As of last Friday I've worked through another in my long line of slow, minute steps toward the baseball season. I picked up Baseball Prospectus 2009 from Barnes and Noble and began reading it as I always do—out of order, on a page-to-page basis, while I eat lunch and watch baseball, ideally at the same time. (It's the best way to go through phonebook-sized books, I think, aside from War and Peace and the actual phonebook.)
It's like I said: it's a small thing, but that's how I thaw the old baseball muscles (metaphor muscles to follow) after a long layoff: mechanical rituals and routines. Some players chop wood at the family farm; others lift weights or play Wii Fit. After enough work lifting Prospectus (628 pages) and playing Baseball Mogul I always seem to reach Opening Day in the best shape of my life.
With that in mind, a look at Prospectus 09's Cardinals content.
Essay: The essay this year is a standard rundown of where the Cardinals have been and are now, attributing our Best Fans in the World aura to their continual success through the years. Pull quote: "In short, Cardinals fans have never experienced the long losing stretches that sap support for the hometown nine. 'Wait 'til next year' has almost always been informed by a reasonable expectation the team would return to contention."
Good News: Brett Wallace is projected to hit like an average third baseman as soon as this year; Kinney, McClellan, Motte, and Perez are all projected to pitch like top-flight relievers; Albert Pujols is projected to hit like Albert Pujols.
Bad News: They're none too enamored of Mitch Boggs, who "doesn't have the stuff or command to maintain a sport in the rotation"; David Freese is not projected to hit like an average third baseman as soon as this year.
Interesting Comparables: Troy Glaus is compared, by the PECOTA projection system, to former teammate Tim Salmon; Cesar Izturis gets compared to Aaron Miles, who, in a terrible snub, does not return the favor; Daryl Jones gets compared to—wait, this deserves a line break—
Daryl Jones gets compared to Childhood Hero Ray Lankford
—Yadier Molina gets compared to brother Bengie; Joe Mather gets compared to Ryan Ludwick. One infielder gets compared to Tom Herr, and I will give you a high-five, to be redeemed at some later date, if you can name him without thinking about it.
Players for whom Frank Thomas is listed as a comp: 2.
While we're here, have you guys begun saying your baseball rosary yet? Is there some small thing you have to get over with before baseball starts?
Meanwhile, the P-D has a long, interesting piece from Strauss re: the Schumaker Experiment. Perhaps most interesting is the brief look into how one trains to become a Gritty, Scrappy La Russa Favorite:
"From the time he was 4, Skip was always an infielder if he wasn't pitching," recalls his father, Wayne, division chief for the Los Angeles Dept. of Beach and Harbors. "He was drafted at shortstop."
"My parents always thought I should be an infielder," says the son.
On the day he learned of the intended switch, Skip phoned his father, demanding Wayne meet him at his former high school's artificial turf football field to beat ground balls. The two worked out in a driving rainstorm.
"It doesn't matter what position Skip plays, he will play it at 110 percent," Wayne Schumaker says.
If you're wondering why Strauss didn't get into how he learned to hit the ball on the ground and Leave It All on the Field, those are trade secrets.