The Cardinals Had a Perfect Offseason (Natch) and Other Bullets

St_Louis_CardinalsI’m going to get lunch with The Wife today … school lunch! I can’t wait to open up my tiny little chocolate milk carton. I’m told The Wife’s school doesn’t do the segmented tray thing, which is something of a disappointment.

  • SI offers final offseason grades for the teams in the NL, and the Cubs land a C. It was a shrug-worthy offseason that merits a shrug of a grade. That’s not to say the offseason wasn’t understandable for the Cubs, it just doesn’t really get you up out of your chair. Kinda seems like the definition of a C. The Cardinals get an A+, because of course they do (I try not to actively root for a guy to suck, but if Jhonny Peralta flops for the Cardinals, I would not weep). Set up the way they were, the Cardinals patched their obvious hole at shortstop, could allow Carlos Beltran to walk, and replace his bat in the lineup with Matt Adams (and his position with Allen Craig), replace some athleticism in the outfield by trading David Freese for Peter Bourjos, slide Matt Carpenter over to third, and thus open up a spot for Kolten Wong. And that’s just the offensive side of things. The Cardinals didn’t need to do much on the pitching side, and could arguably stand to trade an arm or two for prospects. That’s a perfect offseason.
  • The Reds and Pirates actually bring up the bottom of the pack, by the way, with a D- and F, respectively. Given the really weak offseasons for teams coming off playoff appearances, that’s either totally fair (shoulda done something!) or totally unfair (didn’t need to do anything!). I tend to think it’s fair.
  • CSN honored Cubs catcher Welington Castillo as the Cub of the Year for the 2013 season. Given his dramatic leaps forward defensively last year, that’s totally fair.
  • Rick Renteria wants to focus on the Cubs being as successful as possible this year, rather than just thinking about the future development of the Cubs’ top prospects. In essence, RR is saying that winning now (as much as reasonably possible) is a key part of development for the young players already on the big league club. That sounds nice, and no one is going to argue that winning is a bad thing for development. So … sure. Ok. Fine by me.
  • A Vine Line Q&A with lefty reliever Zac Rosscup.
  • Scott Lindholm, writing at Beyond the Box Score, takes a look at attendance trends in baseball over the past few decades. Although there’s been a steep rise since the 1980s, there was a dip during the 2007-08 recession, and it hasn’t come back. With TV ratings for the sport down on a national level, the health of the sport, long-term, will once again come under scrutiny. (Lindholm mentions, as I have before, that the media fan age is climbing well into the 50s.) Life these days will necessarily lead to a fracturing of attentions, but MLB has to do more to attract younger fans. You can’t rely on parents forcing it on their kids to do the work for you.
  • Dave Cameron wonders if stats for righty pitchers in the NL Central in recent years have been inflated by a lack of great lefty-heavy lineups in the Central.
  • Masahiro Tanaka wanted to arrive to Yankees Spring Training in style, so he charted a private 787 for himself and three other people … to the tune of $195,000. Man, not only are we going to miss out on Tanaka’s performances, but we’re clearly going to miss out on so many stories …
  • Dan Farnsworth at The Hardball Times offers a thoughtful piece on why “swinging down” to create backspin is a bad idea, and why is pretty much never pays for a hitter – of any kind – to try and hit groundballs.
  • A Super Bowl in Chicago? That could be a lot of fun, and Jay writes about the possibility.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

56 responses to “The Cardinals Had a Perfect Offseason (Natch) and Other Bullets”

  1. ssckelley

    OMFG, MY EYES!!!!!!! Could you have made that Cardinals logo any bigger?

  2. Jim

    Do you get to go to recess too? I hear you have wicked kickball skills…

  3. Edwin

    Hmmm. I see Brett’s new post, and right next to it I get the ad for the cartoon sick guy throwing up. Sounds about right.

  4. Jim

    Farnsworth’s piece on the grounders is so nerdy and awesome. Doesn’t take into account where the grounders take place (both on the field, and which park). Still excellent though.

  5. Porkslap

    Sounds to me like you actually have argued winning is a bad thing…

    Brett (on signing Ubaldo Jimenez to a one year deal)
    January 31, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink | Reply
    The problem with that for a team like the Cubs is that they get 0 value from his performance (perhaps negative, even, if he’s “too” good), and then they’ve got to get more than the value of a high second rounder + whatever they’ve paid in salary (from the start of the year to the trade) in trade. Meanwhile, the Cubs bear the risk of injury or ineffectiveness.

  6. shlenny

    The dip in attendance has more to do with the economy than the age of the fan. The middle class has been decimated, meaning there is less disposable income and time to attend game. Regularly attending sporting events is simply out of reach for the vast majority of Americans. The NFL is taking a hit too. In TB, attendance at the Bucs game is really bad.

    1. D-Rock

      +1

  7. ssckelley

    Tanaka is not trying very hard to make a good first impression with his team mates. A move like that might require a rookie hazing by a couple of veteran players.

