The MLB lockout won’t stop me from talking ball. At some point the lockout will be over, and we’ll be talking about moves the Cardinals should make, or not make, to upgrade the roster. If, in fact, the Cardinals are serious about improving the roster beyond their signing of free-agent starting pitcher Steven Matz.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what the Cardinals should do. Please understand that I propose no grandiose moves here – because the Cards are extremely unlikely to make them. So you can have your Carlos Correa or Trevor Story fantasies, but I’m focusing on more pragmatic and realistic targets.
Of course the Cardinals need to bring in some starting-pitching depth but I’ll table that discussion for now to write something more detailed later on. If the Cardinals want to stay in house, that’s a risky proposition that could lead to another round of high anxiety and then panic if their starting rotation cracks – just as it did in 2021.
The bullpen must be boosted. There are several appealing candidates, and I’ll mention a few. There are others worthy of pointing to, and I’ll have plenty of time to expand the list as I look for ways to stay connected during the lockout.
For now the initial list:
RH Relievers: Joe Kelly, Ryan Tepera, Archie Bradley.
LH reliever: Andrew Chafin.
Kelly: I wrote about Mariachi Joe the other day here on Scoops. But here’s a quick summary of what I had to say: at age 33 last season he maintained his 98 mph fastball velocity, had a superb 59% ground-ball rate, a good strikeout rate, was solid against LH batters, and limited hard contact and homers. Kelly’s 2.86 ERA for the 2021 Dodgers was his career best in a full season.
Tepera: The 34-year-old had a 2.79 ERA with a 30.8% strikeout rate for the Cubs and White Sox last season. And with better defense that ERA would have been lower; Tepera’s expected ERA in 2021 was 2.53. Given the hard punch-out stuff, his 44% ground-ball rate (in 2021) was a bonus. He’s reduced his homers-allowed rate. He’s tough on LH batters, holding them to a .151 average and .494 OPS – plus a nasty 35% strikeout rate. His walk rate ballooned to a terrible 13.5% rate in the pandemic season of 2020; that appears to be an outlier. Bottom line on Tepera: his 1.6 fWAR ranked 13th among MLB relievers last season.
Bradley: His ERA jumped to 3.71 last season with Philadelphia, with another plunge in his strikeout rate. But after the strange pandemic season it took Bradley a while to rev up in 2021. In the first three months of ‘21, he allowed an opponent OPS of .893 with a high home-run rate and 4.50 ERA. But over the final three months Bradley pitched to a 3.27 ERA, allowed a .661 OPS, and gave up an average of only 0.5 homers per nine innings. He’s not much of a strikeout guy, but a 58% ground-ball rate is made to order for a STL infield defense that was rated No. 1 in the NL last season. After a slow start in 2021, he really cracked down on LH batters over the final four months of the season.
Chafin: The 31–year-old lefty faced 104 LH batters last season and controlled the matchup showdowns, allowing a .170 average and .473 OPS while striking out 26.5% and inducing a 59% ground-ball rate. Chafin hasn’t been as strong against RH batters during his career, but limited them to a .196 batting average last season. He had 1.4 fWAR last season – one of the top marks among LH relievers.
READING TIME 8 MINUTES
1) My favorite college football game of every season takes place Saturday: Army vs. Navy. This time the rivalry will heat up at MetLife Stadium just outside of New York; that’s meaningful because this game is being held 20 years and three months after the 911 attacks.
“Over the last 20 years, we’ve lost hundreds of Americans in that war, in that war on terror, and thousands and thousands have been affected,” Army coach Jeff Monken said at a luncheon held 10 days ago. “So to have it here, on this stage, at this stadium, on the 20-year anniversary, I think is very appropriate.”
Navy coach Ken Niumatolo got emotional when discussing the magnitude of this game. “These two institutions that have had people who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice because of the conflicts that occurred from 9-11,” he said. “To be able here to remember those people and all who lost their lives, the 9-11 people in the towers, first responders, everything that transpired from that day; to be able to remember them and pay tribute to them, I think it’s only fitting that we are the two schools to do it.”
(I’m not being a smart-aleck here when I say this, but just typing in those quotes from these fine men brought tears to my eyes. There is nothing quite like an Army-Navy game, and you should put it on your bucket list. I get emotional about this and cry every year – before, during and immediately after the game.)
2) Army, 8-3, is a 7-point favorite over Navy (3-8.) But Navy played Cincinnati tougher than any opponent did this season, and the Midshipmen showed dramatic improvement on offense late in the season. Navy has also played the more difficult schedule in 2021, but Army lost to Big Ten member Wisconsin by only six points. Navy’s run of dominance – 14 consecutive wins over Army – ended in 2016, and the Black Knights have won four of the last five encounters. Win or lose this one, Army will retain the Commander in Chief trophy – but a victory over Navy will give the Black Knights the outright title in the annual head-to-head competition between Army, Navy and Air Force. Navy won 11 games in 2019 but is 6-15 over the last two seasons. Army is 51-24 under Monken over the last six seasons.
