Monday, September 20, 2004

Not so fast!

So the Cardinals didn't quite pull it off yesterday. (Technically, they have clinched a tie with the Cubs, and have the best record head-to-head, so they actually have clinched.) And considering that the Cubs are playing a double header today, the odds are good that the Cards will have clinched the division outright before their game in Milwaukee starts tonight. But nonetheless, the Cards dropped a game to an inferior team yesterday with a chance to celebrate at home, which put Tony in a cranky mood after the game.

All things considered, the team is still in great shape. They have 97 wins with 14 games remaining, and just 3 of those games are against winning teams. However, there are plenty of things to make us all just a bit uncomfortable right now.

  1. Steve Kline - will he be able to come back in the next 2 weeks, and when he does come back will he get enough work to be sharp in the playoffs?
  2. Scott Rolen - his 3 game injury turned into a week, and has now turned into another week. The Cards need his glove at 3rd, and his bat hitting 4th. Is he going to be back and 100% in the playoffs?
  3. Chris Carpenter had to leave Saturday's game early and will miss at least 1 start down the stretch. Not the kind of thing you want to see in mid-September out of your #1 starter.
You can add to those three obvious concerns the fact that the Cards have only won 4 of their last 12 games. The team that seemed to be able to win games from pure determination has been struggling in September. I will blame the slump partially on the lack of Rolen, partially on boredom with the regular season, and partially on the fact that it's next to impossible to play .750 ball for more than the 3+ months that the Cardinals did it.

So, yes - Tony is frustrated, the players are frustrated, and Cards fans are nervous. Of course, it's not over yet. The Cardinals should still finish the season with 104 to 107 wins, thus still having a shot at the team record. And although they are in a 4-8 slump, 9 of those games came against potential playoff games. They haven't been swept during that stretch, even though half of those games came on the West coast.

And their are other positives as well. Rolen getting to sit out for approximately 2 weeks may give him the benefit of being fresh in October, assuming he gets to play enough down the stretch to get his timing back. Reyes, Flores, and Ankiel have all been dominant in limited work, providing the Cards with options should Kline not make it back, or during the Tavarez suspension (if it ever takes place.)

So take heart, Cardinal fans. As crummy as the Birds have played recently, they have plenty of time to get things going again over the next 2 weeks. They were due for a bit of a slump, anyway, and I would rather see it now than in the first round of the playoffs.


At 12:35 PM, Blogger Socnorb11 said...

My understanding is that Carpenter should be fine.

With Kline questionable, and Ankiel pitching lights-out, you have to wonder how tempting it's going to be for Larussa to count on Ankiel as a regular lefty out of the pen in the playoffs. I know it seems like a disaster waiting to happen, but he sure seems like a viable weapon right now.

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Robb said...

It does sound as if Carpenter will just miss one start at this time, so that's good news. There was also a blurb in the PD about Tony planning on letting Rolen play in the 9th inning yesterday if the Cards were leading. I think that indicates he isn't TOO hurt.

In regard to Ankiel - I suspect that it may be tempting for the Cards to put him on the 25 man playoff roster even if Kline is back in the place of Suppan. 3 Lefties in the pen - especially one looking as dominant as Ankiel - could be a big thing in the playoffs. Especially if the Cards face the Giants in the first round. Ankiel, Kline, and King could all face the guy once or twice a game and increase the Cards odds in that series.

I don't know that St. Louis would leave Suppan off the playoff roster - there is talk that they don't want to "hurt his feelings" by leaving him off, since the Red Sox did the same thing last year. But if it's for the best in regard to the team, they should at least consider it.

At 12:51 PM, Blogger Socnorb11 said...

Wouldn't it be more likely for Eldred to be kept off of the roster, and Suppan kept on? Personally, it wouldn't shock me to see Suppan in place of Calero, even though I think that Calero is one of the better righties out of the pen. I've just always gotten the feeling that Larussa isn't crazy about Calero.

Personally, I think Suppan would be good insurance to have, in case Morris implodes in the early innings, and the Cards need a long reliever. I suppose Ankiel could fill that role, also.

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Robb said...

Ankiel could make the roster over Eldred as well, that is true. I certainly hope that Calero is on the post-season roster. In my mind, he's right up there with Izzy as the best option in relief.

You are probably right - Suppan will be on the post-season roster, ready to go in the event that Morris implodes. However, LaRussa did say a few weeks back that he doesn't like starters coming in to relieve, as they aren't used to it and therefore don't do as well in general.

My guess is, Suppan will be on the roster, and we will only see him in a mop-up role. However - if the Giants do win the Wild Card, I honestly think the Cards will have to give heavy consideration to putting Ankiel on the roster, even with a healthy Kline. They could leave Suppan off of the NLDS roster, put him back on for the NLCS and take Ankiel (or someone else) back off.

Truth be told, of course, they could add Ankiel, shift Suppan to Eldred's role, and leave Eldred off and have a very tough bullpen with an emergency starter to boot.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Socnorb11 said...

I'm having difficulty keeping track, quite frankly.

If Suppan replaces Eldred, and if Kline is healthy, then how does Ankiel make the roster?

Another question........ maybe this has been brought up before: Is Luna, as a Rule 5, required to be on the post-season roster?

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Robb said...

You're not having trouble keeping up, I'm having trouble making sense.

The Cards have to carry 11 pitchers in the playoffs. Let's assume that 4 starters are a lock, and that Morris is one of the 4 instead of Suppan. That leaves 11 bullpen slots. If we assume that Kline is healthy, we have the 6 bullpen guys that played the most this season:


(Remember that the Cards have been without either Calero or Kline for quite a while, with a combination of Haren and Reyes taking their place before September 1st).

Even with Kline back, there is one more roster spot to fill (Suppan's), plus the ability to replace Eldred with someone. So, the Cardinals could technically activate Kline off the DL and place him on the playoff roster, as well as take Eldred (or Suppan) off the playoff roster and replace him with RA, since Ankiel was on the DL on August 31st.

My understanding is that Rule 5 (or V, if you prefer) players do not have to be on post-season rosters. However, since the Cards don't have anyone else to back-up at short, I suspect he'll be on it anyway.


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