St. Louis Cardinals
2004 Record: 105-57 (.648)
2004 Pythagorean Record: 100-62 (.617)
Manager: Tony LaRussa
General Manager: Walt Jocketty
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Busch Stadium (97/97)
Who’s replacing whom?
Mark Grudzielanek replaces Edgar Renteria
David Eckstein replaces Tony Womack
Mark Mulder replaces Woody Williams
Randy Flores inherits Steve Kline’s innings
Larry Walker takes over Ray Lankford and Marlon Anderson’s playing time
Yadier Molina inherits Mike Matheny’s playing time
Einar Diaz takes over Molina’s playing time
Abraham Nunez has replaced Hector Luna and is filling in for Scott Rolen (along with Scott Seabol)
Al Reyes inherits Kiko Calero’s playing time
Dan Haren is replaced by various and sundry relievers
1B Albert Pujols
2B Mark Grudzielanek
SS David Eckstein
3B Abraham O. Nunez
C Yadier Molina
RF Larry Walker
CF Jim Edmonds
LF Reggie Sanders
L John Mabry (UT)
R So Taguchi (OF)
R – Scott Seabol (IF)
R Einar Diaz (C)
L – Skip Schumaker (OF)
L Mark Mulder
R Chris Carpenter
R Jason Marquis
R Matt Morris
R Jeff Suppan
R Jason Isringhausen
R Julian Tavarez
L Ray King
R Al Reyes
L – Randy Flores
R – Brad Thompson
L – Gabe White
R Scott Rolen (3B)
S Roger Cedeno (OF)
R Cal Eldred
R Mike Lincoln
R David Eckstein (SS)
R Mark Gruzielanek (2B)
R Albert Pujols (1B)
L Jim Edmonds (CF)
R Reggie Sanders (LF)
L Larry Walker (RF)
S – Abraham Nunez (3B)
R Yanier Molina (C)
The Cardinals calling card is their quartet of Hall of Fame-quality sluggers: Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker. But with Rolen on the DL with a shoulder injury (replaced by Pirates castoff Abraham Nunez and the Yankee’s one-time answer to Moonlight Graham, Scott Seabol), and Walker hitting a pedestrian .245/.347/.417 (.265 EQA) at age 38 in his first full season outside of Colorado since 1994, it’s time to give credit to their pitching for their recent dominance of the National League.
Last year, when the Cardinals played in their first World Series since 1987, they brought with them the second best team ERA in the majors (one one-hundredth of an earned run behind the Braves 3.74). This year the Cards’ hurlers are a “mere” fifth in the majors with a 3.65 ERA(though, oddly, that’s good for second in the NL, in what’s turning out to be a topsy-turvey year for team pitching).
Part of the reason for that has been their incredibly solid rotation. Just five pitchers have started for the Cardinals this year with Jeff Suppan’s 4.28 the worst of the bunch. Their top three starters (which, astonishingly, does not include Mark Mulder, the one addition they made to the rotation this offseason) all sport ERAs at or below 3.50. Meanwhile, Suppan and Chris Carpenter, who were both expected to suffer some correction after posting career-best ERAs last year, have indeed seen those figures increase, but only slightly, with each good for a second-best career mark. What’s more, replacing Woody Williams with Mark Mulder (note the snazzy visually inverted alliteration) shaved 11 years of the age of the staff whose oldest member, Matt Morris, won’t be 31 until August, which suggests that, if Morris and Carpenter can continue to keep their sketchy injury histories behind them, this staff could be together for a while.
Things have been less consistent in the bullpen, with twelve pitchers getting the ball from Tony LaRussa at one point or another, however every man who posted an ERA over 3.60 (including journeyman Kevin Jarvis and Jason Isringhausen’s former Generation K partner Bill Pulsipher) was quickly banished to the minors, resulting in a shiny pen ERA of 3.36.
Leading the pack is another forgotten Yankee, Al Reyes, who never stuck in the dreadful 2003 pen despite a 3.18 ERA and has given up a total of six runs in 36 1/3 major league innings and not a single homer since leaving the Bronx (the Cards are paying Reyes $450,00 for his 1.85 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 9.62 K/9 and 3.71 K/BB ratio–no comment).
You may have noticed that Gabe White is also on this team. Jay Jaffe’s favorite porn stash has a mere 2.16 ERA in 8 1/3 innings, but given his 1.80 WHIP and one strikeout, I wouldn’t expect that to last.
Elsewhere, the Card’s Big Three of Isringhausen, righty/basket case Julian Taverez, and LOOGY Ray “Thing” King (15 2/3 IP in 28 games) has been solid, though King’s strikeout rate is down for the fourth straight year, which suggests that Randy Flores finally putting things together couldn’t have happened at a better time.
And, yes, the Cardinals offense is still pretty impressive. Currently fourth in the majors (and tops in the NL) in runs scored. They’re getting great OBP from the middle infield (Grudzielanek: .366, Eckstein: .385), which only serves to underline the idiocy of the Yankees signing Tony Womack. Reggie Sanders is slugging .538 and hitting in front of Walker. Nunez has been acceptable as an emergency replacement in Rolen’s absence (.268/.339/.402 – .255). Catcher has been a complete black hole, but then this is a team that started Mike Matheny for five years, so that’s nothing new.
Yes, indeed, the Yankees have their work cut out for them this weekend. The good news is that Chien-Ming Wang goes for the Yanks tonight and tomorrow we’ll get a marquee FOX match-up with Randy Johnson facing Mark Mulder, two should-be aces who had disappointed despite actually pitching quite well for anyone not named Randy Johnson or Mark Mulder.
Incidentally, it feels like forever since the Yankees beat the Brewers the other night, but apparently it feels like even longer since the Yanks and Cardinals last met. On both 1010 WINS this morning and on Michael Kay’s show on ESPN 1050 today I heard the comment that tonight the Yankees and Cardinals will face each other for the first time since the 1964 World Series, apparently that time that Roger Clemens struck out Edgar Rentaria for his 4,000th strike out on his way to his 300th win, which came against the Cardinals in the Bronx just two years ago wasn’t memorable enough.
I for one really enjoyed that series, if only because I’ve always appreciated the Cardinals (who are second to the Yankees with nine World Series titles), and enjoyed cheering then-Cardinals Tino Martinez and Joe Girardi as they made their Yankee Stadium returns. I also got a kick out of seeing Albert Pujols blast one into the left field seats, I must admit. Greatness goes beyond uniform.