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the party of minor things to do

i've got a brand new game i wanna lay on you . . . . 

sadly, captain beefheart (a pseudonym for don van vliet) died yesterday. vliet was an icon to everybody interested in avant garde rock, as well as lots of guys now in their late-fifties, early-sixties who did way too much cocaine and dropped too much acid in their days. captain beefheart and his magic band put out some of the greatest albums in rock,"safe as milk,"  "the spotlight kid" and "trout mask replica."  beefheart began with sharp riffs on traditional blues, then went on to make increasingly wild and psychedlic and just plain weird music. he influenced contemporaries like frank zappa and tom waits in the southern california scene, and was cited as a strong influence by later artists who dabbled in the avant garde, like pj harvey and the white stripes (who did memorable covers of several beefheart tracks, including "the party of special things to do."

not since hunter s thompson died has the world suddenly grown so significantly less weird.

someone's had too much to think . . . 

. . . of himself. edgar renteria exhibited his usual keen sense of how to present himself sympathetically to the public when he complained to the media that it was "disrespectful" for the san francisco giants to offer a man in his mid-30s a million dollas to play a children's game. this comment came at a time in which tens of millions of americans are unemployed. i find it hard to understand every losing sight of the meaning of being paid a million dollars that i can hardly conceive of why one would find such an offer insulting. i can imagine renteria concluding that he could find a better offer elsewhere. regardless, it's probably safe to say that, even on reaching such a conclusion, renteria should have kept that thought to himself.

make invalids out of supermen . . . .

to the best anyone can telll, our bench is really going to look like memphis is going to get a chance. well, except for bryan anderson. i won't promise that the aforementioned edgar renteria won't get picked up, but with the disappearance of bill hall and orlando hudson from the market, most plausible infield options are gone. aaron miles still lurks on the margins somewhere.

it seems like a valuable exercise to take a look at what we have on the bench and the likelihood of seeing these guys in st. louis after spring training. 

gerald laird, c

likelihood of appearing with ml club: 95 percent

virtues: good glove, good rep as a pitcher's catcher, major league track record, veteranny goodness

demerits: weak bat, 31 years old at a position that doesn't age well, not bryan anderson, does not look like he has come to fix a buxom woman's cable ca. 1978.

anderson seems like he makes a hell of a lot of sense as a backup. that said, laird is a solid pickup as a backup to molina. moreover, i dislike the fact that he's playing over anderson much less than i like the fact that he's playing over pagnozzi. 

laird's bat is really terrible, though. his last three seasons, in chronological order, yielded wOBA's of .315, .287, and most recently .256! he seems to have hit a decline phase. while his recent BABIPs have been very low ('09: .258; '10: .249), his LD rates have dropped into the 14% range. if you have to have a terrible hitter somewhere, backup catcher is not a bad place to have him; we have experience in this area, since jason larue has been coughing up .270-.280 wOBA's for the cards for several years.  

allen craig, 3b/of

likelihood of appearing with ml club: 90 percent

upside: tremendous offensive potential, alleged ability to play third base, right-handed relief for berkman in of, winning smile.

demerits: not clear how capable his defense at third is, offensive potential remains mere potential, proclivity for appearing on the back of milk cartons.

craig is in line for a real breakout year. my gut says that we will look back on his 2011 performance as a triumph. my suspicion is that his only okay numbers in 2010 were mostly bad luck in a small sample size. his minor league numbers are excellent. the only projections for 2011 out so far - bill james - peg him at a .350 wOBA, which would be a fine start. he has put up .400-ish wOBA's in the minors pretty consistently. he is no hack in the outfield defensively, even if he is no star.

that said, if he doesn't produce or gets injured, he's likely to find himself passed by the upcoming outfield and 3b prospects in 2012. this is a key season for craig. i find heartening the news that they'll give him a shot at third. that said, a failure to capitalize on the opportunities he gets may lose him future opportunities in very short order. he will not likely get the chances freese got to work through his nerves or rust or just bad luck in the first couple weeks of the 2010 seasons with several high-profile misplays. it's not fair; it's baseball.

