just a quick post on the fly. thanks to ev'yone who responded to yesterday's callfor pitching-staff projections. results, beginning with the rotation:
though tony/dave have declared a three-way competition among ponson, reyes, and wainwright for the #5 starter's role, we pretty much have handed the job to ponson. nobody picked wainwright to claim the spot (not surprising given the small size of our sample), and only four people thought reyes would beat ponson in a head-to-head competition; two of us thought reyes would get into the rotation at the expense of jason marquis, departing via trade.
what we seem to be driving at here is that, utterances of the brass notwithstanding, ponson has a couple of built-in advantages in this race: a) he's a veteran, and tony/dunc like veterans; and b) the team didn't shell out $1m to have ponson sop up middle-relief innings. but might we be overstating the case? think back just to 2003, when la russa and duncan flat-out cut two pretty well-established (and well-pain) relievers, al levine and joey hamilton, because they didn't look good in camp. then last spring they whacked veteran LOOGY mike myers in favor of the untested flores. granted those are bullpen examples, and we're talking about a rotation competition; nonetheless, this informal survey probably overstates ponson's chances. we're handicapping the race at about 80-20 in ponson's favor; i bet the reality is more like 60-40.
now the pen:
by our lights, 5 of the slots are slam dunks, and only two are open to competition. here, too, i tend to think we are overstating the case. as well as brad thompson pitched last season, he still has only 40-something big-league innings and is just a year removed from double A. he could easily pitch his way off the team with a sloppy spring. look back no further than 2004, when kiko calero failed to break camp with the team. he was coming off a much better year than thompson's 2005 - fewer walks, fewer hits, more strikeouts, better era - but eldred and jason simontaachi outpitched him in spring training, and he started the season at memphis. admittedly calero was recovering from an injury, but he was hale by march 2004; just didn't throw well enough to make the team. mike crudale had a similar experience the year before that - despite posting stellar numbers as a primary setup man for 2002's division champ'ship team (1.88 era in 53 innings, 47 strikeouts vs only 3 hr allowed), he pitched so poorly in the spring of 2003 that he opened the year at triple a, getting passed over for the likes of eldred, lance painter, russ springer, and dustin hermanson. not even jason isringhausen's disablement could get crudale onto the opening day roster.
i'm certainly not wishing bad luck on brad thompson, but i would put his chances of making the team at more like 75 percent than 100. i think flores's chances are better, simply because he's left-handed. he's actually a better LOOGY than rincon at this point, but since the cards have invested two years and $3m plus in ricardo he's probably on the team no matter how poor his performance or how extreme his visa problems. tyler johnson could prob'y still make the team as a third left-hander if he pitches well, and i hope he does. he had a walk-strikeout ratio of 4-32 at memphis after the all-star break last year. that's not a typo --- 4 walks and 32 ks in about 22 innings of work. pretty flashy. only two of us had johnson making the roster; he's prob'y got a slightly better chance than that to make the team. also only two ballots (one of them mine) for adam wainwright; that's prob'y more a reflection of the fact that he's never pitched out of the pen than it is a commentary on his potential usefulness. my own belief is that wainwright could be a very useful relief pitcher - as i noted recently one of his top comparables is rick aguilera, who converted to relieving in his late 20s and thrived in the role. many of us keep lamenting the team's lack of power arms, but wainwright has one - if they can find a place for it. hell, brad thompson was a starter until last year; if he can make the switch, surely wainwright can do likewise. might be good for him.
only about 40 percent of the returns had jeff nelson on the roster, which is very interesting - also, i think, a pretty good assessment of nelson's chances. the same number included mateo - see 26th man's diary on the subject.