2012 Organizational Rankings: #6 – St. Louis

Read the methodology behind the ratings here. Remember that the grading scale is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.

2012 Organizational Rankings

#30 – Baltimore
#29 – Houston
#28 – Oakland
#27 – Pittsburgh
#26 – San Diego
#25 – Minnesota
#24 – Chicago White Sox
#23 – Seattle
#22 – Kansas City
#21 – Cleveland
#20 – New York Mets
#19 – Los Angeles Dodgers
#18 – Colorado
#17 — Miami
#16 — Diamondbacks
#15 — Cincinnati
#14 — Cubs
#13 — Milwaukee
#12 — San Francisco
#11 — Washington

#10 — Tampa Bay
#9 – Toronto
#8 – Atlanta
#7 – Detroit

St. Louis’s 2011 Ranking: 13th

2012 Outlook – 60 (8th)

One down, 161 to go, right?

I think the assumption around baseball was if Albert Pujols left the Cardinals, he would leave a husk of a team behind him. If his teammates didn’t prove their worth enough throughout their playoff run in 2011, they’ll get ample chance to do so in 2012. They should be up to the challenge, as this roster was especially well suited to replacing a departing first baseman. With Lance Berkman moving in from right field to a more suiting first base and Carlos Beltran filling the hole left by Pujols, the Cardinals’ offense has a chance to repeat as the best in the National League (as measured by both runs scored and wRC+).

Throw in more games from David Freese (just 97 last year), Rafael Furcal (and therefore less Ryan Theriot) and Allen Craig (either off the bench or as an intriguing second base option) and one can make a good argument that the Cardinals can replace Pujols’s sheer star power with depth in the lineup that is unrivaled in the National League. It is a team that is solid defensively across the board as well, particularly with Daniel Descalso at second base instead of Craig.

The pitching staff contains the question marks for the Cardinals this season, particularly with regards to health. Chris Carpenter is 37 and already without a timetable for return from a shoulder injury involving nerve damage — a dreaded diagnosis for any pitcher and any organization. Adam Wainwright returns, but any season coming off Tommy John surgery is usually a worrisome one. When healthy, a top three of Carpenter, Wainwright and Jaime Garcia is devastating; the question is how often it will be those three and not, say, Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn or Jake Westbrook — a far less intimidating prospect.

The bullpen didn’t have a set closer for much of the season but Jason Motte has emerged with one of the major league’s toughest fastballs as an excellent closer. There are plenty of solid relief pieces around him as well, chief among them Fernando Salas and Mark Rzepczynski, and Eduardo Sanchez should make his way up from the minors at some point. Simply not having Ryan Franklin on board should serve as addition by subtraction.

The absence of Dave Duncan this season could play a factor — can Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist perform anywhere close to the same alchemy Duncan routinely managed with leaden pitching arms? And of course, it would be remiss to leave out Tony LaRussa‘s departure — he was masterful with his bullpen management in the postseason (particularly in the final two series) and has been an important force in that city for years.

Still, even with the turnover in management, between an excellent offense and the quality pitchers on the roster, the Cardinals certainly have enough to compete with the Brewers and Reds for the NL Central crown. The Cardinals are justifiably the favorites in this three-headed race in many circles and should have an excellent chance at grabbing a Wild Card slot should they fail to win back the division title.

2013+ Outlook – 53 (12th)

We do not doubt the producing potential of the Cardinals’ minor league system. St. Louis has three big-time pitching prospects in Shelby Miller (a top-five prospect overall), Tyrell Jenkins and Carlos Martinez. There can be some questions about the depth, but there are quality position player prospects as well, including Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong and Zack Cox. The Cardinals have routinely owned a solid system and there is little reason to expect the current instance to be any different.

The Cardinals biggest issue is the age of their core and the money that will be spent on it. Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Rafael Furcal, Jaime Garcia and Skip Schumaker — an eight-player group — will be owed roughly $81.5 million next season, just $27 million less than the current payroll, the Cardinals’ highest ever (just edging out last season’s). Luckily, many of their players are still in pre-arbitration, and some $40 million of that comes off the books in 2014 — as many of the (currently) secondary players enter expensive arbitration seasons.

