For those of you who follow on Twitter, you know that I announced I was going to err on the side of “blinded optimism” for a while. At least one respondent argued that I had already gone crazy. Yet, as Tony La Russa is quick to inform us, the season is young.
Matt Holliday returned from his appendectomy earlier than expected – wait, what? That isn’t supposed to happen for a St. Louis Cardinals player, is it? I’m quietly keeping my fingers crossed that he is indeed fully healthy and won’t experience any lingering issues, but for now, he’s back in the lineup and appears to be no worse for wear.
*** SAMPLE SIZE ALERT *** You three loyal readers know that I was pretty passionate that Kyle McClellan not be moved into the starting rotation. I present Exhibit A, Exhibit A-1, Exhibit B, Exhibit C – and Dennis’ Appendix I. Yes, it’s still early – two starts does not a season make – but golly has McClellan been good. Keep in mind that my primary concern with KMac in the rotation was the amount of innings being asked of his reconstructed pitching arm, but so far so good. I’ll buy McClellan right now. Oh yeah, he’s also got a 1.000 OPS.
Lance Berkman finally got off the schneid last night with his first Cardinal home run. We’ve been patiently waiting (hoping?) for Berkman to find his power stroke this year, so why not use a so-far-isolated incident to speculate that the notorious slow-starter might heat up? Ok, I will. Remember, blind optimism.
McClellan hasn’t been the only pitcher performing well. How about this Jaime Garcia kid? Honk. Jaime was betrayed by his bullpen and defense Saturday against the Giants, but he is clearly picking up in 2011 similarly as he started in 2010. I doubt you’ll find Garcia grousing (much) about the decision to shut down near the end of last season now.
Indeed, the Cardinal pitching staff (yes, including the bullpen, which hasn’t been bad, save for the obvious) ranks better than National League average in most categories and near the top in many. They could stand to cut down on walks, but even that number is inflated by the early struggles of one Jake Westbrook.
Colby Rasmus is, dare I say, en fuego at the plate right now. Like many, I’d like to see him start to hit some more gappers – extra base hits are lacking with this bunch currently – but hitting at all is eluding much of the rest of the team, so we’ll take what we’re getting out of Raz right now. Matt Holliday, ditto. Smaller sample size, fewer at-bats because of the appendectomy, but he started off like a firecracker. David Freese is starting to see the ball well, he absolutely roped that ball into left in his first at-bat last night.
Unless you buy into the possibility of a David Ortiz-esque precipitous decline in ability to hit by Albert Pujols, his .150 batting average and general malaise at the plate is reason for optimism, not concern! Sure, as it drags on, it becomes more difficult to see him snapping out of it – but for now, blind optimism, remember? Pujols sports a .139 BABIP – that number is generally around .280-.300 for most hitters, Albert’s career BABIP is .313. Those 7 double-plays Albert has grounded into? While Albert is generally prone to GIDP, his previous season high is 27. The MLB single-season record is 36. Albert’s 2011 current pace comes out at just above 113 for the season. Surely he won’t make that number, right? I’m a bit more than “blindly optimistic” about that one, but my over-arching point is this: expect Albert to hit. This trough he’s in right now is one of the worst Cardinal fans have seen, but he’s not going to hit .150 this year.
Sure, there are reasons for concern – Ryan Franklin. Anyone want me to go in-depth here? Ok, I won’t. Jake Westbrook. Second start obviously much improved from the first, needs time continuing to work with Dave Duncan. The aforementioned Pujols. Ryan Theriot‘s defense. Miguel Batista‘s AARP membership (ok, just kidding about that last one).
For this Cards fan, the reasons to stay upbeat currently outweigh the concerns. Blind optimism? Certainly. But I know this, the Redbirds are currently two games healthier both in personnel and the standings than they were Saturday night.
Oh, and on a more personal level, one more reason for blind optimism?
That’s right. I’ve put my money where my mouth is.
Thanks for reading.
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