NL Central Questions & Answers: St. Louis Cardinals

This is Obstructed View’s 4th interview with an NL Central blogger that we’re posting this week. Steve Sommer of Gashouse Graphs has taken some time to answer these questions and I’m most appreciative. We’ll have our final interview (Pirates) tomorrow evening after the Cubs/Pirates game.

Obstructed View: Cubs fans are all too familiar with Ryan Theriot. Aside from the 2008 season the team was probably better off without him in the lineup. What do the Cardinals see in him? What are your thoughts on the signing?

Steve Sommer: I think the Cardinals saw him as someone that wasn’t Brendan Ryan.  They believed that Ryan didn’t take the game serious enough and thus had to go.  Theriot was available cheaply and is the kind of player that Tony loves.  I’m not a big fan of the deal.  With a pitch to contact philosophy and pitching staff suited to that philosophy I’m not a big fan of trading plus-plus defense for average at best defense and a slight offensive upgrade.

Obstructed View: Gotta ask it. Is Pujols staying or going?

Steve Sommer: Honestly I’m 50/50 right now.  I think management realizes that they will have to make a big time offer, and they will make a close to market rate offer.  That said I think they also know that there is a line that they probably shouldn’t cross, even for Albert.

Obstructed View: Is the issue between LaRussa and Colby Rasmus over or is going to pop up again this season?

Steve Sommer: It will probably pop up, but I do not think it will be as big of a deal as in years past.  I think Tony will unnecessarily sit him against the occasional lefty, but on the whole I think they will coexist just fine.  Colby’s the third best position player on the team by a decent margin, and I think even Tony will see that this season.

Obstructed View: How important was the loss of Adam Wainwright and do the Cardinals have the ability to replace his expected production?

Steve Sommer: It’s huge.  It’s probably a 3-4 win loss, which in a division like this will definitely impact their playoff chances.  They won’t replace his production.  I think McClellan will do ok, but best case scenario is he’ll log ~50-60 less innings than Wainwright would have at a one run higher ERA.  While that’s still a pretty good year for a guy making the reliever-starter transition, it’s still not Wainwright type production.

Obstructed View: Are the Cardinals going to contend?  What has to happen for them to be in that position? 

Steve Sommer: I think they’ll be in the race as I think all of the teams are flawed in some way.  I don’t see any team really distancing themselves from the rest of the division.  Just like the rest of the teams in the division, the primary thing they need to contend is health.  They have some decent depth in certain spots, but they cannot sustain many injuries and hope to stay in the race.  I think they also need to have an unexpected year out of at least one of the middle infielders.

Obstructed View: How do you think the NL Central ends up 2011?

Steve Sommer: I’ve gone on record saying the Reds will win the division.  I think they have the most balanced team in terms of offense, defense (where they really stand out from the other teams), and pitching.  I think the entire division will be a fight to the finish between the Reds, Brewers, Cards, and probably the Cubs too and will likely be decided by which team is the most fortunate.