At least one too-early projection system is down on your St. Louis Cardinals. That would be from good, ol’ PECOTA over at Baseball Prospectus.
In posting the lockout-state projections the editors at BP advised us to relax. “Take them for what they are: a fun look at where things are currently and a notion towards which teams might need the most work when things get back under way.”
That’s fine with me. And it’s a good suggestion. Team teams will be making moves after the lockout to have a more complete roster in time for the start of the regular season.
That said, I still reacted with a blank-stare moment of confusion when seeing the too-soon projected NL Central standings on my laptop screen. Note: I rounded out the won-lost numbers for sharpness.
St. Louis, 77-85
Here’s what the Baseball Prospectus editor Craig Goldstein wrote about the current-edition Cardinals:
“The real surprise here is the Cardinals in a sub-.500 third place, especially since the team is likely done shopping for major pieces. Their acquisition of Steven Matz might have caused Steve Cohen to go ballistic on the free agent market, but that just meant it helped the Mets more than St. Louis, with a meager 1.2 projected (wins above replacement.)
“The rest is explained less by incompetence on the field than the distribution of playing time: Our Depth Charts Team has projected Yadier Molina for 466 plate appearances and PECOTA anticipates an 82 DRC+ (18 percent below league average offensively.)
“That’s a lot of bad hitting to stomach, and it makes for a tough bottom third of the order paired with Paul DeJong’s 562 PA of 91 DRC+ (nine percent below league average offensively.)
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see Edmundo Sosa cut into DeJong’s playing time, but Sosa is projected to produce even less at the plate, though he seems a solid candidate for some Cardinals Devil Magic.
“In sunnier news, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Tyler O’Neill are projected to top 10 wins (above replacement) as a trio, with Tommy Edman chipping in another 2 It’s a really strong top group, but they’re going to need Dylan Carlson to overperform his (slightly below-average offensive) projection, and I personally think he might.
“Still, the difference here is on the pitching side, as the Cardinals are projected to allow around 100 runs more than they actually did in 2021. Last year included some mid-season pickups and an ascendant season from Adam Wainwright. PECOTA is a bit dour on the 40-year-old’s chances of repeating, and thinks he’ll be closer to league-average.
Throw in a bullpen with two better-than-league-average arms Giovanny Gallegos (+24%) and Kodi Whitley (+1%) and you can understand both why the model is pessimistic on St. Louis and where they’ll beat the projection if guys like Génesis Cabrera, Ryan Helsley, Alex Reyes, and Jordan Hicks perform.”
READING TIME, 5 MINUTES
No one should be surprised that St. Louis had a larger percentage of TV viewership than the Los Angeles market for Super Bowl 56 – even with the LA Rams playing in the game, and winning the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. And did you see the thin crowds along the Los Angeles streets during the Rams’ Super Bowl parade earlier this week? Embarrassing. What did we expect? Los Angeles is an NFL-ambivalent market.
When the Los Angeles Times commissioned a poll during Super Bowl peak to gauge the Rams’ popularity, the data showed that only 26 percent of the population chose the Rams as their favorite team … according to Nielsen, 39.5% of homes in STL with access to a television watched NBC’s telecast compared to the Los Angeles percentage of 36.7 … among the top 56 markets St. Louis ranked 23rd nationally compared to LA’s No. 34th ranking. Hysterical.
St. Louisan Luke Voit, 30, hopes to be a Yankee again in 2022. “I want to play first base for the Yankees,’’ Voit told the New York Post. “If that happens, great. If not, I’ll go somewhere else,” … Voit may get his wish because first baseman Anthony Rizzo is a free agent. The Yankees acquired Rizzo from the Cubs last summer in large part because of Voit’s injury issues (mostly knee-related) that limited him to 68 games, 11 homers, a .437 slugging percentage and .764 OPS … in his first two-plus seasons for the Yankees since he was traded to NY by the Cardinals, Voit, slugged .543 with a .915 OPS … Voit is in line for a salary of just over $5 million in arbitration next season. “I love playing in New York,’’ Voit said. “The fans love me up there and I love them. I hope it can happen and I can stay, but I don’t control it.”