  8. JCubs79

    I wonder if in the future, the MLB will see a spike in attendance because of the issues regarding player safety in the NFL. I’ve been reading quite a few articles lately about how the talent pool for the NFL will drop in the future simply because parents aren’t letting their kids play do to safety concerns. Apparently, a lot of towns are having trouble just fielding youth teams. I mean a lot of 2 way athletes have been with both football and baseball. It would be pretty cool to start having more of those guys choose baseball. During the college bowl games, we saw Ken Griffey Jr.’s son catch two TD passes and while it was a fun game to watch, part of me was sad seeing such a great players kid in another sport.

    (I know the MLB wouldn’t be the only sport to benefit from this)

  9. CubFan Paul

    “Cub of the Year…Given his dramatic leaps forward defensively last year, that’s totally fair”

    Unless the improved defense translates to better framing/more called strikes, I want a new catcher in 2015

    1. FullCountTommy

      It did lead to being tops in the Major Leagues in defensive runs saved

      1. CubFan Paul

        & worst at getting ‘called strikes’ on boderline and even obvious strikes/pitches

        1. FullCountTommy

          He could be better at framing pitches, but it’s not easy when the team uses 31 different pitchers. Framing pitches is largely about familiarity with the pitchers and the movement that all of their pitches have.

          1. CubFan Paul

            If you stink at framing pitches, you stink at framing pitches. Don’t blame the pitchers. I’m not the 1st one to point this out, there’s a year plus of video & data. Castillo stinks.

            Accountability.

            1. FullCountTommy

              If you’ve never caught a pitch from a certain pitcher, how are you supposed to know where that pitch is going? Framing is about anticipating where a pitch will end up and getting ahead of that movement to make the pitch look better. I’m not saying Castillo is a good framer by any means, but it’s tough when there is that much turnover on a pitching staff.

              But I digress, as you’ll probably just say that you’ve watched every inning Castillo has caught since he was signed by the Cubs and you are the resident Bleacher Nation catching expert

              1. CubFan Paul

                “but it’s tough when there is that much turnover on a pitching staff”

                What do you think he gets paid to do?

                “you’ll probably just say that you’ve watched every inning Castillo has caught since he was signed by the Cubs”

                Close. Just all his ML games, minus the ones on WCIU.

                1. FullCountTommy

                  Forget the MLB Fan Cave, there should be the CubFan Paul cave because you’ve apparently you’ve watched every Cub game since the beginning of time

                  1. CubFan Paul

                    “you’ve watched every Cub game since the beginning of time”

                    I added a second TV and DVR to the living room setup in ’08 or early ’09, so just all the games since then.

                    & yes I probably could of won the first MLB fancave a couple years back, because my setup is sweet. Now the contestants are putting bars & lounging areas in their homes and garages.

                    1. FullCountTommy

                      Wow you’ve watched all those games?!?!

                      Can I be the Danielson to your Mr. Miagi? I want to learn all about baseball from the legend CubFan Paul. Forget Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, hire this guy to make all the decisions. He must know everything, he’s DVR’ed and watched all the Cubs games since 08

            2. frank

              He may not be good at framing pitches; he may even be as bad as you say, but according to stats I’ve seen, the very best catchers at framing pitches can win one more game per year for their team. That is significant, so, as you say, improvement there would help. But I think you’d also have to look at things like offensive production and overall defense, rather than focus solely on the ability to frame pitches.

              1. CubFan Paul

                “look at things like offensive production and overall defense, rather than focus solely on the ability to frame pitches”

                I’m not solely focused on his ability to frame. The topic started because of his ‘dramatic leaps forward defensively last year’

                1. frank

                  Fair enough–thanks for clarifying.

                  1. CubFan Paul

                    Hopefully pitch framing is a point of emphasis this year like his defense was last year.

            3. Nate

              If pitchers are better at hitting their spots, it’s easier to frame their pitches. I’m not saying Castillo is a great pitch-framer, and I agree that this should be a point of emphasis for Castillo going forward, but I don’t think it’s as simple as “if you stink at framing pitches, you stink at framing pitches.” It takes good pitching and good catching to get those borderline pitches called strikes, and our pitching staff didn’t have great command last year with the exception of Wood.

              1. CubFan Paul

                Samardzija, EJax, Garza, and even Wood were affected by poor framing.

                You can’t pick the guy with the best stats and say the rest sucked

    2. Norm

      So, regardless of offense and other factors that lead to his DRS rating, if he can’t frame better, he’s out?

      1. FullCountTommy

        Don’t bother Norm, he’s watched every inning Castillo has caught with the Cubs, he knows best

      2. CubFan Paul

        I don’t see Castillo developing an impact bat, but if he roids or something and surprises offensively, that’s another story/we’ll cross that bridge then.

        Saving runs is nice, but I don’t like to see my pitchers struggling for strikes due to catcher error.

        The umpires are HORRIBLE at calling strikes, a catcher that adjusts to that is more valuable than a defensive wizard behind the dish, in my opinion.

  10. itzscott

    >> MLB has to do more to attract younger fans.<<

    I'm so glad the Cubs figured it out with Clark.