The Cardinals will therefore need that loaded system to deliver some cheap talent to the major leagues, and soon. The future of the organization won’t be quite so simple without the reliable talent of Albert Pujols, but John Mozeliak and crew has put the pieces in place to live up to the challenge.

Revenues – 54 (8th)

Flags fly forever. And on their way to the stadium, they bring cash. Still, the Cardinals very much profile as a mid-market team, not a large market one. The franchise is ranked 11th in terms of overall value by Forbes, but could be held down by a middling metro area population (2.6 million) and more importantly, a TV deal that will not expire until 2017.

The Cardinals should not have trouble packing Busch Stadium, though, and can keep the gate receipts flowing like few other teams. St. Louis has finished third in attendance in the National League every year since 2007 and has a good shot to do so again in 2012 (finishing behind Philadelphia and San Francisco) and would only fall to fourth if the Dodgers’ fanbase is galvanized by the new purchase of the team — that is, through no fault of their own.

St. Louis will never challenge teams like the Red Sox or Yankees in terms of payroll, but they should have enough of a budget to compete with the smaller markets in the division. Their revenue stream can’t quite approach that of the Cubs, but the competitive advantage for Chicago isn’t too much to overcome — just see the last century or so.

Baseball Operations – 54 (T-8th)

The Mozeliak years in St. Louis began somewhat tumultuously, as the franchise missed the playoffs in three of the new general manager’s first four seasons — something that hadn’t happened since missing three straight from 1997-1999. But Mozeliak inherited an old team in the one that was victorious in the 2006 World Series, and one that managed just 83 regular season wins the season before at that. Although he was handed many of the bigger pieces (Pujols, Wainwright, Carpenter), he added two of the biggest contributors to the 2011 World Series through free agency in Matt Holliday and a real steal in Lance Berkman. He acquired David Freese in a little-heralded trade in 2007, giving up much-loved veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds — a shrewd trade, as Edmonds was largely ineffective for his remaining MLB career.

His two biggest contracts do have a high bust potential, as both Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina will make eight figures well into their 30s, partially leading to the concentration of big-money deals the Cardinals are responsible for over the next two seasons. His decision to trade Colby Rasmus could be a big long-term loss if he finds his way in Toronto, but again, flags fly forever. Was the World Series possible without the contributions of Edwin Jackson, Mark Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel? Possibly, but as the final day of the season taught us, every little bit counts.

Largely, under Mozeliak, the Cardinals have maintained a level of solid talent — even in missing the playoffs, the Cardinals won 86 games in both 2010 and 2008. The post-Pujols years will provide a tougher test and give us a clearer look at Mozeliak and his crew’s abilities as decision makers and player developers, but the Mozeliak administration has given us little reason to believe they will fail.

Overall – 56 (6th)

The Cardinals have no specific strength of their organization, no one area in which they clearly outclass the league. But they have been above-average in every aspect a franchise needs to succeed, and for that, they have been rewarded with consistent playoff appearances and two World Series championships in the past decade. Even with Albert Pujols gone, the Cardinals have a solid core of players, a good minor league system, and the resources and personnel necessary to keep them in place — an excellent recipe for continued success.

That is, as long as they can avoid the curse of the #6org.




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47 Responses to “2012 Organizational Rankings: #6 – St. Louis”

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  1. The curse is on. Have fun with your 52 win season, Cardinals fans.

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    • Will says:

      The thing is, realistically, the Cards could just fall apart this year.

      Beltran, Carpenter, Freese, Wainwright and Furcal are all HUGE injury concerns, and (besides Berkman and Holliday) form the core of the team. It wouldn’t be too far fetched if all four of these guys missed 40+ games.

      Don’t forget that Berkman reinvented himself last year after two years of sub 3 WAR. Can he maintain his play from last year?

