UCB Roundtable Discussion


The United Cardinal Bloggers Group is winding down the roundtable discussions, with one more debate to be posted on Monday.  Yesterday I posted three questions to the group for open discussion.  In addition to me, we had four other Cardinal bloggers participate:

Here are the questions, and everyone’s thoughts:

1.)  Yesterday, there was some talk about who you’ve been impressed with up to this point in Spring Training.  What about the opposite?  Which players are you surprised to see having a disappointing spring? Do you think they’ll turn it around?

Daniel:  There haven’t been a lot of disappointments.  There’s disappointment in the same old same old with injuries, as noted with Tyler Johnson still not throwing.  Izturis, to me, has been the biggest on-field disappointment, though.  I know he’s not much of a hitter, so the average wasn’t that disappointing, but the fielding?  He’s making an error a game, it seems like, and I know TLR is big on him, but right now, it’s not looking so good.

Haedar:  Gotta agree with Daniel and say Izturis.  He was never known for his offense, but he is supposed to be a high caliber defensive player and at least put up an average of .250, but he’s made tons of errors this spring and is hitting around .150.  Tony is being stubborn and  stating that he is the starting shortstop to avoid the “Spivey 2008” tag.  If Cesar keeps this up, he will be relegated to the bench in no time.

Bryan:  Cesar Izturis has definitely been the most disappointing player this spring.  And to add to it, Tony La Russa has been equally as disappointing with his rigid position that Izturis is still doing well defensively and should still start.  I’m not sure Cesar has anything left in the tank anymore.  Molina’s slow start is disconcerting, but I think he’ll turn it around at some point.  Blake Hawksworth really disappointed me this spring, as this was a chance to make a good impression on the big league club.  I’m not too optimistic about him.

Michael:  Duncan’s horrible spring at the plate was a surprise to me.  Also to see Molina regress at the plate, after the progress he showed during last season, has been disappointing.  The other disappointment was Clement’s physical readiness not being what we expected/hoped it would be at the start of spring training. I hadn’t been aware of Izturis’ struggles with the glove until I saw your guys’ comments.

Daniel:  I’d like to see Molina hit better in the spring, but I wouldn’t say I was worried enough to call it a disappointment.  If it continues well into April, then that might be a different story.

Me:  Of course Izturis is the big one.  I was okay with the signing when it happened, and was willing to watch a sacrifice in offense for a defensive upgrade at short.  Turns out Izturis sucks with the glove too.  Tyler Johnson disappoints me too.  Last year, despite changing his jersey number and his hairstyle, he still got knocked around a bit.  I read that he had a baby, and was maturing quickly.  To hear that a little more work in the off season might have prevented his injury was very disappointing.

Daniel:  The only thing I’ll add is that I’m not sure that more work would have prevented his injury.  It might have helped, but this seriously sounds like a surgery thing coming pretty soon, in which case more work might have blown it out earlier or at best delayed the problem.

2.)  Opening Day is just ten days away.  There are a lot of new faces on this year’s team.  How would you grade John Mozeliak in his first off season as GM?  What were his best and worst moves?

Daniel:  Still a little hard to judge Mozeliak since a few moves were made while he was interim GM and some still haven’t really panned out.  All in all, though, I think he’s doing a pretty good job.  If he’s one of the reasons so many young guys are still in camp or got long looks this spring, he jumps up another notch.  His next big test will be the amateur draft.  If they can get a quality draft in, he’ll move even farther up.

Haedar:  Can’t really grade him accurately at this point but he’s made some good and some bad moves.  The two worst moves of the offseason were signing both Izturis and Miles to guaranteed deals instead of minor league deals with invitations to spring training.  The best move came a day or so ago locking up Wainwright long term.

Bryan:  I would give Mozeliak a B so far.  It was probably a B- before the Lohse signing, but the signing was such a good deal that he has to get a B.  On the other hand, the Miles re-signing was a very questionable move (and still is, considering Miles’ terrible spring so far).  Trading Rolen was good for the team, trading Edmonds was neutral (although it opened up a position in our already crowded outfield), and the Izturis signing was just plain bad.  Overall, however, I’m very satisfied with the direction this team is going.

Michael:  Mozeliak:  average or slightly better than average so far, but it’s still too early to tell.  I’m not a big fan of Lohse after watching him get torched in Cincinnati for the past few years, but with our starters in disarray again Mozeliak didn’t have much choice but to sign another pitcher.  He at least got Lohse on the relative cheap.  Hell, he can’t be any worse than Kip Wells, right?  Managing to move Rolen for more than a used glove and a bucket of baseballs was a victory.  The Miles signing, I agree with all, is a head scratcher unless viewed through the “Tony wanted him” prism.  Signing Wainwright yesterday was a great move.

Daniel:  The middle infield situation definitely is Mozeliak’s biggest drawback.  Especially when he himself admits he’d have signed Adam Everett if he had thought he’d been nontendered.  (Though that wouldn’t have helped with the offense, it’d done wonders defensively.)  Adding Miles to the mix was really unnecessary save to appease La Russa, I’d guess.

Me:  Overall:  B+.  With the exception of Miles and Gonzalez, I think the Cards made all the right moves. The Molina and Wainwright deals are by far the best.  Payroll flexibility is much better than it has been in recent years.  We’ll see what they do come draft time.

 How much better (or worse depending on your answer to question 2) is this team compared to last year’s squad?  How many wins will the Cards have at the end of the season, and where do they finish?

Daniel:  I think this squad might be a little better than last year.  I think the pitching will be better, at least on the whole.  The offense is pretty intriguing.  If Kennedy hits like he has this spring and Molina hits like he did last year, there’s only Izturis as a “OK, nothing is happening here” spot in the lineup.  I’m still holding out hope for a .500 season.

Haedar:  I think the starters are a little better, the offense is better, or at least has more potential to put up better power numbers, but the bullpen will not be as good because people will be moving in and out and therefore some integral parts will not know their main role.  I think most bullpens can be decent as long as the guys in it know what their main role is and in what situation they are called upon to pitch.  With a lot of injured players coming back from the DL, there is going to be a lot of shifting around and some pitchers will not get comfortable in their temporary role.

Bryan:  I think the team is better than last year, but a few injuries could really turn this season into a disaster.  I think 80-85 wins is a very optimistic prediction, but I’ll go ahead and make it.  I’m confident in our outfield and returning pitchers.  Still don’t think that’ll be good enough for anything but third.

Michael:  Even with all the moves the team has tread water overall since last season ended.  The bullpen is still a plus but didn’t improve; the starters overall are still a minus and didn’t improve; the lineup is a wash; the bench is slightly better.  It seems all our eggs for a good team are in the respective rehab baskets of Carpenter, Mulder, and Clement.  I expect they’ll finish within +0, -10 games of .500 with the team they have now.

Haedar:  I think the Cardinals’ record will get worse before it gets better.  That’s to the tune of 75 wins this season.

Me:  I think it depends on how you look at it.  Before Opening Day ’07, the Cards looked good.  The pitchers all had good springs (even Wells), and no one thought they’d finish under .500.  A ton of injuries changed the outlook dramatically.  I’m optimistic about the offense.  I think the potential to score a lot more runs is there.  The starting pitching may be a wash, and I agree that the bullpen could be worse this year.  I’m also wondering if the clubhouse will miss Edmonds, Rolen, and Eck.

That’s it.  Lots of good points from everyone, and I’m sure they’ll be a lot more in the next installment.  I love talking baseball!