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define "uncertainty"

adieu, florida; the cards' grapefruit finale takes place today, vs the marlins. wells pitches; gameday link is here.

i asked (and answered) Five Questions About the Cardinals for the Hardball Times' series of preseason articles; it's up today. i turned in my copy just before the latest news o' the outfield broke, viz.:

  1. encarnacion's wrist ails; no timetable on his return
  2. john rodriguez was optioned to memphis
of the latter decision, la russa explained (in the p-d): "We think (Rodriguez) is a big league player. It comes down to the uncertainty in centerfield. Skip is a more natural centerfielder." by "skip," of course, tony is referring to schumaker; he'll be one of 5 outfielders on the OD roster, joining edmonds, duncan, wilson, and taguchi. toss encarnacion into the mix, and that leaves j-rod as the #7 outfielder on the roster --- seems to me he ought to rank higher than that. but i can't say he outranks schumaker at this point --- skip's value-add with the glove neutralizes j-rod's value-add with the bat. i do think rodriguez is more valuable than taguchi --- 10 years younger, less than half as costly, and infinitely better with the bat. the case for taguchi: he's right-handed. if the cards had kept j-rod and schumaker, they'd have only one right-handed-hitting outfielder on the roster, preston wilson. in games where both wilson and spiezio started, their top right-handed pinch-hitter would be aaron miles; their 2d would be gary bennett; and their 3d would be adam wainwright. so while i don't like the decision --- an offense as thin as the cards' can ill-afford to deprive itself of any player with .375 on-base ability --- i also don't think it's quite a cut-and-dried call. if the decision turns out to be faulty, it's reversible; j-rod will be a phone call away.

far more significant than this move's implications for the bench are its implications for the starting lineup, ie edmonds: la russa notes "the uncertainty in centerfield" as a factor weighing in schumaker's favor. i infer from that statement that jimmy won't be playing every day during the early part of the schedule; hence the need for three backup cfs on the roster (schu taguchi and wilson). and by "uncertainty," does tony mean something short-term --- ie, until edmonds plays himself back into shape --- or something more ominous like, say, uncertainty about whether edmonds' two or three dozen different injuries have healed enough to keep him on the active roster all season? . . . . . as i opined in the Hardball Times piece, an inactive edmonds would place the st louis 9 in deep doo-doo.

not thinking about it. head buried in sand.

the news about encarnacion, as reported by matt leach (hat tip to The Dude):

Juan Encarnacion still is not swinging a bat after he received a cortisone shot on his surgically repaired left wrist on Sunday. He will not be with the team for Opening Night, though he will travel to St. Louis to participate in the World Series ring ceremony on Tuesday at Busch Stadium.

"I haven't done anything yet," Encarnacion said, when asked if the shot had helped his wrist feel better. "I've had a few days of not doing anything."

Encarnacion will start the season on the disabled list, and it is unclear when he will be available to play in games.

will carroll had similar information two days ago at Baseball Prospectus:
It's no surprise --- or shouldn't be, anyway --- that Juan Encarnacion is going to start the season on the DL. What's a bit more concerning is that his rehab has been more stuttered than a BT remix. The latest bump in the road is a cortisone injection into his problematic wrist. We know that wrist injuries can linger, sapping both bat speed and control, so the need for an injection well before he cut loose with his swing has to draw his progress under question. The injury sapped his OBP last season, following the speed that's been missing a couple seasons. At 30 and injured, Encarnacion has a lot to prove before you can consider him anything more than waiver bait. For the Cards, that means a lot of watching Preston Wilson and waiting for Walt Jocketty to work his deadline magic.
this team needs another outfielder, folks. maybe we dismissed nate silver's remarks a little too breezily last week. . . . . then again, maybe encarnacion's condition will force the organization to seek the upgrade in rf that many of us have been hoping for lo these many months.

speaking of will carroll: he granted my request last week for a brief Q+A about the state of the trainer's room in st louis. at no extra charge, will --- who wrote the cardinals' team chapter in BP2007 --- also answered a half-dozen questions about the cardinals' off-season and the state of the organization. many thanks to mr carroll --- as ever, an accessible, responsive, and informative servant. Update [2007-3-30 14:34:22 by lboros]: correction --- will did not write the cards' BP2007 chapter; Christina Kahrl did. my apologies for the mistake.

Rate the Edmonds injury sites (toe, shoulder, cabeza) in descending order of concern. Should we be grateful if he simply matches last year's production / playing time?
I think the shoulder is the one with the most concern, though post-concussion syndrome is a serious condition. We know that he'll lack some pop, but this isn't a Rolen-style injury. I'd be grateful if he matches last year's RATE of production, if not the raw numbers. He's clearly in decline, but the Cards are hoping it's a slow rate.

