CARDS STILL SUPER, BUT HOW?
[April 27th] -- The Cardinals, the next team in line to dominate the Washington Nationals, have a 14-7 record and continues to play at a level above most of the teams in the National League. But a quick look at their starters suggests that they are doing more in 2006 with less.
Oh sure, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen are lighting up the scoreboard, and Aaron Miles and David Eckstein are singling up a storm, but that's about it. Jim Edmonds, soon to be 36, isn't providing very much offense. Juan Encarnacion, a free-agent pickup from the Marlins, is off to a slow start at .224-1-6. Catcher Yadier Molina, a veteran of two major league campaigns at only 22, is batting only .176. John Rodriguez has replaced Reggie Sanders in left, and is hitting well enough, but without Sanders' authoritative bat.
Pitching, however, is a different story. The Nationals face Sidney Ponson tonight. Ponson, 29, is the Cardinals' #5 starter, and has a 2-0, 3.31 ERA --- talk about depth!
If I had to choose eight guys to make up the best team possible from between the Cardinals and Nats' players, the team would look like this:
- 1B: Albert Pujols
- 2B: Jose Vidro
- SS: David Eckstein
- 3B: Ryan Zimmerman
- LF: Alfonso Soriano
- CF: Ryan Church
- RF: Jose Guillen
- C: Brian Schneider
Now, before you start dogging on me, I chose Zimmerman at third and Church in center because those two players are just beginning their careers, and Rolen and Edmonds are at the very end of theirs. Those two aside, the other choices are fairly easy. The Nats win six spots, the Cardinals only two. So why then is the Nationals 7-14 and the Cardinals 14-7? Pitching, my brother: pitching.
Of the Cardinals starting five (Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis and Ponson), Only John Patterson would be a shoe-in, taking Suppan's spot. Right now, considering Livan Hernandez's weight, innings pitched, and generally bad play so far this year, I'm not certain that he could replace Marquis, who at 3-1, 3.55, is both younger, and at least at this point, better.
Part of the Cardinals' success is their winning attitude that dates back to the 1930's and the "Gashouse Gang led by Dizzy Dean and Ducky Medwick." There hasn't been a decade where the Cardinals haven't made a serious run at a World Series title. They expect to win. The Nationals, fresh off the many fiascos this off-season, expect to lose.
What does this all mean? Because the Nats have no chance to win tonight, they will. That's how they seem to work.