3) For what it’s worth, Navy is 7-4 against the spread. The over-under on this game has hovered around 34 for total points scored. That makes for a tough call; usually the under is the way to go here. But a 34 total is so low, it all but begs me to take the over. Since 2005, in games pitting service academies, the under is 40-9-1 including 2-0 this year.
4) As for the straight–up pick: I’m a devoted Navy fan, but Army comes in as the superior team. Both squads run the triple option and some RPO and will be handing it off or pitching it off all afternoon. But are strong on the ground, but Army runs the ball better and defends the run better than Navy.
5) In a story about Jacksonville owner Shad Khan, Jaguars team president Mark Lamping offered an interesting view, one that I happen to agree with: the NFL in St. Louis would have turned out much different had Khan been successful in purchasing 60 percent controlling interest in the Rams in early 2010. Stan Kroenke, who owned 40% of the franchise, had the first option to buy the remaining 60 percent when the late Georgia Fronitere’s adult children decided to sell. And right before the deadline, Kroenke exercised his option and blocked Khan from accessing the 60%.
Lamping – the St. Louisan and former team president of the baseball Cardinals – has a strong feeling about what might have been. And the well connected Lamping, a former Anheuser-Busch executive, had a close view of the situation. He was living in St. Louis at the time
“It was a foregone conclusion they were going to get a (expansion) team before St. Louis messed it up,” Lamping told the Florida Times Union. “If Shad had been the Rams’ owner, they’d probably be in a brand new stadium right now in St. Louis.”
6) Saturday’s college basketball game between Missouri and Kansas is long overdue, and thankfully this savory and intense rivalry will be renewed Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse on KU’s campus. Save for their fall 2017 exhibition in Kansas City that raised $2 million for hurricane relief, the Tigers and Jayhawks have been estranged – bitterly so – since Mizzou left the Big 12 to join the SEC in 2012. But coaches Bill Self and Cuonzo Martin like and respect each other and were able to reconcile and repair the deeply fractured KU-MU relationship.
7) This is great. So great. Frankly, Missouri hasn’t had a rival since separating from Kansas and the Big 12. Let’s tell the truth about this, OK? Mizzou still seems like an alien presence in SEC basketball, and the conference hoops games are more cold than heated. Many of MU’s SEC conference games seem like non–conference games. Attempts to concoct an SEC football rivalry between Missouri and Arkansas comes off as forced and lacking passion. The Mizzou-Kansas history will come alive through this basketball series – and again when the Jayhawks and Tigers clash again on the football field beginning in 2025.
8) Kansas is ranked No. 4 nationally at KenPom. Missouri is No. 139. And KenPom’s projection model gives the Tigers a 3% chance of beating the Jayhawks. KPom’s projected final score: Kansas 82, Mizzou 62. KU is a 25-point favorite in the betting markets.
9) Speaking of Kroenke, I rewatched the film “There Will Be Blood” earlier this week. And I kept thinking how the character played by Daniel-Day Lewis – who won the Oscar for best actor for his stunning work in the role – reminded me of Kroenke in so many ways.
I mean, take a look at some lines of dialogue from Daniel Plainview, an evil oil prospector played by Daniel-Day Lewis.
– “I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed.”
– “I hate most people…there are times when I look at people and I don’t see one thing worth liking.”
– “I want to earn enough money that I can get away from everyone.”
– “If you have a milkshake … and I have a milkshake. And if I have a straw… my straw reaches across the room, and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!”
10) Mizzou four-star quarterback recruit Sam Horn will lead his No. 1 ranked Collins Hill football team into the Georgia Class 7A state championship game against Milton on Saturday night at Georgia State’s Center Parc Stadium. Horn’s unbeaten Eagles (14-0) advanced with a 31-0 victory over defending state champion Grayson – the team that defeated Collins Hill in last year’s 7a title bout.
In taking down Grayson, Horn completed 21 of 29 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown.
11) By the way, in the latest 247 composite recruiting rankings for 2022, Coach Eli Drinkwitz has Mizzou rated No. 11 in the nation. The Tigers moved up a spot from the previous ranking. This is pretty amazing: the only SEC football programs with a better recruiting rating than Missouri right now are Alabama (1st), Georgia (2nd) and Texas A&M (3rd.) The Tigers are one spot behind Michigan in the recruiting ratings.
Thanks for reading!
I appreciate you!
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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