tyler greene, ss/ 3b

likelihood of appearing with ml club: 80 percent

upside: defensive positions played, offensive potential, likely to catch work at ss v. lhp while theriot plays second for skip, could bust out and hit 15 homers for the cardinals.

demerits: old to still be a prospect, labeled with "bad attitude" tar brush, recently poor defensive performance, could bust and hit 15 homers for memphis.

greene has made appearances in the majors in two different seasons, amassing a .282 wOBA over 238 PAs. his performance in the minors has been all over the place, with AAA wOBAs in partial seasons of .304, .390, and .357. while he has some clear defensive tools, including a very strong arm, his TZR numbers in 08 and 09 from the minors were negative, and his small sample UZRs in the majors have been poor. going into his age 28 season, he needs to put to use the tools he has. he does have some built in roster advantages: against LHP, we'll probably shift theriot to second and put greene at short. he's the only real shortstop on the squad other than theriot. he's also on the short list of third base options should freese go down for any period of time.

jon jay, of

likelihood of appearing with ml club: 80 percent

upside: good defensive rep, lots of playing time in 2010, only decent cf backup.

demerits: much of 2010 offensive success ephemeral, position as left-handed option in rf stolen by berkman, importance on early supreme court overshadowed historically by key role played by john marshall.

jay's performance has been analyzed a great deal here, and of all our bench options, he is the most familiar, catching 323 PAs in 2010. i doubt he is as good as he showed in early 2010, nor as bad as he showed in late 2010. he'll be 26 this year, and coming into his peak period. bill james likes him for a .326 wOBA, which sounds plausible to me. at minor risk of being traded.

daniel descalso, 2b/3b

likelihood of appearing with ml club: 70 percent

upside: positional scarcity, ok defensive and offensive skills, while LH has minimal platoon split.

demerits: only ok defensive and offensive skills.

"dirty dan" seems like a high-floor, low-ceiling prospect. note that in a brief september call-up he played exclusively at third. that may be a sign that the club sees more of a role in spelling freese at third than in overlapping with our other resident LH 2b. descalso may get his chances where other people lag; if freese gets injured or skippy continues to struggle in 2011, he may force the issue. otherwise, i expect him to get limited time in the field. descalso is also probably most at risk of getting bumped by a dumpster-dive infielder in february or march. descalso had a roaring 2009 at springfield, finishing with a .406 wOBA, though his offensive results have been more pedestrian though still solid at other levels (.342 at memphis last year, .364 at springfield in 08). still, just 24 now, descalso has some years to develop and impress.  

adron chambers, of

likelihood of appearing with ml club: 20 percent

upside: speed, on-base skills, good defense.

demerits: low power, redundancy as  LH OF.

chambers lit up the winter leagues in arizona, putting together an .835 OPS. he's managed more of a .360ish wOBA each year in the minors. young, like descalso, he has room to grow. he has a lot of overlap with jon jay, as a speedy, defense-oriented, 3-position, LH outfielder. his best hope is that jay ends up traded.

matt carpenter, 3b

likelihood of appearing with ml club: 10 percent

upside: great on-base skills, ok defense.

demerits: only modest power, limited experience.

a late comer to professional baseball, matt carpenter rose quickly, but has still only made it to AA going into his age 25 season. carpenter is likely to start at memphis unless freese is unable to take the field. even with freese out, he has at least 3 people above who are plausible third basemen ahead of him. other than a bad-luck BABIP stumble his first go-round in Palm Beach (pulling in a BABIP of .258), carpenter has put up a .400+ OBP at each level. he walks a ton, has a great eye, and a good swing.

* * * *

that, ladies and gentlemen, is your 2011 cardinals bench. i hope we can keep the detritus of aging, sub-replacement value veterans off of it.

sure nuff n' yes i do.