      I don’t think it’s all that likely, but I can foresee a reasonably plausible scenario in which the Cardinals turn into the 2011 Twins. Their best players (swap Morneau, Mauer and Span for Beltran, Carpenter, Freese and Wainwright) miss significant periods of time, while their other key players have poor seasons (swap Liriano for Berkman).

      The Cardinals are good, but Holliday and Garcia are about the only two players without giant question marks next to their name. Maybe the curse will continue this year…

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      • Richie says:

        What he says.

        Beltran and Furcal are HUGE! injury risks, and Jack doesn’t even mention that aspect at all. A hilariously rosy 2012 prospective here.

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      • johnorpheus says:

        Yeah, maybe everybody on the roster gets injured and they suck. Oh wait, that can’t be said about every other team in baseball, can it? Sounds like a hopeful Brewers or Reds fan.

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      • Will says:

        johnorpheus,

        I’m not saying it’s likely, just plausible. You could make this scenario up for any team (probably even better for the Phillies), but you cannot deny that Beltran, Freese, Furcal and Carpenter are huge injury risks.

        Over the last 3 years, Beltran, Freese and Furcal have played more than 105 games in a season (including minor league games in Freese’s case) 2 times COMBINED. Furcal in 2009, Beltran in 2011. That’s it. You have to be terribly optimistic to expect 100+ games from any of them, much less all of them.

        Carpenter is now out with nerve damage in his shoulder. That’s not good news- at all. And Wainwright is coming off TJ. He’s healthy, but it’s also something worth noting and to be extremely careful about.

        Even Matt Holliday (one of the healthy ones) missed 38 games last year!

        There’s simply a lot of question marks, but doesn’t mean they’re doomed to 100 losses like the 2011 Twins.

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      • J says:

        WAY too much depth this year to pull a Twins. Any hole except catcher or CF could be patched with a solid player (Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Shelby Miller, Matt Adams, Eduardo Sanchez etc)

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      • cpebbles says:

        The only position where the Cardinals could really use more depth is in the rotation, and Roy Oswalt is sitting by his phone hoping the Cardinals call. Ranking them 8th for 2012 is probably too low, not hilariously rosy.

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      • cpebbles says:

        Er, ranked too high, I guess. They are comfortably in that blurry set of rankings just below the Yankees and Tigers.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        Any team could realistically fall apart if everyone gets injured or plays like crap.

        Great fucking comment.

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    • chuckb says:

      at least we’ve got 1 in the bank!

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    • CardinalRules says:

      I think these rankings need to be like buildings that don’t have a 13th floor.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        the thing about that is that the Cards have a higher chance. You can’t say “well same can be said about every team”. When your key guys have a track record of getting hurt, trying to say the injury likelihood is the same for every team is like comparing winning a poker game with linning the lottery. Yea, everyone involved in either situation has the likelihood of a poor outcome, but not everyone’s is the same.

        Plus, with old guys, the other strong possibility is that they have a quick dropoff in ability.

        The Cards farm system has a lot of talent, but a LOT of those guys are lower level guys. How often do guys get to AA and then drop off the face of the earth?

        I don’t think the Cards are a bad organization by any means, however, I don’t think they’re the 6th best. Tampa, Toronto, and Atlanta all have better teams this year and arguably also better farms.

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  2. jp_on_rye says:

    RIP

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  3. Vin says:

    Kiss of death. 90+ losses guaranteed.

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  4. Person says:

    First they lose Pujols, and now THIS?!

    +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. ncgostl says:

    As all Cardinals fans know, six is a serious number

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rESCt1Te1VY

    +16 Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. phillies phans everywhere says:

    *exhale*

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. CircleChange11 says:

    When examining one’s favorite team, it’s hard to keep things “in perspective” or without bias.

    2010: 10th
    2011: 13th

    Win the World Series

    2012: 6th

    For the last couple of evaluations StL has been downgraded because their MLB talent is oldish, minor league talent is lacking, and their manager and FO don’t get along.

    My personal view is that StL is model organization for small-mid market, not that different from Atlanta. They aren’t always on the cutting edge of the field or embrace sabermetrics to a large degree, yet they always seem to be good.

