the team gave him is still high, and based on his last 2 seasons, far beyond his reach. What worries me is the Cardinals may have to rely on him more this season. Westbrook, Carpenter, and Garcia have all had Tommy John surgeries in the last few years. Carpenter threw the second-highest regular season innings total of his career at age 35. Garcia threw more innings than he has in any season since he was drafted, and topped 150 innings for the first time since 2006. Still, if people stay healthy, the rotation should be solid, maybe even better than last year's, depending on how Carpenter ages, and how well Garcia adjusts to the league making adjustments to him.

The bullpen shouldn't be too different, though I'm not sure who the Cardinals have decided on as the 2nd LOOGY LaRussa will just have to have, now that Denny Reyes is in Philly. If they can avoid wasting innings on the likes of Mike MacDougal the right side should be OK, with Franklin, Boggs, McClellan, Motte, and hopefully Salas. Not great, but OK.

I've already said a lot about the acquisition of Theriot, and subsequent trade of Brendan Ryan. Quickly recapping, the loss of Hawksworth to acquire Tally Ho is no big loss. If Tally Ho were going to be used as a platoon partner for Skip, someone to face the lefthanders Schumaker is helpless against, it'd be tolerable. But to downgrade from Brendan's defense to Theriot's at SS is imbecilic, especially considering Duncan's insistent on getting groundballs. Right now, other than Albert at 1st, the infield defense looks like shit, and I don't buy that Theriot will hit well enough to compensate.

They added Lance Berkman to play right field. I don't know whether it's a good signing or not. Berkman says he's lost a lot of weight so he can move better. That's good. He still hasn't played outfield regularly in 3 or 4 years. That's bad. I don't doubt that even now, he could outhit a Jon Jay/Allen Craig platoon, which is what the Cards were looking at in right prior to Fat Elvis' arrival. That's largely because I'd fully expect LaRussa to favor Jay over Craig for playing time, and I don't expect Jay to replicate last year's offensive production. His defense would almost surely be better than Craig or Berkman's, but not by so much it would make the difference. Now those two should be the backup outfielders, though Tony will probably give Jay far too many starts in center over Colby. I hate LaRussa these days. I keep waiting for one of his feuds with players to get his ass booted, and it never happens.

Hopefully LaRussa will let Craig play 3rd, whether he's spelling Freese, or taking over for him if Freese can't stay healthy, or Freese's first 2 months were a fluke. Craig was able to stick at 3rd up to AAA, until the Cardinals moved him to the outfield to make room for Brett Wallace, who hasn't been tried much a 3rd by any of the team's that have had him since. This can mean Craig is truly horrible at 3rd, worse than a guy everyone else sees as a 1st baseman/DH. Or it means the Cardinals can't evaluate third base defense for shit. Or they didn't see a pressing need to get Craig time at 3rd. He can't be worse than the Aaron Miles/Felipe Lopez combo of last year. Or the Joe Thurston Experience of 2009.

Signing Gerald Laird for backup catcher frustrates me. He hit worse last year than Jason LaRue, which gives Tony absolutely no incentive to play him, which means he'll overuse Molina - again. They could have just used Bryan Anderson. I have no doubt he can outhit Laird, and he's a lefty, which offers some matchup possibilities, which LaRussa ought to love. Except TLR doesn't like his defense, supposedly, even though Anderson has apparently busted his butt trying to improve under Mike Matheny's tutelage. Also, there are rumors one of the Cardinals' starters doesn't like pitching to Anderson, who knows why. My money's on Carpenter, personally, because he seems like kind of an overly intense asshole, and there are only a couple of pitchers on the staff with the cachet for it to matter if they don't like a catcher. It's pretty much him or Wainwright, and I don't see it being Wagonmaker.

As I recall, there were rumors some of the veterans didn't like Brendan Ryan either, and that may have expedited his exit. My thought is this: these guys aren't playing on the sandlots with neighborhood kids. They're being paid to play baseball, so they are professionals. Part of being a professional is accepting they don't get to pick their coworkers. If they want that power, they can go start their own team. Until they do that, they can suck it up, do their best, and trust their teammates are doing so as well. They don't have to like their teammates, they just have to work with them.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I'm Stumped And Lazy

I'm not entirely sure what to post about here. Both the Cardinals teams I follow are done for the season. I could (and probably will) take a look at what St. Louis has done this offseason (besides trading Brendan Ryan, which I've said my piece on). I've been considering trying to figure out if this year's Cardinals' quarterbacking was the worst I've seen, or if that title still belongs to the 1999 team, and this was merely the 2nd worst.

I don't have a lot to say about the NFL playoffs. Arizona's not involved, and the only team remotely in my area was Kansas City, was unceremoniously booted from the playoffs by Baltimore. Also, if there's no team I hold allegiance to, I prefer the playoffs to have lots of new blood. The NFC's providing some, since Seattle, Chicago, and and Atlanta weren't in last year.

The AFC is the usual suspects, with New England, Pittsburgh, the Jets, and the aforementioned Ravens. I don't have any confidence the Jets can back up the trash their coach talks, and defensive struggles don't interest me, so I doubt Ravens/Steelers will hold much interest. Plus, I still hate the Steelers for beating Arizona in the Super Bowl two years, and I imagine Roethlisberger is much more likely to have a good game than Flacco. Though Flacco did manage his first competent playoff performance last week. Only took him six games.