Monday, March 29, 2010

Are the Cardinals better now than they were last season?

I've been thinking about this for a while, and looking at their roster and watching them during spring training this year, I don't think the Cardinals are any better than they were last year.

Last year, I looked at their lineup, and I figured the Cubs were going to be in for some competition before the season even started. Most people thought the division was the Cubs to run away with. But I felt the 2009 Cubs were not as good as the 2008 team and that the Cardinals would be better.

Are they better than the Cubs this year? Well, I'll make that prediction some time next week.

With that said, the truth is, the Cardinals were not that great last year. They had only 91 wins. That was the second worse record of any team that was in the playoffs last year. Because the Cubs were so unable to keep up with the Cards in August, it gave people the assumption that the Cardinals blew away everyone last year. Three of the 6 months last season the Cardinals had a .500 or worse record. They had only 91 wins while playing in a relatively weak division. And that record is pretty accurate when doing a RS/RA analysis (projected to 92 wins).

ACB an analysis using CHONE figures for the Cubs vs. the Cardinals for the 2010 season on a player by player basis back in January. The results were not pretty. The Cardinals beat the Cubs at a large majority of positions.

Offensively, the Cardinals have a huge advantage, statistically, with Albert Pujols. Other than that, the Cubs are not all the far behind them. And, yes, defensively the Cubs were not as good.

Personally, I don't particularly care for CHONE ratings. I go by what I see on the field more often then not. And what I've seen from the players currently on the Cardinals results in my believing this actually is not better than the 2009 team.

The key subtractions from last season? Mark DeRosa, Rick Ankiel, John Smoltz, Troy Glaus, Joel Pineiro, Todd Wellemeyer. Look, I realize that most of these players didn't do much for the Cardinals last year (except Pineiro)...but most of these guys were expected to perform at a much higher level than they did. Last season a number of Cardinals players performed better than expectations, and I think it is unlikely to expect most of these players to do the same in this coming season. Who exactly am I talking about? Well, first and most importantly, Matt Holliday. I'm sorry, but the numbers he put up in St. Louis last year were a fluke. He will not repeat them. Ryan Franklin? Um...sorry...but he isn't going to have a 1.92 ERA and 38 saves again this season...especially at the age of 37. Trevor Miller, Blake Hawksworth, Dennys Reyes...not going to be as good this year.

Which players can you expect to be better than last year? Maybe Ryan Ludwig. That's about it...the shed everyone else who had a sub-par season.

So who did they bring in from the outside to help this season? Brad Penny? Eh. Felipe Lopez? Eh. Lopez is coming off a career year last season and might reproduce his 2009 performance, but I don't think that's likely either.

So someone needs to tell me why anyone should expect the Cardinals to be better than they were last season. And if they aren't better than the 91 wins they had last season, then they are very catchable this year.

I'm not saying the Cubs are better or worse this season. That's discussion for another time.

But I find it hard to believe the Cardinals are in any position to run away with this division in 2010.

 I don't think fun is the first thing you'll catch from the Cardinals.