Tag:David Freese
Posted on: February 9, 2012 4:51 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 10:47 am
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Spring position battles: National League Central



By C. Trent Rosecrans


The National League Central is often looked down upon, but it produced both teams in the National League Championship Series last year, as well as the World Series. Both the Cardinals and Brewers have large voids in their lineup due to free agency, but all the teams have some questions when pitchers and catchers report to camp. Here's the NL Central spring position battles:

Chicago Cubs
Old vs. Young: Bryan LaHair and Marlon Byrd vs. Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson

For so long the Cubs' motto has been "wait 'til next year" -- that may have been changed to "wait 'til a couple of years" as Theo Epstein has fully embraced the rebuilding effort. The question is whether the braintrust thinks it's better for some of their younger players to learn at the big-league level or continue in the minors. The two biggest choices will be Rizzo and Jackson. Rizzo, 22, struggled in his call-up last season, hitting .141/.281/.242 with a homer in 153 plate appearances, but that was as a 21-year-old in San Diego. LaHair may only have 65 games in the big leagues, but that doesn't make him young -- just inexperienced. LaHair turned 29 in November and spent eight years in the minors. He hit .288/.377/.508 in his 20 games with the Cubs last season, but he's hardly anyone's idea of a long-term solution. Epstein drafted Rizzo while with the Red Sox and then traded for him when he took over the Cubs. It's Rizzo's job to lose. Meanwhile, Byrd is in the last season of his three-year, $15 million contract, so he's more likely to get traded than to be unseated in spring. The 23-year-old Jackson put up a .297/.388/.551 line at Triple-A Iowa with 10 homers in just 48 games after being called up from Double-A. The team's first-round pick in the 2009 draft will have a chance to show he's big-league ready. If the team does go with Rizzo and Jackson, it could be a sign of the team's future and the patience that Chicago will show going forward.

Cincinnati Reds
Left field: Chris Heisey vs. Ryan Ludwick

The Reds signed Ludwick to a bargain deal, hoping he can find the stroke he left in St. Louis. The 33-year-old has always hit well at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, putting up a .276/.321/.600 stat line with nine homers in 30 games and 112 plate appearances in his new home park. Both Ludwick and Heisey are right-handed batters who fare better against right-handed pitchers. Ludwick is a career .272/.339/.464 hitter against righties and .237/.316/.435 against lefties. Heisey's split is more extreme -- .288/.346/.539 against right-handers and .180/.248/.300 against lefties. One thing that helps Ludwick's case may be Heisey's strength as a pinch-hitter. Last year the 27-year-old Heisey hit .324/.333/.529 with two homers as a pinch-hitter. There's another option here, as well. If Drew Stubbs struggles at the plate, Hesiey could be an option to play center alongside Ludwick in left. That's a remote possibility, though. The Reds are high on Stubbs' power/speed combination and he is an excellent defender in center.

Houston Astros
Third base: Brett Wallace vs. Chris Johnson vs. Jimmy Paredes

The fact that the Astros are looking to move Wallace to third base may tell you what they think of Johnson and Paredes. If Wallace shows he can play third, he's the likely favorite. Johnson struggled in 2011 after showing promise in 2010. Paredes hit .286/.320/.393 after taking over the position for the last two months of the season, but he's not seen as a long-term solution. Wallace could be.

Milwaukee Brewers
First base: Mat Gamel vs. himself

With Ryan Braun's status resolved, the Brewers don't really have many question marks. All five starters return, as do its closer and top set-up man. The lineup, with a platoon of Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan and newcomer Aramis Ramirez at third base seems pretty much set -- barring injury. The only hole is a big one -- the one left by first baseman Prince Fielder. The position is Mat Gamel's to lose. The 26-year-old played in just 10 games last season, getting 27 plate appearances. His only extensive big-league experience came in 2009 when he hit .242/.338/.422 with five homers, primarily playing third base. However, he's never been able to establish himself and after playing both third base and the outfield, he played primarily first base at Triple-A Nashville last season, while making six errors in 20 games at third base. He's a first baseman now and a first baseman only. He's hit  well at Triple-A, hitting .301/.374/.512 in parts of four seasons at the top level of the minors, hitting 28 home runs for Nashville last season. Gamel will probably start at first on opening day even if he struggles in spring, but right fielder Corey Hart could be used at first if Gamel struggles even more. The team did sign Japanese outfield Norichika Aoki, who could play right if Hart moves to first.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Third base: Pedro Alvarez vs. Casey McGehee

Acquiring the veteran McGehee from Milwaukee could be seen as a kick in the pants for the second-overall pick of the 2008 draft. Alvarez hit just .191/.272/.289 in 74 games last season and the team may be getting worried about whether he'll ever develop into the star as expected. McGehee is coming off a rough season of his own, hitting just .223/.280/.346 with 13 homers after hitting 23 homers and 104 RBI in 2010. McGehee was replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base during the playoffs and by former Pirate Aramis Ramirez after the season.

