All posts by Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.

Franklin’s blown saves – joke or no joke?

In a Monday article acknowledging Jason Isringhausen’s first outing with his new Tampa Bay club, the AP added some sour grapes commentary from Izzy’s former bullpen mate Ryan Franklin.

The gripes weren’t about Isringhausen – they were about how Franklin’s 2008 stint as the St. Louis Cardinals closer has been remembered. Despite having lost the closer’s job for the same reason Izzy did, ineffectiveness, Franklin has his own unique perspective on what exactly happened.

Said the AP:

Franklin is a bit defensive about his statistics last year, noting at least a couple of his blown saves came in games where he had virtually no shot. He entered one with the bases loaded and gave up a tying sacrifice fly. Another occurred in the sixth inning.

“There were some joke blown saves,” Franklin said. “You kidding me?”

Who is kidding who?

Having a different recollection than Franklin, I decided to get to the bottom of this by a simple view of his 2008 performance as seen through the game logs from his blown save contests.

First of all, the cold, hard facts say that Franklin made good on just 17 of his 25 save opportunities for a conversion rate of 68%. In other words, he basically blew one of every three chances presented him.

As such, I can see why Franklin might be sensitive. After all, his record was simply not very good. Yet as bad as Isringhausen’s 2008 season was, his save mark was very close at 63%.

Now I will look at each of Franklin’s eight blown saves and call them as I see them – either “joke”, meaning the blown save was not justified, or “no joke”, meaning Franklin got what he deserved.

We’ll tabulate the score at the end.

April 1: Franklin took over to start the eighth inning on opening day, protecting a 1-0 lead. He coughed up a single and a ground rule double. A no-out error allowed the first run in. Franklin was pulled after giving up a walk to the next batter, still with no outs.

After collecting two strikeouts, Randy Flores walked in the winning run. Two unearned runs were charged to Franklin as he took the blown save and loss. Because Franklin created the mess, I have to call this no joke, despite what he may think.

April 21: Franklin came in to open the eighth in a one-run game. He allowed a run on two hits and a one-out error then gave up another hit before getting out of the inning. He took the blown save, but the Cardinals came back in the ninth to grab the win. No joke.

June 5: The Cardinals had fought back to take a 9-8 lead in the top of the tenth inning. Franklin opened the bottom of the frame by yielding a single and a walk off two-run home run to end the game. No joke.

June 26: Protecting a one-run lead, Franklin opened the ninth inning. A one-out solo home run tied the game, which Mike Parisi lost in the tenth. No joke.

July 24: Franklin took over with two out in the eighth and the bases empty. He collected the third out and remained in for the ninth to protect the Cards’ one-run lead. After a single, a two-run home run turned the tables. Franklin took the blown save and the loss, his second in a row. The previous evening’s defeat was not in a save situation. No joke.

July 26: The Cardinals turned the ball over to Franklin to open the ninth with an 8-7 lead. The first batter hit a home run. Franklin took the blown save in a game that the Cardinals eventually won in 14 innings. No joke.

August 5: Franklin took over for Isringhausen with one out in the ninth. The bases were loaded and three runs were already in to turn a 4-0 lead into a 4-3 nail-biter. Franklin yielded a sacrifice fly to tie the game and as such was charged with the blown save. The Cards eventually won in the 11th. Finally, a legitimate joke.

September 26: Franklin was given the ball with one out in the ninth to protect a two-run lead. A single, a stolen base and a two-run home run erased St. Louis’ margin. Franklin picked up a vulture win when the Cardinals broke the tie in the bottom on the ninth. No joke.

Many closers say they put the previous game out of their mind, whether good or bad. I can understand that line of thinking, but I don’t really believe it. Perhaps in this case however, Franklin has in fact selectively forgotten all the bad.

By my count, seven of Franklin’s eight blown saves in 2008 were not a joke, despite what his revisionist version of history might say.

The AP apparently bought into the excuse. As noted above, they mentioned both the bases-loaded “joke” game as well as a mystery contest in which Franklin supposedly took a blown save in the sixth inning. I could find no such game.

By throwing the single legitimate “joke” game away, Franklin’s 2008 save percentage would have rocketed all the way from 68% up to 71%. In a point of comparison, through all the times of good and bad, Izzy’s Cardinals career save mark was 85%.

Data point number two. Last season, Franklin’s overall ERA was 3.55. In his 49 lower-pressure appearances, his ERA was a nifty 2.94. In the 25 crunch time, save-situation games in 2008, it was 4.72, almost two runs worse.

Who is kidding who?

Ludwick backs off 50-homer talk and other Cardinals strugglers

Of the many stories that came out of the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up fan festival just two months ago, one focused on two Cardinals outfielders who hit the weight room over the winter and appeared noticeably bulked up.

One was top prospect Colby Rasmus. In an AP article in January, this was said about Colby:

“The 22-year-old Rasmus has been doing eight bench-press repetitions at 275 pounds all winter while working out at home with his brother and dad. He’s also done a lot of sprint work and said his speed has not been compromised by the injury.”

The outfielder has been given plenty of opportunities to impress this spring, but so far, has fallen short of the lofty expectations placed upon him. Rasmus’ current line is .244/.326/.366. His 13 strikeouts in 41 at-bats lead the team.

The other prominent lifter is fellow outfielder Ryan Ludwick. The same January 22 AP article mentioned this:

“His bench press routine of eight repetitions at 285 pounds, a 30-pound improvement over last season, helps him set the bar for 50 homers in 2009 with a straight face.”

At the time, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch also commented. He seemed unsure if the comments were made in jest.

“Ludwick ought to get stronger and was able to increase, for example, his bench-press reps by 30 pounds. He then semi-joked that he’d ‘like to hit 50’ home runs.”

Manager Tony La Russa was not amused at the time. “That’s a dumb thing for Lud to say,” he was quoted as saying to the Belleville News-Democrat. The manager wisely wanted the outfielder to let the power come to him.

Struggling so far this spring with a .147/.275/.206 line after 12 games and 34 at-bats, Ludwick is now waving off the 50 home run talk.

From a Sunday AP article, “Ludwick emphasizes that he never predicted 50 homers.”

“I said ‘I dreamed about playing in the big leagues so why can’t you dream about hitting 50 home runs in the big leagues?”‘ Ludwick said. “Do I think I’m going to hit 50 home runs? No. I’m just trying to play to my capabilities.”

With that, I have decided to offer my mid-spring view of how the remaining players in big league camp have performed to date. All players are placed into one of three groups – rising, flat or falling.

These are my personal views and several weeks remain for these to change. Here’s hoping all the fallers rise during the second half of camp.

Pitchers Mitchell Boggs Late start, but four shutout innings.
Rising Chris Carpenter So far, so good.
Ryan Franklin Save the bullets for the season!
Blake Hawksworth A 4.22 ERA is an improvement.
Josh Kinney 4 walks in 5 scoreless IP only minor blemish.
Charlie Manning Too many walks, but hasn’t been bad (1.69 ERA).
Jason Motte Hasn’t walked anyone in 5 IP.
Joel Pineiro No ER in 10 IP!
Adam Wainwright Not yet at an ace level, but improving each time.
P.J. Walters Quietly entering sixth starter race.
Pitchers Kyle Lohse Sorry, but 3.60 ERA is expected for $41 M.
Flat Trever Miller No surprises is a good thing for veteran.
Adam Ottavino WBC game was nice, but Cards results less so.
Fernando Salas 3 ER and 3 BB in 5 IP. Expectations low in 1st camp.
Matt Scherer Slowed by injury, but 1st IP good. Could rise.
Jess Todd 3 BB, 3 ER in 6 1/3 IP. He’ll be back, though!
Dennys Reyes Yet to appear, but not dominating in WBC.
Pitchers Kyle McClellan 7.56 ERA concerning, but should end up in pen.
Falling Chris Perez How bad is the heel bothering him?
Royce Ring 2 HR in 5 1/3 IP.
Brad Thompson 5.19 ERA not impressive for veteran swingman.
Todd Wellemeyer Only 7 IP, so time to improve on 5.14 ERA.
Catchers Jason LaRue Seeing a lot of time, but only batting .208
Flat Yadier Molina Away at WBC. He will be fine.
Matt Pagnozzi Hitting .200, but stayed longer than expected.
Catchers Bryan Anderson Not hitting (.154) and runners are stealing on him.
Infielders Brian Barden Hitting a quiet .350.
Rising Allen Craig Batting .476! Should be slugging 1B at Memphis.
Khalil Greene May be dark horse surprise of 2009 team.
Joe Mather Leads in RBI, but average remains a concern.
Joe Thurston Versatile and contributing.
Infielders Albert Pujols .333/.489/.455 line is expected.
Flat Skip Schumaker Bat is just fine. Position change still open issue.
Infielders Troy Glaus When will he really be back at 100%?
Falling Tyler Greene Glove good, but 8 Ks in 35 ABs and .229 average.
Brendan Ryan Needs to get healthy and hot. 3-for-10 not enough.
Outfielders Rick Ankiel Batting .333, drawing BBs, but Ks still a bit high.
Rising Chris Duncan Power seems back.
Jon Jay One of camp surprises. Can he hit enough for COF?
Outfielders Brian Barton .192 with 9 Ks in 26 ABs.
Falling Ryan Ludwick Still has plenty of time to get ready for season.
Colby Rasmus Uneven play to date isn’t forcing his way onto team.

P.S. A Sunday article stated that Brendan Ryan is out of options. That is incorrect.

Cardinals in Triple-A – 1977 to present

The last quarter century of results posted by the St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A franchise, currently the Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League, offer an interesting contrast.

On one hand, the highs were the highest, as none of the other Cardinals franchises have won as many league championships as the Triple-A club, yet none of the clubs at the top six levels have delivered a poorer cumulative won-loss record, either.

Cardinals system records – New Orleans/Springfield (IL)/Louisville/Memphis

Last ten years (1999-2008) Level Mark Record Year Club
Most league championships club one 5-way tie: Mem/TN/PB/QC/Batavia
Last 25 years (1984-2008) Level Mark Record Year Club
Worst cumulative record club 0.481 1722-1860 1984-2008 Memphis/Louisville (Triple-A)
Most league championships club four 84,85,95,00 Memphis/Louisville (Triple-A)

Though the recent years in Memphis have been lean in terms of victories, results have actually been very consistent over time. It is interesting to note that the team’s .481 winning percentage is identical whether you review the last ten years or the most recent 25 years.

Following are the year-by-year details of the Cardinals Triple-A teams since 1977, with 25-year and 10-year subsets as well as by-league totals for the Pacific Coast League and American Association.

Cards Triple-A Year Pct W L Division Playoffs Manager
Record all clubs 77-08 0.489 2214 2318 9
25 year all clubs 84-08 0.481 1722 1860 6
10 year all clubs 99-08 0.481 687 740 1
PCL record 98-08 0.484 761 810
AA record (partial) 77-97 0.491 1453 1508
Memphis 2008 0.528 75 67 2 Chris Maloney
Memphis 2007 0.389 56 88 4 Chris Maloney
Memphis 2006 0.403 58 86 3 Danny Sheaffer
Memphis 2005 0.497 71 72 3 Danny Sheaffer
Memphis 2004 0.507 73 71 2 Danny Sheaffer
Memphis 2003 0.448 64 79 4 Tom Spencer
Danny Sheaffer
Memphis 2002 0.500 71 71 4 Gaylen Pitts
Memphis 2001 0.434 62 81 4 Gaylen Pitts
Memphis 2000 0.576 83 61 1 WCL Gaylen Pitts
Memphis 1999 0.536 74 64 3 Gaylen Pitts
Memphis 1998 0.514 74 70 2 Gaylen Pitts
Louisville 1997 0.406 58 85 4 Gaylen Pitts
Louisville 1996 0.417 60 84 4 Joe Pettini
Louisville 1995 0.514 74 70 4 WC Joe Pettini
Louisville 1994 0.521 74 68 4 L1 Joe Pettini
Louisville 1993 0.472 68 76 3 Jack Krol
Louisville 1992 0.510 73 70 3 Jack Krol
Louisville 1991 0.357 51 92 4 Mark DeJohn
Louisville 1990 0.507 74 72 3 Gaylen Pitts
Louisville 1989 0.490 71 74 4 Mike Jorgensen
Louisville 1988 0.444 63 79 4 Mike Jorgensen
Louisville 1987 0.557 78 62 2 L1 Mike Jorgensen
Louisville 1986 0.464 64 74 4 Jim Fregosi
Dave Bialas
Louisville 1985 0.521 74 68 1 WC Jim Fregosi
Louisville 1984 0.510 79 76 T4 WC Jim Fregosi
Louisville 1983 0.578 78 57 1 LC Jim Fregosi
Louisville 1982 0.541 73 62 T2 Joe Frazier
Springfield (IL) 1981 0.485 66 70 2 L1 Tommy Thompson
Springfield (IL) 1980 0.551 75 61 1 WC Hal Lanier
Springfield (IL) 1979 0.537 73 63 2 Hal Lanier
Springfield (IL) 1978 0.515 70 66 3 Jimy Williams
New Orleans 1977 0.419 57 79 4 Lance Nichols

WC = won championship

WCL = won league title, but lost in Triple-A World Series to International League champion

LC = lost in the finals

L1 = lost in first playoff round

As long-time owner A. Ray Smith ended his club’s and the Cardinals’ long-standing relationship with Tulsa, leaving the city and the Oilers behind for the 1977 season, the report begins.

That season, the short-lived New Orleans Pelicans entered the American Association, playing in the cavernous 62,000 seat Superdome. One of their infielders was a minor league veteran in his final season as a player and first as a coach. Tony La Russa batted .188 in 50 games.

Dane Iorg found the club’s new home in Springfield, Illinois to his liking in 1978 as the future major leaguer lead the AA with a .371 batting average. Hal Lanier’s 1980 club, led by Alan Olmstead’s 2.77 ERA, took the league championship.

Smith was sued by Springfield officials when he reneged on a deal to remain there after the locals had invested in stadium renovations.

Loved in Louisville (1982-1997)

The Redbirds arrived in Louisville, Kentucky in 1982. Packing fans into 33,000 seat Cardinal Stadium regularly, the club broke a 36-year-old minor league record by 200,000 in drawing a total of 868,418 fans.

The next season, Louisville became the first minor club ever to draw over 1,000,000 fans, outdrawing three MLB teams in the process. Jim Fregosi’s squad had the best record in the league but lost in the first round of the playoffs.

In the 1984 regular season, the Redbirds tied for fourth, but won a tie breaker game and eight more to capture Louisville’s first Cardinals-affiliated crown. Speedster Vince Coleman led the American Association with 97 runs scored. MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn canceled the Triple-A World Series due to concerns over its planned locale – Las Vegas.

1985 brought another first-place finish and a second consecutive championship for Louisville. Todd Worrell paced the league with 128 strikeouts. Smith sold the team to a local group after the 1986 season following 26 years of ownership.

The current bench coach for the big league Cardinals, Joe Pettini, presided over a short burst of playoff baseball after a seven-year absence. Though the 1994 Redbirds lost in the first round, next season’s club took the American Association flag. Both clubs finished the regular season in fourth place, but came on when it counted most.

In 1994, 22-year-old Alan Benes won 17 games while 1995 AA saves leader Cory Bailey logged 25.

1997 became the final season of the American Association and the end of the Cardinals’ run in Louisville as well. Gaylen Pitts, who had previously managed the club in 1990, was back in 1997 and remained through 2002. His six-year consecutive run is tied for the longest in the system at any level since at least 1981 with Steve Turco of Johnson City (1994-1999).

Walking in Memphis (1998-present)

The new Memphis club, owned by a not-for-profit foundation, aligned with the Cardinals for their dual debuts in the Pacific Coast League in 1998. In the third of three consecutive winning seasons in their new city, the Redbirds took their only PCL championship to date, but fell in the Triple-A World Series.

Those 2000 champs celebrated in their new $80 million, AutoZone Park in downtown Memphis, considered then and now to be one of the finest minor league facilities. That season, Bud Smith took the PCL ERA title at 2.17 with teammate Britt Reames (2.28) placing third.

In the eight seasons since, the Redbirds have posted just two winning campaigns, but things are looking up. 2008’s 75-67 (.528) set the high water mark during that period.

Even with spotty team records, Memphis continued to feature strong individual performances by future major leaguers. In 2004, Dan Haren was tops in the PCL with 150 strikeouts and Adam Wainwright led the league in innings pitched (182) the following season.

The Memphis franchise was recently ranked by Forbes as the second most valuable in all of the minor leagues at $26.1 million, yet the club is carrying a heavy debt due to the construction costs of AutoZone Park.

Last fall, the Cardinals and Redbirds announced a letter of intent for the big league club to purchase the Memphis team. Ultimately, the organization called the deal off due to the complexity of the transaction and the weakened economy though the team remains for sale.