    I admit to being a big Walt Jocketty fan, and have not appreciated what Mo and Co have done, until well, after last year.

    I agree with the 6th ranking for StL (not that anybody is seeking my approval or anything). I think they could be anywhere from 4-8. I think too much is made about the “age” factor. StL has been able to handle injuries well, and IMHO there’s too much made about young talent. Yes, we all like it and you’re better off having it than not … but too often the young talent doesn;t materialize like it “should have”.

    Good research at THT the other day that showed that StL gets the most WAR/$ for their FA signings, but is around ~20th for their WAR/$ for home grown players (including ones that were traded away).

    The StL FO is doing something right in that regard, either they’re really good at dumpster diving, or getting veteran players to take less money than they deserve/should, or have gotten lucky on players having bounceback seasons, or they’re doing something that helps players play above their level. But, they’re doing something.

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    • nik says:

      You do realize they were one loss away from not making the playoffs. Winning the WS isnt the best gauge as they playoffs are a crapshoot.

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      • johnorpheus says:

        You’re forgeting the part where they played like the best team in baseball for September and October. Also, if anyone besides Franklin was closing games early in the year, they would have won 95 games. Lot of haters this morning, but that’s to be expected when you win the world series and were the best National League team overall throughout the 2000s.

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      • glassSheets says:

        I think johnorpheus is forgetting they also played the easiest schedule in the MLB last year. Seriously, they did. Take quality of opponent into consideration and they don’t make the top four in the NL for the year.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        1. It was just a timeline.
        2. It was a joke.
        3. StL post acquisitions and bullpen solidification was, IMO, one of the top 5 teams in baseball.

        Early in the year the bullpen was atrocious, Wainwright was absent, and Pujols had the worst start of any season in his career.

        Toward the end of the year, the team was as good as any … not in streakiness, but talent level.

        In 2006, they were one win away from not making the playoffs too. Turns out though it was just the same 100+ win team from 04 and 05 that just experienced a lot of injuries.

        I don;t view the WS as a fluke … I view the start of the season as a fluke. Same thing as 06. In reality another team in the NLC should have been good enough to keep an injury riddled ~100-win (<– talent wise) from making the playoffs. They didn't and once that team regained health and replaced Izzy with Wain as closer, the sleeping dog was awoken.

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    • monkey business says:

      “My personal view is that StL is model organization for small-mid market, not that different from Atlanta. ” I completely agree with that. I think a mid-market team should be happy to be ranked 6th too.

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  8. Sleight of Hand Pro says:

    holliday has put up a 138 wRC+ or higher every year since 05, and has been worth at least 5 WAR every year since 06. hes been healthy and consistent throughout his career, and hes been greatly underpaid according to your sites metrics. if his contract is “high bust potential” than what free agent contract isnt?

    +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. baycommuter says:

    The Cards looked darn good last night… Why do the Cubs get to be listed by their name without a city and the White Sox get called Chicago AL?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. J says:

    This is a pretty good write up. The only part confusing to me is the 2013+ section. To me, the Cardinals have positioned themselves extremely well in this regard. In the next 2 years, they’re essentially paying a lot to some old players (Beltran, Berkman, Furcal, Carpenter) on very short contracts. You mentioned that they have relatively high salary commitments next year but in 2014 they’ll have tons of money coming off the books (only players under contract are Holliday, Garcia, Molina). Easily enough to, say, resign Wainwright and patch any 2-3 holes with whatever free agents they want. Combined with their 6th ranked farm system (and young players like David Freese, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, Jason Motte and Lance Lynn), this looks like a team thats set up extremely well to compete for the next 5-6 years. Certainly higher than 12th overall in my mind.

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. 28 this year says:

    Isn’t that two teams with a 56 overall ranked higher than Atlanta with a 57 overall? Or am I missing something.