St. Louis Cardinals
Second base: Skip Schumaker vs. Daniel Descalso vs. Tyler Greene

General manager John Mozeliak has insinuated he'd like to see Greene win the job. The 28-year-old has yet to produce at the level expected of him, hitting just .218/.307/.313 in 150 games and 359 plate appearances. Descalso filled in for the injured David Freese last season and responded with a .264/.334/.353 line, while Schumaker is the incumbent having hit .283/.333/.351 while starting 89 games at second, but none in the World Series. All three have some positional versatility.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.



Posted on: December 26, 2011 3:31 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2011 3:51 pm
 

Voting for the 2011 MLB Bloggies, Part I



By Matt Snyder


With just a few days left until 2012 brings us a whole new year, it's only fitting to look back at the year that was. Sure, there's an actual baseball season, including spring training, the regular season and the postseason, but things happen nearly every day throughout the entire calendar year. So we're going to create a fake award and call it a Bloggie.

We'll set the table with some nominations and let you, our readers, vote for the winners. This is just Part I. Tuesday, we bring you Part II. Friday, we'll post the winners and our staff picks. Without further ado ...

Best Moment(s) of 2011
No-Hitters: Justin Verlander, Ervin Santana and Francisco Liriano all tossed a no-hitter during the 2011 season, with Verlander doing so for the second time in his career.
10-year anniversary of 9/11: The Cubs and the Mets played the Sunday Night Game on September 11 in New York's Citi Field, with the game itself taking a backseat to the pre-game memorial for the victims and the honoring of service men and women. 
September 28th: Rarely -- if ever -- has the final day of the regular season provided so much drama, as the Cardinals and Rays completed epic comebacks to steal the respective wild cards. Evan Longoria put the cherry on top of an all-around amazing night of baseball with his walk-off home run.
Cooper Stone throws out first pitch: Months after losing his father, Shannon Stone, to a tragic fall, young Cooper Stone threw out the ceremonial first pitch of ALDS Game 1. The catcher? His favorite player, Josh Hamilton, who then embraced Stone just in front of the pitcher's mound.
Game 6: Eleven innings. Nineteen runs. Fifteen pitchers. Beltre and Cruz go deep back-to-back. Freese's triple. Hamilton's homer. Berkman's clutch single. And Freese's walk-off. This was one for the ages in one of the best World Series in recent memory.



Most Historic Milestone
Jeter's 3,000th: On July 9, Derek Jeter hit a home run for hit number 3,000, becoming the 28th player in baseball history to join the elite group.
Thome's 600th: On August 15, Jim Thome went deep twice, the second home run being the 600th of his illustrious career. Only seven other players in big-league history have reached that plateau.
Rivera's 602nd: On September 19, Mariano Rivera locked down the save with ease. It was the 602nd of his career, making him the all-time leader.
Triple Crowned: Verlander led the American League in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Clayton Kershaw pulled off the same feat in the National League. The last time each league had a pitcher take the triple crown was 1924.
Most Valuable: Verlander won both the Cy Young and the AL MVP awards, marking the first time a starting pitcher won the MVP since 1986 and the 10th time in history a player won both the Cy Young and MVP.



Biggest Surprise
The Cardinals: Not only were the eventual World Series champions virtually left for dead in late August, but they went all season without their ace, as Adam Wainwright suffered a season-ending injury in spring training.
The D-Backs: The Arizona Diamondbacks were predicted to finish last in the NL West by nearly everyone. They had finished last the past two seasons, too. But these Snakes came out and won the West by a whopping eight games and took the Brewers to the limit in the NLDS.
The Rays: Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays had won the AL East two of the previous three seasons, but they also lost several key pieces and the payroll was $30 million less than it was in 2010. And the Rays still took the AL wild card from the mighty Red Sox on the final day of the regular season.
Pujols to L.A.: Albert Pujols was a St. Louis Cardinals icon. While he appeared to be flirting with other teams, it only seemed like a ploy to get the Cardinals to pay him more. He wouldn't really leave, would he? Well, he did, signing with the Angels on the final morning of the Winter Meetings.
Marlins' spending spree: For years we've watched the Florida Marlins deal potential high-salary players and be one of the most notoriously frugal clubs around. And then, in less than a week, the newly-named Miami Marlins inked three big-name free agents -- Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle.