Related articles:

“Cardinals in Double-A – 1966 to present”

“Cardinals in the Florida State League – 1966 to present”

“Quad Cities: Cardinals top minor league club has a long history”

Cardinals in the Appalachian League – 1975 to present

Cardinals in the New York-Penn League – 1981 to present

A quarter century of Cardinals minor league results

Khalil Greene’s springs point to regular season success

Until he blasted his first home run of the 2009 spring in Friday afternoon’s split squad game, new St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Khalil Greene had been quietly flying under the radar.

With more controversial stories all over camp, from Joel Pineiro to Chris Carpenter to Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus, there just wasn’t much to say about the stoic new guy. Steady, doing his job.

On Friday, Greene’s mammoth two-run shot that reportedly landed on a field beyond the left field fence helped power the Cardinals to a 6-5 victory over the home Baltimore Orioles, their ninth win of the spring in 14 games. The 29-year-old added a single in three at-bats to raise his Florida average to .367.

Even prior to Friday’s outburst, I had been looking at Greene’s spring training results going back to his first camp with San Diego in 2003. I was wondering if his springs might say anything about his regular seasons to follow.

After all, considering Greene’s terrible 2008 regular season with the Padres (.213/.260/.339), I was hoping to see a positive trend of some kind. While I did, the spring extremes I found were surprising.

In seven major league springs, including 2009, Greene has been either boom or bust, with absolutely nothing in between.

He has yet to post a March average anywhere in the range between .224 and .339, with four springs below. Three are above, including so far here in 2009.

The right-handed hitter has not registered a March OPS between .733 and .956, a huge gulf if there ever was one. If you throw out his five at-bat introduction in 2003, Greene’s spring OPS canyon expands from .678 to .956.

I find that amazing.

2009* StL 0.367 0.406 0.567 0.973 11 30 3 11 17 3 0 1 9 2 1 1 0 1
2008 SD 0.191 0.231 0.447 0.678 19 47 6 9 21 6 0 2 5 3 18 1 0 3
2007 SD 0.424 0.424 0.763 1.187 20 59 10 25 45 5 0 5 17 0 12 1 0 2
2006 SD 0.224 0.239 0.433 0.672 23 67 11 15 29 8 0 2 7 2 15 0 0 4
2005 SD 0.188 0.278 0.292 0.570 18 48 4 9 14 2 0 1 5 4 14 1 1 0
2004 SD 0.339 0.408 0.548 0.956 22 62 10 21 34 3 2 2 16 7 15 0 0 0
2003 SD 0.200 0.333 0.400 0.733 5 5 1 1 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1

*through 3/13 Game 1

As the highlighted data above indicates, Greene’s big springs prior to this one were in 2004 and 2007.

How did he do from April until October those years? The answer is “pretty darned well”.

During his 2004 introductory season, his first as a full-timer in San Diego, Greene finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. He posted what are still his regular-season career bests in three important offensive categories – batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.349) and OPS (.795).

The 2007 campaign is the one that probably generated the most attention for Greene, however. That year, he slammed his career best of 27 home runs and drove in 97 runs, also his high water mark. His 2007 slugging percentage of .468 is his highest to date.

While there remains plenty of time during spring training 2009 for Greene’s trajectory to change, based on his past results, one might draw the conclusion that he seems on the way to an offensive turnaround during the 2009 regular season.

Duncan a student of swing doctor McGwire

The New York Times was able to secure the unthinkable – an interview with exiled slugger Mark McGwire, something the Californian had declined previously. Of course the ground rules were that there was to be no discussion about the past.

The focus was the former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman’s new life as a hitting instructor, a doctor of swings. One of his prize students, Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan, is enjoying an especially strong spring to date.

The article, which I encourage you to read, offered several interesting tidbits.

  • McGwire agreed to assist the Cardinals as a spring training instructor in 2008, but had to back out at the last moment due to a family matter.
  • Big Mac left the door open to it in the future if it didn’t interfere with his family life, but as previously reported, did not accept Tony La Russa’s offer this spring.
  • McGwire shrugged off the steroids controversy surrounding him by saying, “I’m such an easygoing guy. I don’t need to sweep away any bitterness.”
  • His four students this winter were Matt Holliday and Bobby Crosby of the Oakland Athletics, along with Duncan and Skip Schumaker of the Cardinals.

It was known that Holliday moved to Southern California to work out with McGwire at the University of California at Irvine and Schumaker is from the area. A June, 2008 USA Today article also notes McGwire often appears at Total Baseball in Huntington Beach, California.

Though they’re from Arizona, Chris Duncan’s brother Shelly of the New York Yankees also spent a week getting pointers from McGwire in October, 2006.

The weighting of the various possible causes for Chris Duncan’s encouraging rebirth this spring cannot be simply determined, but the results speak for themselves. Through 12 games and 30 at-bats, just three off the team lead, the 27-year-old is smacking the ball all over Florida parks.

His line is a most impressive and mathematically pure .333/.400/.600, for an OPS of 1.000. That includes three extra base hits, a triple and two home runs. Duncan’s RBI total of ten only trails Joe Mather’s 13 among Cardinals.

In addition to the offensive results, Duncan’s defense at his natural position, first base, was praised by Cardinals radio broadcasters John Rooney and Mike Shannon on Thursday. Duncan was given a start there in place of resting Albert Pujols.

Following the removal of a herniated cervical disc in his neck with a titanium replacement inserted last August, Duncan is apparently healthy for the first time since 2007. The first-ever type surgery for a professional athlete seems to have been entirely successful.

As such, an already crowded St. Louis outfield derby is getting even tighter.

Duncan could be another Cardinals player hoping that Schumaker will succeed in his difficult attempt to convert to a second baseman. Though different kinds of players, both are left-handed hitting outfielders capable of starting in the one remaining outfield position up for grabs on the 2009 Cardinals.

Along with Schumaker at the top of the lineup, La Russa has often discussed his desire for “danger” in the number two spot in his batting order in front of Pujols. Duncan has been tried in that spot before and could be placed there again once the season begins.

If Chris Duncan is truly back, he certainly would have reason to thank his doctors – Dr. Daniel Riew, the surgeon who repaired his neck, along with his swing doctor, Mark McGwire.

Rasmus still has time, but needs Skip’s help

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it. I believe Skip Schumaker’s success or failure at second base will have as much or more impact on top prospect Colby Rasmus making the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals out of spring training than will Rasmus’ own play.

The problem is that Rasmus’ chances are hitting on neither cylinder right now.

The outfielder is sidelined, for what is said to be short-term in duration, due to hamstring soreness. The 22-year-old has missed almost three games after leaving after one at-bat on Sunday against Florida. Even so, Rasmus is still leading the Cardinals in at-bats with 33.

The top prospect is batting just .242 for a Cardinals club that is leading all Florida spring training clubs in run scoring. Of the 18 players in Cards camp with at least ten at bats coming into Wednesday, only four have a lower batting average.

Two of them, Jason LaRue (.200) and Ryan Ludwick (.130), are assured of jobs. The other two, like Rasmus, are playing for their roster spots – Brian Barton (.208) and Joe Thurston (.182).

Even worse for Rasmus is that the Schumaker experiment at second base is drawing more fire as the errors mount. Rather than repeat it, I will simply link to Joe Strauss’ Wednesday article from the Post-Dispatch.

I will highlight just one point. Even with generous amounts of home-cooked scoring, Schumaker’s fielding percentage currently sits at .826. Just as there is time for Rasmus’ bat to come around, there is also time for Schumaker’s defense to improve.

Not too much time, though.

With spring elongated by a week due to the World Baseball Classic, Schumaker would never have a longer period to try to learn the position on the fly, but no one should have expected it to be successful. Hope, yes, but expect, no.

As one would assume, manager Tony La Russa doesn’t want to talk about it, because realistically there is nothing he can say.

Tony knows he doesn’t want to risk injury to his franchise first baseman as an errant Schumaker throw on Sunday almost caused. The skipper also understands he needs to maintain the confidence of his ground ball-inducing pitching staff. That group won’t be able to deal with unearned runs on a regular basis, such as the two that scored due to Skip’s most recent miscue on Tuesday.

Todd Wellemeyer, Tuesday’s victim, was likely speaking on behalf of all the Cardinals pitchers when he made the point abundantly clear after the game.

“During the season, it’s not acceptable. It’s all there is to it. I don’t think Tony will have it,” Wellemeyer said.

La Russa has already announced that Schumaker is taking a game off from playing in the field on Thursday. He has scheduled the 29-year-old to be his designated hitter against the Boston Red Sox, potentially blocking off one avenue for Rasmus to get back into the lineup in the process. Friday’s split squad games seem a good alternate target for Colby’s return.

The Skip to DH move, even as temporary as one game, should allow several of the other second base candidates to receive some more meaningful playing time at the position. Currently, “Plan B” for second base is very unclear.

In another interesting tidbit, Derrick Goold reports that Skip has requested spring time in the outfield to ensure he is ready to play there. La Russa seemed fine with the idea of Schumaker moving between infield and outfield if needed. Yet this shouldn’t be necessary unless doubts are creeping in as to the permanence of the second base shift.

La Russa admitted as much when he told Strauss the following:

“If good things happen, then you keep giving him a chance because it means a lot to him. If it doesn’t do it, we gave it the ol’ college try.”

If the Cardinals have to permanently abandon the Schumaker move, how might the dominoes fall?

A trade of outfield surplus for a second baseman would be just as ideal now as it was last fall, but the same old problems remain, along with a new one.

First of all, will a decent player become available from a club that matches up with St. Louis in terms of need? Second, what is the chance that second baseman won’t cost more in salary than the player(s) the Cardinals would give up in return?

Another recent Strauss article quoted an organization source that the signing of reliever Dennys Reyes last week exhausted all the payroll flexibility in the team’s budget until at least mid-season. Unless an exception would be made, that may narrow what few options general manager John Mozeliak could unearth over the next three weeks. Money would also seem to rule out signing an aging free agent stop-gap such as former Cardinal Mark Grudzielanek or Ray Durham.

Skip is set offensively as the club’s leadoff hitter and despite the defensive challenges, is still batting .333 this spring. With no minor league options remaining, there will be no temptation to send him down to Memphis to get more work at the position.

Who would play second?

Of the four other candidates, as noted above, Thurston isn’t hitting. Brendan Ryan, slowed by injury earlier, is just 2-for-8 (.250). I have felt those two would have the inside track, with Thurston especially interesting because he bats from the left side.

Brian Barden had two hits Wednesday and is batting .429, but has been given limited action (just 14 at-bats). Tyler Greene, one of the early surprises of camp, has seen his spring average drop to .269. Neither has been eliminated, nor is Jarrett Hoffpauir (6-for-15, .400) entirely out of it, either.

Defensively, Schumaker would undoubtedly step back into the starting left field job, at least the majority of the time, against right-handed pitchers. With Rasmus and fellow outfielder Chris Duncan also hitting left-handed and with incumbent starters Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick set at the other two outfield positions, there would be no place for Rasmus to start. Add spring RBI leader Joe Mather back into the outfield mix once Troy Glaus reclaims his job at third base and… well, you get the idea.

Clearly, the Cardinals don’t want Rasmus on the bench, whether in St. Louis or Memphis.

Like Schumaker already doesn’t have enough pressure playing for himself; he very well may be playing for Colby, too.

Mudslingers again take aim at Pujols

With Alex Rodriguez’ reputation damaged by his admission of steroids use, the sights of those aiming to take down more big game have been re-aimed at St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.

Pujols took the offensive in the March 16 issue of Sports Illustrated via a cover article entitled, “Don’t Be Afraid To Believe In Me”. As told to Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star, Pujols addresses the question of public perception over whether or not he used steroids.

“… They’re going to say, ‘Well, he probably did it back then. He just didn’t get caught.’ I know that is what they’re going to say. And you know what, man? It is sad, but at the same time it doesn’t matter. I know who I am. …”

A blogger named “Andrew R” is among those reacting just as Pujols predicted. Andrew, whose bio states he is “attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a first year journalism major”, has been given a national platform through a website called “Bleacher Report”, which is associated with both and On Tuesday, Andrew published an article entitled “Albert Pujols: Juicer or Clean Player?”.

Although Andrew states his place of birth to have been in the USA, I can only assume that was a mistake. It must have been somewhere outside the free world since he is obviously unfamiliar with the most basic tenet of human rights. “The law presumes that persons charged with crime are innocent until they are proven by competent evidence to be guilty.”

In his expose’, Andrew offers the following examples of “evidence” that baseball players from this era may be guilty, specifically Pujols, because they cannot be proven to be innocent.

  • “Do you remember the last guy with his build? He played first base for the Cardinals, too, and he hit 70 home runs in 1998.”
  • “Pujols’ name was linked to the Mitchell Report before it was published, but his name never did end up appearing in it.”
  • “Albert Pujols is the greatest example of how steroids have ruined baseball the last twenty years.”

It is a double-edged sword giving attention to such careless writing, yet it never ceases to amaze me how these types of accusations reach the mainstream.

Some believe that Pujols should remain silent and not dignify the charges being whispered against him. Yet, it is too late for that. His name has already been dragged through the mud.

Pujols was slandered by the blog Deadspin in June, 2006 when the site erroneously fingered Pujols’ personal trainer Chris Mihlfeld as a supplier to caught user and former MLB pitcher Jason Grimsley. Even though Pujols was not a part of the story, connected only circumstantially by his trainer and with apparently nothing to do with Grimsley, it was Albert’s photo that Deadspin ran. Apparently, they couldn’t locate one of Grimsley or Mihlfeld (wink, wink).

The accusations were picked up nationally, including what I recall to have been a particularly scathing report by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. Though the Deadspin writer, Will Leitch, a professed Cardinals fan, four months later published an apology (to Mihlfeld, not Pujols) when he was proven by the Los Angeles Times to have been dead wrong in his accusations, damage to the reputations of Pujols and Mihlfeld was already done.

That summer, I recall booing of Pujols on the road where I had never heard it before. It was more than just begrudging respect for an opponent, a slightly milder version of Barry Bonds-like hazing that made me sick.

Whenever I start to become critical of Albert’s standoffishness toward the media, I stop and remind myself of the Deadspin incident. Then I get sick all over again.

I can only imagine Andrew R’s career aspiration is to become a writer for Deadspin. If so, the young man seems to be making good progress in his studies.

Cardinals in Double-A – 1966 to present

In putting together a piece on the St. Louis Cardinals’ Double-A teams, I was faced with a tough decision – where to begin. The organization’s participation in the Texas League stretches back to at least the 1959 Tulsa Oilers with only a four-year break.

1966 was a year of major change at the A-Advanced level with the creation of the St. Petersburg Cardinals; so was it the year the Arkansas Travelers entered the Double-A Texas League in an association with the Cardinals that would last for 35 years. That is where this article begins.

As will be detailed in the following, the Cardinals had some early success in the Texas League and reached their heyday in the late 1970s with three championships in four years.

Results during the 1980’s leveled off, but as late as 1991, the club was still over .500 over the period since 1966. A very poor decade of the 1990s put the Cardinals Double-A record since 1966 in the current hole, which is 39 games under .500 at .497.

Interestingly, subtracting a four-year interlude in the Eastern League during 2001 and 2002 and the Southern League in 2003 and 2004, the Cardinals’ Double-A Texas League record is almost exactly .500 (2657-2660).

Much progress is being made in recent times. Since 2002, the team is 29 games over .500 for a .515 winning mark (500-471), including four playoff appearances during those seven years and one shared title.

