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can this be true -- larry bigbie has hit only 1 infield popup in his last 1100 plate appearances?? so says dave studeman at hardball times; he's got the data, he oughta know.

also at hardball times, ben jacobs rates the cards' offseason as the 22nd best in mlb -- or the 9th-worst, depending on how well you slept last night. the scary thing is, jacobs thinks three other teams in the nl central -- cincinnati, pittsburgh, and houston -- had even less efficacious winters. accordingly, jacobs still pegs the cards as the likely division winner -- but in his opinion, "they're no longer strong candidates to win 100-plus games as they did each of the last two years, and they're probably not the top NL contender for a World Series title, as they were each of the last two years."

thanks reverend redbird for that link.

for the glass-half-full perspective, mike bauman says this at mlb.com: "All in all, this Cardinals team does not seem to be significantly less than its immediate predecessors." he's got them at 95+ wins and one of the top teams in baseball.

be sure to dial up john sickels' minor league ball tomorrow; he'll be posting his list of the cardinals' top 20 prospects, with the associated grades. sickels watches a ton of minor league games and talks to plenty of scouts, but he also factors statistics into his rankings more prominently (and intelligently) than baseball america. here's my guess at his top 5, completely off the top:

  1. anthony reyes
  2. cody haerther
  3. mark mccormick
  4. tyler greene
  5. adam wainwright

it's really gone: pretty war stl takes in the view from the center of the old cookie cutter.