Biggest Disappointment -- Individual section
Dunn is done: Adam Dunn has one of the most historically awful offensive seasons ever, and he's a DH. And it was only the first year of a four-year, $56 million contract.
No mo fro? Coco Crisp let his dreads out twice to reveal an incredibly awesome afro. But he didn't stick with it. And, yes, we realize this is a disappointment on a different level, but the Bloggies don't necessarily have to be serious.
Fractured: Marlins bench player Scott Cousins leveled star Giants catcher at home plate, a play in which Posey suffered a season-ending broken leg.
Juiced? NL MVP Ryan Braun failed a drug test and is facing a 50-game suspension, if his appeal is not upheld.



Biggest Disappointment -- Team
Red Sox: You may have heard of a collapse ...
Braves: You may have heard of a collapse ...
Twins: Lots of injuries and underperformance left the two-time defending AL Central champs with 99 losses.
Giants: The defending World Series champs finished eight games back in the NL West and four out in the wild card, sporting one of the worst offenses in baseball.



Most Bush League Moment
Weaver vs. Detroit: Magglio Ordonez watches a home run to see if it's fair or foul. Jered Weaver misinterprets it and thinks he's been shown up, so he has some words for the Tigers. Then Carlos Guillen hits a home run and basically stands still, staring down Weaver. Weaver then threw at Alex Avila and was tossed from the game while screaming at the entire Tigers dugout. You can place blame with Weaver, Guillen or both of them. However you slice it, though, at least one person was far out of line.
Big Z(ero): Carlos Zambrano gets knocked around by the Braves, throws at Chipper Jones -- getting himself ejected -- and then bails on his teammates. Some overheard him talking retirement, but he now is trying to work his way back.
Molina's "spittle:" Yadier Molina may not have intentionally spit on umpire Rob Drake back on August 2, but he did freak out far too much over a called strike and get himself suspended for five games during a pennant race.
Nyjer's mouth: Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan was a polarizing figure all season and that was solidified after the Brewers beat the D-Backs in the NLDS. Morgan was overheard screaming f-bombs right behind a field reporter. OK, maybe he didn't realize it was on live TV. But then when he was summoned for an interview on national TV, he made sure to say it loud and clear right into the microphone.



Worst Call
No pitching inside: Clayton Kershaw was ejected September 14 for (barely) hitting Gerardo Parra with a pitch on the elbow. Kershaw had been seen jawing with Parra the previous night, but he also had a one-hitter going and the pitch wasn't very far inside. It definitely seemed like an overreaction by home plate umpire Bill Welke.
Let's go home: An epic 19-inning game ended on a blown call at home plate by Jerry Meals, calling runner Julio Lugo safe at home and giving the Braves the victory over the Pirates on July 26.
Home run? On August 17, Royals DH Billy Butler hit what appeared to be a double in the gap. It bounced high off the outfield wall, hitting some fencing above padding on the wall. The umpires initially ruled a home run, but the play was put under video review. Replays pretty conclusively showed the ball staying in the park -- even the hometown Kansas City announcers were discussing that when the umpires emerged Butler would be ordered to head to second base. Butler was standing on the top step of the dugout with his helmet on when the umpires emerged and upheld the ruling.
Missed tag: In Game 3 of the World Series, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler made an errant throw that pulled first baseman Mike Napoli off the bag. Napoli made a swipe tag that very clearly got Cardinals baserunner Matt Holliday in time. First base umpire Ron Kulpa, however, blew the call, opening the door to a big inning for the Cardinals.



Biggest "Can't-Look-Away" Character
These don't really need an explanation, so we'll jump right to the poll ...



Coming Tuesday: Part II, including Boneheaded Moves of the Year, Weirdest Injury and Most Impressive Home Run
Coming Friday: Voting results and staff picks

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.



Posted on: November 24, 2011 2:15 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 1:38 pm
 

Homegrown Team: San Diego Padres



By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no waivers, no minor- or major-league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. 