Cardinals in Double-A Year Pct W L Division Playoffs Manager
Record all clubs 66-08 0.497 2919 2958 15
25 year all clubs 84-08 0.486 1668 1763 7
10 year all clubs 99-08 0.484 674 718 4
Texas League record 66-00, 05-08 0.500 2657 2660
Southern League record 03-04 0.505 141 138
Eastern League record 01-02 0.431 121 160
Springfield (MO) 2008 0.547 76 63 1 Ron “Pop” Warner
Springfield (MO) 2007 0.537 73 63 1 LC Ron “Pop” Warner
Springfield (MO) 2006 0.478 66 72 3 Chris Maloney
Springfield (MO) 2005 0.500 70 70 3 Chris Maloney
Tennessee (Southern) 2004 0.493 69 71 3 TC Mark DeJohn
Tennessee (Southern) 2003 0.518 72 67 2 L1 Mark DeJohn
New Haven (Eastern) 2002 0.532 74 65 2 L1 Mark DeJohn
New Haven (Eastern) 2001 0.331 47 95 6 Danny Sheaffer
Arkansas 2000 0.489 68 71 2 Chris Maloney
Arkansas 1999 0.421 59 81 4 Chris Maloney
Arkansas 1998 0.571 80 60 1 L1 Chris Maloney
Arkansas 1997 0.486 68 72 2 Rick Mahler
Arkansas 1996 0.479 67 73 4 Rick Mahler
Arkansas 1995 0.519 70 65 2 Mike Ramsey
Arkansas 1994 0.504 68 67 3 Chris Maloney
Arkansas 1993 0.489 66 69 2 Joe Pettini
Arkansas 1992 0.447 59 73 4 Joe Pettini
Arkansas 1991 0.360 49 87 4 Joe Pettini
Arkansas 1990 0.412 56 80 4 Dave Bialas
Arkansas 1989 0.585 79 56 1 WC Gaylen Pitts
Arkansas 1988 0.493 67 69 3 Jim Riggleman
Darold Knowles
Gaylen Pitts
Arkansas 1987 0.533 72 63 2 Jim Riggleman
Arkansas 1986 0.500 67 67 3 Jim Riggleman
Arkansas 1985 0.478 64 70 3 L1 Jim Riggleman
Arkansas 1984 0.456 62 74 3 Dave Bialas
Arkansas 1983 0.507 69 67 2 L1 Nick Leyva
Arkansas 1982 0.500 68 68 3 Gaylen Pitts
Nick Leyva
Arkansas 1981 0.394 52 80 4 Gaylen Pitts
Arkansas 1980 0.596 81 55 1 WC Sonny Ruberto
Arkansas 1979 0.571 76 57 1 WC Tommy Thompson
Arkansas 1978 0.583 77 55 1 L1 Tommy Thompson
Arkansas 1977 0.485 63 67 2 WC Buzzy Keller
Tommy Thompson
Arkansas 1976 0.437 59 76 3 Jack Krol
Arkansas 1975 0.467 63 72 3 Roy Majtyka
Arkansas 1974 0.560 75 59 2 Jack Krol
Arkansas 1973 0.493 69 71 3 Tom Burgess
Arkansas 1972 0.468 65 74 3 Fred Koenig
Arkansas 1971 0.540 75 64 1 WCLD Jack Krol
Arkansas 1970 0.500 67 67 2 Ken Boyer
Arkansas 1969 0.489 66 69 2 Ray Hathaway
Arkansas 1968 0.586 82 58 1 LC Vern Rapp
Arkansas 1967 0.450 63 77 5 Vern Rapp
Arkansas 1966 0.579 81 59 1 L1 Vern Rapp

WC = won championship

WCLD = won league title, but lost in Dixie Series to Southern League champion

LC = lost in the finals

L1 = lost in first playoff round

Time with the Travs – 1966 through 2000

Other than a championship, what better outcome could there be than to post the best record in the league in your first season? The latter is what Vern Rapp’s 1966 Arkansas Travelers accomplished. Larry Stubing paced the club with a league-leading 25 home runs.

The Travs reached the 1968 finals, where they fell to El Paso. Pitcher Joe DiFabio led the Texas League with 13 wins and a sparkling 2.17 ERA.

In 1971, a one-year experiment called the Dixie Association was held during which the Texas and Southern Leagues played an interlocking schedule. Each league had their divisional playoffs, then the two league winners met. Jack Krol’s Arkansas club was the Texas League champion, the franchise’s first, but lost in the Dixie Series.

Future major leaguer Hector Cruz led the Texas League in 1973 in home runs (30), runs scored (94) and RBI s (105), accumulated during a season of just 140 games.

Despite a losing record in 1977, the Travs rode the second-half divisional crown through a perfect post-season. The club would play in the next three playoffs, too, winning two more times. Three championships in four years are a system record at any level since at least 1966 and likely longer.

In 1989, Arkansas closed out the decade as they began it, with a Texas League crown. Gaylen Pitts’ club was powered by a pair of outfielders headed for St. Louis. Bernard Gilkey paced the league in runs with 104 while Ray Lankford’s 158 hits was tops. Pitcher Dave Osteen chipped in with a league-high 15 wins.

The decade of the 1990’s plus the 2000 season, the Cardinals’ last in Arkansas, was a long, dry spell. Only three of the 11 clubs managed a winning record and the lone playoff appearance, in 1998, ended in a first-round sweep by their opponent. Joe Pettini and Chris Maloney, both in the organization today, managed the Travs for seven of the 11 seasons with Maloney being named the league’s Manager of the Year in 1998.

Four stops in six years – 2001-2004

For the 2001 season, the Cardinals parted ways with Arkansas and picked up the Eastern League New Haven Ravens from the departing Seattle Mariners. The team played in historic, but ancient (1927) Yale Field. That seemed ironic since one reason the Cardinals reportedly left Little Rock was because they wanted a replacement for aging Ray Winder Field, built in 1932.

The .331 mark (47-95) of that 2001 club set a Cardinals system futility record for the period back as far as 1966.

However, that downturn was righted quickly. Mark DeJohn arrived and took the team into the playoffs in each of the next three seasons, including one shared title in 2004.

The 2002 Ravens were led by first baseman John Gall, who led the Eastern League and the entire Cardinals system in hits (166), doubles (45), extra-base hits (68) and total bases (277). He was named the organization’s Player of the Year and repeated in 2003.

As early as that 2002 season, there were rumblings the Cardinals wanted to bring their Double-A club closer to home, with Springfield, Missouri rumored to be the destination. Yet when the Cardinals’ two-year Player Development Contract with New Haven expired, the organization signed up with the Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League for 2003 and 2004. The Smokies had been a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate prior.

The only opponent the 2004 Smokies could not defeat was Hurricane Ivan. The storm pre-empted the Southern League finals, with Tennessee and Mobile declared co-champions.

Brad Thompson was the other story in 2004. In his second professional season, he set a Southern League record for consecutive scoreless innings (49). Including 2003, the right-hander had a 57 2/3 inning scoreless streak that fell just 1 1/3 innings short of a record that had stood since 1907. Skip Schumaker led the offense and the league with 163 hits.

A new ballpark and team in Springfield

In August, 2004, the Cardinals purchased the El Paso Diablos, which had been the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Double-A affiliate, from Brett Sports and Entertainment, headed by Hall of Famer George Brett, for an estimated $9.8 million.

The organization immediately moved the club to Springfield, where they first owned a team during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Stan Musial was among the future stars to play in Springfield the first time around. He led the Western Association with 26 home runs in 1941, the year after a shoulder injury ended his pitching career. From 1932 through 1946, the Cardinals won four league titles.

Businessman John Q. Hammons had announced back in February, 2002 his plan to build a new $32 million ballpark even before a team was committed to play there. Starting in 2005, fans have filled Hammons Field seats at the rate of nearly 7,000 per game, with attendance consistently among the highest at the Double-A level.

In 2007, Ron “Pop” Warner’s Cardinals took both the first and second half North Division titles, but lost in the finals. Outfielder Colby Rasmus led the league in three offensive categories, including home runs (29), extra-base hits (69) and runs scored (93) and picked up his second consecutive Player of the Year award for the system. Chris Perez earned 27 saves prior to his promotion to Memphis.

Despite posting the best full-season record in the division, the Cardinals missed the 2008 playoffs on a tie-breaker. Fernando Salas led the league in appearances with 60 and saves with 25.

The Springfield franchise, in bad shape in El Paso, was recently ranked by Forbes as the 18th most valuable in all of the minor leagues and second highest in all of Double-A at $16.8 million. The club was named the Texas League Organization of the Year each of the last three seasons as the sky seems the limit for the Springfield Cardinals.

Cardinals system records – Arkansas/New Haven/Tennessee/Springfield

Last ten years (1999-2008) Level Mark Record Year Club
Last 25 years (1984-2008) Level Mark Record Year Club
Worst single season club 0.331 47-95 2001 New Haven Ravens (Double-A)

Related articles:

“Cardinals in the Florida State League – 1966 to present”

“Quad Cities: Cardinals top minor league club has a long history”

Cardinals in the Appalachian League – 1975 to present

Cardinals in the New York-Penn League – 1981 to present

A quarter century of Cardinals minor league results

Molina’s bigger moment

I didn’t say “biggest” moment as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is just 26 years old, with years of baseball excitement and accomplishments still ahead of him. Steadily improving as a hitter, quietly moving up the Cardinals batting order each year and already the game’s best defender at his position, the sky is the limit for the Puerto Rican.

On Monday evening, manager Jose Oquendo’s Team Puerto Rico was clearly “in dutch” with the Dutch. With less than two innings remaining, his club was down 1-0 and en route to an embarrassing and potentially damaging defeat at the hands of a lightly-regarded Netherlands team.

Up stepped Molina to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning. Always a player to be relied upon in tough situations, the catcher came through again as he shot a two-run double sharply down the left field line and into the corner.

After the Puerto Ricans won the game by a 3-1 score, advancing to the second round of the WBC, cameras focused on Molina. Normally a stoic sort, his grin was so wide it put the late Heath Ledger’s portrayal of Batman’s nemesis The Joker to shame.

In this case, however, the only people who saw Molina as a bad guy were the citizens of the Netherlands.

The big hit evoked memories of 2006, as the Cardinals were on the verge of being eliminated from the NLCS by the New York Mets. Molina’s two-run home run saved the Cardinals season and propelled them into the World Series.

One of the most divisive issues across baseball this spring is this second World Baseball Classic. Fans either love the competition or see it as a major distraction to preparation for the 2009 MLB season.

What many Americans do not seem to understand or appreciate is how important this WBC is to these players and to the nations of the world. At a time when baseball seems to be losing ground in terms of overall popularity, this tournament draws global attention to the game like no other event could.

Molina is the only Cardinals front-line player in the 2009 WBC, playing for his homeland. The youngest of the three catching Molina brothers wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, his comments after his winning hit Monday placed this event ahead of his 2006 Mets’-killing blow.

“To play before your family, before your own people, there are very different emotions than playing a World Series before almost 50,000 people. It is really exciting, but here in front of your own people, your family. I believe this is my World Series and I enjoy it more here,” Molina excitedly said.

That doesn’t make Molina any less of a St. Louis Cardinal or any less committed to his professional duties. It does however underline the importance of these games to the players.

Personally, I am disappointed that some MLB clubs openly discourage their players from participating and serving as worldwide ambassadors for the game in the process. No, the timing isn’t ideal, but there isn’t a better time. Sure, players risk injury, just as they do in spring training.

With the Olympics having decertified baseball, these games stand alone as the true Series of the World.

The memory of what happened Monday night will be with Molina forever.

“It’s one of the greatest moments of my life. The double that I hit tonight is going to be in my heart all my life,” Molina exclaimed.

Good for him. Good for baseball.

September: Time for Cardinals streaks

In a recent post, I looked at St. Louis Cardinals history in terms of long winning and losing stretches. This time around, I am going to focus in on the most recent five seasons to see what streak information might tell us.

Following are the club’s results in terms of wins over the last five years as well as the timing of their longest winning and losing streaks. From part one, you may recall that the club’s all-time records in terms of consecutive wins and losses are 14 and 12 respectively, each set over seventy years ago.

Where there were multiple streaks of the same length, the months of each streak are listed separately.

Winning and losing streaks – St. Louis Cardinals – 2004 through 2008

Year Wins Longest win streak Month Longest losing streak Month
2008 86 6 September 7 September
2007 78 5 August 9 September
2006 83 7 July 8 June
2005 100 6 April 3 May
2004 105 9 Aug-Sept 4 September

I am not sure what I expected to see, but in terms of sheer numbers, the fact that not even the 100-plus win clubs of 2004 and 2005 were able to string together at least ten wins at a time surprised me a bit. While the most winning clubs generally had longer streaks, the data is not all that compelling.

Looking at losing streaks seems to say a little more. In each of the last three seasons, long losing skids of from seven to nine games occurred. On the other hand, in the two previous winning seasons, the runs of consecutive losses were effectively capped at four or fewer.

Consider 2005. I find it amazing that club endured a season-long worst stretch of only three consecutive losses, but even more so that it occurred only three times all year long. There was some very consistent winning going on.

What is probably my main takeaway from this data can be seen in the calendar information. Of the six months of play each season, September has clearly been the one month for streaky behavior in recent seasons – both good and bad.

Half (three of six) of the longest winning streaks in each of the last five seasons occurred in September. It is just as striking when looking at the losing runs. In that case, four of eight of the worst stretches occurred during the final full month.

Why are half the longest streaks coming during just one 30-day period each season?

One might try to wash this away by suggesting the reason for streaky play late is due to the team being out of pennant contention or because of increased reliance on less-proven players promoted from the minor leagues for the final month.

I don’t think I buy it. With the added incentive of the wild card, the Cardinals have remained in the chase late in almost every recent season, including 2008. Compared to other clubs, it seems to me that the Cardinals use called-up players less extensively during the final month than their opponents, though that is a gut feeling. I have not made formal comparisons with other teams.

Could it be that the hard-driving Tony La Russa begins to wear thin as the days shorten? Are the players just tired? Aren’t the other teams tired, too? Do the Cardinals have more late-season injuries than other clubs?

It could be one factor or a combination of many.

Still, when considering the recent streakiness exhibited by the Cardinals, they seem to avoid reaching too high or falling too low for the majority of the season, at least until the final month.

I am quite sure that if the coaching staff knew how to fine tune their behavior to maximize the positive results and minimize the negative, they would quickly adjust their routine accordingly.

If only it was so simple…

Rasmus microfocus feels excessive

The most visible prospect among the St. Louis Cardinals’ improving stash is outfielder Colby Rasmus, in major league camp as a non-roster invitee. One of the biggest roster questions for the club is whether there will be room for the 22-year-old to make the team.

One by-product of all that attention is that the player’s every move is analyzed and often over analyzed. On Saturday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an article about Rasmus in which they highlighted a recent run of eight spring plate appearances through his first at-bat of Saturday’s game.


The headline screamed, “La Russa talk appears to have paid off for young St. Louis Cardinals Cardinals outfielder Rasmus”. Whew!

Conclusions drawn:

  • The player may no longer be pressing.
  • A talk the manager had with the player must have worked.
  • A drop to the ninth spot in the order must have worked.
  • All is right with the world.

Ok, I added the final point, but hopefully, you get the idea. Eight plate appearances aren’t enough to determine anything. Unfortunately, spring training is as long for the writers as it is for the players and coaches.

For the record, Rasmus went 0-for-3 with a strikeout over the rest of Saturday’s game following the eight cherry-picked plate appearances trumpeted in the P-D article.

Even my colleague Ray Mileur at declared this morning that Rasmus has appeared to have made the team – with almost four weeks of exhibition games to go.

While Rasmus has been given the most at-bats on the Cardinals team, and in fact, the most of any player in any club’s spring training, he is hitting just .250. With his usual good eye at the plate, his on-base percentage is .351 due to five walks taken. Three extra base hits put Rasmus’ slugging mark at .375.

In other words, with only about 30 more points of spring OPS, Rasmus can reach Aaron Miles’ 2008 regular season mark of .753.

Am I suggesting Miles is Rasmus’ equal as a hitter? Of course not. But making pronouncements over 32 spring at-bats, let alone eight, is microanalysis at its best, or should I say, worst.

If one could take spring performances to date to the bank, Allen Craig, a man without a clear home defensively who realistically will be fighting to make the Memphis roster for the first time, should be starting at first base for St. Louis ahead of .286-hitting Albert Pujols. After all, Craig’s current line is a lusty .438/.526/.688.

One of the early worries was whether Rasmus, seemingly being pushed by the front office, would see enough at bats in Tony La Russa’s camp. Those fears were unfounded.

With an assist due to regular starting centerfielder Rick Ankiel being slowed by Achilles tendon soreness, Rasmus has seen action early and often this spring, including time in centerfield, as noted above.

As camp began, La Russa tossed out the idea of hitting Rasmus ninth in his order, but started spring games with Colby seeing action at or near the top instead. For the last several days, Rasmus has been in that ninth spot, as originally suggested.

Let’s move on to the broader landscape, which I assert affects Rasmus’ immediate future on the club as much or more than his own play. Inherent in the question of whether he makes the Cardinals are several other still-open issues related to other incumbent outfielders:

  • Will Skip Schumaker be able to execute a successful transition to a major league-capable second baseman on the fly, thereby opening a left-handed outfield spot?
  • Will Joe Mather start the season at third base, making a bit more room in a very crowded outfield?
  • Will the Cardinals finally engineer a trade to relieve some of the outfield surplus to address other needs after a winter of attempts and failures?

Here’s hoping that Rasmus does well this spring, but let’s check back on his progress in a few weeks, not in a few more at-bats.

So, how is Chris Carpenter doing today?

The seventh man in the Cardinals bullpen

Despite all the off-season roster churn, the St. Louis Cardinals have relatively few battles for roster spots this spring.

Sure, the middle infield is muddled and there is a scrum (or perhaps there will be) over who takes over temporarily for Troy Glaus at third base. Colby Rasmus’ immediate major league future may depend as much on Skip Schumaker’s successful conversion to second base as it does him pulling out of a mini slump to start camp.

