Wednesday, September 07, 2005

FROM THE RED STATES

Well enougyh joking around about the Cubs Fan Anonymous post from yesterday. Although I do think anyone who would knowingly and willingly subject themselves to the futility of being a Cubs fan definately has something wrong. But enough about that, some serious talk about baseball. I talked to Chris yesterday and he suggested I post my thoughts on the Cardinals and their chances in the post season. I found this rather strange coming from a die hard Cub fan. However, he said he would be interested in my thoughts and felt others would be too. So here goes.

Last nights Cubs/Cardinals game was a pathetic display by the Cardinals, and a perfect example of why I think the Cardinals are doomed come playoff time. Sure I will be watching and rooting, praying that I am wrong, but I'm not too optimistic of the Cards chances. First of all I would be wrong to make excuse for their performance last night, tip your hat to Rusch, he pitched a great game. Last night was just a perfect example of our ineptness at hitting left handed pitching. We have struggled most of the season against lefties, and not just dominant lefties like Willis, or Randy Johnson. We have also struggled against the likes of Tom Glavine, David Wells, Eric Milton, and now the before mentioned Glendon Rusch. These southpaws are hardly what I would call dominant.

My feeling is that the team with the most dominant pitching staff usually wins a playoff series, especially those short 5 game series' in the first round. Looking at the Cardinals pitching staff we have only one truly dominant pitcher that I feel comfortable with come playoff time, Chris Carpenter. Mulder has been good at times but also has been horrific at times as well. Mulder is a real jekyll and hide pitcher. Matt Morris is starting to revert back to the Matt Morris of last season, giving up gopher balls left and right. That leaves Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis, not what I would call dominant. Although Suppan was probably our best pitcher last post season, but I still don't think Suppan would strike fear in the eyes of any playoff team. Marquis has pitched back to back CG's but before that went like 0-7 over his last two months. As far as the bullpen, Interestinghausen has really struggled lately as has King and Tavarez. It is scary to think that lately our best pitchers out of the pen has ben Al Reyes and Brad Thompson, harldy a playoff tested bullpen.

As for the lineup, well lately our offense has been Albert Pujols and a cloud of dust. Edmonds has put up ok numbers but far from his normal production. Sanders is expected back any day now, but how long will it take him to get back in to game shape. Larry Walker, well who in the world knows with this guy. Our bench is very capable and they are the main reason we are where we are in the standings. The performances of Nunez, Mabry, and Taguchi have been amazing and I feel totally comfortable with them heading down the stretch and into the playoffs. They are bench players though, and my hope is that that is exactly where they will do their damage, coming off the bench. Except for Nunez, who is the regular third baseman due to the loss of Rolen.

I think it is imperative for the Cardinals that Houston wins the Wild Card. That has us matched up with most likely San Diego in the Divisional Series. They are capable of beating anyone with the likes of Peavy and Eaton, and makes one wonder what in the world are they doing floundering at or below .500. However thay are a .500 team and I would easily expect the Crads to win that series in 3 maybe 4 games. That would take us to the NLCS against either Houston or Atlanta. My gut seems to think it would be Houston given the history of the Braves history of choking come playoff time. Either team would be tough for the cardinals to beat. We have dominated Houston all season, but the like of Clemens, Oswalt, and a healthy Andy Pettitte, would be a challenge in a 7 game series. The Braves would be equally difficult with Smoltz, Hudson, and especially if Hampton can return as he has killed the Cardinals over the years.

If Houston does not win the Wild Card, then I think were are definately in trouble in the first round. Probably facing either the Marlins and their trio of Beckett, Burnett, and Willis in a 5 game series. We would be trying to do something no team has yet to do, and that is beat Florida in a playoff series. Or most likely the Phillies who have owned us the past couple of years. Needless to say, I as well as most of cardinal Nation is praying for Houston to win the Wild Card.

For the Cardinals to win the World Series I think it is gonna take a few things to happen. One, I think Jim Edmonds has to get hot. He is a very streaky hitter, which is a good thing if he is hot, but it is terrible news if he is not. I feel totally confident that we will get good production from Pujols, .330 or so, 4 or 5 HR's, and 15-20 RBI's, and score a bunch of runs. However if Edmonds is in one of his ridiculous slumps, we can expect Albert to see his share of walks, being pitched aroujnd, especially in RBI situations. If Edmonds is hot it is far less likely a team will pitch around Albert. It is a must for Edmonds to get hot.

Secondly, we need the Mark Mulder we have been getting the past few starts. Carpenter will be Carpenter, but we need Mark Mulder to step up and pitch the way he has been latley. If we get the Mulder of June and July were in trouble. It would also be nice if we got surprise solid pitching from 2 of the remaining 3 (Morris, Suppan, and Marquis). Thats asking alot for 2, I think most likely we would be lucky to get 1 of those guysto step up. That's why Mulder needs to pitch well.

Third, we need the bullpen to get back to being as solid as they were early in the season. A solid bullpen is important in a playoff series. We need guys with defined roles, and executing their opportunities in those roles. We need King to be able to come in and get those tough leftt handed hittiers out late in the game. we need Reyes, Thompson, and Tavarez getting outs in the 7th and 8th innings. And of course Izzy in the 9th.

Lastly, but probably most importantly we need an unsung hero to step up big. I like to think David Eckstein is the prime candidate for this role. Given his track record in the playoffs with the Angels. He has got a World Series ring. However, maybe it would be a Mark Grudzielanek, or a Yadier Molina, or Abraham Nunez. Someone else has to contribute huge.

All these are huge question marks, questions I suppose any playoff team will have. Who will get all these questions answered, well it's a crap shoot. That's why the playoffs are as exciting as they are.