Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa, entering his 15th season as skipper, has always proven adept at mixing his “old school” managerial style with the use of statistical analysis. This season will certainly be a test of those skills, as LaRussa will be tasked with putting together a lineup that complements and maximizes the abilities of both Pujols and Holliday. 2B Skip Schumaker and CF Colby Rasmus figure to be the Nos. 1-2 hitters, and will be called upon to set the table. Rasmus, coming off a fine rookie campaign, has been working with new Cardinals’ hitting coach Mark McGwire to be a more consistent bat against left-handed pitchers. SS Brendan Ryan, also coming off a stellar rookie season, will help to provide punch at the bottom of the order, along with rookie 3B David Freese, who looks to prove that he is the long term answer at that position.
In terms of pitching, the Cardinals roll out one of the more potent staffs in all of baseball. SP Adam Wainwright, tied for the Major League lead with 19 wins, and SP Chris Carpenter, the NL leader in ERA, finished 2-3 in Cy Young Award voting, behind winner Tim Lincecum. Hard to argue that this tandem isn’t one of the more potent Nos. 1-2 in the NL. Add to that Kyle Lohse, who is reportedly pain-free after an injury riddled 2009, and free agent signee Brad Penny, also pain free and coming off a stellar 2nd half of 2009 with the San Francisco Giants, and you have a rotation that will be putting fear in the eyes of many an opponent. Closer Ryan Franklin, with 38 saves in his first full season as the ninth inning answer man, will look to repeat his success, while the rest of the bullpen has remained largely intact and looks to serve notice to any doubting Thomas that they will be a strength, and not an embarrassment. I for one am not one to vote against the talents of Cardinals’ pitching coach Dave Duncan, who has been with manager LaRussa every season since 1983. Duncan has worked magic with reclamation projects and throwaways (case in point: Dennis Eckersley, Chris Carpenter), and has proven to be one of the most complete pitching coaches in Major League history.
And so, here are the questions that Cardinals’ fans are asking:
1) Will free agent signee Felipe Lopez step in and solidify the 3B position, or will David Freese make his mark?
2) Can the top of the lineup consistently provide the proper table settings for the Cards’
3) Can Ryan Franklin get over the late August-September slump and be dominant the entire season?
4) Will new hitting coach Mark McGwire prove he is worthy of manager Tony LaRussa’s loyalty?
Even though the Cardinals are considered heavy favorites to repeat as NL Central champions in a decidedly weak division, they will be out to prove that they have the strength needed to continue a deeper push through the playoffs…Have you had an opportunity to check out www.diy-sports.com/?refId=1110 yet? A great MMORPG baseball game that’s growing fast.. Check it out !!