The rotation is set. The catching is set. The infield and outfield are getting lined up. Until Thursday, the bullpen seemed aligned, too. Yet the concern remained about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the contenders for the second left-handed spot behind Trever Miller.

That concern was addressed with Thursday’s announcement of the signing of Dennys Reyes to a two-year contract. While that is yesterday’s news now, several of the aftershocks attracted my attention.

One is that Miller is going to be tried in the ninth inning, according to an idea of pitching coach Dave Duncan, as shared with the Post-Dispatch. It would not be to displace the winner of the competition between hard-throwing right-handers Jason Motte and Chris Perez, but instead to offer a different look from the other side.

The 35-year-old Miller is a veteran of over 500 MLB games and has accrued a total of ten saves, with three the most gained in any season, at least until now. Miller’s first shot in the ninth was during Friday’s tie game. He yielded the winning run on a pair of hits and a walk.

The presence of Reyes also raised another question as to the identities of the seven members of the bullpen or the 12th pitcher as camp breaks.

Here is what Tony La Russa said to on Friday. You may have to read it a second or third time, however…

”… we have that [last] spot. It could go to a third left-hander, or it could go to a right-hander. If somebody wants a gift of a spot on the roster, that’s not the kind of guy you want on the club. You have to earn it. It just goes from two spots open — one spot open and one maybe — to one maybe.”

While La Russa did not identify the six spots taken, let’s take a run through the candidates to see what the manager and pitching coach may be thinking.

First, we have the relievers whose spots seem very secure. They include:

1. Ryan Franklin

2. Miller (L)

3. Reyes (L)

Then we have two returnees whose jobs seem pretty safe:

4. Kyle McClellan

5. Josh Kinney

I believe that McClellan will be on the team, but there remains a small chance he could be needed to start. As of today, his official status is as a starter, though that is expected to change at some point when all five members of the rotation seem fully healthy and ready to begin the season. If Mitchell Boggs can continue to build upon his solid spring debut, he may also ease the McClellan shift back to relief.

Kinney has been struggling with his command and location, but that is likely an early spring issue that will be worked out. Though the righty missed most of the last two seasons following dual elbow surgeries, he returned for an impressive, though short, re-audition last September.

Next we have the closer. It seems things continue to line up such that there will be room for one of the two of Perez and Motte on the opening roster, but not both. Let’s assume that for now.

6. Motte/Perez

Are these the manager’s six filled positions?

In a traditional La Russa/Duncan pen, the final spot is a long reliever-spot starter. I don’t want to read anything into early spring performances, but I did note with interest Franklin’s three-inning outing the other day.

Having spent most of his career as a starter prior to arriving in St. Louis, the 36-year-old wanted to compete for a rotation spot when he was signed two years ago. Perhaps it is nothing, but coupling this with the idea of using Miller in the ninth inning might free up Franklin for a longer role in 2009.

Coming into camp, Franklin was most often mentioned as the fallback for a Perez-Motte dual failure. Franklin did not shine as the closer last season, however.

7. To be determined

I see at least three paths here, labeled Options A, B and C. They involve four pitchers in a fight for one job – Brad Thompson, Royce Ring, Charlie Manning and one of Perez and Motte.

Option A: The long man

That Franklin-Miller scenario would put incumbent long-reliever/spot starter Brad Thompson on the hot seat and potentially open up Option B or C below.

Thompson seems to be a guy never able to lock down a role, yet offers a manager a lot of flexibility. For whatever reason, when Thompson starts, the club wins. Since coming up in 2005, the right-hander has started 24 games, during which the Cardinals went 17-7.

Option B: The third lefty

I have noted in the past that the Cardinals have not broken camp with three left-handers in the pen since the short-lived and ill-fated Bill Pulsipher experiment in 2005. That lasted five games for Pulse. The previous case was 2001, a time when another non-roster invitee, Jeff Tabaka, made the team. That lefty remained longer, but it wasn’t an entirely satisfactory result.

The third season in La Russa’s 13 in St. Louis in which the team came north with three left-handed relievers was 1999. That year, in an oddity, the club began the season with three lefties starting (Kent Mercker, Donovan Osborne and Darren Oliver) and three more in the pen (Mike Mohler, Lance Painter and Scott Radinsky).

Back to the here and now, so far in camp, neither lefties Charlie Manning nor Royce Ring have pitched themselves off the team. Both are on the 40-man roster and either could nail down that final spot, a point to which La Russa alluded in his quote above. Maybe the competition is real and maybe it is designed to head off any potential post-Reyes letdown by the pair.

Option C: The second closer

It would be unfair to Motte and Perez to not acknowledge that if each impresses all month long, the club could decide to keep them both.

Speaking of options, let’s discuss options as they relate to the club’s ability to ship these players to the minors. All of the players in question except Ring have an option remaining, which include Motte, Perez, Manning, and even Thompson, though the latter would have to pass through revocable waivers first. This is likely a formality that should not inhibit the decision-making process. Even McClellan and Kinney have options in the unlikely event it gets to that.

All in all, this gives La Russa and Duncan maximum flexibility to shape their pen and decide who to name as that seventh man.

Reyes exhausts Cards’ dry powder

The St. Louis Cardinals’ signing of reliever Dennys Reyes on Thursday was initially met with positive reaction from many across the Cardinal Nation, as the club moved to shore up their shaky left-handed relief situation.

I wrote about the signing yesterday at, so I am not going to rehash that here. Yet several comments in Joe Strauss’ follow-up article Friday warrant further discussion.

While the Cardinals nicely structured Reyes’ deal such that the majority, $2 million, is payable next season with $1 million due in 2009, it seems this small move is it for the club until at least July.

The Cards wisely ensured they have protection in case Reyes is injured in the World Baseball Classic, already underway.

“The deal is contingent on Reyes passing a team physical after his participation with Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. During the tournament, Reyes will be covered by an insurance policy obtained by the corporation that owns the event.”

The next quote offered is about yesterday’s Pedro Martinez rumor. The story painting him as the 2009 Cardinals potential closer had shorter legs than an aspiring tadpole.

“Intrigue over approaching former Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez as a potential closer will go no farther. The club now views projected set-up man Ryan Franklin as its alternative to Chris Perez and Jason Motte should the younger pitchers not assert themselves this spring.”

I don’t really care too much about that, though positioning Franklin as the closer fallback isn’t really news, is it? This third quote is the one that really concerns me.

“Signing Reyes virtually eliminates any remaining financial flexibility the team has until at least midway through the season, according to an organizational source.”

Taken at face value, this is an incredibly limiting position for the team to have placed themselves. Trades are difficult enough to pull off without them having to be either neutral or positive in terms of cash flow and cutting off the possibility of any signings before even understanding what they might be seems short-sighted.

The team as currently constructed is heavy on outfielders, especially left-handed ones, and lacks depth at second base, in right-handed relief and potentially in starting pitching.

If the Skip Schumaker at second base experiment fails, the club would seemingly be committed to Brian Barden, Brendan Ryan or the like for at least the first half of the season. If so, the real likelihood that stronger options might come available over the next month would be ignored, despite potential need that may arise.

As already noted above, if the kids can’t handle the ninth inning, the club will have to make do with Franklin, who was not up to the same job last season.

If Chris Carpenter (or any of the other starters) does not remain healthy, then the in-house candidates such as Kyle McClellan, Brad Thompson or Mitchell Boggs will seemingly have to be good enough.

I am not suggesting any particular deals be done now and I realize that sticking to budget is important for any business. Still, an aspiring championship club is foolish to close any possible doors of improvement even before the season gets underway.

In this scenario, one would have to hold out hope the team can remain competitive until the second half and that even if so, some help will be added. That would be in contrast to 2008, when the party line was that the cost of doing every possible trade was cost-prohibitive in terms of prospects to be given up.

Finally, if such a decision to stop spending was made after the Reyes signing, it seems dangerous to communicate it, even informally. On one hand, it can surely help tamp down expectations, both internally and externally.

On the other, it can fan the flames of discontent with team finances that is already consuming a number of vocal Cardinals watchers. At least some of them are the very ticket buyers the club is continuing to court here on the day single-game regular season tickets went on sale.

What was already a difficult balancing act seems to be getting tougher by the week.

Cardinals in the Florida State League – 1966 to present

The St. Louis Cardinals first joined the Class A-Advanced Florida State League in 1966. That year, the Dodgers and their St. Petersburg Saints left the ten-team circuit, to be replaced by the Cardinals, using their spring training home, Al Lang Stadium.

Following is the log of the last ten years, 25 years, full franchise and league histories along with combined results from the Cardinals’ Class A-Advanced clubs. Including a six-year stop in the Carolina League, the Cards have maintained a presence at this level for the last 43 years and counting.

Cards A-Advanced Year Pct W L Division Playoffs Manager
Record all clubs 66-08 0.521 3067 2824 15
25 year all clubs 84-08 0.500 1720 1719 7
10 year all clubs 99-08 0.478 662 723 3
FSL record 66-96, 03-08 0.531 2685 2371 17
Carolina League record 97-02 0.457 382 453 0
Palm Beach 2008 0.547 75 62 2 L1 Gaylen Pitts
Palm Beach 2007 0.507 71 69 2 Gaylen Pitts
Palm Beach 2006 0.556 75 60 1 L1 Ron Warner
Palm Beach 2005 0.493 69 71 3 WC Ron Warner
Palm Beach 2004 0.545 73 61 2 Tom Nieto
Palm Beach 2003 0.408 58 84 6 Tom Nieto
Potomac (Car League) 2002 0.421 59 81 3 Joe Cunningham
Potomac (Car) 2001 0.471 66 74 3 Joe Cunningham
Potomac (Car) 2000 0.449 62 76 4 Joe Cunningham
Potomac (Car) 1999 0.388 54 85 4 Joe Cunningham
Prince William (Car) 1998 0.518 72 67 2 Joe Cunningham
Prince William (Car) 1997 0.496 69 70 2 Roy Silver
St. Petersburg 1996 0.543 75 63 4 Chris Maloney
St. Petersburg 1995 0.489 64 67 5 Chris Maloney
St. Petersburg 1994 0.532 74 65 3 Mike Ramsey
St. Petersburg 1993 0.564 75 58 3 Terry Kennedy
St. Petersburg 1992 0.429 57 76 5 Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1991 0.359 47 84 5 Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1990 0.448 60 74 4 Joe Pettini
St. Petersburg 1989 0.540 75 64 2 LC Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1988 0.500 68 68 3 Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1987 0.599 85 57 1 L1 Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1986 0.647 88 48 1 WC Dave Bialas
Marty Mason
Mike Jorgensen
St. Petersburg 1985 0.557 78 62 2 L1 Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1984 0.493 71 73 3 Jim Riggleman
St. Petersburg 1983 0.522 70 64 2 Jim Riggleman
St. Petersburg 1982 0.519 69 64 2 Nick Leyva
Jim Riggleman
St. Petersburg 1981 0.523 69 63 2 Nick Leyva
St. Petersburg 1980 0.515 70 66 2 Tommy Thompson
St. Petersburg 1979 0.474 64 71 4 Sonny Ruberto
St. Petersburg 1978 0.600 84 56 1 L1 Hal Lanier
St. Petersburg 1977 0.597 83 56 2 LC Hub Kittle
St. Petersburg 1976 0.496 70 71 3 Hal Lanier
St. Petersburg 1975 0.652 88 47 1 WC Jack Krol
St. Petersburg 1974 0.454 59 71 4 Roy Majtyka
St. Petersburg 1973 0.575 84 62 1 WC Roy Majtyka
St. Petersburg 1972 0.500 66 66 3 Roy Majtyka
St. Petersburg 1971 0.511 72 69 3 Joe Cunningham
St. Petersburg 1970 0.600 78 52 1 LC Joe Cunningham
St. Petersburg 1969 0.415 54 76 6 Jack Krol
St. Petersburg 1968 0.559 80 63 2 L1 Ron Plaza
St. Petersburg 1967 0.691 96 43 1 WC Ron Plaza
St. Petersburg 1966 0.669 91 45 1 LC Sparky Anderson

WC = won championship

LC = lost in the finals

L1 = lost in first playoff round

As will be detailed in the following, the Cardinals had early success in the FSL which drove their overall mark since 1966 of 243 games over .500 (.521). The club has just one more win than loss over the last quarter century, however.

While the teams at this level have a sub-.500 mark over the last decade, it is really a story with two distinct chapters. In the first five years, the club lost over 100 more games than won. Since 2004, the team is 40 games over .500 with three playoff appearances and one championship.

The early years – St. Petersburg (1966-1996)

The St. Pete Cardinals’ first manager in 1966 was a then-32-year-old former second baseman named George Anderson, later known to all of baseball as “Sparky”, the skipper of the 1970’s Big Red Machine from Cincinnati.

Anderson’s club not only had the best record in the league, they had at least two memorable events. The club won 22 consecutive games at one point, the eighth-longest run in minor league history at the time. The Cardinals also played a 29-inning contest, a 4-3 loss to Miami on June 14 that was the longest game in the history of organized baseball.

Though they fell in the 1966 finals, the Cardinals made the playoffs in four of their first five seasons and took three league championships in their first ten years. Ron Plaza’s 1967 club, the first champs, set a franchise record with a .691 winning mark (96-43) that still stands today.

A pair of future major leaguers helped lead the way to the next two pennants. Outfielder Jerry Mumphrey paced the FSL in hits and runs to fuel the 1973 run to the top. For the 1975 champs, Bill Caudill led the league in strikeouts (153) and tied for tops in wins with 14.

Tommy Herr also led the FSL in runs and hits for Hub Kittle’s 1977 club that lost in the finals. Greg Mathews took the league’s ERA title in 1985 with a 1.11 mark that remains the lowest qualifying mark at any level of the Cardinals organization in history.

In 1986, three managers took the club’s reigns during what would become a championship season, Dave Bialas, Marty Mason and Mike Jorgensen. Mason and Jorgensen are still with the organization today, with the former being the major league bullpen coach and the latter a special assistant to the general manager.

A long, dry spell ensued as 1986 would mark the Cardinals last FSL flag for 20 years, a period during which they earned just two playoff appearances. Bialas would remain to manage St. Petersburg for five of the next six seasons and seven of eight overall.

Six years in the Carolina League (1997-2002)

1997 brought major change as the Cardinals moved their A-Advanced affiliation to Virginia and out of the FSL into the Carolina League. Under the name Prince William Cannons, the club competed for two seasons. Respective Pitchers of the Year were future major leaguers Cliff Politte and Rick Ankiel. The latter led the circuit with 12.93 strikeouts per nine innings in 1998.

The team became the Potomac Cannons for 1999 as Joe Cunningham remained to lead the club through its four seasons of existence. All four Potomac seasons, from 1998 through 2002, were losing ones. In their final year, outfielder Skip Schumaker was the club’s lone All-Star.

A home of their own – back in the FSL (2003-present)

The franchise that had been known as the (Port) Charlotte Rangers from 1987 through 2002 was purchased by the Cardinals organization from Texas and relocated to Jupiter, where it became the Palm Beach Cardinals. In the process, the Cards returned to the Florida State League in 2003 after six years away.

By their third year back in the FSL, 2005, the Cardinals forgot about a 10-game below .500 first half to roar back and both take the second-half East Division crown and the FSL championship. Shortstop Brendan Ryan was an All-Star for Ron “Pop” Warner’s club.

Warner’s Cards again took the second-half East flag in 2006, but fell in the finals. Reliever Mike Sillman paced the FSL in games (57), games finished (54) and saves (35). After a winning, but non-playoff year in 2007, Gaylen Pitts’ club exited in the first round of the 2008 post-season.

With the big league Cardinals firmly planted at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter and ownership of their Florida State League franchise, there is no reason to assume the Palm Beach Cardinals won’t be continuing for many years to come.

Cardinals system records – Palm Beach/Potomac/Prince William/St. Petersburg

Last ten years (1999-2008) Level Mark Record Years Club
Last 25 years (1984-2008) Level Mark Record Years Club

Related articles:

“Quad Cities: Cardinals top minor league club has a long history”

Cardinals in the Appalachian League – 1975 to present

Cardinals in the New York-Penn League – 1981 to present

A quarter century of Cardinals minor league results

Pedro for Cardinals closer?

Did Pedro Martinez switch pitching hands to save wear and tear on his arm?

Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch suggests the St. Louis Cardinals may be considering making a run at signing the 37-year-old right-handed starting pitcher to be their 2009 closer. There is a meeting scheduled Thursday morning between the coaches and front office to discuss the state of the roster and this topic may be on the agenda, Strauss suggests.

I can only hope the group can focus on more than one subject since in my opinion, the need for dependable relief from the left side is a higher priority than another closer candidate, especially one with the checkered injury record and mercurial attitude of Martinez.

