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Archive for February, 2011


…. Fredhead

Here's an idea my Cardinals buddy and I tossed around a bit yesterday. (My friend has a dog he named Fred, who looks like a miniature bear, hence the name)

Anywho….

With the St. Louis Cardinals losing 20-game winner Adam Wainwright for the season, we were wondering if they should just jettison their chances for this year and retool. A quick glance at the team's roster is –quite honestly– frightening. Not unlike what the SF Giants did with Bonds during his last six seasons or so, the Cards have put together a roster that is as thin as tissue paper, and pretty old.

Lance Berkman? Sure, Holliday is a stud. But this is a one man team right now, and without superior starting pitching, they are going nowhere. Here's Jon Heyman wasting his time trying to convince himself that the team still has the pitching:

…. The Cardinals' rotation, which looked fabulous on paper before Wainwright's injury, is now down to probably slightly above average with Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia. The fifth pitcher, who may be reliever Kyle McClellan, has yet to be determined.

Yeah, right. Westbrook is in his 30's and his career won loss record is under .500. Garcia has a total of 180 innings pitched in the bigs, and Kyle Lohse –who is 32 years old and also under .500 for his career– ran out a 6.55 ERA last season in an injury-abbreviated season. Carpenter is a very good number two starter, but he's three seasons from transcendent, 35 years old, and he's gonna throw his 2,000th inning sometime this April or May. That's not a rotation, that's a train wreck.

The answer is simple. Cold, calculating, heartless, even, but simple, nonetheless. Trade Albert Pujols right now. Get the biggest package of prospects, major-league ready or close, and retool. I'd even go so far as to suggest they trade Carpenter as well. His value will never be higher than it is right now, in the pitching-thin environment that is the 2011 off-season. And if you're talking about Pujols, there's really only one team to target in this trade scenario, and that team is the New York Yankees.

The Cards should call up Hank Steinbrenner directly, because he is an idiot just like his dad, and offer Pujols and Carpenter for Mark Texeira and a slew of pitchers from the Yankees suddenly stocked farm system.

Pujols appears to be, at the least, too expensive for the team to be able to re-sign after this year. Not discounting the possibility that he may just want to go somewhere else. This team is not going to contend this year with the pitching they feature. In fact, I'll put it out there right now; they are gonna finish the year with about 75 wins.

Maybe the Yankees trade two of their top pitching prospects and a hitter.

From the Yankees perspective, they are the only team that could possibly afford $30 million a year for a single player. Pujols is what, 25% better than Texeira? For the Cards, Texeira is bit younger than Pujols, and locked into a contract that is pretty much the deal that they are offering Pujols right now. This is a fantasy, for sure, but it makes some sense if you really think about it.

If the Cards conclude that they are losing Pujols at the end of the year, and there's not much indicating that he's gonna sign off on a deal that is significantly less than what he's worth, I'd throw it out there.

What do you think?

UPDATE: My friend texted me to tell me that today on Sportscenter, someone suggested that the Cardinals trade Pujols now to avoid losing him for a couple of draft picks. Gee, I wonder if the boys at ESPN should talk so frivolously about such a serious subject? Especially since we all know that it would be impossible, right?

Although, Chris Carpenter appears to be throwing a monkey wrench in

my grand program. ;-)

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…. Kicking sand on your beach towel

I don't want to throw a wet blanket on all the fun and games, but whenever I read stuff like this, I worry about our RoY:

…. Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, according to a club source, has been injected with Supartz, a solution that helps lubricate and create cushion in knee joints.

General Manager Bill Smith confirmed that Mauer received a shot after Tuesday’s workout.

Mauer had his left knee scoped in December, and there was some hope he would be ready for the start of spring training. But Mauer has reported for camp needing some more time before he can take part in all phases of practice. And there’s no telling when the Twins will start Mauer behind the plate in a spring training game.

I've already written about the impact full-time catching has on elite hitters. You can always find a guy who can catch, throw out 30% of the hitters, and run out .240/.320/.410 line. It's much harder to find guys who have the potential to run out a .300/.400/.500 line. Here's hoping either Posey bucks all the trends, or the Giants find somewhere else to play him. Mauer, by the way, just signed a $180 million dollar contract with the Twins, so basically, they're stuck with him.

Here's Mauer's games played since he came up in '04. 35, 131, 140, 109, 146, 138, 137. His OPS has gone up and down like a yo-yo: .939, .783, .936, .808, .864, .1.031, .871.

This is standard production for a catcher. It is virtually impossible to stay healthy and catch full-time. So catchers have great years, their managers play them too much, because they're going so great, and the following year, they struggle to stay healthy. The down time spent not catching allows them to somewhat get healthy, and then they bounce back. But they never fully get healthy, and the cycle trends downward at a much faster rate than a normal ballplayers.

Bill James has had to revise many of his different statistical programs to make allowances for how few career games great catchers play versus great outfielders or first baseman, because of just this point.

Joe Mauer is 27 years old, about to enter his peak, being paid like a perennial MVP-candidate, and he's already dealing with knee issues. This does not bode well for him, or for Buster. There's no doubt that the handling of Posey's playing time is delicate and extremely important part of his career expectations. Last year Posey played all but 7 of the 114 games the team played after he was called up. During the run to the title, he was behind the plate for the last 35 consecutive games, and 45 of the last 46.

