We are twelve games in to Spring Training, and the Cardinals are playing crisp, clean, winning baseball. Michael Wacha has looked strong. Dexter Fowler is getting on base. They’re running the bases aggressively – and intelligently.
In my first chance to pose a question to the United Cardinals Bloggers (UCB), I asked them if their “feel” of the team has changed since Spring Training began. I also was curious about what would indicate to them, early in the season, that this team has improved since last year.
While I understand that we are 12 games into Spring Training and the games are meaningless, its hard not to enjoy the winning. Against the Nationals yesterday, Fowler led off with a walk, Diaz followed up with a double, and by the end of the inning the Cardinals had a 4-0 lead. Furthermore, Wacha pitched three shutout innings, punching out three. Several times, the Cardinals took the extra base, and they played an errorl-free games. The 2016 Cardinals lacked these things.
Considering Rosenthal and Siegrist have both had some arm soreness, Cecil got shelled against the Mets, and Oh is at the WBC, I have some trepidation about bullpen. Regardless of how Wacha performs in Grapefruit league play, it is still unknown how his shoulder will hold up over the course of 162. Despite my lingering concerns, it’s hard not to see a more cohesive, crisp team. Fowler’s music and the team field trip to the escape rooms are definite changes. Overall, I get the feeling this team is a little better than we thought coming into Spring.
Now, let’s see what other bloggers had to say.
Zack Gifford, Redbird Daily
I had hoped this Cardinals team would be more “professional,” and so far they’ve done that. Like Daniel said above, that’s mostly based on solid pitching and offense, and better defense and baserunning. Fowler brings a lot to this team as a tone setter at the top of the order, but also his attitude. I don’t want to put too much on Spring Training stats or Win/Loss records, so I’ll leave it at that for the time being.
During the season, it honestly will boil down to wins and losses for me. The team was basically an average team for most of 2016, hovering between .500 and nine games above. I don’t expect them to be ten games over by the end of April (though that would be great), but consistently winning games and avoiding losing streaks in April and May will show if this team is for real. They have a really tough stretch from May 12th to June 4th (seven vs. Dodgers, six vs. Cubs, two vs. Boston, and three vs. Giants), so I think we’ll know who they are by the beginning of June.
Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At the Bat
While you can’t take the spring training results as gospel, of course, the fact that they are putting up many more wins than losses and doing so in the manner we’d like to see during the season (good pitching, solid offense, limited defensive and baserunning gaffes) has to be somewhat encouraging. I don’t think anyone is going to start picking them to unseat the Cubs or anything, but it makes that PECOTA projection of 76 wins seem more laughable by the day.
I think the earliest indicators on improvement will be the starting pitching. If we are consistently getting quality starts and better out of those in the rotation, I think this club could hit the ground running and look much sharper than last year’s edition
Jon Doble, Redbird Dugout
I don’t know that anything in particular has changed the feel of this team for me, but rather reinforced it.
Fowler has so far proven to be every bit the person and player I hoped he would be when he joined the club in December. And hearing players talk unanimously about the team’s chemistry problems last year and how they’re all on board that something needed to change was encouraging and really been magnified by the Fowler signing.
The feel around this club is so drastically different than it was last spring, and that’s encouraging. This team might not be a big improvement over last year’s team in the talent department, and depending on what you value, perhaps it got worse, but if team cohesiveness has any influence on performance (and I think it does), I think they’ll have a much better year than any of us expect.
Josey Curtis, Viva El Birdos
I would say Trevor Rosenthal. Coming off a season so subpar, it’s critical that he begin the season on a high note. Also, he figures to play a sizable role in the bullpen, behind Seung Hwan Oh, Kevin Siegrist, and Brett Cecil.
Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba
My feel for the team’s level of quality among minor-league prospects has improved since spring training began. The Cardinals have a lot more depth in the pipeline, at all positions, than I had imagined.
I’ll be looking for solid fundamental play _ especially base running and the ability to advance runners without base hits _ early in the season to gauge whether the Cardinals have improved since 2016.
Allen Medlock, RedbirdDaily
I think the emphasis on baserunning has been very noticeable. I thought there were several times yesterday the Cards successfully took the extra base. Last year those would have turned into an inning ending disaster.
Tom Knuppel, CardinalsGM
Not much has changed in my opinion as the minor leaguers are getting their time while the vets ease in later. I am very pleased with outfielder Jose Martinez and his play.
Thanks for reading!