While Pedro was once the best pitcher in the game, the first thing that entered my mind when I read the column was “Here we go again with another Izzy situation.”

From whatever club he joins, Pedro’s history affirms that he will expect to receive entitlement appropriate for a veteran of his stature. In other words, if things do not go well, before the plug is pulled, he would likely expect and be granted too many chances to fail – to the potential detriment of the team.

The most extreme case would be that Pedro would be left to pull the plug himself, as did former closer Jason Isringhausen via his highly-rated May, 2008 television boxing match. (I don’t mean he was actually exercising his pugilistic skills on TV. After an ugly stretch of blown saves, Isringhausen punched a television that helped explain a trip to disabled list, even though he appeared in three more games after the incident occurred.)

In its worst implementation, the arrival of Martinez could become a mini-Manny sideshow that could draw attention away from the team goal. The Cardinals have been relatively distraction-free in recent seasons. Pedro could change that.

The most positive outcome could be a Dennis Eckersley late-career move into the ninth inning role that could allow the three-time Cy Young Award winner to recapture some of his glory prior to retirement and give the Cardinals a one-year bridge to their young closer candidates.

Despite Tony La Russa having suggested during the winter the idea of the Cardinals signing a veteran starter and converting him to relief, there has been no visible activity by the club in support of that. In addition, until Tuesday, I had been unable to locate any reference to Pedro being willing to consider such a change.

In the P-D article, the 16-year MLB veteran left the door open slightly, but was not exactly enthusiastic about the prospect either, meaning any decision that involves a role change would probably not be coming quickly.

“I would prefer to try it first and see how my body responds because I haven’t done it in a long time,” said Martinez, who might be used in a relief role during the World Baseball Classic. “It’s something you really have to endure and really try first before you know if your body can do it.”

Having missed considerable time during the last three seasons, Martinez has endured a lot of injuries – the most challenging being a rotator cuff tear repaired in October, 2006. He made it back for a brief appearance in September, 2007. Last season, Pedro went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts for the Mets. He fanned 87 in 109 innings, but had uncharacteristic control problems, walking 44.

One thing is clear. Pedro’s home since 2005, the New York Mets, did not ask him back despite the player publicly stating that as his preference. As recently as January, reports were that Martinez was looking for a one-year, $8 million contract to start. The Mets did not offer Pedro arbitration and eventually settled on Livan Hernandez and returning Oliver Perez to fill out their rotation.

While Billy Wagner’s injuries opened up the Mets’ ninth-inning role, the club instead traded for one closer, J.J. Putz, to set up and signed another from the free agent rolls, Francisco Rodriguez, aka K-Rod, to be their 2009 closer.

Martinez has been throwing for several weeks in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, where he will represent the Dominican Republic and audition for a new contract. Team Dominicana is training at the Cardinals facility in Jupiter, FL.

Reports are that Martinez has ramped up to 55-60 pitches per outing and is throwing 88-92 mph. He pitched Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles and went two innings, allowing three hits, a walk and collecting two strikeouts. The Dodgers and Indians are among the teams recently reportedly interested in him.

Signing Pedro may not be easy for another reason. As recently as earlier this week, he made it very clear in a New York Daily News report that he is not interested in an incentive-laden contract with a low base salary – precisely the kind of deal any responsible club would offer him. Instead, Martinez said he would retire to his fishing boat.

Specifically asked if he would consider a deal like his former Mets teammate Tom Glavine took with the Atlanta Braves for a $1 million base, Martinez quickly went thumbs down on the idea.

“If I wanted to pitch that bad, I probably would,” Martinez said about agreeing to a low guarantee comparable to Glavine’s. “But I don’t think I’m in that stage. I believe I’m very comfortable. I’m not going to let anybody disrespect my abilities or the way I am. I wouldn’t say I would want to pitch that bad.”

The “disrespect” word says it all. Martinez is out of touch with his current situation and may be better off tucked safely in his vessel, sailing off to calmer waters elsewhere.

Now Mo, how about that lefty?

Cards lefties should be looking over their shoulders

There are two news items today concerning the St. Louis Cardinals’ attempt to identify a second left-hander in the bullpen to pair with free agent signee Trever Miller.

Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch reports an increasing level of concern from the coaches over the low-budget, low-results candidates in camp, with Tony La Russa and his staff expected to give general manager John Mozeliak an earful when the group meets on Thursday morning.

The current group of contenders in camp consists of Charlie Manning, claimed off waivers from Washington last November, Royce Ring (pictured), a castoff from the Atlanta Braves, Ian Ostlund, a minor league free agent from the Detroit Tigers system and Katsuhiko Maekawa, who had a tryout with the Nats two years ago. The latter two have yet to make their major league debuts and based on very early action, probably aren’t going to do so anytime soon.

Later on Wednesday morning, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal confirmed from “major league sources” that the Cardinals are indeed back in the market for left-handed relief. Rosenthal did not identify Mozeliak’s primary target, but highlighted three options in his article – Dennys Reyes, Joe Beimel and Will Ohman. For more on each, check out Dustin Mattison’s article from October.

Depending on the rumor source, any of the three could be had for an amount estimated between $1 million and $2 million for the 2009 season. If that is the case, here’s hoping Mozeliak does not pass go. After all, given the club was willing to spend in the vicinity of $9 million per season for then-free agent Brian Fuentes earlier in the winter, this looks like pocket change.

With the elongated spring training, any new lefty should have plenty of time to get ready for the 2009 regular season, but there is competition. Rosenthal identifies at least five clubs other than the Cardinals that are on a similar search – the A’s, Phillies, Pirates, Marlins and Padres.

In this game of musical chairs, with six contestants and only three places to land, Mo needs to ensure he is one of the winners this time.

Kansas City’s own Skip skips camp

The most-talked about subject in St. Louis Cardinals training camp this spring may not be Chris Carpenter, despite the club’s 2009 hopes being precariously hinged on his right arm. What first seemed like a joke has become reality – an attempt to move outfielder Skip Schumaker to second base.

Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be another re-warmed review of Skip’s ancient college history at shortstop or a bashing of his uneven start at his new position.

Instead, this is a quick look at a kindred spirit, Kansas City’s Mark Teahen. As I type this, I am watching the Toronto Blue Jays entertain the World Baseball Classic’s Team Canada in an exhibition contest Tuesday.

One of the Canadian infielders is Teahen. While the versatile 27-year-old is starting at third base on this day, he will be seeing time at second during the WBC, as well, at least in drills if not in actual games. That will be at the request of the Royals.

Just like the Cardinals, their cross-state interleague rivals said goodbye to their veteran second baseman over the winter. Former Cardinal Mark Grudzielanek became a free agent and remains unsigned for 2009.

Already with over 200 career games each at third base and right field, as well as limited time in left field, at first base and even centerfield, Teahen was asked to move once again to take Grudz’ old job.

Kansas City’s November trade for veteran outfielder Coco Crisp, a former Cardinals farmhand, made the most recent Teahen shift necessary. Then, there’s the prospect of the small-budget Royals paying over $3.5 million for what would otherwise be projected as a utility player.

It’s not the first time Teahen has been moved. It’s not the second, either.

When former Nebraska Cornhusker Alex Gordon came up in 2007, starting third baseman Teahen was shifted to right field despite being the organization’s reigning Player of the Year. When veteran right-fielder Jose Guillen was signed, guess who was slid over to left?

Teahen’s first game for the Royals this spring was a disaster, with two errors and several other misplays. After almost 900 career professional games – 364 in the minors and another 532 in the majors – it was his first appearance at second base.

He tried it once before, in his first season of junior college. Despite his past utility success, Teahen’s 6-foot-3 height adds to the skepticism.

While the Cardinals are missing Schumaker’s primary infield instructor due to the WBC in Team Puerto Rico’s manager Jose Oquendo, they still have former major league second basemen Joe Pettini and others to keep the heavy focus on.

Imagine how the Royals feel about Teahen missing valuable spring training time?

Of course, it has to be discussed carefully, since the WBC is the brainchild of Major League Baseball and any club officials know better than to speak out. In this case, all the right words are being spoken, at least publicly.

I am not sure on which team this more reflects, but Team Canada defeated the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Former Cardinals starter Mike Maroth got the start for Toronto, allowing two runs in two innings and looking shaky in the process.

(On a side point, have you noticed how the Jays have become the place former Cardinals go to die? By my count, there have been at least five to head north in the last two years alone – David Eckstein, Scott Rolen, Cody Haerther, Matt Clement and Maroth.)

Are the Canadians this good or the Jays that bad? I am not sure, but either way, since Team Canada is in a pool with the USA and Venezuela, their WBC participation is expected to end with the first round. If that is the case, Teahen could be back in KC’s camp by the middle of the month.

Like Skip, Teahen doesn’t have to worry about his roster spot, but how can the time spent away from camp be spun in a positive manner?

Now, I’m not being critical of Teahen. He was put in a bad place by the timing of the tournament, being forced to decide between his employer and his country.

Teahen had decided to play in the 2006 WBC, but let the Royals talk him out of it. He had wanted to participate in the Olympics when in the minors and his father is a veteran of Canadian international competition.

If the Schumaker experiment by the Cardinals fails, the WBC can’t realistically be blamed. Royals backers might not be so gracious if Teahen can’t make his transition stick.

Walton on Wednesday Fantasy Focus show

I will be Jeff Erickson’s leadoff guest on Wednesday’s Fantasy Focus show on Blog Talk Radio. The segment can be heard live from Noon-12:30 p.m. Eastern on March 4th or on demand. Our focus will be the 2009 Cardinals, obviously.

Those devotees of XM Satellite Radio are likely already aware of the long-running Fantasy Focus show. For 2009, it has moved from XM to Blog Talk Radio. Listen live, Monday through Friday at Noon ET, or on demand.

Jeff Erickson is the Senior Editor of and host of Fantasy Focus. His show covers fantasy baseball from a wide variety of angles, talking with the major forces within the industry, and also offers listener interaction. Among the expert leagues in which we both compete is Tout Wars. Jeff in is the American League and I’m in the National.

Cardinals results against left- (and right-) handed starters

Following my post on La Russa’s lineups, there was discussion about the Cardinals opposing left-handed pitchers. I decided to take a look at both the frequency and the results of the club when facing lefties during the La Russa era.

Here are the details:

vs. LHS Home W Home L Home W % Road W Road L Road W % Total W Total L Total W % % LHS
2008 16 10 61.5% 11 19 36.7% 27 29 48.2% 34.6%
2007 13 13 50.0% 16 14 53.3% 29 27 51.8% 34.6%
2006 14 16 46.7% 9 18 33.3% 23 34 40.4% 35.4%
2005 13 11 54.2% 19 9 67.9% 32 20 61.5% 32.1%
2004 15 7 68.2% 11 6 64.7% 26 13 66.7% 24.1%
2003 12 6 66.7% 7 11 38.9% 19 17 52.8% 22.2%
2002 11 7 61.1% 10 9 52.6% 21 16 56.8% 22.8%
2001 10 5 66.7% 6 10 37.5% 16 15 51.6% 19.1%
2000 11 9 55.0% 6 14 30.0% 17 23 42.5% 24.7%
1999 7 13 35.0% 10 16 38.5% 17 29 37.0% 28.6%
1998 13 13 50.0% 13 9 59.1% 26 22 54.2% 29.6%
1997 12 8 60.0% 9 9 50.0% 21 17 55.3% 23.5%
1996 9 11 45.0% 9 7 56.3% 18 18 50.0% 22.2%
total 156 129 54.7% 136 151 47.4% 292 280 51.0% 27.2%
average 12.0 9.9 10.5 11.6 22.5 21.5

On the average over the last 13 years, the Cardinals’ opponents sent out left-handed starters against them just over a quarter of the time, 27.2%. However, that mark has steadily grown such that over the last four years, well over one third of the enemy pitchers threw from that side.

In total, the Cardinals have won 51% of their games against lefties. That improves to almost 55% at home, though there are wild swings from year to year.

For comparison, let’s look at the Cards results against right-handed pitchers.

vs. RHS Home W Home L Home W % Road W Road L Road W % Total W Total L Total W %
2008 30 25 54.5% 29 22 56.9% 59 47 55.7%
2007 30 25 54.5% 19 32 37.3% 49 57 46.2%
2006 35 15 70.0% 25 29 46.3% 60 44 57.7%
2005 37 20 64.9% 31 22 58.5% 68 42 61.8%
2004 38 21 64.4% 41 23 64.1% 79 44 64.2%
2003 36 27 57.1% 30 33 47.6% 66 60 52.4%
2002 41 22 65.1% 35 27 56.5% 76 49 60.8%
2001 44 23 65.7% 33 31 51.6% 77 54 58.8%
2000 39 22 63.9% 39 22 63.9% 78 44 63.9%
1999 31 29 51.7% 27 28 49.1% 58 57 50.4%
1998 35 21 62.5% 22 36 37.9% 57 57 50.0%
1997 29 32 47.5% 23 40 36.5% 52 72 41.9%
1996 39 22 63.9% 31 34 47.7% 70 56 55.6%
total 464 304 60.4% 385 379 50.4% 849 683 55.4%
average 35.7 23.4 29.6 29.2 65.3 52.5

As one would expect, the club has delivered better results against right-handers overall, with a 55.4% success rate over time, including over 60% at home and still just over 50% on the road.

Now, we’ll put a summary of the results side-by-side.

% LHS Total W % Total W %
2008 34.6% 48.2% 55.7%
2007 34.6% 51.8% 46.2%
2006 35.4% 40.4% 57.7%
2005 32.1% 61.5% 61.8%
2004 24.1% 66.7% 64.2%
2003 22.2% 52.8% 52.4%
2002 22.8% 56.8% 60.8%
2001 19.1% 51.6% 58.8%
2000 24.7% 42.5% 63.9%
1999 28.6% 37.0% 50.4%
1998 29.6% 54.2% 50.0%
1997 23.5% 55.3% 41.9%
1996 22.2% 50.0% 55.6%
average 27.2% 51.0% 55.4%
advantage 5 8
> 50% W 9 11
> 60% W 2 4
> 66% W 1 0

Interestingly, the success against right-handers isn’t a consistent thing. In five of the 13 seasons in this period, the Cardinals actually had a higher win rate against lefties than they did against righties, including three of the last six seasons.

What do you make of that?

In the National League Central in 2009, current projected rotations for the Cardinals’ five opponents include eight left-handers. That equates to just under one-third (8/25 = 32%). The Pirates lead the way with three, while the Reds, like the Cardinals, have an all right-handed starting staff.

NL Central LH starters ’08 W/L vs. StL ’08 ERA Win % Career vs. StL Car StL ERA Win %
Houston Wandy Rodriguez 1-2 1.11 2-6 4.08
Mike Hampton DNF 10-8 3.71
Milwaukee Manny Parra 0-0 4.50 0-0 3.77
Chicago Ted Lilly 3-0 3.06 6-2 2.99
Sean Marshall 1-0 0.82 2-1 3.38
Pittsburgh Paul Maholm 2-1 3.05 3-3 2.64
Zach Duke 0-2 5.25 2-4 4.27
Tom Gorzelanny 0-1 5.73 1-3 3.82
Cincinnati none
total 7-6 3.14 0.538 26-27 3.59 0.491

While their aggregate won-loss record, whether for 2008 or over their careers, against St. Louis is roughly .500, note the solid ERAs. These eight lefties held the Cardinals offense to just over three runs per nine innings last year and slightly more than 3.5 over their careers.

Related articles:

“La Russa’s lineups – a historical view”

“Trends in Cardinals left-handed and switch hitters”

Trends in Cardinals left-handed and switch hitters

One component of left-handedness that came to mind as a result of my recent post on La Russa’s lineups is how the Cardinals rosters have been composed over time. Here I looked at season-opening 25-man rosters since Tony La Russa arrived in St. Louis prior to the 1996 campaign.

First, we’ll look at the composition of the pitching staff from the left side.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996
LH rotation 0.8 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 3 1 1 1
LH relief 2.1 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 1 2 2

With the departure of Mark Mulder and the Tommy John surgery of Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals lack a credible left-handed starter either at the major league level or the high levels of the system. As a result, it seems assured the club will not have a left-handed pitcher in the rotation in 2009, certainly not to start the season without a trade.

The season-opening relief corps almost always consists of two lefties. The last time the Cards came north with three was in 2005, when Bill Pulsipher lasted just a few weeks. Conversely, 1998 was the only season in which La Russa’s club began the season with a sole lefty in the pen.

Now, let’s switch gears to the hitters on opening day rosters, starting with the left-handers.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996
Lefty-hitting starters 2.5 3 2 1 2 3 3 4 3 3 1 3 3 2
Lefty-hitting reserves 1.3 0 1 2 1 2 2 1 3 1 1 0 1 2
Lefty-hitting total 3.8 3 3 3 3 5 5 5 6 4 2 3 4 4

Despite averaging about four left-handed hitters per season since 1996, the Cardinals have had only three starting each of the last four seasons. Given the perception of having glut of left-handed hitting outfielders, this surprised me a bit.

