The UCB (United Cardinal Blogs) roundtable is back.
Today's question we posed to the web: What Cardinal do you expect to be the biggest flop in 2012 for the Cardinals?
Let's go to the answers.
Cards N' Stuff:
Wow, that's a tough one...I agree with Bill on Jay - the guy has yet to weather the doldrums of a full season as a starter and has clearly shown he is vulnerable to lengthy and mysterious slumps...and I hear you on David Freese - how can anyone expect him to live up to his postseason mythology before he's even played a full, healthy season?
Nowhere to go but down for him...
And Berkman's second half in 2011 raises huge questions about his true identity - 1st half Puma? or 2nd half Puma?...But let's not get started on the bullpen - after the luck we've had over the years in the 'pen, how anyone can call our bullpen a "strength" in February with a straight face is beyond me (plus, I've always maintained that Salas is vulnerable to Ryan Franklin syndrome - a guy with somewhat hittable stuff suffering from his own previous success - high expectations, changed role, etc. leading to a harder fall...not to mention Motte has a tendency to start the season cold).
But at the end of the day, I have to believe Rafael Furcal is the likeliest guy for a crash landing. Dude hasn't been able to stay healthy for years...and his "swing for the fences" mentality last year was only surpassed in it's idiocy by his "slap and run", ridiculous swinging bunt attemps. I just don't trust the guy to stay within himself and play like the player he should be...or a player who can stay healthy. Guy has shown too much of a willingness to act as his own worst enemy.
Hope i'm wrong...
On The Outside Corner:
The 2010 Cardinals were not as bad as their record indicated, and likewise, the 2011 Cardinals were not as good as their record indicated either. If the past is any indicator (and it general is), the 1965 Cardinals totally fell apart after winning the World Series and losing their manager. On the offensive side (yes, this will become a pun), the only player to maintain their previous seasons performance was the ever dependable Curt Flood. Everybody else took a downturn, some were pretty ginormous. Oh, the offense was ... wait for it ..... offensive.
So, I guess the answer here is to expect almost everybody to have a downturn. Matt Holliday will be the Curt Flood of 2012, and be the only player hitting their 2011 numbers. Lance Berkman will be the Bill White and have a pretty sharp injury fueled decline. Jon Jay will be the Lou Brock of '65 and struggle mightily.
To answer Aaron's question directly, the big one will be Lance Berkman - but more because he overachieved in 2011 than underachieved in '12.
The pitching side was mostly good. There was no big drop off in the bullpen, and the big arm at the top of the rotation was spectacular. Curt Simmons (the veteran) and Ray Sadecki (the kid) pretty much laid an egg, and some of that was game management (not pulling either pitcher quickly enough). That doesn't bode well for Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia, does it ?
The poor Cardinals got off to a brutal start, losing 5 of the first 6 and never contending after the first week. Oh, they did put up a tie in the opener (curfew at Wrigley) and ended up losing the remake, so I guess they really lost 6 of their first 7. Could that happen in 2012 ? You betcha. In fact, if it doesn't happen, that will be a surprise.
Cardinals Diamond Diaries (Angela):
My original gut instinct is to agree with those that have said Jay, but I am instead casting a wary eye towards Furcal. Just because the SS position last year was a barren wasteland does not mean we should be excited at the thought of someone coming in who had a rather large (9 I believe) number of errors in a very short amount of time after arriving, and who still does not have a great bat.
For what he's getting paid, I didn't think there was a horrible signing, but I really don't think he's going to live up to even the low expectations that are being placed on him.
Please prove me wrong Furcal. I would greatly appreciate that.
Chicago Celebrity Improv:
The answer is Lance Berkman. Of course, he was coming off an injury plagued season (I think) but also the fact that he had to get adjusted to AL pitching but St. Louis was a welcome return to the NL for Berkman.
Of course, who actually knows just what Berkman's numbers will be like come the All Star break.
I have concerns that Allen Craig will have the impact everyone thinks he could/should have. He seems to have all the tools to be a pretty good hitter, so this isn't a knock on his overall ability as a player. But the guy is coming off of knee surgery and will, for all intents and purposes, be part of a platoon situation in the outfield. Perhaps not being needed as a starter will help him ease back into playing. Or perhaps he struggles finding his swing with irregular playing time and getting going later than everyone else. I don't necessarily think this will be a lost year for Craig; more like it will be a middling year.
But in next offseason's roundtable, guess who my answer will be to the question of who's poised for a breakout season in 2013?
STL Cardinal Baseball:
First of all, I really wasn't onboard with every move this offseason. Specifically, the Furcal deal bugs me. Still, I get your point.
I think I've heard too much optimism about Wainwright. I'd love to see him do well, but he's probably not going to win the Cy Young this year. I also don't think he's going to make up for the WAR lost from losing Pujols this year.
I think, if given the chance, we might be surprised by Tyler Greene.
Though I cannot say just how much weight will be on his shoulders, I have to go with Jon Jay.
Let's face it, the guy hasn't proven that he deserves the everyday spot in center over the last two seasons. In each of those seasons, a player was traded (Ludwick, Rasmus) that put Jay into the lineup every day. In each season, he has struggled once that happened.
Jay is a solid outfielder, but he's not a solid everyday outfielder. If it comes down to Jay in the game everyday, the Cardinals will be worse for the wear.
Pitchers Hit Eighth:
Just to be contrarian, I'll say Shelby Miller.