    1. ssckelley

      Clark is awesome!

  11. Edwin

    Nice article from Dan Farnsworth. He also linked to an article from BP which looks through pitchFX through a batter’s eyes. It’s pretty interesting.

  12. Chef Brian

    “Natch” I can’t wait for the day the Cubs snatch the throat out of the Cardinals. No team is more due for a string of misfortune than the Cards. Good article Brett.

  13. mjhurdle

    im actually feeling a decline on the Cardinal ‘Voodoo magic’ this year.

    Matt Adams got over-exposed last year, and if they plan on him manning 1B with Craig moved to RF, i think that Adams struggles at the plate, and Craig gets injured again.
    Can Carpenter and Molina another career years again? Will Wong be able to man the 2B position as a starter?
    Will any of their rookie pitcher regress?

    So much went so right for the Cardinals last year, it is just hard to see that all happening again this year. I still think they win the Central, just don’t think they will be a ‘dominate’ team doing it, though there is still voodoo magic and all that, so maybe a 110+ win year for STL…

    1. CubFan Paul

      “Matt Adams got over-exposed last year, and if they plan on him manning 1B…i think that Adams struggles at the plate”

      Why? If there’s one thing Adams has been known for, it’s his stick. He’s a fantastic hitter.

      A down year for him would still probably top any Cub

      1. Jon

        They also have Taveras knocking down the door for playing time in RF too.

    2. Edwin

      Doesn’t seem to matter much for the Cardinals though. One guy has a slump, another guy comes out of nowhere.

  14. woody

    A 787 !!!!!!!!!!!!! I guess his ego wouldn’t fit in a smaller plane.

  15. Kyle

    It has been nice to see the Pirates and Reds crap the bed this offseason.

    If only the Cubs had done anything over the past three years to put themselves in position take advantage of this misstep.

    1. Chef Brian

      The Reds and Pirates didn’t do much to improve their teams this off-season, but they are still formidable teams in a tough division. For how much longer remains to be seen. The Cubs certainly need to take advantage of this.

    2. Blackhawks1963

      The Pirates have a very promising future. Lots of young talent…frontline pitching…more good young talent on the way in the farm system. They aren’t in the league of the Cardinals, but I wouldn’t downplay how good they are. Or how bright their future remains.

      1. Kyle

        Their future remains bright, but I think they *might* have boned themselves for 2014.

    3. Noah_I

      I think the extent media lauds teams that make free agent moves and derides teams that don’t is pretty overblown. It’s an issue of incentives. The media’s incentive is to get page views, to get people to buy magazines and newspapers and premium subscriptions. Robinson Cano signing with the Mariners was a big news story, but essentially no one thinks the Mariners will come close to winning the AL West this year, and if Cano’s decline starts in, say, 2016, a distinct possibility, he could actively hamper the Mariners’ ability to win for a year. But the Mariners had a much more exciting offseason than the Pirates, a team much better set to compete over the next five years.

      I just think the question, did the moves this team made this season make the team better for 2014 is extremely shortsighted. The Mariners will be better in 2014 than they were in 2013, but I don’t think they come close to competing for the AL West. To me, the only thing that matters towards grades is if the moves a team made helps them compete more over the next 1-5 years than they would have otherwise.

      For example, I would have given the Mariners a C, but with wide variance. I don’t think Cano helps them become a contender now. If his prime extends to his age 34-36 seasons, he could help them compete later, but if he starts declining at that point, he could be a disaster.

      I also think the Reds should get a C, as an acknowledgement that they went for it, made the playoffs in 3 of 4 seasons, and now are up against payroll limitations that limit the moves they can make. The Pirates may be a different story, because I think the move they made in the rotation (Volquez), actively makes them worse.

      I agree with the Cardinals getting an A because they improved their weakest position and I think they got the better side of the Bourjos/Freese deal. They improved a team that should contend for the World Series now while simultaneously doing nothing to harm their long term competitiveness.

      But in grades like this, I think something like 70-80% of teams should get grades from C+ to C-, a couple of teams with worse grades, and a couple of teams with better grades.

  16. MightyBear

    The national television games are going to keep going down. Especially with the MLB package and MLB.com. That’s a product of the new age and putting the same damn teams on all the time. How many times can you watch the Yankees/Red Sox before you’re totally sick of it? And if you don’t show those two, you get no following from that area. How many people in New York or New England tune in to see KC/Twins?

  17. Blackhawks1963

    The Cardinals are absolutely loaded. Pitching up the wazoo. Oscar Taverez and Kolten Wong knocking on the door soon. A still flush with talent minor league system despite all the promotions the last or so.

    Cardinals win 100 games in 2014. Even in a division that includes Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

  18. beerhelps

    This post reminds me of something my first grade teacher used to say: “Man I sure do hate the mother f@#$ing Cardinals. I hope they all get gonorrhea and die.”

    She was a sweet little old lady.

  19. brainiac

    a C building on an F is still a D average. a C is generous because people are still thinking that theo is going to pull a rabbit out of his hat. what they haven’t realized yet is that he sold his hat for some beans.

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