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    • Will says:

      Matt Klaassen just messed up Atlanta’s rating. 57(.35)+57(.35)+49(.15)+49(.15) = 54.6 – not even close to 57 as indicated

      And Eno Sarris messed up Detroit’s
      63(.35)+51(.35)+54(.15)+48(.15) = 55.2 (not 56)

      St. Louis
      60(.35)+53(.35)+54(.15)+54(.15) = 55.75

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  12. CodyG says:

    Mozeliak became the GM after the 2007 season, and they made the playoffs in 2009 as well as last year. So they only missed the playoffs 2 of his first 4 seasons.

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  13. MikeS says:

    Now I have to root against St Louis just to keep the curse of the #6org alive.

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  14. SC2GG says:

    I think that FanGraphs should have just put the Yankees at #6 so that we could only have two possible outcomes, both happy:
    1 – The Yanks suck badly and vindicate the curse
    2 – The curse is broken, and people finally stop talking about it.

    Winner Winner!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. David says:

    I don’t understand how they average 9th place in each individual category with no place higher than 8th but overall they are 6th.

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    • Fermat's last post says:

      The methodology averages the ratings, not the rankings.

      The weights are 35/15/35//15 across the four categories.

      The Cardinals are rated consistently high. Some teams received a higher rating on one dimension but a much lower rating on another. By analogy, an index fund that outperforms 60% of actively managed funds each quarter will end up in the 90th percentile of performance over many quarters.

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  16. Baltar says:

    I admit to not really knowing much about the Cardinals, but (team that made the playoffs on the last day of the season) – (Albert Pujols) = (#8 org) is a strange equation to me.
    I also admit that this equation leaves a lot out.
    Even so, it appears to me that the Flags-Fly-Forever syndrome has inflated this team’s rating a little.

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    • JT says:

      The uptick in rating for the Cardinals is due much, much more to their vastly improved farm system than their WS win. I’m not sure there was another minor league org in baseball that had an all around better year than the Cardinals’ (not saying their farm system is best, but EVERYONE in it did well last year). Every high prospect had a good to great year (Kolten Wong, Shelby Miller, Zack Cox, Carlos Martinez, Jordan Swaggerty) and some sleepers broke out in a huge way (Oscar Taveras, Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal) and just about nobody took a step backwards. Seriously I think the only somewhat big name prospect to disappoint last year was Seth Blair, and he was never a top 10 guy anyway.

      St. Louis would have ranked very highly regardless of their postseason success.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • CircleChange11 says:

      I would say just the opposite, that the Cardinals have been under-rated for the past two years just because of the unknown nature of the FO and a general dislike for the manager, and under-valuing the minor league system.

      We’re talking about an organization that’s won 11 titles, 2 in 8 years, and is generally very competitive every decade.

      Stable fanbase and budget.

      The Cardinals had a “barren” minor league system not too long ago, and then experienced ~10WAR for <$1M from Jay, Craig, and Freese. Throw in the relievers (Motte, Salas, etc) and there's a lot of WAR coming from "non prospects" in a mediocre minor league system. Currently StL has "bigger names" in the minors, but guys like carpenter may turn out to be just as valuable if say, a Berkman injury occurs (and Craig is needed in the OF).

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    • Matt says:

      They will be a better team than last year, and no Albert gives them long term financial flexibility. This will be a team to be reckoned with for years to come in the NL.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. vivaelpujols says:

    Could you expand on the 12th ranking for future talent? The Cardinals have a top 5 farm system, have several pre-arb players who project to be above average at their positions (Craig, Freese, Descalso/Greene, Lynn, most of the bullpen), have several core, all star caliber players locked down for the next 5 years (Garcia, Holliday, Yadier), and all of their old, declining players, are only under 1 or 2 year contracts.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • tom s. says:

      you mean, why is the STL future performance 8th and atlanta’s 3rd? yes, that’s a good question. somehow, i don’t think an answer is forthcoming.

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  18. Antonio Bananas says:

    the market size of St. Louis isn’t mid sized, it’s sort of fringe large. You have to remember that Memphis, half of illinoise, pretty much all of Missouri, parts of the south like Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky and probably northern Mississippi are Cardinal country. They consistently draw in the top 5 in the league and their TV broadcasts reach a wide base. I think it’s dumb to simply look at the size of the metro area.

