April 5, 2009

Opening day lineup -- sneak peek

Not only is it cool to get such an early sneak peek at a lineup, but TLR has revealed the Opening Day lineup.

The availability of the lineup is moderately interesting as far as newsworthy items go, but there are a few surprises that may or may not lend credibility to an entire Spring Training's worth of work, depending on whether you are Skip Schumaker, Brendan Ryan, Brian Barden, Joe Thurston, or David Freese.

Opening Day lineup

  1. Brendan Ryan 2B

  2. Rick Ankiel CF

  3. Albert Pujols 1B

  4. Khalil Greene SS

  5. Ryan Ludwick RF

  6. Yadier Molina C

  7. Chris Duncan LF

  8. Brian Barden 3B

  9. Adam Wainwright P

From the first days at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, it was Skip at second, Skip at second, Skip at second, errors, Skip at second, a bunch of errors, Skip at second, Skip at second ...

Opening Day, 2009, Brendan Ryan at second.

Not as much of a shocker at the hot corner, but still, it appeared Freese would get the nod.

Nope. Brian Barden at third base.

Okay, so we know TLR is playing every odd versus the Bucs' LHP Paul Maholm, who was 9-9 last season with a 3.71 ERA.

So Skip has difficulty with LHP, and the projected limitation of probably the Cardinal closest to the prototypical leadoff man is already rearing its ugly head. Hence, Brendan Ryan, a righty swinger that struggles with pitchers of either-armed persuasion. So if Ryan is going to be in the lineup, I'd have to say its somewhat of a leap of faith for TLR to bat him tops. And if this is a roll of the dice, then why not simply let Schu do the leadoff duties? After all, Skip's going to have to learn how to hit LHP, and if he doesn't get the opportunity soon, the LHP haunt will continue.

So much for pixel space on leadoff. Not that I don't like Ryan too, so okay, let's do it.

How about Barden at third base, then? Rather than Freese and his stick? Must be something in the limited amount of statistical data on performance versus LHP or Maholm or something.

While there is a lack of confidence showing (whether TLR cares about that or not) regarding Schumaker batting leadoff, there is a proof-positive that when TLR and pitching coach Dave Duncan are said to have a belief in pitching to contact, having Barden at the hot corner lends credence to the philosophy.

In fact, except for Chris Duncan in left field, you're probably looking at as solid a defense as the Cardinals can field. Which brings us to our next mild shocker.

Khalil Greene batting cleanup. Must be some production history versus Maholm. (Where's a stat-geek when you actually need one?) Although I'm pretty much okay with K-Greene post-Pujols, mainly because of how well he hit during Spring Training. Currently more consistent then Ryan Ludwick and Chris Duncan. So when you imagine either of the latter protecting Pujols from behind, you can much more easily accept K-Greene. (K-Greene as cleanup temp is okay, but C-Dunc and/or Luddy are just going to have to pull their projected weight, and soon.)

And lastly, pitcher hits ninth, such an oddity, huh?

Explain it how you want, but if C-Dunc is batting seventh (for whatever reason), he's still a threat, and even if Waino is a good batter (for a pitcher), Duncan won't see a pitch if the hurler hits eighth.

(Much less, what's the point of sac-bunting Molina to second in an eighth-hitting hurler scenario? That would only leave whomever is the secondary-leadoff man in the nine-hole, where you'd be asking him to RBI Molina home. Sorry, folks, but you need a power stick for that, considering Molina would have a hard time scoring on a homer. Now, for a less smart-assical remark, it probably would take a triple, and then, only if Ted Lilly isn't catching. Don't punch my lights out, Yadi, I couldn't help it.)

For as weird of a lineup as we're looking at, however, you have to admit that most of the initial shock is simply because we've all been assuming (all hot stove season) something much different.

Can't wait for Game #2's card.

photo by Iscan