On one end of this spectrum is the team with baseball's highest payroll, the Yankees, and now we'll look at the other end, the San Diego Padres. The Padres have just $16.9 allocated toward its 2012 payroll at the end of the 2011 season, versus the Yankees' $171.5 million. The Padres weren't just at the opposite end of the payroll spectrum as the Yankees, they're also in the other league, the opposite coast and on the other end of the standings, finsihing last in the NL West with a 71-91 record.

Lineup

1. Chase Headley, LF
2. Jason Bartlett, SS
3. David Freese, 3B
4. Derrek Lee, 1B
5. Kyle Blanks, RF
6. Will Venable, CF
7. Nick Hundley, C
8. Logan Forsyth, 2B

Starting Rotation

1. Jake Peavy
2. Mat Latos
3. Tim Stauffer
4. Wade LeBlanc
5. Cory Luebke

Bullpen

Closer - Shawn Camp
Set up - Brandon Gomes, Cesar Ramos, Ryan Webb, Josh Spence, Ernesto Frieri
Long - David Pauley, Anthony Bass

Notable Bench Players

Xavier Nady, George Kottaras

What's Good?

The bullpen may not have a guy that comes in and records a ton of saves, but there are some decent arms to get between the starters to the closer. The rotation isn't terrible -- it's not great, but it's not terrible, and pitching at Petco just about any rotation is going to be at least OK.

What's Not?

Like the real Padres, that lineup isn't going to put up a whole lot of runs. The Padres haven't had an easy time figuring out how to score runs at Petco, no matter where the players come from. Lee would have helped much more in the past than in 2011, and playing at Petco wouldn't have helped him, either. While Bartlett and Lee are good defenders, the rest of this group could struggle, especially with Headley back in the outfield and Veneble in center.  

Comparison to real 2011

Finishing 71-91, the Padres weren't great, but they were probably better than this product. The rotation would hinge on Peavy's health. Peavy managed 18 starts for the White Sox, going 7-7 with a 4.92 ERA. There's no telling what his record would be with the Padres, considering the team's offensive woes, but his ERA would have been lower. Overall, this team isn't scaring anyone and while the record may be different with this team, its place in the standings would likely be the same.

Up next: Minnesota Twins

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 11, 2011 10:43 am
 

What if ... the Cardinals let Pujols walk?

By Matt Snyder

Let's not go crazy about the headline before realizing it's still a longshot that Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols signs elsewhere. Personally, I'd be shocked if he signed with anyone else. Most of the major markets are unable to come through with a huge bid. The Cubs might be able to, but we don't know if the new brain trust wants to take that path immediately (my guess is they don't). The Marlins are meeting with Pujols Friday, but could they afford him? It's doubtful they could come close to paying what St. Louis could. Can the allure of taking his talents to South Beach trump the loyalty, familiarity and dollars of St. Louis? Tough call, but only Pujols could answer that.

Still, let's just imagine a scenario where the Cardinals looked at the price tag internally and thought it best to outwardly appear as if they've done everything they could -- to appease the fans -- but still let Pujols walk via free agency. Obviously losing the best player in baseball would hurt the Cardinals, but I don't think it would be a death blow.

Let's check out what could be done with the money available, should Pujols sign elsewhere.

First of all, Jose Reyes could be signed to play shortstop. The leadoff spot was a bigger problem for the Cardinals than the middle of the order in 2011 (since-retired manager Tony La Russa had to use Ryan Theriot at leadoff in Game 7 of the World Series). Throw money at Reyes and the problem is solved. Plus, with Theriot, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso, there's plenty of infield depth to play with when Reyes serves a few stints on the DL. Jimmy Rollins could be a fall-back option. Next, Mark Buehrle could be signed. Remember, he grew up a Cardinals fan and has expressed interest in pitching for St. Louis in the past.

That means the Cardinals best lineup would be something like this:

1. Jose Reyes (or Rollins), SS
2. Allen Craig, RF
3. Matt Holliday, LF
4. Lance Berkman, 1B
5. David Freese, 3B
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Jon Jay, CF
8. Punto/Theriot/Schumaker/Descalso, 2B

The starting rotation now includes a fully recovered Adam Wainwright, so it looks like this:

1. Adam Wainwright
2. Chris Carpenter
3. Mark Buehrle
4. Jaime Garcia
5. Kyle Lohse

Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn and top prospect Shelby Miller are available in case of injury. And the bullpen is largely the same as it was toward the end of last season, with Jason Motte now getting a full season as closer.