This winter Mulder admitted that he pitched hurt from 2004 through last summer. Does that change our expectation of his potential effectiveness post-surgery? If so, does it make us more optimistic, or less?
It raises my opinion of Billy Beane . . . sorry, Walt. I think it raises hopes. Mulder's worked well with Duncan, and I see a Matt Morris-style post-surgery trajectory here. The Cards have had a lot of success post-shoulder -- Carpenter, Morris, Kile. Mulder was smart to stay.

I was surprised to see that Anthony Reyes got a green light in the Positional Health Reports. What factor(s) inform that rating?
Solid mechanics and the inability to factor in the struggles he's had in the minors. One of the major holes in the system is that we don't have minor league DL data. I'm not willing to "fake" the data in. That said, I think Reyes will be fine.

The Cardinals broke an unofficial policy this off-season by committing five years to a pitcher, Chris Carpenter. Any reason we should be more (or less) nervous about that length commitment to Carp, as opposed to the same commitment to any other 32-year-old pitcher?
I think they reacted to the market and at the same time rewarded him for his accomplishments rather than paying him based on expected performance. I don't like the deal.

Will we ever be able to stop worrying about Rolen's shoulder?
A long time from now, in a galaxy far, far away. . . . . Actually yes. The further out he gets from it, the less it will be a concern, much like his previous shoulder injury. Yeah, see, you'd forgotten all about that one, right?

There've been new whispers about Pujols and the juice this spring; both Buck Martinez and Keith Olbermann apparently think he looks "smaller." Any "there" there?
I haven't seen him, so I can't comment and I won't comment on speculation. There was obviously some smoke last year around the Grimsley case, but until he fails a test, he's got to be given some measure of trust.

Do you think the Cardinals' run of success (now 7 years strong, 2000-2006) is destined to crash the same way that the Giants' 8-year run (1997-2004) did --- with a roster full of overripe players and a run of losing seasons? What resources does the organization have available to keep this from happening?
Not in this division and not with this front office. Right now, being a .500 team --- as the Cards were last season --- is enough. It wouldn't be in almost any other division. As long as the pitching is tolerable and Jocketty can continue to assemble his "studs and scrubs" style roster, they'll be competitive. The lack of prospects in the pipeline is more worrisome. Edmonds and Rolen are nearing the end of their useful lifespan, and it's far easier for Duncan to turn a Kip Wells or a Jeff Weaver into something useable than it is to find a stud CF.

The Cardinals probably could have re-signed Weaver on a one-year deal for about $8.5m; they chose to keep the money in their rainy-day fund. How likely does it seem to you that they'll find a more impactful use for those dollars during the season? Are they going to regret having missed the chance to reap some win-column dividend (even a small one) on that slice of payroll?
He's still Jeff Weaver and I think he'll miss Dave Duncan. I don't buy the "rainy day" fund, either; they made a decision on Weaver's value and passed. Nothing wrong with that. They won't have any excuse not to make a trade if they need it, but I'm not sure what that would be. Jon Lieber would be a nice acquisition, but they don't have the tradeable commodities to get him.

Jeff Luhnow, the Cards' most stats-oriented exec, has gained influence within the organization; he received a big promotion last September. Do you see any evidence of his influence in the Cards' personnel decisions?
More in the minor leagues. I've spoken with Jeff several times and find his open mind to new thinking refreshing. I think he's a big part of the Cards blended approach, one that certainly seems to work. He's got a big task ahead of him, rebuilding a depleted farm system, but he's making strides.

The Cardinals brought back 7 everyday players, the entire bench, most of the bullpen, and (counting Mulder) three-fifths of the rotation from an 83-win team. What's the biggest reason to be optimistic? Or is there one?
They were good last year and play in a crappy division. They have Albert Pujols and no one else does.

Ostensibly, Looper is just keeping a spot warm in the rotation until Mulder returns. When Mulder does return, what are the odds that he's worse than Looper?
Well, then you have Ryan Franklin. It's a mix-and-match approach, and I'm not yet buying into Kip Wells suddenly becoming a real pitcher either, despite Duncan's track record. I'd expect Mulder to be league average with some struggles when he returns. I've been hearing May, but I think that's a bit fast. Not as bad as Colon, but fast. Getting him back for the stretch run and the playoffs is much more important. No one in this division is going to run away and hide.

Which word more accurately describes the Cards' reticence on the free-agent market this winter: a) wise or b) cheap? Would the answer be different if they hadn't won it all in 2006?
I don't think we know now. Did it make sense to pass up seemingly high rates this year or will next year's market be even more inflated? Is there better talent available or will they develop their own cheap talent? Can they continue to get undervalued assets on the cheap like Preston Wilson or Adam Kennedy? All these are things we only know in hindsight. Right now, we know that the Cards certainly seem to have enough to contend, but there are also a lot of things that could go wrong. No team has a better track record of mid-season adjustments, so I'd say that even if it goes off track early, they can adjust. I still think they're the favorite to win this division, even though I think the Brewers have a better team.