Of course, there are other left-handed hitters on the roster – those that switch hit.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996
Switch-hitting starters 0.4 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
Switch-hitting reserves 1.0 1 1 1 2 2 0 0 0 1 1 3 1 0
SH total 1.4 2 1 2 2 2 0 0 0 1 1 3 2 2

In four of the last five years, the Cardinals have had a pair of switch-hitters available, either on the bench or in the starting lineup.

Putting the two together provides a compete view of the left-handed hitting options available on the Cardinals in recent seasons.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996
LH/SH starters 2.9 4 2 2 2 3 3 4 3 3 1 3 4 4
LH/SH reserves 2.3 1 2 3 3 4 2 1 3 2 2 3 2 2
LH/SH total 5.2 5 4 5 5 7 5 5 6 5 3 6 6 6

With a 13-year average of 5.2 left-handed or switch-hitting batters on the season-opening rosters, recent years have been fairly consistent. Note that 2008 had four left-handed capable hitting starters, the most since 2002.

Now that we have that bit of history established, let’s compare this to the likely make-up of the 2009 Cardinals. The forecasts below are from my camp-opening projections, run on (details are subscriber only).

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2009 forecast Names Other possibilities
LH rotation 0.8 0
LH relief 2.1 2 Miller, Ring Manning, Ostlund

There’s not much mystique in the pitching category. As noted above, there are no left-handed starters in contention for a job. Among the relievers, Royce Ring may or may not be replaced by Charlie Manning, but unless Trever Miller is hurt, only one of the pair should be on the opening day roster.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2009 forecast Names Other possibilities
Lefty-hitting starters 2.5 2 Ankiel, Schumaker Rasmus
Lefty-hitting reserves 1.3 2 Duncan, Thurston
Lefty-hitting total 3.8 4

In terms of left-handed hitters, the long-term average of four may be met through a pair of starters and two reserves. I understand Colby Rasmus could break his way onto the club, but I submit that the total would probably remain the same, as Joe Thurston would be the likely roster casualty (see Skip Schumaker at second base dominoes).

Note that if Jon Jay could force his way into the outfield mix, it would probably be at the expense of Rasmus/Thurston. As of now, Rasmus and Thurston are the only left-handed hitters in camp who seemed to be in the mix for a job other than the three outfield holdovers from last season. Third baseman Brett Wallace and catcher Bryan Anderson is the other left-handed hitters in camp, but the latter has no chance without an injury to Yadier Molina or Jason LaRue and the former’s odds are even less.

The situation is not nearly as good with switch-hitters, however.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2009 forecast Names Other possibilities
Switch-hitting starters 0.4 0 none none
Switch-hitting reserves 1.0 0 none none
SH total 1.4 0

As you can see, there is really nothing to say. Recent switch-hitters Aaron Miles, Cesar Izturis and Scott Spiezio are gone, replaced by no one. Of the 35 position players in 2009 spring training camp, not a single one hits from both sides of the plate. So there are no long-shots around that could break through.

If the 2009 season begins this way, it will be the first Cardinals club since 2003 without a switch-hitter either in the opening lineup or on the bench.

For completeness, here is the left-handed plus switch-hitting forecast for 2009.

Opening roster 96-08 average 2009 forecast
LH/SH starters 2.9 2
LH/SH reserves 2.3 2
LH/SH total 5.2 4

Without a trade to bring in a switch-hitter, it appears that La Russa will have less lineup flexibility and in-game pinch-hitting match-up options in 2009 compared to past seasons. Four hitters capable of hitting left-handed would tie 2007 for the Cardinals’ lowest total since 1999.

I doubt La Russa will go as far as asking his opponent to loan him a switch-hitter to pinch hit, but the skipper probably won’t like being restricted in his numerous in-game maneuvers, either.

In the next report, I will look at left-handed pitching from the Cardinals opponents’ perspective.

Related article: “La Russa’s lineups – a historical view”

Cardinals minor matters – March 1

Does Ludwick wish for Team USA do over?

On Friday, Colorado’s Brad Hawpe injured his hand when it was stepped on and spiked on a play at second base. (Note to Skip Schumaker: Please stop sliding head-first!) As a result, Hawpe, previously named a starting outfielder, bowed out of the World Baseball Classic.

Hawpe’s move was on the heels of Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore also suffering a injury that will keep him out of the WBC. With two of Davey Johnson’s starting outfielders out, do you suppose Ryan Ludwick regrets his decision to not join Team USA because he was not guaranteed a starting role?

Villone joins Mets

On Saturday, free agent left-handed reliever Ron Villone signed a minor league deal with a spring training invite from the New York Mets. Was it just coincidence the contract was announced the day after the Cardinals spanked the Mets staff for one run per inning?

It is a deal just like he signed with the Cardinals last spring. To make the Mets, Villone may require another break like he received last spring when Tyler Johnson couldn’t answer the bell.

Mulder still looking

With the Villone signing, only Mark Mulder remains unsigned from the group of six Cardinals free agent pitchers. The list included Braden Looper (Milwaukee), Jason Isringhausen (Tampa Bay), Russ Springer (Oakland), Randy Flores (Colorado), and Tyler Johnson (Seattle).

In January, ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote that Mulder could be a “hidden gem” among this year’s crop of free agents. Apparently the cost of diamonds is depressed as Mulder is still jobless. Returning to his initial club of Oakland is rumored once the lefty actually throws for scouts.

Choi gets NRI

A repeat of the embarrassing situation that resulted when Tony La Russa publicly complained about not having enough arms in camp to the point he floated the idea of borrowing pitchers from his team’s opponent was apparently averted when Hyang-Nam Choi was added to major league spring training.

The 37-year-old Korean was signed just last month. He previously pitched in the minors for Cleveland in 2006.

I’ve kept my Cardinals NRI list up to date, which notes seven additional pitchers since the original rosters were announced. With that, there are now 61 players in camp, which is just one away from the team’s average from 1996 through 2008.

Mortensen’s MRI was negative

Choi’s NRI was due to Clayton Mortensen’s MRI. OK, not exactly, but the former supplemental first rounder is on the sidelines indefinitely due to elbow discomfort. Choi was added to offer another arm.

Harris salutes Cards

13th round draft pick Mitch Harris, a right-handed pitcher from Navy, signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals on Saturday. Currently on active duty and committed to four more years of the same, Harris and the Cardinals have to hope the Navy changes their policy sooner. Otherwise, Harris will have quite the challenge as a pushing-30 year old first-time professional.

17 “agree to terms”

The Cardinals “came to terms” on 2009 contracts with 17 players with less than three years of MLB service time. These players technically can negotiate, but realistically were obligated to take what was offered as long as they receive the major league minimum. That will change when they become arbitration eligible in a year or more down the road.

In a subscriber-only article at on Saturday, I listed the service time of all 17 and forecasted when each will become arbitration eligible.

Spring training schedule update

On Saturday, I updated the master Cardinals spring training radio and television schedule to include additional XM satellite radio broadcasts. Keep checking back there all month long as more games are added to Gameday audio, XM and MLB.TV.

My opening day roster predictions

I went on record last week at with my forecast for the opening day Cardinals roster (subscription required). Rather than list all 25, here are the players I have on the outside looking in:

Pitchers: Boggs, Hawskworth, Manning, Motte, Ostlund (NRI), Scherer

Infielders: T. Greene, Hoffpauir, Wallace (NRI)

Outfielders: Barton, Stavinoha, Rasmus (NRI)

Photo day

I’ve posted the results of 2009 photo day for the Cardinals pitchers/catchers and position players. If you’re not a subscriber, you can still access the new photos from each individual player profile page.

Three more Cardinals injuries ahead this spring?

Those who read this blog regularly are familiar with my interest in looking at the events of the past to suggest what we might see in the future. As I reviewed recent annual St. Louis Cardinals team leaders in terms of games started by position, I noted that oft-injured pitcher Chris Carpenter had led the club in that category just once.

That got me to wondering how many Cardinals players we might expect to open the season on the disabled list. This time of year, we tend to consider the solution to roster battles to be measured in terms of a winner and a loser, decided on the field of play.

There is often another way.

Past years averages suggests four Cardinals will start the 2009 regular season on the shelf. We already know the identity of one, third baseman Troy Glaus, out for a minimum of four to six weeks of regular-season action following shoulder surgery.

Who will join him?

Previous disabled list splits, if repeated, would say three Cardinals hurlers may be joining Glaus over the next month or so. All injuries are not created equal, of course. Another injury to a front-line starter like Carpenter could be a serious blow to 2009 contention hopes.

Of course, past stints on the disabled list have nothing to do with current or future injuries, but historical numbers are what they are – a reflection of what transpired.

Here are the season-opening counts of Cardinals players placed on the disabled list to open each of the last 13 seasons, representing the years Tony La Russa has managed the club.

DL Total Pitchers Hitters Names
96-08 avg 4 2.6 1.4
2008 8 6 2 Carpenter Mulder Clement Pineiro T Johnson Kinney Encarnacion Ryan
2007 3 2 1 Mulder Kinney Encarnacion
2006 2 0 2 Ankiel Bigbie
2005 2 2 0 Lincoln Morris
2004 1 1 0 Ankiel
2003 6 3 3 Carpenter Stechschulte Isringhausen Girardi Torrealba Drew
2002 1 1 0 Ankiel
2001 5 3 2 Stephenson Christiansen Hackman Hernandez Bonilla
2000 2 2 0 Morris Radinsky
1999 4 2 2 Al Benes Morris D Howard Lankford
1998 5 4 1 Al Benes Brantley Morris Osborne Marrero
1997 6 4 2 Barber An Benes Honeycutt Jackson Pagnozzi Lankford
1996 7 4 3 Jackson Morgan Osborne Petkovsek Pagnozzi Gallego Jordan

Note the spring totals have varied from as few as one to as many as eight. Not once in the 13 years were there more position players than pitchers disabled to start the season. Coming into camp, pitching depth was a major concern of mine. This only magnifies it.

On a more encouraging note, while 2008’s eight DL stints to start the season was tops under La Russa with the Cardinals, each of the four previous campaigns began with fewer injuries than the average of four.

Some DL stays are short, while others are extended in nature. Some are to front-liners, while others are to more easily-replaceable reserves.

I know the results on the field are affected by the players in the game, not those on the trainer’s table. Yet I wanted to see if there might be any correlation between the level of injuries and the club’s start.

Rather than stay with the entire season’s results, which may have even less relation to season-opening injuries as time marches on, I decided to look at how the Cardinals began each regular season in terms of winning percentage during March and April.

This table puts the Cardinals’ March-April and full-season records up next to the season-opening DL counts. I included the full-season record to help put the first month into perspective.

March-April # DL players Wins Losses Win % Season %
96-08 avg 4
2008 8 18 11 0.621 0.531
2007 3 10 17 0.370 0.481
2006 2 17 8 0.680 0.516
2005 2 15 7 0.682 0.617
2004 1 12 11 0.522 0.648
2003 6 13 12 0.520 0.525
2002 1 12 14 0.462 0.599
2001 5 12 12 0.500 0.574
2000 2 17 8 0.680 0.586
1999 4 12 9 0.571 0.466
1998 5 16 11 0.593 0.512
1997 6 11 14 0.440 0.451
1996 7 12 15 0.444 0.543

In only four opening months did the Cardinals post a losing record, high levels of injuries or not. Two of them were in La Russa’s initial seasons in St. Louis. That is comparable but not identical to the team’s full season results over the 13 years, a time in which the Cardinals registered ten winning and three losing campaigns.

The final table summarizes the above data by grouping similar seasons in terms of number of DLed players, either above, at or below the average of four. The second dimension is whether the Cardinals won-loss record improved after March-April or worsened.

Cardinals seasons April record < season record April record > season record
Opening DL < average 2007, 2004, 2002 2006, 2005, 2000
Opening DL = average 1999
Opening DL > average 2003, 2001, 1997, 1996 2008, 1998
< less than
> greater than
“average” = 4 DL players

Interpreting the above, the top row shows that in the six seasons where the number of season-opening DLed players was under the average of four, the results were inconclusive. Half the time, the team improved over their April record and three other times, they played worse after the first month.

At the bottom, you can see the six seasons where the quantity of disabled list players to begin the season was above the average of four. In two-thirds of the seasons, four of six, the Cardinals started more slowly for the first month than their full-season record played out to be.

Though a very, very small sample statistically, it might at least suggest there could be something to the idea that large numbers of DL stints may cause a club to get out of the gates more slowly.

It remains unproven however, whether there is actually any cause-effect relationship between high season-opening injury levels to those teams’ relatively tough starts in terms of win percentage or if it is just coincidental.

La Russa’s lineups – a historical view

With the opening games of spring 2009 finally in the books, a large segment of the Cardinal Nation seem obsessed over the first lineups of the year penned by Manager Tony La Russa, hoping they might somehow magically unlock all the secrets of how the next five weeks will unfold.

I am not one of those all worked up, but one thing that all the lineup talk did do was to push me to dust off some unfinished work in the area of Cardinals regular season lineup combinations and batting orders. Recently, I wrote a couple of articles about this, “La Russa’s lineup combinations increasing” and “Quiz: Cardinals 2008 lineups and starts by position”.

This article takes those items back over La Russa’s years in St. Louis. As such, there is a lot of data. Some questions can be asked and answers at least theorized. If you are looking for a quick scan at a USAToday level of writing however, you may as well stop right now and move on. This is going to take some time to read and consume.

If you’re like me, you suspect that the Cardinals have been using increasingly large numbers of lineup combinations in recent years. We will be able to look at whether or not that is the case.

Coming in, I had hoped to be able to offer at least a theory about a possible correlation between set lineups and winning seasons. I am not sure I have that, but I decided to stop my thinking after some high level conclusions and share the data, hoping you’ll scan it and provide your own thoughts.

Obviously, this work does not take into account the quality and health of the 25 players available, two huge factors that influence any lineup over time.

Here, I will review season-by-season totals in two areas.

1) The first is a measure of defensive stability – the lineup denoted by starts by position. In other words, how many times are the same players starting at the same positions in the field? I will show six pieces of information for each of the 13 La Russa Cardinals seasons:

  • the team leader at all ten positions, including designated hitter
  • the number of starts for each team leader by position
  • the number of different players given starts at that position
  • the sum of the number of games started by all ten team leaders
  • the sum of the number of players given starts at all positions
  • the total number of team wins that season

The two sums offer great interest to me.

The sum of games started by all team leaders seem a great measure of how set the starting players by position, independent of their spot in the batting order, were all season long.

The sum of players given starts at all positions has two components – raw numbers of different players receiving starts and how often they were deployed at different places over the diamond. While this is not broken out, just the total itself can show stability, or lack of it.

2) The second area denotes offensive stability – via the batting order. Which players appeared most often in the order in spots one through nine? The yearly data presented is much like the above, with a couple of differences:

  • the team leader at all nine spots
  • the number of starts for each team leader by spot in the order
  • the number of different players given starts at that spot
  • the sum of the number of games started by all nine team leaders
  • the sum of the number of players given starts at all spots
  • the total quantity of different lineup combinations

While the last number, lineup combinations, could be considered a shorthand summary of the stability or volatility of the batting order, the detailed data offers a deeper view.

For example, what spots in the order see the most day-to-day change during the course of the season? Is it the same each year? Which players are moving around yearly and why?

Observations and conclusions

Before I risk overloading you with the data, I will offer some of my initial thoughts.

Starts by position

Observation 1a: From 2001-2005, the sum of the games started by the team leaders was always over 900, but dropped over each of the last three seasons to the lowest levels in the La Russa years.

Observation 1b: The total number of starting positions assigned to all players, 63, is the highest total for the team since 1999.

Conclusion 1: There is clearly a smaller core of everyday players set at their positions and an increase of players covering multiple positions. Does that have an impact on wins? What is the cause and what is the effect?

Observation 2: The back-up catcher(s) can often be overlooked, but on the average, he/they get well over one-third of the starts per season, 59 games to be exact.

Conclusion 2: Maybe Bryan Anderson getting 250 at-bats as the second catcher starting in 2010 would be the best use of his skills.

Observation 3: Left and right field see the highest number of different players as well as the lowest games started by the team leader.

Conclusion 3: Which infielders should we expect to be making their MLB debuts in the outfield during 2009? We are only two games into spring training and Joe Thurston has already done it (informally)!

Observation 4: Despite getting just 40 starts in left in two of the last three seasons, Chris Duncan has been the team leader there in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Conclusion 4: Considering all of his injuries, this surprised me.

