Well, that certainly did suck, didn't it?
One day after jumping all over the Rockies' ace, Jeff Francis, el Birdos couldn't muster much of anything against Kip Wells. Kip. #$@%&. Wells. He wasn't good enough for us. He wasn't good enough to make the Colorado rotation out of Spring Training. And yet, all the Cards could get off of him was a solo home run by Yadier Molina.
Thank god it's early. Otherwise, I might overreact to something like this.
The Cards have to feel like hell this morning. They played beautifully on Monday, only to have the game rained out, then ended up losing their official opener. That's a bad swing. Oh well.
What we did get to see in the game, that I personally enjoyed, was a firsthand demonstration of what made the biggest difference in the Rockies' fate last year, in my opinion. The bullpen for the Rockies last year was fantastic, with Manny Corpas stepping in to Wally Pipp Brian Fuentes for the closer's role when Fuentes went down with an injury. Between Corpas and Fuentes, Colorado has a two headed beast at the end of the game that you don't ever want to have to face. The rest of their pen is solid, if not spectacular.
Last year, the Rockies' pitchers combined for a 4.32 ERA, good for eighth in the National League. A huge part of their improvement from years past was shoring up the pen. Games get shorter. Last night's game was the sort that Colorado routinely found a way to lose in years past.
On the Cards' side, we saw a bullpen every bit as solid, but with a couple concerns. First off, how good will Ryan Franklin be? Statistically, he's due for a comedown following last year. The real problem, of course, is that the Cardinals extended him two more years last season. Izzy appears to be healthy again this season, but any time you're relying on a man who has been literally rebuilt and who's getting up into his mid 30s, there's some injury concerns. Russ Springer is solid, but overpaid. The left side of the relief corp is, at the moment, better off not mentioned. Although, to be fair, Randy Flores was absolutely brilliant last night; if not for a ball that slipped out of Troy Glaus's hand, he would have escaped unscathed.
I think it's a fair question to ask, and one that I hadn't really considered up until now. If Izzy goes down, who's first in line to inherit the closer's role? Franklinstein? Springer? Someone else? Obviously, we all hope Izzy just stays together, but the drop off in success from him to someone like Franklin is pretty marked, and it's a little frightening.
The Colorado bullpen is largely composed of very young, inexpensive players, and if their closer happens to go down, they have an immediate candidate to step in and replace him in Fuentes. The Cardinals, despite spending far more on relievers, with over $5 million invested just between Franklin and Springer, don't have nearly as strong a chain of progression in place, in my opinion. I'm intrigued to see how this all shakes out as the season goes on. Who gets the save opportunities on days when Izzy isn't available to go? If he does go on the DL, who steps in? Hell, maybe McClellan continues his Wainwright impersonation and becomes that guy as the year goes on. Looking at the stuff this kid brings to the table, I wouldn't be all that surprised.
Congrats to McClellan, Rico Washington, and Brian Barton, all of whom made their major league debuts last night. I have no idea the last time that the St. Louis Cardinals had three players all make their ML debuts on Opening Day, and, honestly, I'm not really sure where to look to find that out. I would be willing to bet, however, that it's been quite a long time. I'm guessing probably sometime in the early 90s. In honour of the occasion, I'm breaking out my old Mazzy Star records today, and I'm going to party like it's 1994.
One last thing: Troy Tulowitzki is the Man. I'm really hoping that the Cardinals can develop a middle infielder of that sort, if not quite that calibre, in the next few years. I'm old school, in that I believe you build a championship team up the middle first, then fill out the edges. The Cards already have some solid players on the edges, but the center of their field has been pretty slipshod the last couple of years. A guy like Pete Kozma or Jose Martinez developing into a solid regular, and maybe getting a guy like Gordon Beckham, a shortstop out of the U. of Georgia this year, would go a long way toward turning the middle of the field from a weakness into a strength. I think the Cards need to focus heavily on the MI in the next couple of drafts, even though they've drafted some shortstops already the last three years. This team has really struggled to develop position talent on the infield; I think they should increase their focus there first.