A rival scout sizes up the Cardinals
I think they'll struggle a bit. They don't have the kind of team that you need to repeat.... I'm concerned about their bullpen. Jason Motte is not enough of a pitcher for me—he's more of a stuff guy. Pitchers command the ball, but he pitches himself into a corner and gives guys fastballs in fastball counts. I'd rather have him as a setup guy.... Carlos Beltran looks good this spring—he's hitting line drives—but I'm waiting to see if he can stay healthy. He's got a funny swing; he's a better high-ball hitter, especially middle-in or middle-away. He has a real short route to those balls.... David Freese has a skill only the best power hitters have, which is the ability to hit a decent pitch away out to right and right center. Late in the count I'd rather challenge him in. I'd make him pull the ball.... Their biggest concern right now is Chris Carpenter. He's not young enough to be dominant for a full season, but he can still pitch big games and beat teams because of his knowledge. If he can't return [from a neck injury] until later in the season, they're in trouble.... Adam Wainwright looks good now, but if they have to slow him down in the last month, they'll be in trouble. They'd be wise to get some input from [former pitching coach] Dave Duncan. They should keep him on retainer.... Mike Matheny has one of the toughest jobs anywhere. I don't know how you come in after a Hall of Fame manager who won the World Series. The pressure on him and [new pitching coach] Derek Lilliquist is ridiculous.
With 2011 Statistics
MANAGER MIKE MATHENY
1st season with Cardinals
NEW ACQUISITION ‚Ä†2010 STATS
Unearned runs allowed per game by the Cardinals in 2011—they were the first team in the divisional era (since 1969) to allow the most unearned runs in the majors (84) and win the World Series. In the postseason the problem abated: In 18 games St. Louis allowed five unearned runs, or 0.28 per game.
If you're going to commit $15 million a year to your catcher because he's a great defensive player who controls the running game, you better maximize that value. In that spirit, the Cardinals should be liberal about not holding runners on at first base. One, it might encourage teams to take more shots running on Yadier Molina, who in his career has thrown out 44% of base stealers. Last year runners tested his arm just 65 times; if the Cards can induce more attempts, Molina might cost opponents a few more runs. Second, the Cardinals will be adjusting to life without Albert Pujols, who is fantastic at getting off the bag to cover the 3--4 hole and tremendous at starting the 3-6-3 double play. Lance Berkman doesn't have Pujols's range or arm, so if once or twice a game the Cards can buy Berkman two steps by having him not hold the runner, that could save a handful of hits a year and create extra double plays. This matters to the Cardinals' pitchers, who led the majors last year in groundball rate and should allow even more with righty Adam Wainwright returning to the mound.
SCOTT ROVAK/ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (BELTRAN)
JED JACOBSOHN (MOLINA)