I tell you what, that's a pretty damn good team. Sure, there are questions, like how are Freese and Craig going to hit over the course of a 162-game season as regulars? In moving Berkman to first and starting Craig, the bench loses a valuable bat, too. Age has to be a concern with Berkman and Carpenter. And of course, how does everyone respond without La Russa? Overall, though, there isn't much to dislike about that hypothetical team.

Considering what Pujols' salary might do to the ballclub if he's making $25 million or more eight years from now -- he'll turn 32 in January -- maybe it wouldn't be so bad for St. Louis if he did leave. It's certainly worth considering (again, internally, as to not alienate Pujols himself or any of the fans). I'd at least talk about it, and I'm guessing the front office has done so as well.

To reiterate, I don't think Pujols is going anywhere, but we're smack-dab in the time of the year that hypotheticals are the most fun.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 30, 2011 9:10 pm
 

Eye on Photos: World Series parade for Cardinals

By Matt Snyder

The 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals had their parade Sunday in the areas surrounding Busch Stadium and then ended up inside for even more celebration with their fans. Here are some pictures from the event.

Also, other than the parade, here's some related news: Anheiser-Busch has named a newly-born clydesdale "La Russa." Click here to see pictures on the AB website.

But anyway, check out the pictures below. Click on any individual picture for a full size.

Owner Bill DeWitt Jr. shows off his new trophy. (AP) Plenty of fans were basking in the glory. (AP)
How early did she have to get there to end up in the front row? (AP) That would be World Series MVP David Freese (black sweatshirt and hat backwards) in the front truck. (AP)
Amazing turnout, remember, the stadium is full, too. (AP) Freese gets a key to the city from St. Louis mayor Francis Slay. (AP)
Fireworks, confetti, a view of the Gateway Arch ... (AP) Tony La Russa, Octavio Dotel and Albert Pujols share a laugh on stage. (AP)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 5:04 pm
 

Game 7 dominates in ratings, plus more stats

Fans

By Evan Brunell


While Game 7's St. Louis victory over Texas to win the World Series wasn't nearly as exciting as Game 6, baseball capitalized on the amazing Game 6 to soar even higher in ratings. Game 7 improved from Game 6's 21.1 million to over 25 million for Game 7, making it the most watched baseball game since 2004 when the Red Sox ended their 86-season drought. Excluding the 2004 World Series, you have to go all the way back to Game 7 of the 2002 World Series for similar ratings -- the last Series before 2011 to go the maximum number of games.

In total, Fox received a 14.7 household rating, which brings the average of all Series games to 10.0, 19 percent higher than 2010's Series played by Texas and San Francisco... and S.F. has twice the TV households as compared to St. Louis In the coveted ages 18-49 demographic, Fox scored big with a 6.8, besting the other four networks combined and gave the network the best Friday its ever had. It's also the highest-rated Friday since the 2010 Winter Olympics. While ratings were strong from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., it was from 10 to 11 p.m. that dominated the most, with 24.77 million viewers. Those are pretty good numbers given it was a Friday night and the Cardinals/Rangers series was not a TV network's dream matchup.

While we're dealing with numbers, let's take a look at some more, dealing with the World Seres...

There were plenty of parallels to the 2002 World Series, the last Series to go seven games before 2011. In that series, the Angels took down the Giants despite the potent bats of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent carrying the load for San Francisco. In fact, until Albert Pujols and Allen Craig matched the feat, Bonds and Kent were the last set of teammates to have three or more homers in a single World Series. Pujols and Craig are now the sixth to do so.

There's more 2002 World Series-related stuff, don't worry. For one, David Freese broke the postseason record for RBI, driving in 21 across three series. Prior to Game 7, Freese was tied with Sandy Alomar, Jr. (1997), David Ortiz (2004) and Scott Speizio of the Angels, from 2002.

One more 2002-related tidbit... Matt Harrison lasted four or less innings for the second straight time in a World Series during Game 7. That was the first time since Livan Hernandez repeated the same feat for San Francisco in 2002. Here's a better trivia answer for Hernandez. Before Freese won the NLCS and World Series MVP, the last person to win a LCS and World Series MVP was Livan Hernandez, who did it for the 1997 Marlins. The last position player? None other than Darrell Porter, who did it for the Cards in 1982.