Observation 5: Despite having 31, 59 and 30 starts in left, center and right fields respectively last season, Skip Schumaker was not the leader in terms of starts at any position. Will that change in 2009?

Conclusion 5: Even if he wins the job at second base, which I am not yet projecting, I have a hard time seeing Skip getting 130 starts there. Expect a revolving door at the position and for Schumaker to figure back in the outfield mix before too long.

Observation 6: In the eight years since 2001, seven different pitchers led the club in starts. The only repeater was Matt Morris (2002 and 2004). Ace Chris Carpenter has led the Cardinals in starts exactly once. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was during his Cy Young Award season of 2005.

Conclusion 6: Are you among those who believe the 2009 season hinges on a healthy Carpenter? Me too. He is paid like a workhorse, but injuries seem to preclude that becoming a continuing reality.

Batting order

Observation 7: The total number of different lineups deployed over the last two seasons, 153, is the highest during the La Russa era.

Conclusion 7: Lotsa’ lineup tinkering going on. Did it help gain more wins though? Can’t tell.

Observation 8: In terms of the totals, 2008 was actually a much less volatile season than 2007. The team leaders actually started more games than the La Russa average, 681 vs. 652, and the number of appearances by players anywhere in the order, 85, was close to the average.

Conclusion 8: It helps to explain why 2007 was such a struggle.

Observation 9: The number two spot in the order, recently a place where 13 different players were tried (in both 2006 and 2007), had just five different players written onto the lineup card there last season. However the team leader, Aaron Miles, had just 34 starts there, the lowest by a #2 seasonal pacesetter over the entire La Russa era.

Conclusion 9: La Russa is still looking for that #2 hitter offering “danger”.

Observation 10: Despite his status as a reserve, Miles was the leader at one position in the order each of the last three seasons.

Conclusion 10: I think the switch-hitter is going to be missed more than the front office appreciated.

Observation 11: Look at the progression of Yadier Molina steadily moving up the order, from eighth in 2005 to seventh in 2006 and 2007 to sixth last season. Also note in 2008 that he was the leader at both #6 and #7 in the order, a feat that is not as unusual as one might expect (Encarnacion ’06, Renteria ’04, ’02, ’00, Edmonds ’01, etc…).

Conclusion 11: The maturity of Molina as a hitter has been rewarded with a gradual step up in the lineup over time.

Observation 12: Albert Pujols was the team leader in starts at the cleanup spot in both 2001 and 2002.

Conclusion 12: The question of whether Pujols should bat third or fourth has come up again as it seems to each spring. While I don’t have a big problem with the order today, I do find it most interesting that La Russa is seemingly not acknowledging that he did for two seasons exactly what he does not want to do now – bat Pujols fourth.

Observation 13: Once Pujols vacated the cleanup spot, lefty Jim Edmonds and rightly Scott Rolen alternated the team lead there for five years until Ryan Ludwick claimed the most starts in the number four spot last season, but likely only because Rick Ankiel was injured.

Conclusion 13: If one wants to prematurely draw a conclusion from the day one of spring training lineup, then lefty Ankiel may be the hitter most often following the righty Pujols this season. To compete, Ankiel will need to stay healthy and productive.

The data

What follows is 13 years’ worth of data preceded by the averages covering 1996 through 2008.

Starts by position leaders – St. Louis Cardinals – 1996 through 2008

Starts Average 96-08 96-08
by pos. G # plyrs 2008 G # plyrs 2007 G # plyrs 2006 G # plyrs 2005 G # plyrs
C 103 3 Molina 114 3 Molina 102 3 Molina 118 2 Molina 111 3
1B 129 5 Pujols 140 6 Pujols 153 4 Pujols 142 5 Pujols 155 3
2B 107 5 Kennedy 74 5 Kennedy 75 6 Miles 72 4 Grudzielanek 132 3
SS 131 3 Izturis 110 4 Eckstein 113 3 Eckstein 119 4 Eckstein 154 2
3B 115 5 Glaus 144 6 Rolen 108 6 Rolen 141 3 Nunez 77 5
LF 87 8 Duncan 40 10 Duncan 91 6 Duncan 40 11 Sanders 78 8
CF 121 5 Ankiel 84 4 Edmonds 99 5 Edmonds 92 5 Edmonds 132 4
RF 85 7 Ludwick 106 9 Encarnacion 72 7 Encarnacion 111 7 Walker 78 8
P 33 10 Lohse 33 11 Wainwright 32 12 Marquis 33 9 Carpenter 33 7
DH 4 4 Stav/Pujols 3 5 Spiezio 6 2 Spiezio 5 5 Walker 6 2
totals 914 54 848 63 851 54 873 55 956 45
Wins 88 86 78 83 100
by pos. 2004 G # plyrs 2003 G # plyrs 2002 G # plyrs 2001 G # plyrs 2000 G # plyrs
C Matheny 110 3 Matheny 121 4 Matheny 96 3 Matheny 117 2 Matheny 117 5
1B Pujols 150 3 Martinez 126 2 Martinez 141 4 McGwire 87 8 McGwire 70 8
2B Womack 125 4 Hart 65 4 Vina 149 3 Vina 150 4 Vina 118 4
SS Renteria 149 2 Renteria 154 4 Renteria 147 4 Renteria 133 2 Renteria 144 4
3B Rolen 141 3 Rolen 152 4 Polanco 63 5 Polanco 93 3 Tatis 90 5
LF Lankford 43 8 Pujols 113 8 Pujols 101 5 Lankford 76 8 Lankford 105 8
CF Edmonds 141 4 Edmonds 118 6 Edmonds 132 5 Edmonds 140 3 Edmonds 138 5
RF Sanders 76 7 Drew 47 7 Drew 107 4 Drew 91 8 Drew 78 7
P Morris 32 8 Williams 33 9 Morris 32 14 Kile 34 9 Kile 34 6
DH Pujols 3 4 Martinez 5 4 Cairo 3 3 Bon/Pujols 2 4 Howard 3 5
totals 970 46 934 52 971 50 923 51 897 57
Wins 105 85 97 93 95
by pos. 1999 G # plyrs 1998 G # plyrs 1997 G # plyrs 1996 G # plyrs
C Marrero 77 3 Marrero 67 3 DiFelice 81 5 Pagnozzi 108 4
1B McGwire 150 8 McGwire 152 4 Young 68 6 Mabry 139 6
2B McEwing 85 5 DeShields 102 7 DeShields 137 6 Alicea 104 4
SS Renteria 140 5 Clayton 86 4 Clayton 145 4 Clayton 111 3
3B Tatis 147 5 Gaetti 78 5 Gaetti 127 7 Gaetti 130 4
LF Lankford 103 10 Gant 101 6 Gant 126 8 Gant 116 5
CF Drew 92 5 Lankford 137 3 Lankford 131 5 Lankford 142 5
RF Davis 48 8 Jordan 109 6 Mabry 61 9 Jordan 122 4
P Bottenfield 31 13 Mercker 29 9 Morris 33 13 An Benes 34 11
DH Dav/Dunst 2 4 McGee/Jor 3 4 McGee 3 4 none 0 0
totals 875 66 864 51 912 67 1006 46
Wins 75 83 73 88

Batting order leaders – St. Louis Cardinals – 1996 through 2008

Batting Average 96-08 96-08
Order G # plyrs 2008 G # plyrs 2007 G # plyrs 2006 G # plyrs 2005 G # plyrs
1 105 7 Schumaker 110 8 Eckstein 95 8 Eckstein 119 8 Eckstein 154 3
2 59 10 Miles 34 5 Duncan 45 13 Duncan 53 13 Walker 44 7
3 123 7 Pujols 143 6 Pujols 153 7 Pujols 142 3 Pujols 155 6
4 81 7 Ludwick 69 5 Edmonds 53 8 Rolen 92 5 Edmonds 78 10
5 71 10 Glaus 108 9 Rolen 74 12 Encarnacion 62 7 Rolen 32 13
6 52 12 Molina 64 14 Encarnacion 27 16 Encarnacion 43 13 Grudzielanek 54 13
7 58 12 Molina 41 13 Molina 61 14 Molina 65 12 Taguchi 42 11
8 67 11 Loh/Loo/Wel 31 15 Miles 19 19 Miles 57 7 Molina 79 7
9 35 12 Izturis 81 10 Ryan 28 15 Marquis 32 11 Carpenter 32 11
totals 652 87 681 85 555 112 665 79 670 81
Lineups 134 153 153 140 139
Wins 88 86 78 83 100
Order 2004 G # plyrs 2003 G # plyrs 2002 G # plyrs 2001 G # plyrs 2000 G # plyrs
1 Womack 125 6 Hart 59 8 Vina 149 4 Vina 150 6 Vina 118 6
2 Renteria 53 9 Drew 46 11 Polanco 65 7 Polanco 120 7 Renteria 89 9
3 Pujols 153 5 Pujols 135 7 Edmonds 70 8 Edmonds 69 10 Edmonds 120 9
4 Rolen 110 5 Edmonds 71 8 Pujols 125 6 Pujols 94 7 McGwire 62 8
5 Edmonds 82 9 Rolen 111 5 Martinez 58 8 Edmonds 66 9 Lankford 57 11
6 Renteria 67 10 Renteria 73 9 Renteria 69 7 Paquette 46 9 Paquette 39 13
7 Sanders 57 12 Martinez 42 11 Renteria 50 10 Renteria 96 10 Renteria 42 12
8 Matheny 90 8 Matheny 102 10 Matheny 77 9 Matheny 104 7 Matheny 98 9
9 Morris 31 11 Williams 31 14 Morris 31 17 Kile 33 13 Kile 33 9
totals 768 75 670 83 694 76 778 78 658 86
Lineups 126 126 112 112 134
Wins 105 85 97 93 95
Order 1999 G # plyrs 1998 G # plyrs 1997 G # plyrs 1996 G # plyrs
1 Renteria 46 8 Clayton 63 11 DeShields 117 5 Clayton 64 8
2 Renteria 53 12 DeShields 51 12 Gant 48 16 Lankford 72 11
3 McGwire 150 6 McGwire 152 5 Lankford 72 11 Gant 81 7
4 Lankford 85 10 Lankford 82 4 Lankford 57 10 Jordan 77 6
5 Tatis 92 10 Gant 48 11 Gaetti 60 11 Gaetti 68 11
6 Renteria 28 14 Mabry 47 11 Mabry 50 12 Mabry 69 11
7 Castillo 71 12 Marrero 24 14 Difelice 78 12 Pagnozzi 89 8
8 McEwing 57 9 Lampkin 28 20 Clayton 54 19 Alicea 79 7
9 Bottenfield 30 15 Marrero 29 8 Morris 33 13 An Benes 34 11
totals 612 96 524 96 569 109 633 80
Lineups 140 144 147 110
Wins 75 83 73 88

Related articles:

La Russa’s lineup combinations increasing

Quiz: Cardinals 2008 lineups and starts by position”.

Freese’s January Auto Accident Slows 3B Bid

St. Louis Cardinals rookie third baseman David Freese should be in the spotlight, having been presented with the very best opportunity of his young career on a silver platter – to make his long-awaited big league debut while assuming the temporary starter’s role at the hot corner.

Now the St. Louisan is in the news all right, but it is for the wrong reason.

Instead of speeding ahead to seize Troy Glaus’ job, who is recovering from January 21 shoulder surgery, Freese is stuck in neutral while trying to rehab an injury himself. While we were previously told of his left Achilles tendon soreness, its origin was not disclosed until Wednesday.

The soon-to-be 26-year-old totaled his automobile in a one-car crash on January 10 and his left foot was twisted in the accident, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Freese informed the club through his agent two days later and has been under team medical care since.

Yet all parties chose to keep the matter quiet until Wednesday, adding another example to a growing list of situations in which the delivery timing of Cardinals medical information raises additional unnecessary questions. This most recently includes Glaus’ condition, sidestepped at the mid-January Winter Warm-Up fan festival, only for surprise surgery to be announced via press release a few days later.

After coming over to the Cardinals from San Diego in the Jim Edmonds trade in December 2007, Freese put together a 2008 season so solid with Triple-A Memphis that we named him our Memphis Player of the Year and the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year for the entire system. The right-handed hitter posted a .306/.361/.550 line with 26 home runs and 91 RBIs for the Pacific Coast League Redbirds.

Before Glaus’ injury, spring training non-roster invitee Freese seemed poised to be in the mix for a reserve job behind Glaus with the Cardinals or perhaps return to Memphis for a second Triple-A season.

While apparently able to swing a bat, Freese’s inability to play in the field to date has opened the door for Joe Mather to receive valuable starts at third base early in camp and perhaps establish a foothold to instead become the interim replacement for Glaus himself.

Freese estimates his full return will be in matter of days, but GM John Mozeliak and manager Tony La Russa more ominously label the situation as “open-ended”, according to the paper.

Most ironically, Glaus used a very similar term this past week when describing the timing of his expected return, originally quoted at four to six weeks. The 32-year-old is still unable to begin baseball-related activities. My medical expert suggests it may be longer before Glaus is back, especially before his power returns.

What should have been good news for Freese isn’t. Instead of being a player on top of the world right now, he finds himself on top of the trainer’s table.

Quad Cities: Cardinals top minor league club has a long history

The direct family line of today’s Quad Cities River Bandits, the St. Louis Cardinals organization’s winningest affiliate over the last quarter century, can be traced back to 1982, when the Springfield (IL) Cardinals first joined the Single-A Midwest League.

First cousins of the Midwest League club preceded them, starting in 1977. That was the year St. Louis first placed the Gastonia, North Carolina Cardinals entry into the Class-A Western Carolinas League.

For 14 years, from 1982 through 1995, the Cardinals had two full-season Single-A clubs, one in the Midwest League and the other in the South Atlantic or Sally League. Since 1996, the organization has fielded a single club in the MWL.

Here is the log of the last ten years, 25 years, full franchise histories and combined results from both Class-A clubs. The Quad Cities-Springfield branch of the family is on top with the Savannah-Gastonia results below.

Cards Class-A Year Pct W L Division Playoffs Manager
Record all clubs 77-08 0.517 3300 3078 20
25 year all clubs 84-08 0.519 2654 2460 16
MWL record 82-08 0.528 1968 1758 14
25 year MWL 84-08 0.523 1805 1646 12
10 yr all/MWL 99-08 0.509 702 676 5
Quad Cities 2008 0.507 68 66 6 Steve Dillard
Quad Cities 2007 0.561 78 61 T2 L1 Keith Mitchell
Quad Cities 2006 0.555 76 61 2 L1 Keith Mitchell
Quad Cities 2005 0.518 72 67 2 L1 Joe Cunningham
Peoria 2004 0.540 75 64 2 L1 Joe Cunningham
Peoria 2003 0.471 65 73 6 Joe Cunningham
Peoria 2002 0.616 85 53 1 WC Danny Sheaffer
Peoria 2001 0.413 57 81 6 Joe Hall
Peoria 2000 0.460 63 74 5 Tom Lawless
Peoria 1999 0.453 63 76 4 Brian Rupp
Peoria 1998 0.514 72 68 2 Jeff Shireman
Peoria 1997 0.504 70 69 3 Joe Cunningham
Peoria 1996 0.581 79 57 1 L1 Roy Silver
Peoria 1995 0.463 62 72 4 Roy Silver
Madison 1994 0.475 66 73 4 Joe Cunningham
Springfield (IL) 1993 0.574 78 58 2 L1 Mike Ramsey
Springfield (IL) 1992 0.600 84 56 2 Rick Colbert
Springfield (IL) 1991 0.423 58 79 7 Mike Ramsey
Springfield (IL) 1990 0.453 63 76 5 Keith Champion
Springfield (IL) 1989 0.541 73 62 3 LC Dan Radison
Springfield (IL) 1988 0.583 81 58 2 L1 Mark DeJohn
Springfield (IL) 1987 0.671 94 46 1 LC Gaylen Pitts
Springfield (IL) 1986 0.621 87 53 1 L1 Gaylen Pitts
Springfield (IL) 1985 0.471 66 74 2 Lloyd Merritt
Springfield (IL) 1984 0.504 70 69 1 LC Joe Rigoli
Springfield (IL) 1983 0.576 80 59 1 LC Dave Bialas
Springfield (IL) 1982 0.610 83 53 1 L1 Dave Bialas
Cards Class-A Year Pct W L Division Playoffs Manager
WCL/Sally Record 77-95 0.502 1332 1320 6
Savannah 1995 0.403 56 83 6 Scott Melvin
Savannah 1994 0.599 82 55 2 WC Luis Melendez
Savannah 1993 0.662 94 48 1 WC Chris Maloney
Savannah 1992 0.462 67 78 4 Mike Ramsey
Savannah 1991 0.442 61 77 6 Larry Milbourne
Savannah 1990 0.518 73 68 3 LC Rick Colbert
Savannah 1989 0.496 69 70 4 Keith Champion
Savannah 1988 0.504 68 67 5 Keith Champion
Savannah 1987 0.500 69 69 4 Mark DeJohn
Savannah 1986 0.556 75 60 2 Mark DeJohn
Savannah 1985 0.422 57 78 5 Gaylen Pitts
Savannah 1984 0.561 78 61 2 L1 Lloyd Merritt
Macon 1983 0.493 71 73 3 Lloyd Merritt
Gastonia 1982 0.378 54 89 5 Lloyd Merritt
Gastonia 1981 0.472 68 76 4 Joe Rigoli
Gastonia 1980 0.529 74 66 2 L1 Nick Leyva
Gastonia 1979 0.468 65 74 5 Johnny Lewis
Gastonia 1978 0.493 69 71 5 Buzzy Keller
Gastonia 1977 0.590 82 57 1 WC Hal Lanier

WC = won championship

LC = lost in the finals

L1 = lost in first playoff round

The Sally line

The Cardinals first had a presence in Gastonia from 1938 through 1940, back in a time when the organization had over 30 minor league clubs. That Gastonia club was classified as “D” level and competed in the North Carolina State League and the Tar Heel League.

