Thursday, June 12, 2008

With Soriano and Pujols out, how will Cubs and Cards manage?

On the outside, the two injuries may seem vastly different. But on the inside, they both make managers and teammates cringe at the thought. A broken hand and calf strain both strenuously force the human body to take a backseat to all physical activities - including the game of baseball.

The two teams battling for National League Central supremacy, the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, both now face serious setbacks in their race for the division crown.

Tuesday night, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols suffered a Grade I-II strain of the calf in his left leg. Wednesday night, Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano suffered a broken hand after being hit by a pitch by Atlanta Braves pitcher Jeff Bennett. In the end, both teams have been through the same type of scenario to survive.

We'll start with the Cubbies. In his short stint with the Cubs, Soriano has been placed on the DL three times, including stint this season. During that, the Cubs had a record of 9-5, and hit .312. The left fielder's batting average was .231.

The Cubs should have enough versatility to keep their 2.5 game lead in the Central division even without Soriano. They have proved, last season and this season, that they can continuously put up six or seven runs a game without their star player. Now, Soriano only missed 14 games back in April, this time he will be out six weeks.

Manager Lou Pinella is expected to move shortstop Ryan Theriot into the leadoff spot. Mark DeRosa, who plays second base when Soriano is in, can play left field replacing Soriano. Mike Fontenot can play second base, platooning with Reed Johnson, who off and on plays center field with Jim Edmonds.

If the Cubs can use their versatility to their advantage, and keep Kosuke Fukudome, DeRosa, Derrek Lee, and Geovany Soto playing at the same level they have been, the north-siders can welcome Soriano back with a lead in the NL Central division.

For the Cardinals, they face a tougher task. By now we should all know that Albert Pujols is impossible to replace. But, like Soriano, he has been on the DL before and the Cardinals managed, going 8-7 back in 2006 (they won the World Series that year) and scoring 5.6 runs per game. The Cardinals are also very well managed by Tony La Russa.

La Russa will find a way to keep the young team composed. As proven before, playing the "heroes" role is not a good option during times like this. They need to keep playing the way they have been playing - high on-base percentage and solid defense.

It's not like they'll fall below .500, they're 13 games over. With a team that boasts La Russa as manager, all-star hopefuls Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick, and veteran third baseman Troy Glaus, the red birds should manage even without Pujols.

With both of these guys out, it only fuels the fire of the compelling battle that is the National League Central.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think that Soriano's injury really affects the Cubs, and Pujols' injury doesn't affect the Cardinals to a negative degree. Pujols was already playing with an injury that should have required surgery, and he's still hit 16 home runs. Soriano has been a hot bat for us, but I think we can make up for it with either Reed Johnson, Mark DeRosa, Eric Patterson or Matt Murton. As for the Cardinals, they've been a surprise team, at least in my book, and I expect this to be the time that they taper off some, although it didn't appear so yesterday when they beat Cincinnati 10-0.