In fact, after he was called up, Bochy penciled his name in the lineup for 17 consecutive games, 17 games in 18 days, to be precise. Of course, he started out red-hot, but what no one seemed to notice was his plummeting production as the kid went from being coddled to ridden like the only horse in the corral. After 13 games, his OPS was a scorching 1.074. Exhausted and obviously worn down, Posey then went 7 for his next 45, all singles, as his OPS dropped all the way down to .693.

That kind of heedless management cannot continue if the team is going to protect his –and their– future with the budding superstar. His playing time must be monitored carefully, not haphazardly. Sabean and Bochy should already have looked at the schedule and decided when he was going to be give days off. Anytime a day off can give him multiple days off, he should be rested on that day.

For instance, the Giants play a night game with the Dodgers on April 13th, then have a travel day, and play the D'backs, again at night, on the 15th. Give Posey the 15th off, and he gets two days in a row right there. Or how about the first week in May. The Giants play in Washington at 1:05 on Sunday the 1st, and

then again at 7:05 the next night, before flying to NY to play the Mets on the 3rd at 7:05. Have Posey skip the Monday night game, and he gets two full nights off in a row.

This kind of planning would represent a long-term commitment to his health, something that would go along way towards earning the kind of loyalty that teams crave from their superstars. I'd like to see the Giants think outside the box with this kid, because he has a chance to be really special.

Hat tip, again, to Baseball Musings.

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…. Lost and found

It appears that the Kung Fu Panda has finally seen the light:

…. Sandoval showed up at Triple Threat in Tempe, Ariz., properly motivated. It was up to owner/director Ethan Banning and his team, including O'Brien, to provide the structure he needed.

Just more than three months later, Banning reported that Sandoval weighed 240 pounds when he took his physical Friday morning. His body fat measurement went from 30 percent to 19 percent. Combined with an estimated gain of seven pounds of muscle, Banning said Sandoval has shed 45 pounds of goo.

…. Sandoval couldn't do three pull-ups in early November. Now he does sets of 10. His legs shook when he tried to squat 135 pounds. Now he is squatting 400. The first day, Sandoval struggled to complete two reps of an exercise called the inverted row. He maxed out at 26 last week.

His flexibility and range of motion vastly increased, too. Sandoval, a switch-hitter, complained of constant hip pain last season, and now acknowledges that the problems wrecked his right-handed swing. (He hit .379 from the right side in '09 but just .227 last season.)

“It was bad, my hips,” Sandoval said. “I (couldn't) even get through to the ball. Now I can swing hard. Now I get loose and nothing is sore.”
Sandoval received chiropractic alignments and deep-tissue rubs — what Banning called “hurt-you” massages — to correct the dysfunction in his hips. Three months ago, he couldn't touch his fingertips to his toes. Now he palms the floor.

That's terrific news. If Sandoval can regain his breakout '09 form, it'll be like the champs picked up a premiere free agent.

UPDATE: Lincecum appears to be primed for a big season too. Man, what a difference a year –and a title– makes. Between the fantastic young pitching staff, the team has two terrific young hitters in Sandoval and Posey, and waiting in the wings is Brandon Belt, trying to force his way onto the club. These great young players are surrounded by, dare I say it, a solid, if unspectacular group of relatively modestly paid veterans, leaving the Giants, and Giants fans, with perhaps as bright a future as any team in baseball. I was dead wrong last year, and I'm happy that I was:

…. And a long time gone….

…. San Francisco Giants (1954)
Years since last championship: 56

Reason for gap: Though the Giants’ long drought is no secret, it’s still somehow shocking to see the team so far down this list given its status as one of the National League’a great franchises. This is a franchise that has 17 modern pennants and five championships, the team of John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, Carl Hubbell, and Willie Mays. And yet, since they relocated to the West Coast, they haven’t been able to raise another flag. This is especially odd because the Giants have often had the talent to compete, have often had the financial support necessary, and have had the opportunity

to win. Some aspects of the long slump are just a matter of bad luck, of not being able to win a key game in a postseason series. As Charles Schulz’s outraged response, a slightly different swing by Willie McCovey and we might not even be talking about more than a half-century without a Giants championship.

Notwithstanding the post-Bonds years, when Brian Sabean’s efforts to rebuild the team have been hamstrung by what must be an organizational edict not to sign any bats….

I figured I’d stop it right there. This is a BP piece, talking about the franchises that have gone the longest without a title. The Giants have the third worst streak in all of baseball, behind only Cleveland (62 years) and the Cubs (102 years). That is simply awful.

It reminds me that this team has no excuse not to make a run at a title, or should I say, had no excuse this past off-season not to make a serious commitment to building the championship caliber offense needed to compliment their championship caliber pitching staff. Fifty-six years. Longer than my whole life.

Wow. Nostradamus, my ass. You'd be hard pressed to find a faster turnaround of the fortunes of a team. I'll say it again, kudos to Sabean and his staff, to Dick Tidrow, to the entire organization. There's never been a better time to be a Giants fan, and that's saying something.

Hat Tip to Baseball Musings

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