The Gastonia Cardinals celebrated their first year in the Western Carolinas League in 1977 by taking the championship under future Houston Astros skipper Hal Lanier. The WCL soon gave way to the brand new Sally League in 1980 as Gastonia remained affiliated with the Cardinals through the 1982 season. (Make sure you check out this gallery of photos from that era.) For 1983, the Cardinals moved to Macon, Georgia, former home of the Tigers, as the Expos took over in Gastonia.

The 1983 Macon Redbirds finished in the middle of the pack in the Sally’s South Division, but featured a youngster named Vince Coleman. The speedy outfielder took the batting title with a .350 average and set the organized baseball record with 145 stolen bases.

One season later, the franchise moved again, to Savannah, Georgia. These 1984 Cardinals won the second-half title in the South but lost in the first round of the playoffs. It what would be their best finish for the next six years.

The 1990 Savannah Cards won the second-half South crown and made it to the finals before being eliminated. Manager Rick Colbert’s big bat, the since-forgotten Cliff Brannon, led the league with 18 home runs.

In 1993, Chris Maloney took over and led Savannah to wins in the first and second halves and backed it up in the playoffs for the Cardinals’ first Sally League championship. Their 94-48 (.662) mark is the best for the Cardinals full-season A-ball level of play from 1977 to the present.

Future major leaguer Mike Busby went 12-2 as a 20-year-old and fan favorite Super Joe McEwing, also 20, drew 89 walks and scored 94 times, both team bests in 1993.

The 1994 season brought a new manager, Luis Melendez, but the same result, another league title. It represents the most recent back-to-back championships anywhere in the system. Catcher Eli Marrero, 21, smacked one home run for each year of his age that season.

1995 marked the final season of the organization’s 19-year participation in the Sally League as the Midwest League club was also packing its bags.

The Midwest League line

The Cardinals entered the MWL for the 1982 season with an organization-owned team in Springfield, IL. This club followed the Triple-A Springfield Redbirds (aka Cardinals) that competed in the American Association from 1978 through 1981.

In their first eight years of existence, the Springfield Cardinals made the playoffs seven times, a record that no other St. Louis affiliate has approached in at least the last 30 years. (Later, Peoria/Quad Cities reached the post-season four times in five years, from 2003 through 2007.)

Despite all the regular season success, Springfield couldn’t quite reach the top as they bowed out three times in the first round and four times in the finals from 1982 through 1989. Despite their impressive total of 14 MWL playoff appearances in their 27-year history in the league, the Cardinals have just one title. More on that in a moment.

Among the standout players during the 80’s run were outfielder Alan Hunsinger, who led the MWL with 102 runs batted in during the 1982 season, Curt Ford, who accomplished the same with 91 the next year and Todd Zeile with 106 RBI in 1987. A since-forgotten hurler, Jeff Oyster, paced the league with 17 wins in 1986.

A member of the 1982 Springfield staff, Danny Cox, just announced his return to the city and Lanphier Park as pitching coach of the Springfield Sliders of the independent Prospect League under manager and former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark.

The 1993 club made it back into the post-season, but fell in the first round in what would be their final year in Springfield. Future major leaguer T.J. Mathews tossed five complete games with a 2.72 ERA over 25 starts. Four players slammed 20 home runs or more each, but Mike Gulan was the only one who would reach the majors (15 career MLB at-bats).

By end of 1993, the organization was unhappy with Springfield’s facility and they sold the team. It moved to Madison, Wisconsin, but remained affiliated with St. Louis for one more season, then known as the Madison Hatters.

The Cards signed a new Player Development Contract taking over the Peoria (IL) Chiefs from the Chicago Cubs in 1995, and would remain there through the 2004 season.

In doing so, St. Louis returned to the city where they had a club from 1953 through 1956 in what was called the “Three-I League”. Former St. Louis third base star Whitey Kurowski was the skipper the first three seasons while coaching legend George Kissell took over for the final year.

The 1996 Chiefs had the best full-season record in the Midwest League, but exited the playoffs quickly. Pitcher Britt Reames was named the Prospect of the Year in the league with 15 wins and a 1.90 ERA, All-Star Kerry Robinson batted .359 and swiped 50 bases and Roy Silver was named Manager of the Year.

2002 would put to an end three straight losing seasons, bringing both a new stadium and the pennant for the Chiefs – the Cardinals’ only Midwest League championship to date. 19-year-old catcher Yadier Molina drove in 50 runs and left-handed starter Tyler Johnson went 15-3. In their last year in Peoria, 2004, the Cardinals prospects, including Brendan Ryan, who led the MWL batting .322, reached the first round of the playoffs before falling.

2005 brought a move by the Cardinals to the Quad Cities, where the team competed for the first three years under the name Swing of the Quad Cities. To some, the club’s light blue uniforms seemed reminiscent of the powder blues of the 1980’s Cardinals. In 2008, the club reverted to a previous handle, the River Bandits, which was used locally from 1992 to 2003.

The Cardinals Quad Cities club reached the playoffs each season from 2005 through 2007, but lost all three times in the first round. While the sixth-place finish in 2008 was a disappointment, the franchise is carrying a five-year-and-running streak of winning seasons. Across the system, the next-closest club is Palm Beach (A-Advanced) with three, fueled in a large part by former Quad Cities players.

Quad Cities and their predecessors remain the Cardinals winningest affiliate over both the last ten and 25 years. In addition, the Midwest League entry also has earned the most playoff appearances of any club in the organization during both the short (five in ten years) and long-term (12 in 25 years).

In terms of amassing regular-season wins and getting into the post-season, their MWL club is consistently the best the Cardinals have staffed in at least the last quarter century.

Cardinals system records – Quad Cities/Peoria/Madison/Springfield (IL)

Last ten years (1999-2008) Level Mark Record Years Club
Best cumulative record club 0.509 702-676 1999-2008 Quad Cities/Peoria (A)
Most winning seasons club six 02,4,5,6,7,8 Quad Cities/Peoria (A)
Current winning season streak club five 2004-2008 Quad Cities/Peoria (A)
Most playoff appearances club five 02,4,5,6,7 Quad Cities/Peoria (A)
Last 25 years (1984-2008) Level Mark Record Years Club
Best cumulative record club 0.523 1805-1646 1984-2008 Quad Cities/Peoria/Madison/Spr1 (A)
Most winning seasons club 16 Quad Cities/Peoria/Madison/Spr1 (A)
Most playoff appearances club 12 Quad Cities/Peoria/Madison/Spr1 (A)

Related articles:

Cardinals in the Appalachian League – 1975 to present

Cardinals in the New York-Penn League – 1981 to present

A quarter century of Cardinals minor league results

St. Louis Cardinals streaks – a brief history

As is often the case, news articles and message board discussion pique my curiosity, which lead to me heading to the reference books. That in turn leads to a post like this one.

A recent thread on the message board concerned the number of Cardinals world championships. That was rooted in the question of when the official beginning of the Cardinals as we know them really was.

Many feel there is a legitimate case that the club’s origin is not 1892 as the team themselves accept, but instead should also include the 1882-1891 St. Louis Browns of the American Association.

I happen to agree with those folks, but oddly, the Cardinals seemingly do not. Maybe the club did it that way to enable their 1992 centennial celebration season.

The 1887 Browns hold the American Association record for most consecutive wins with 15, a point to which I will return later. The League was in operation for those same ten years, 1882 through 1891.

As an aside, this reminds me of the unfortunate 2006 passing of Erv Fischer, the Cardinals official historian. Had he still been alive, I would have engaged Erv in this discussion. I have always felt that the Cardinals don’t do nearly enough to put their rich heritage front and center and apparently not replacing Erv hasn’t helped. This is made even more difficult by the team’s Museum’s “temporary” closing due to the Ballpark Village delays.

At any rate, back to the Browns. A reader wondered aloud why the 1898 club had been re-named the “St. Louis Perfectos”. By then, the Browns had been run into the ground and both the club and its owner were on their last baseball legs. Here is what I answered.

“The Browns had been put up for auction prior to the season when the league finally got rid of troublesome owner Chris Von der Ahe. The new owners, Frank and Stanley Robison, owned a streetcar line as well as the Cleveland Spiders of the American Association. They basically remixed the two teams, putting all the best players in St. Louis.

“Perfectos” was their arrogant assessment of their new roster. The “Cardinals” name reportedly came from the team’s change from brown to red socks and was coined by a sportswriter that season. 1899 Spiders went on to be one of the worst teams ever.”

That got to me to thinking about those 1899 Cleveland Spiders. In the above, I called them one of the worst teams ever. I need to correct that. They were THE worst team ever.

Their .130 winning percentage (20-134) is the lowest in both pre-1900 and post-1900 major league play. Those Spiders also own the major league record for consecutive losses with 24.

As I was looking this up in the Elias Book of Baseball Records, I noticed another interesting factoid. The 1884 St. Louis club holds the pre-1900 record (and post-1900 if allowed, as well) for highest winning percentage in a season. That team posted an .850 winning mark (91-16).

Interestingly, those 1884 St. Louis Maroons were part of a fledgling third league created by Henry Lucas when he could not initially gain entry into the National League. credits the Maroons with three more wins and losses than does Elias, 94-19 (.832) in the only year of existence of the Union Association.

No matter which way you count it, it was an incredible season. Unfortunately, the Maroons were so good, the other clubs in the league struggled at the gate, hastening the end of the league. Before the Union Association folded, the Maroons also picked up the circuit’s consecutive victories mark with 20.

Staying with the primary subject here, streaks, Elias’ longest credited MLB win streak is one that I strongly question. The 1916 run by the New York Giants of 26 games should be called the longest “non-losing streak”, in my opinion.

The Giants’ stretch consisted of 14 wins, then one tie followed by 12 more wins, with all 27 games played at home, by the way. The argument goes that since tie games were replayed back then, the tie didn’t count as part of the permanent record. Yet the stats counted, so should the game, in my view. Apparently, I am in the minority.

The next longest streak is owned by the 1935 Cubs, who won 21 in a row. That was in a 154-game season. Since the 162-game season came into being, the 2002 Oakland A’s hold the record at twenty consecutive wins.

Interestingly, the Cardinals keep two sets of books – the all-time club records and the team highs and lows since 1970. I can’t figure out why they selected that particular year, but they did.

The all-time Cardinals streak records:

Consecutive wins: 14 in July, 1935. Not a particularly long run by Frankie Frisch’s club. I had expected more from the famed Gas House Gang (pictured). Wild Bill Hallahan had four of the wins as the Dean brothers logged three each.

(Note: The Browns won 17 straight American Association games in May-June 1885.)

Consecutive losses: 15 in September, 1909. Looks like they were mailing it in. Glad it was a long time ago!

The post-1969 records:

Consecutive wins: 12 games in April, 1982. Whitey’s boys started out strongly on the way to a championship. The winning streak was stopped by ex-Cardinal Steve Carlton. Grrr.

Consecutive losses: 11 games in May, 1978. Another sad reminder of the dark decade of the 70’s. If you don’t remember the managerial reign of Vern Rapp, consider yourself fortunate. Although to be accurate, these losses actually occurred on the watch of Ken Boyer. The former third baseman and team captain inherited the mess when Rapp was sacked after 17 games of the 1978 season.

My next curiosity, whether there is any relationship between long streaks and a successful or unsuccessful season, is coming in a subsequent report.

Cardinals not alone in cutting payroll

In a recent article entitled “Is reducing the Cardinals payroll unreasonable”, I reported on partial information from’s team profiles about how player payrolls were coming together across Major League Baseball for 2009. Since we don’t know opening day rosters yet, this data is not final. Yet it paints a very clear picture of the overall direction the game is heading.

My interest in the subject is to help put into context the projected decline in the St. Louis Cardinals’ payroll this coming season. I firmly believe the team’s economic posture is the single most divisive issue across the Cardinal Nation and many who are complaining seem to lack a basic understanding of the bigger picture that reflects both the state of the US economy and its resulting impact across the totality of MLB.

People don’t need to like it. In an ideal world, we all wish our favorite team would spend more money. But at least take a moment to understand and acknowledge what is happening around you.

As the information below, expertly compiled by “Oquendo11”, attests, the Cardinals are not alone in their 2009 belt-tightening.

Here are some of the key points to be gleaned from the data. The first is most important and relevant to Cardinals fans:

  • Of the 13 teams that had a 2008 payroll above average ($89.6 M), including the Cardinals, only two clubs are increasing their payroll for 2009. Those 13 teams are averaging a decrease of $8.2 M. St. Louis’ projected decline is $8.6 M, almost on the average.
  • Of the 17 teams that had a 2008 payroll below average ($89.6 M), 13 increased their payroll for 2009; the 17 teams averaged an increase of $4.3 M.
  • Of the 15 teams increasing payroll, seven had winning records, seven had losing records, and one had a .500 record last season.
  • Of the 15 teams decreasing payroll, nine had winning records and six had losing records.
  • The 16 teams that had a winning record in 2008 decreased payroll an average of $1.05 M ($16.8 M total).
  • The 13 teams that had a losing record in 2008 decreased payroll an average of $1.63 M ($21.2 M total).
  • The one team with a .500 record in 2008 increased payroll $4 M.
  • Across MLB, the overall payroll stayed about the same, with the average dropping only $1.13 M (to $88.4 M) or a total decrease of $34 M across 30 teams. (Clubs are ordered below based on size of year-to-year change from largest increase to largest decline.)

2009 MLB player payrolls Min forecast Max forecast Avg Forecast 08 payroll delta 08 wins
Philadelphia Phillies 125 125 125 98.3 26.7 92
San Francisco Giants 89 114 101.5 76.6 24.9 72
Tampa Bay Rays 60 60 60 43.7 16.3 97
Chicago Cubs 133 133 133 119 14 97
Kansas City Royals 70 70 70 58 12 75
Houston Astros 99 102 100.5 88.9 11.6 86
Oakland Athletics 50 65 57.5 48 9.5 75
Arizona Diamondbacks 74 74 74 66.2 7.8 82
Washington Nationals 50 75 62.5 55 7.5 59
Baltimore Orioles 72 75 73.5 67.1 6.4 68
Colorado Rockies 74 74 74 68.7 5.3 74
Cleveland Indians 83 83 83 79 4 81
Minnesota Twins 59 59 59 57 2 88
Florida Marlins 23.5 23.5 23.5 21.8 1.7 84
Cincinnati Reds 75 75 75 74.1 0.9 74
Milwaukee Brewers 79 82 80.5 80.9 -0.4 90
Texas Rangers 62 72 67 67.7 -0.7 79
Detroit Tigers 135 135 135 138 -3 74
Pittsburgh Pirates 45 45 45 48.7 -3.7 67
New York Yankees 200 210 205 209 -4 89
Boston Red Sox 125 127 126 133.4 -7.4 95
New York Mets 130 130 130 137.8 -7.8 89
St. Louis Cardinals 91 91 91 99.6 -8.6 86
Los Angeles Angels 105 115 110 119.2 -9.2 100
Toronto Blue Jays 85 88 86.5 97.97 -11.47 86
Chicago White Sox 100 100 100 121 -21 89
Seattle Mariners 90 100 95 117.7 -22.7 61
Atlanta Braves 70 85 77.5 102.4 -24.9 72
Los Angeles Dodgers 79 104 91.5 118.5 -27 84
San Diego Padres 40 42 41 73.7 -32.7 63
Average payroll change -1.13
Total payroll change -33.97
(all amounts are in $M)

A footnote. Since projected $25 million man Manny Ramirez is not signed, he is included in the high case for both the Dodgers and Giants. Of course, he will ultimately be in one or the other, but not both.

I will be back to address this again once the season-opening payrolls across the game are set, but I don’t expect the conclusion to change dramatically.