Here are some other assorted facts about the postseason...
  • St. Louis won its 11th World Series and twice in the 21st century. It's their third NL pennant of the 21st century, and also Tony La Russa's third title (one other with the Athletics). He is just one of nine managers to accomplish the feat.
  • The home team has now won nine straight Game 7s and St. Louis has participated in four of them (1982, '85, '87 are the other years). They have eight Game 7 wins, tops among any team.
  • The Cardinals grounded into 15 double plays in the postseason. That's the fourth-most ever in a postseason, tied with the aforementioned '97 Marlins. Texas also tied a record for most walks allowed in a World Series with 40, matching those same Marlins.
  • The Rangers blew three saves during Game 6. That's tied for the most they've ever had in one game since moving to Texas.
  • There were 38 postseason games played, tying the all-time high set in 2003. There is only a possible 43 games that can be played. A record 13 were decided by one run.
  • Chris Carpenter threw a total of 273 1/3 innings over the whole year, regular season and postseason combined. He is the second pitcher in the last 20 years to make three starts in a Fall Classic, matching Curt Schilling's Diamondbacks in 2001.
  • Texas was the first team to score in the top of the first inning in a Game 7 since the Athletics in 1972.
  • The Cardinals won the last game of 2011. They are slated to play the first game of 2012 stateside, as there is a series in Japan between the A's and Mariners. The team will to face the Miami (nee Florida) Marlins in their new park on April 4.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Posted on: October 29, 2011 1:22 am
Edited on: October 29, 2011 3:19 am
 

Humble, formerly unknown Freese takes MVP

By Matt Snyder

ST. LOUIS -- Did you know who David Freese was back at the start of the season? If so, you are likely a Cardinals fan, die-hard baseball fan or fantasy baseball player. Of the surely 25 million-plus people who watched Game 7 of the World Series, I'm guessing a majority of them hadn't heard of Mr. Freese back in April. But everyone knows him now. He's the World Series MVP just as he was the NLCS MVP.

Even to Freese himself, this improbable run for his team with him becoming a national star doesn't even seem real.

"I'm trying to soak this all in," he said after the game. "I've tried to soak in this whole postseason as much as I can because you never know if it's your last attempt at a title. You know, it's going to take me a little bit, I think, to realize what we've accomplished."

What Freese's team accomplished has been well documented. It's a great story, but Cardinals fans themselves have to be sick of hearing about being 10 1/2 games out in late August. So let's zero in on Freese. He went 25-for-63 (.397) with eight doubles, a triple, five home runs and 21 RBI in the Cardinals' 18 postseason games. He had an OPS near 1.300. Those are video game stats he was putting up in front of millions. He's a rock star now.

Heading into the postseason, it was the "big three" of Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman to avoid. Well, when that happened, the opposing teams were made to pay by a modest 28-year-old third baseman. But he just wants to let you know that he shouldn't be getting too much individual glory.

"I've had plenty of days of my life where I thought I wouldn't be even close to being a Big Leaguer," he said. "I'm here because of everybody around me. They've put so much trust in me to accomplish not only baseball but just stuff in life, and to do this is -- I'm just full of joy, finally."

World Series Coverage
As well he should be. Freese's team is one of the most improbable champions of all-time. Freese was the walk-off hero of a Game 6 that will go down in history as one of the most exciting games of all-time. The entire World Series, meanwhile, was one of the most exciting in recent memory. On top of all that, Freese is also etched in history by winning both an LCS and World Series MVP. He joins Willie Stargell (1979), Darrell Porter (1982), Orel Hershisher (1988), Livan Hernandez (1997) and Cole Hamels (2008) as the only men to ever win both awards in the same postseason.

Just don't tell the humble Freese he earned the award on his own.

"I've got some guys behind me, and obviously a few guys ahead of me in the lineup that I just sit and watch and I learn and I soak up everything they do, from Spring Training on. I'm with Matt Holliday every day in the offseason. He took me under his wing a couple years ago when things weren't too hot, and he's a big brother to me. I owe him everything."