Give me Tyler Macon. I hope he gets a fair chance to win the starting QB job at Mizzou … I was watching the MLB Network doc on the Whitey Herzog Cardinals, and I wanted to look a couple of things up. I was surprised that the 1982 World Series champs finished fifth in the NL in runs, and were caught stealing 91 times, and that backup catcher Gene Tenace had a .436 onbase percentage, .500 slugging percentage, and homered every 17.7 at-bats. Tenace had 2.1 WAR in only 66 games and 165 plate appearances. That’s a heck of a season; Tenace had more WAR than George Hendrick in ’82 … a blogger that writes about the Chicago White Sox says the CWS should trade for Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong … will the Cardinals consider bringing back Kwang Hyun Kim? … The Athletic ran a list of available defensemen for the Blues to trade for. There are no surprises: Jakob Chychrun (Arizona), Ben Chiarot (Montreal), Mark Giordano (Seattle), Hampus Lindholm (Anaheim) and Zdeno Chara (NY Islanders.) To read more about the plus and minuses of each defenseman, subscribe to The Athletic.
Kiley McDaniel of ESPN placed the Cardinals at No. 14 in his annual farm system rankings. That’s an improvement from last year’s No. 18 spot. McDaniel wrote: “The Cardinals do it their way — they don’t fall into any of the neat boxes that other scouting and development groups do — with a solid group of potential impact talent from the draft, international signings and trades. The top two players in their system were prep third basemen expected to go higher in the first round who slid for unclear reasons, followed by a mid-to-low-tier international signing, an undervalued-at-the-time young lefty, and so on. They continued this zig-when-they-zag tendency by taking Michael McGreevy in the first round this year, more beloved by eyeball evaluators than trendy analytical methods. They have to find value when they’re consistently picking in the back of the first round and the Cardinals have their own way of doing that.”
I was late in seeing this – so forgive me if you’ve already heard about it – but Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum made his fellow St. Louisans smile last weekend when ESPN asked him to predict the winner of Super Bowl 56: “St. Louis Rams,” he said … Tatum and the Celtics have been on a roll for the last month, with Tatum averaging 27.2 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game during the team’s 11-2 upswing. He’s shooting much better, especially from three-point range. The hot streak had pushed Boston’s record to 34-26 on the season through Thursday.
I hereby declare: (1) Vanilla-covered pretzels are better than chocolate-covered pretzels; (2) Ian Froeb is my favorite restaurant critic — not just in St. Louis, but anywhere; (3) Matt Holliday is next up for the Cardinals Hall of Fame; (4) My favorite new album of 2022 so far is Time Skiffs by Animal Collective; (5) smoked turkey sausage is a wonderful presence on any egg dish.
I don’t know why the Blues went into Montreal and lost to the wretched Canadiens by a 3-2 score in overtime. But it’s never good to hear Coach Berube refer to his team as being “casual and aloof.” If there’s a message we can send from this outpost, it comes from a popular song from Montreal-based band Arcade Fire. Title: “Wake Up,” … the Blues need to stop fooling around. They’re 3-3-1 in their last seven games, with their three losses coming against opponents – Winnipeg, New Jersey and Montreal – that have a combined record of 48-79-20 …
Using the relative Corsi-For percentage – which rates a player’s performance compared to his teammates – the worst player on the ice in Montreal for this game was Jordan Kyrou. When Kyrou was on the ice at five-on-five, Montreal had 23 of the 30 overall shot attempts and 75 percent of the shots on goal … and when Kyrou and Brayden Schenn were on the same line at five-on-five the Canadiens had 77% of the shot attempts, 64% of the shots on net, and 76% of the scoring chances.