Expectations are high for the Cards' top prospect, including from himself - Miller said at Winter Warm-Up he'd be disappointed if he didn't make it to St. Louis sometime in 2012. And while he may find himself in the 'Lou in September, I'm not certain that the mid-summer prognostications by many are right.
Think about all that has to go right (or wrong) for Miller to wind up with the big club. He has to pitch out of his mind in a completely new league (not impossible), the Cardinals have to suffer decimating injuries to get through some arguably good depth in the pitching staff (not impossible), and the Cardinals have to be in a position where they are ready and willing to start his service time clock (not impossible). Not only all of that, but in my opinion, they have to be ready to commit to Shelby as a big-leaguer. Once he's up, I expect him to stay up. So a September call-up to get bullpen outings? Great odds. A June/July call-up and piling up starts and wins? Far less likely, methinks.
Give him time, Cardinal fans, he's young.
Wow I bet this question gets everyone fired up!
My personal opinion is that the most likely candidate is Lance Berkman. While he put up stellar numbers last year, I'm afraid people will be expecting that same production and frankly, that's not realistic. He tapered off somewhat as the season went on and was consistent, but I'm afraid that April/May '11 power surge might not happen. If he stays healthy, we'll be impressed, but this year he has pressure. In 2011 no one expected him to succeed.
This year they will and that changes the mental aspect. Definitely one of my favorite Cardinals, I want to see him succeed as much as anyone. I just don't know to what extent he will come through yet.
This is an excellent question. I am cautiously excited for the Cardinals season, but after 29 years of baseball - I understand, things can go downhill quick, especially in the world of Major League Baseball.
I think the Cardinals have a nice well rounded team. But, to answer your question - here we go: While I am not sure I completely agree with my own writing here, I am answering the question more as a cautious view. But, I think David Freese is the answer here. Hey, don't get me wrong - I love David Freese, and for what he did in the postseason of 2011 - I will always remember him, and heck - always be a fan of him. But, remember - the guy only played in 97 regular season games last year. He has got to find a way to stay healthy, and I fear 2012 will NOT be that year. In saying this, in a full season - I think David could be a 30 homerun guy, and bat .300.
I really do. And I understand, the guy is not supposed to be a mega star yet - he only made $416,00 in 2011, and has only played in 184 career games. I just feel with the loss of Pujols, alot of weight is going to be on his shoulders. Honorable Mention: Lance Berkman(I am scared to death he is going to have a season like he did with the Yankees, yes I know, he was injured). I hope I am wrong on both accounts.
C70 At The Bat:
Due to the nature of the beast, I'm guessing it'll be one of the relief corps. The 2007 squad was riding high on young arms out of the pen that had proven themselves in the '06 run, but they never quite captured the magic.
I do think this group is better than they were in 2006, but I wonder if one of them won't take a step back. Drawing a name out of a hat.....let's see.....hang on.....Fernando Salas. I have no reason to actually believe him over anyone else, but we'll go with that.
Birds On The Bat 82:
I think Jon Jay.
Doesn't have great power, not a great eye at the plate, and had a 52% GB rate last year. I expect him to hit around .270 with 6-10 home runs and 35-45 RBIs. It would be a shame for Craig, Beltran, or Berkman to miss too many ABs with Jay on the field. Hopefully one of the young guys coming up can give us solid punch from the plate in CF as well as being able to cover the necessary ground defensively.
This may seem the most obvious statistical variation from the 2011 club... but Kyle Lohse. Lohse is not much more than half the pitcher he was in 2011 and will see a huge drop in his production in 2012.
I wish I had the time to show exactly why I feel this way with the numbers but I'm between meetings. I missed the last two days with being I'll so I at least wanted to chime in today.
For me, I think it will be David Freese. And part of it has absolutely nothing to do with him. Rather, it has to do with the expectations placed on him by what he did in the playoffs and the expectation of carry over. Realistically, he still has to prove he can take to the field 140 times in a season and that he can sustain the production that will be needed of him hitting out of the 5th spot, which would be the ideal place for him.
He's always been a difficult player to project because of his inability to stay healthy, and with an increased importance to the offense's production, as well as a raised profile, he seems to be the most prone to "disappointing".
Furcal, Motte & Berkman are also prone for struggles in their increased roles with the club.
Rafael Furcal may be the candidate. He's injury-prone and has a lot of wear and tear on him. Hope I'm wrong....
Aaron Miles' Fastball:
My answer -- and I know I risk offending many -- is David Freese. Love the guy, obviously love the October heroics and will be forever grateful for the incredible memories. But I think the expectations of him going into 2012 are unrealistically high. (Maybe they are for everyone -- as you said, it's been a lovefest.) Let's wait a bit before declaring him the new "face of the franchise" and everything else for now, and instead make a simpler expectation for his 2012 first: staying healthy for the entire season. If he can do that, and keep up the production he's shown when he has been able to play throughout his career, then the "face of the franchise" talk, etc., becomes relevant. But he has to avoid the DL first.
Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Goodnight:
I'm gonna go with Descalso. No real reason, other than it's a guess that he doesn't quite put together the spring training he may very well be capable of, and with all the competition for those few slots, he finds himself odd man out. Once the team breaks north, it may be hard to get back to the bigs, barring injury. No real analysis here, though. I could've just as easily said Greene.
STL Fear The Red:
I certainly hope I am wrong on this, but I am going with Jon Jay. He is better defensively than Rasmus, but I don't feel he is an everday starter. The more plate appearences he gets, the worse his batting average gets. I think he is a great utility outfielder and I feel he has proved at least that much, but I think if he is used on a regular basis, he is going to disappoint.