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    • Bad Bill says:

      Apples and oranges. The wide base matters for the broadcast rights and the size of the resulting contract, where they do have advantages compared to some teams in nominally comparable media markets. However, it does less good in terms of gate revenues, because very few fans from 200+ miles away will make it to any large number of games. The small size of the St. Louis metropolitan area is probably the more relevant thing for addressing fans in the seats.

      Seen in that light, they are brilliant at filling those seats. The high rating seems justified to me.

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  19. BrianJ says:

    At some point was there an “I’m just kidding” following the paragraph where it says that Pujols being replaced by Freese, Furcal, and Allen Craig means the Cardinals won’t be hurting that much because of his departure because I just stopped reading right there.

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  20. Vision says:

    The Cardinals have questions in a lot of areas, but they also seem to have more answers than almost any club out there for their own questions.

    1B- Berkman is injury prone- Craig is a very good fallback plan.
    2B- Descalso is unproven. Greene can probably form a solid platoon, and the uptick in defense over Skippy probably results in a net positive over last year.
    3B- Freese is injury prone- the Cards have a guy who specializes in not making outs behind him in Carpenter, and Descalso filled in that same spot last year, so he’s a fallback option if needed. One of their decent prospects is a 3B’man and is at AAA (Cox).
    SS- Rafael Furcal is injury prone- Ryan Jackson has a ML ready glove, and while he won’t hit much, the dropoff wouldn’t be huge due to defensive value.
    RF- Beltran is injury prone- Craig again. his best position is probably RF or LF.
    CF- Jay has never proven it over a full season- this is a real concern since Beltran can’t play it every day. He could in a pinch. I don’t think they expect Jay to fall on his face, but if he does, they’ll have to deal with it.
    SP- Carp is already hurt and Waino is coming off surgery. Well, if both those guys are hurt for extended periods of time, they’ll have to grind. Lance Lynn is probably going to be league average-ish, and Shelby Miller isn’t ready to give big innings at excellent levels. Remember that the Cards didn’t have Waino last year, and Jackson for only a few months. If Waino stays healthy, they can still withstand a Carp injury.

    The bullpen is deep, deep, deep and they still have Sanchez in the minors. Swagerty will miss the season with TJ, so that does ding the bullpen depth in the minors a bit. Maikel Cleto does not inspire confidence.

    If all of the above blows up, and the Cards experience every negative outcome possible, they’ll struggle. Just like most teams would under the same scenario. The far more likely result is a mixture of a few positives and a few negatives on the list above, and the Cards will compete for the playoffs- as usual.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. YouAreAllStupid says:

    It’s all right. Everyone can underestimate the Cardinals again. Starting off strong, 2-0, with 4 home runs against the Brewers. GOD THEY ARE SO BAD!

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    • BrianJ says:

      2-0! Like the Dodgers (82 wins), Blue Jays (81 wins), White Sox (79 wins), Reds (79 wins), Padres (71 wins), Orioles (69 wins), and Mariners (67 wins) did.

      Only the Yankees, Rangers and Phillies last year started 2-0 and finished with a winning record. Let’s give it a month before getting excited about a start to the season.

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  22. Bob says:

    BrianJ: Nobody, but nobody, has ever suggested that Freese + Furcal + Craig would in any way equal the production of Pujols (once the 2 extra roster spots are included in the calculation).

    But here’s the thing: First base plus right field last year, versus first base plus right field THIS year, should be no more than a 2-win dropoff; 3 at the max…partly because of guys like Allen Craig, and Matt Carpenter, and Bat Adams –the phat 1B percolating in AAA.

    So whattaya got? A dropoff offensively at catcher (maybe), and an upgrade at short AND the keystone (on both O & D), and no expected declines elsewhere.

    Even with a FULL season of Lance Lynn replacing Carpenter, the rotation is no worse than N.L. average…and the pen is surely top 5.

    Add that pitching to a top-3 offense, and the Birds can’t possibly be worse than 88-93 wins with average luck. So crawl back into your Cubbiehole, sir. ;)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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