Will Carroll
Tuesday March 1st, 2011

The Cardinals are an intriguing mix of old and new, with a little bit of drama spun in. While everyone is focused on the negotiations to keep Albert Pujols in St. Louis, the Cardinals have built a team with a risk profile that seems a bit schizophrenic. That could be explained by all their behind-the-scenes moves this offseason. There was a ton of turnover in the front office, but one small, likely unnoticed move was injury guru Sig Mejdal's shift over to a newly created job of "Director of Draft Analysis." Mejdal's work on quantitative analysis of injuries is second-to-none, but his last few years seem to have been focused more on player acquisition and the development of a software platform for scouting data. In the Training Room, longtime Head Trainer and Tony La Russa stalwart Barry Weinberg was "demoted" to Assistant Trainer, elevating Greg Hauck to the head position. No one outside the Cards organization seems to be clear on how this will really change things, if at all, or has any real idea on why this change occurred. It could be as simple as a transition for Weinberg, easing his way towards retirement, though many tried to read the tea leaves on what it meant for La Russa. We simply won't know until we start seeing the results. It's one area where not seeing anything on the outside is actually a positive result for the Cards. The risk profile of the team is very up and down, with a mix of very high risk players like Lance Berkman and a collection of low risk players that should minimize the chance of a "death spiral," which is my term for the increase in injuries that almost follows a power law. Get enough injuries going and even the Cards' three-man training staff can get overwhelmed, leading to a lack of observation and prevention time, which then vicious-cycles itself to more injuries. It's likely to be a dramatic season in St. Louis whichever way all of this goes, but unless they stay healthy, it's not the kind of drama that Cardinals fans will enjoy.

(HEAD TRAINER: Greg Hauck; FIVE YEAR RANK: 17; 2010 RANK: 8)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
GREEN LIGHT
C Yadier Molina
Green-rated catchers are tough to find. While Molina's not indestructible or indefatigable, he is really good at what he does. Unlike a Joe Mauer or Carlos Santana, moving Molina out from behind the plate wouldn't help the team even with the decreased risk of injury.

1B Albert Pujols
Pujols comes in to his contract year as healthy as he's ever been. If those two facts don't scare NL Central pitchers, I don't know what does. Oh this might -- Pujols altered his off-season workouts to focus on his legs in hopes that he can generate more power in his swing.

2B Skip Schumaker
The move to second base has worked out better than anyone expected. If he's over the wrist injuries that he fought all of last season, expect his offensive production to go up.

SP Adam Wainwright
Wainwright's out for the year, but this green reminds us that it doesn't mean without risk, just low risk. Sometimes, you roll the hard eight. A green can get hurt and a red can stay healthy. We deal in probabilities, not absolutes, when we analyze humans.

SP Jake Westbrook
Westbrook's not that risky and is precisely the kind of pitcher that succeeds with Dave Duncan. He's a sleeper for me this season.

Also Green:
SS Ryan Theriot
CF Colby Rasmus
RF Matt Holliday
RP Jason Motte
YELLOW LIGHT
SP Chris Carpenter
Carpenter's been pretty solid over the term of his expensive extension, competing for Cy Young Awards when healthy. In the last guaranteed year of that extension, and as risky as ever, Carpenter could be trade bait by the deadline if he's healthy and if Lance Lynn looks ready.

CL Ryan Franklin
La Russa's loyalty to his closer keeps the bullpen set in a way that might be more advantageous than moving the more effective Motte to closer. It still surprises me that people are surprised that pitchers like Franklin who have used steroids in the past show signs of fatigue earlier than they did pre-testing.
RED LIGHT
3B David Freese
Freese lost much of last season to ankle injuries and a toe problem that seemed to contribute. He also lost much of his preseason competition along the way, so the job's his unless La Russa develops a Gardenhire-like Nick Punto addiction. If Freese doesn't stay completely healthy, he'll be enabling.

LF Lance Berkman
Berkman's signing continues to confound many, including myself. Even with Matt Holliday shifting to RF, Berkman's knees are going to be taxed by a full season in the field. If he's a placeholder or platoon partner for John Jay, he's an expensive and risky one. There's Allen Craig and then ? not much, so depth is an issue.

SP Kyle Lohse
Lohse missed much of the season with a hard-to-diagnose forearm injury. Once it was finally corrected, he came back to level very quickly. It's a good sign but since there's not very many comparables and since he's not exactly durable in the best of times, the red-level risk is very real and the reward is limited.

SP Jaime Garcia
Garcia was great, until he hit a workload wall at around 150 innings. That was to be expected and the Cards handled him smartly, but he has had elbow and shoulder problems in the past. The jump to 180 or 190 is going to be fraught with the same kinds of risk and the chance that the league has adjusted to him.

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