Playing Pepper: St. Louis Cardinals vs Pittsburgh Pirates Q&A
This is a Q & A we held with Daniel Shoptaw who runs a St. Louis Cardinal blog at http://www.cardsconclave.com/. Dan has been writing about the Cardinals since 2007. With that being said he is very knowledgeable about the Cardinals. Dan asked us a few questions for his site, and was happy to answer a few questions for us as the Pirates and Cardinals get ready to kick off the baseball season in just a few short days.
1) With Holiday and Molina aging, Matt Adams and Kolten Wang’s struggles against LHP, and now Peralta being rules out for significant time, should there be worries about the Cardinals offense?
The Cardinals’ offense has been worrisome for the last 2-3 years. Even in 2013, when they had a fairly robust one statistically, it was fueled by a record-setting average with runners in scoring position. That, unsurprisingly, came back to earth and the last couple of years have seen basically just enough to win given the dominating pitching that the club has.
There’s no doubt that all of the issues you mention, plus the fact that Molina is coming off of thumb surgery, do pose some significant questions for the offense. On the flip side, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty bring youth and a strong offensive profile, Matt Carpenter is still Matt Carpenter, Brandon Moss is healthy and may wind up with the bulk of the time at first, and the bench, even if Jedd Gyorko has to play shortstop regularly, is a significant upgrade over the past few seasons. This isn’t a team that’s going to bludgeon anyone, but they still can win a lot of games.
2) Obviously it will be hard for the Cardinals to win 100 games again and they will most likely regress, but how big of a regression will occur? With losses of Heyward, Lackey, losing Lynn to tommy-john, and now peralta, what do you expect out of this team this year in the division?
I don’t know that there will be a lot of regression. Remember, the Cardinals won 100 games with a ton of injuries last year. This year, they should have a full year of Adam Wainwright, hopefully a full year of Matt Holliday–who even in his aging state is still a solid hitter–and they have Mike Leake to cushion the loss of Lynn. The bullpen was great last year and could be even better this season with Jordan Walden healthy and the addition of Seung Hwan Oh from Japan. They may win a lot of 3-2 games, but they all count the same. Peralta’s injury does hurt, but I think this is still a 90 win team, if not better.
3) The Pirates and the Cardinals have had some close competitive games the last few years, the Pirates have lost a Cardinal killers in Pedro Alvarez who made a lot of those games that way. Who are a few Pirates that stick out as thorns in the Cardinals sides this year?
I called Aramis Ramirez the Sith Lord and I believed Pedro Alvarez was his apprentice, so it’s good to see both of them (and Neil Walker, who seemed to do a lot against St. Louis as well) off of the Bucs’ squad. That said, there are always Cardinal killers around. We all know how dominating Francisco Liriano has been against the Redbirds and I
doubt that will change anytime soon. It also seemed last year that Gregory Polanco was starting to take up that “Cardinal killer” mantle, so we’ll see if that continues in 2016.
4) With Holiday seeing time at first base this spring, and Grichuk and Piscotty play 2 of 3 OF spots, who is a future OF the Pirates need to worry about?
Holliday is going to play 95% of his time in the outfield, I think, but I guess the only other outfielder to keep an eye on is Tommy Pham, who will be the fourth outfielder this year. Pham has dealt with injuries his whole career–I knock on wood right now saying he’s healthy–but the talent is undeniable. You may have seen some of that last year as he played down the stretch and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do with a little more regular playing time. I don’t think there are any OF prospects really close to the big league but maybe Charlie Tilson, but he should need a year in AAA before being considered for a call up.
I thought this would be interesting to learn a little more about the Cardinals. They obviously have been one of our main rivals over the last few years. Sometimes as writers and readers we focus so much on our own team. We can forget to take a look at what is going on with rival organizations and how they view our team. We plan on doing more question and answers with Dan throughout the season, especially when the Cards and Bucs have a series approaching.
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