Montreal’s tying goal in the final seconds of the third period was made possible by defenseman Colton Parayko’s failure to clear the puck along the boards. He wasn’t exactly Spartacus on the play, and his lack of urgency continues to be an extremely irritating flaw. Among 57 NHL defensemen that have played at least 800 minutes at five-on-five this season, Parayko ranks 54th in Corsi-For rating (44.52.) The Blues have scored only 41.57% of the goals at five-on-five with Parayko on the ice; that percentage puts him at No. 50 among the 57 defenseman …
Mizzou’s basketball team is rated 159th nationally in defensive efficiency at KenPom. That’s surprising considering coach Cuonzo Martin’s emphasis on defense – and an impressive track record to go with it. MU came into this season with an eight-season streak of never finishing worse than No. 101 nationally in the KenPom defensive rating. Using that metric, Missouri’s defense this season is the poorest by a Martin-coached team since Missouri State ranked No. 157 in 2011. In the 10 seasons before this one, Martin-led teams had an average annual national ranking of No. 49 in defense. And in his first four seasons at Mizzou, the Tigers had an average national ranking of No. 55. … in an interview with the Kansas City Star, Martin cited his team’s reliance on transfers. “You come into something new and it’s not something that you’re accustomed to doing or used to doing,” he said. “When you have a guy that comes in as a scorer, now all of sudden you’re asking him to play defense at a high level.”
An interesting note from Frank Seravelli of Daily Faceoff: “There has been considerable ink spilled on the Colorado Avalanche and their apparent interest in Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux in recent days. The Avs, of course, are a distinct possible destination. But there is at least one more team to watch in the chase for Giroux: the St. Louis Blues. The Blues have been testing the waters on a number of different fronts, including in conversation for a top-four defenseman like Montreal’s Ben Chiarot. St. Louis is in contender mode and Giroux’s versatility – his ability to play center or wing, to win key faceoffs and then slide to the wing – would be a big addition. There is familiarity there. Giroux played for Blues coach Craig Berube and with Brayden Schenn in Philadelphia. Giroux, 34, is in the process of working with agent Pat Brisson to gauge potential interest. He is in the final year of a eight-year, $66.2 million deal and just 12 games away from 1,000 career games played in a Flyers uniform. Giroux holds a full no-move clause and will have total control on whether he’d like to move on to chase a Stanley Cup elsewhere. For the cap-strapped Blues, it would be a win to not only add arguably the best pure rental player available at the deadline, but to also keep him out of the hands of your Central Division rival.”
THE CALM DOWN LIST
Would the following people please calm down – and for the overly sensitive, this is just a reminder that I’m kidding around:
— Frank Cusumano. Hosting the pregame Olympics show on KSDK Channel 5? C’mon, man. I love Cooz, but he needs to make better use of his time — like work behind the scenes to get his boy Rick Pitino hired at Mizzou.
— Martin Kilcoyne. He’s going bananas with his nightly “TKO” segment on Fox 2 News. Very clever, yes, but the Emmy people want at least one of their awards back, Marty. Kilcoyne loved the Calm Down List in earlier times, and I figure it would be a betrayal to exclude him from this.
— The Strick Nasty. That would be Andy Strickland, of Bally Sports Midwest and KFNS. Oh, he’s a social-media influencer now. Along with podcast partner Cam Janssen, the boys are selling a hard seltzer, Cam & Strick mango-lemonade, through 4 Hands Brewery. I bought a four-pack of the stuff. I liked it. Then again, I have to say that the mango-lemonade tastes great or Janssen will beat me up. It’s so flavorful and refreshing!
— Dan McLaughlin. He’s my boss here at Scoops, and I never hear from him unless it’s too late at night, or I’m in the middle of a radio show, and then he ghosts me after I respond. I’m getting fired. Jim Powers can be his friend from now on.
— Bernie Miklasz. Do you know what I do at night? I’m streaming the medical drama “ER” from start to finish, all 331 episodes, because I never watched it on regular TV when it aired on NBC back in the day (1994 through 2009.) I’m losing it. This is a cry for help, but Dr. Mark Greene isn’t responding to my pager.
Have a great weekend!
And thanks for reading …
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.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz