Last year, I exchanged "Five Questions" with other SBNation bloggers on big series. I had intended to do this with Larry at Viva El Birdos before this series started, but little things like a business trip to NYC got in the way.
We finally did get it done last night; you can read my answers to his questions here. And here are mine for him and his replies:
Q: What's wrong with Albert Pujols? I was astounded to see him hitting .190 coming into the series.
two things for sure: 1) he's trying pull everything instead of hitting the ball to all fields, and 2) he's chasing too many pitches ouside the strike zone. the lack of discipline is pretty stark: after Opening Day (when he walked twice), he took only 1 unintentional walk over the next two weeks. various other theories have been advanced at VEB --- is he hitting out of a deeper crouch this year? altered his footwork? has his swing slowed down? slowly but surely, he is coming out of it; he went 1 for 17 in the first week of the year but .250 / .353 / .545 over the last two weeks. those are still tepid numbers for albert, but they're a big step in the right direction. he's a smart player who makes adjustments; i think he'll be fine.
Q: The Cardinals got a starting pitcher, Ryan Franklin, and made him a setup man. Then they took a setup man, Braden Looper, and made him a starter. Why?
because that's how dave duncan wants it? that's the only explanation i can give you. it never made any sense to me, and it made even less sense when josh kinney --- the only guy resembling a setup man in the cardinal bullpen --- sustained a season-ending injury in spring training. i thought for sure they would move looper back to his old role --- wasn't it common sense that he'd serve the team better as a mediocre setup man than as a replacement-level starting pitcher? . . . . but 4 starts into this experiment it appears that duncan knows exactly what he is doing. i'm not convinced that ryan franklin is the long-term answer as a setup man, but i'm beginning to come around on looper. let's see how he holds up 10 or 20 starts down the road; by mid-may, he will have thrown more pitches than in any previous year. if he's still turning in quality starts in june, then dave duncan will have showed us all once again.
Q: Are you worried about the Cardinals' lack of depth in the rotation? What can they do if Reyes or Wainwright or Looper fail?
call me crazy, but i'm not worried. the bar's pretty low for "success"; all they have to do is put up an era of 4.75 to 5.00, and they'll be outperforming last year's execrable group of starting pitchers. the main thing they need from these guys is innings, and that's the unproven thing; none of those three has ever hurled 180 innings in a big-league season before. but reyes threw 175 last year (majors/minors/postseason combined), and wainwright threw 180 at AAA two seasons ago; they are both 25 years old, so it's not as if those are underdeveloped arms. looper is the guy whose stamina is most in question. if anybody wears down or gets hurt, they can always get innings out of ryan franklin, and by midseason blake hawksworth will probably be ready at triple A. also, mulder is expected back on july 1; i have very serious doubts about his ability to pitch effectively this year, but maybe he'll surprise me.
Q: Jim Edmonds. Done?
until he shows some evidence to the contrary, i have to assume so. he can't pull the ball with any authority, and he can't hit left-handers. he's 36 and coming off two off-season surgeries. he did get a late start on spring training (didn't appear in a game until the last week of march), and the cold weather surely hasn't helped his efforts to get into shape. i will say this much: as late as june 30 last year (according to Baseball Reference), he was hitting .252 and slugging just .398 --- he looked finished. he ended the season at .257 --- but with a .471 slugging avg, then tacked on two dingers in the nlcs. so: done? it sure looks like it; but edmonds has fooled us before.
Q: Echoing your question to me: Which Cardinal's early season performance are you most excited about?
looper's performance has me the most surprised, but most excited? kip wells. our community is charting pitches for every game this season, and i'm assigned to games that wells starts. he's good. fastball frequently hits 94 on the gun, consistently at 92, and has good movement; wells can sink it or cut it. he's got a wicked slider and a solid changeup, and on a given day his curveball might be useful too. until this year i knew him as a guy who couldn't throw strikes consistently, but he's been getting all his pitches over (credit dave duncan for that). his stuff is good enough that even when he makes a mistake and gets the fat part of the plate, hitters haven't been able to put the sweet spot on the ball; they've been swinging late or early, hitting it off the handle or off the end of the bat. between the natural movement on his pitches and the variety of breaks in his arsenal, wells looks like a true #2 pitcher --- through his first 4 starts, anyway.
One final note from yesterday's fiasco; I got the following email last night from Ken, one of the Waveland Avenue ballhawks:
Hey, did anyone happen to record the Cubs game today (Friday)? Another thrilling come-from-ahead loss to the freakin' Redbirds, 2-1...
My interest is purely selfish - I managed to corral Preston Wilson's 2 run homer in the 7th inning out on Waveland. Thanks to the bleacher expansion, I'm pretty sure there's no camera coverage of my catch, but seeing as how I dropped it at first, that's probably a good thing. Still, I'd like to have a copy of the game anyway.
Please let me know. I'd be happy to swap you a blank tape/disc in return. Thanks.
p.s. After my error, I had to outrun that guy in the hotdog costume for it. It got pretty brutal - he threw relish on me so I kicked him in the buns...
OK, bad pun and all -- any of you have this game on tape or Tivo? I can put you in touch with Ken.
| Today's Starting Pitchers
Matt Murton had better start today. He has two career AB vs. Reyes -- both home runs. The only other Cubs who have had any success against Reyes are Carlos Zambrano, 2-for-4 (maybe he can pinch-hit!) and Ronny Cedeno, 2-for-3, but Ronny shouldn't be let near a starting lineup, or any game, as far as I'm concerned.
As I noted yesterday, I worry a bit about Marquis being too keyed up to throw against his former teammates today. The best thing for him to do would be to pretend it's the Nationals out there. Hey, they wear red uniforms too, right?
Here's today's Mediacenter. The game is on Fox-TV with that odd 2:55 CT starting time, which, of course, means that the choice of where the game is carried is left up to a couple of monkeys. The monkeys will foist the Yankees/Red Sox on most of the country, but I'd suspect at least much of the Central time zone will get the Cub/Cardinal game.
Posting this early as Mark has his first baseball game of the spring this morning at Thillens Stadium on the far north side; heading right from there to Wrigley Field. It is, as the old saying goes, a beautiful day for baseball!
Discuss amongst yourselves.