Well, not everything. In fact, it's the other way around. If Freese doesn't come through time and again, the Cardinals don't win the World Series. He most certainly fits the bill of the most valuable player, even if he doesn't want to acknowledge it.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 29, 2011 12:55 am
 

2011 World Champs: St. Louis Cardinals



By Matt Snyder


Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever -- this time around it's the St. Louis Cardinals. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: St. Louis Cardinals
Record: 90-72, 2nd place in NL Central, NL wild card winner. Won NLDS 3-2 over Phillies, won NLCS 4-2 over Brewers, won World Series over Rangers 4-3.
Manager: Tony La Russa
Best hitter: Albert Pujols -- .299/.366/.541, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 105 R, 9 SB
Best pitcher: Chris Carpenter -- 11-9, 3.45 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 191 K, 237.1 IP

2011 SEASON RECAP

The Cardinals entered the spring as the favorite in the wide-open NL Central, but nearly immediately lost ace Adam Wainwright to a torn ulnar-collateral ligament. So he underwent Tommy John surgery and the Cardinals were largely written off as a serious threat to the Brewers and the defending division champion Reds. A 2-6 start didn't help matters, especially with Matt Holliday having to undergo an appendectomy. Oh, and Pujols was struggling out of the gate. But a change at the back-end of the bullpen and Lance Berkman's re-emergence as a big-time slugger helped straighten things out. By the end of April, the Cardinals were 16-11 and in first place. A bad June and mediocre July weren't enough to bury the Cardinals, but the Brewers huge surge in August seemed to end the postseason hopes for St. Louis. There was no catching Milwaukee. The Cardinals finished 23-9 and ran down the Braves in the wild card, advancing into the playoffs when the Braves lost in extra innings on the final day of the regular season. The fun times extended all the way until the World Series, as the Cardinals took down by the Phillies and Brewers en route to their 18th NL championship. An insane comeback in Game 6 of the World Series paved the way for the Cardinals 11th World Championship.

FREE AGENTS

Yadier Molina, C (club option)
Gerald Laird, C
Albert Pujols, 1B
Rafael Furcal, SS (club option)
Nick Punto, IF utility
Corey Patterson, OF
Edwin Jackson, SP
Arthur Rhodes (club option)
Octavio Dotel (club option)

2012 AUDIT

Everything boils down to what happens with Pujols. If the Cardinals can re-sign him, they'll have essentially the same team in 2012 as they had in 2011, but with a healthy Adam Wainwright taking Edwin Jackson's vacated spot in the rotation -- there's no way they'll have enough money to keep Jackson after extending Berkman and Carpenter while keeping Pujols, Wainwright and Molina. Obviously, if the Cardinals do come back with a similar team and Wainwright is healthy you can expect them to once again be a big-time playoff contender. 

OFFSEASON FOCUS

The biggest focus will be to retain Pujols and I firmly believe they will. What they have to do in order to get him to stay dictates flexibility elsewhere, but most of the biggest questions have already been answered. Carpenter, Berkman and Wainwright are locked up. Holliday already was. It actually seems like a sound strategy. Instead of taking maybe a few months to get Pujols' deal done and then trying to pick up the spare parts, the Cardinals know their budget and what their roster will look like around Pujols. It's one of the many reasons I believe they'll get him. There's obviously a plan in place.
  • Molina's option should and will be picked up.
  • There's not going to be enough money left to do much in the middle infield. They likely can't afford to pick up Furcal's option, so it's going to be some combination of Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso, which is serviceable considering the strength of the rest of the lineup. Maybe they get Furcal to come back on a cheap one-year deal? He reportedly wants to stay and it's not like his value is sky-high.
  • David Freese (3B) and Jon Jay (CF) are going to be the everyday players all season, and both are plenty adequate in their current roles -- especially postseason hero Freese. Jason Motte will also be the full-time closer all season after showing he can do the job down the stretch. These are all full-season upgrades.
  • Keep an eye on Shelby Miller. Jake Westbrook is only going to be a bridge to when Miller can join the rotation. The 20-year-old right-hander was 9-3 with a 2.70 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 86 2/3 Double-A innings this season. It's very possible he's ready to get a shot by June or July. And maybe the Cardinals even plug Lance Lynn in the rotation instead of Westbrook at some point anyway. Expect Lynn to be used as insurance for injury issues -- or even to save Wainwright's arm a bit -- early in the season.
  • If Pujols doesn't re-sign, the possibilities are nearly endless. They'll have a chunk of money to play with an a desperate need to upgrade the offense. Maybe go after Jose Reyes to set the table for Holliday, Berkman and Freese? The non-signing of Pujols is a bridge we'll cross if it actually happens, because at this point I just don't see him not going back to St. Louis.
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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com