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2010 season end report card

With the Cardinals four losses, four Reds wins or any combinaton thereof from being ejected from the playoff picture, I think it's safe to say we can put a wrap on 2010. So, Let's go ahead and get the players graded, finish playing out the string and start looking wistfully toward 2011.

These grades are based on the player's individual performance and contribution to the team, not their relative value in comparison to others on the team.

3 - Felipe Lopez
  -- He came to the Cardinals party late with a chance to be a super utility guy. And that chance blossomed into an opportunity to be a defacto starter when leadoff man Skip Schumaker falterered and the Birds sought a productive bat at the top of the order. Lopez never really got hot. But his season unraveled when he spent the better part of the month on the disabled after hurting his arm working a blowout as a mop up pitcher. After he returned to the lineup, Lopez was never a guy who even resembled the .300-plus hitter he was last season. And his fielder, shaky to begin with, sank to godawful levels. Later we learned that Lopez couldn't be bothered to even show up on time for games and he was released with two weeks to go in the season. Good luck finding a better job next year, Flip.  (Expelled, F)

4 - Yadier Molina -- Yadi went through a terrible slump right around the all-star break and seemed as if he was going to suffer a complete meltdown. But he gets a lot of credit for righting the ship -- even reversing the negative trend to get red hot for a while and return his numbers to the vicinity of his career averages. He's not as flashy defensively as he once was. But that's not his fault. Runners rarely stray far enough from first base anymore for Molina to pick them off, his signature play. But what is sacrificed in flash pays off in substance. When runners try to steal. He's nabbed 33 out of 68 baserunners who have tried to steal against him this year, nailing 49 percent of them. In 2008 he got 35 percent of them and in 2009 it was 41 percent. I have to mark him down a little bit because the guy is a double play machine with runners on base. But he is pretty productive for such a strong defensive catcher. (B)

5 - Albert Pujols
-- In many ways Albert Pujols is having his worst season at the plate. He's batting 24 points below his career average and seven points behind his previously worst season in terms of batting average, 2002. That being said, this is a down season for offense across baseball. And Albert's numbers have been good enought to keep him in contention for a possible triple crown bid into the last six weeks of the 2010 campaign. Simply put, he's having a sub par season by Albert Pujols standards. But he's still one of the best players -- if not the best -- in the major leagues and he deserves to be graded as such. (A-)

7 - Matt Holliday -- He's the $120-million man that people seem to love to hate. And he's earned some of the criticism. Holliday has popped up or struck out quite a bit in situations where he has been asked to do his primary job -- make other teams pay for pitching around Pujols. There's no doubt that some of the problem has been Holliday trying to justify the mega deal the Cardinals signed him to last off-season. He hit much better after an early season meeting with agent Scott Boras -- .284 in April compared to .324 in May. In the second half he has hit even better than that -- .300 before the All-Star Break. 332 after it. I am very hopeful that Holliday will come to camp in the spring settled into his contract and will consistently hit all year long, finally being the elite player the Birds paid for. (B+)

8 - Allen Craig -- He's mashed the ball in Class AAA Memphis. But he seems to sputter every time he's called up. Maybe Craig isn't the next Brett Wallace. Judging from the lack of interest in him at the trade deadline, I'd say so. The Cardinals toyed with the idea of giving Craig a chance at third base after David Freese was injured and Lopez flamed out. But the only chance he had in the field, he booted and the expirament was quickly abandoned. I don't see him having a place in the Cardinals' crowded outfield picture if the GM follows through on his vow to improve the batting order. Being a pinch hitter doesn't appear to be Craig's cup of tea. (C)

12 - Aaron Miles -- For some reason he can't play anywhere else in the majors. But there is little doubt that Miles was a valuable utility piece for the Cardinals. He's hit a respectable .289 and played second, short and third base. I'm not sure what the future holds, however. Miles is one of those guys you might like to have around. But he's not a guy who is going to generate a lot of demand. If he is brought back, it will be as the 25th man. There are many higher priorities. B-

13 - Brendan Ryan
-- I had high hopes for Ryan as the spring tolled around. But I just couldn't shake worries about him because of his flaky and jumpy personality. This was the first time Ryan was being counted on. In the past he was gravy. How would he work out as the main entree at the most important position in the infield? Sadly, the answer is not well. Ryan struggled to hit .200 well into July and lost his starting job for a while because he simply brought nothing to the plate. When he did play, his defense suffered. Ryan has spectacular range that teases Cardinals fans with his potential. But he has an uncanny ability to botch the routine play, which is why he has committed 16 errors with two weeks to go in the season. Will he settle in next season and be the player we hope he can? I wouldn't be willing to bet on it. The Cardinals, at the very least, need a solid backup who can play a lot of pressed into service. C-

15 - Jon Jay -- In spring training the Cardinals never seemed to give Jay a chance. And that has always perplexed me because he hit at every level of the minors. He may not have the upside of Colby Rasmus. But he has more potential to be a leadoff man than any other major league player in the St. Louis system. He's a bit of a diamond in the rough in the field. But he doesn't do a bad job anywhere in the outfield that he has been asked to play. Do I think he's the .380 hitter he was for his first month in the majors? No. But I think he could be a .300-hitting fourth outfielder. Or the Cardinals could press him into service as a cheap regular if they spend to find a fifth place hitter at another position. He gave the Cardinals a spark when he played and did everything he was asked. B

16 - Bryan Anderson
-- He didn't really get enough chances to play to give the guy a fair grade. But Anderson rehabbed his faded star quite a bit by proving he can be productive at the major league level. That's good, since the Birds will be looking for a backup catcher with the retirement of Jason LaRue. B

19 - Matt Pagnozzi
-- Same as Anderson. He didn't get a lot of opportunity to play. But in the handful of at bats he had, he was unexpectedly productive. Pagnozzi will battle it out with Anderson for the backup job next season. He may have the edge as the stronger defensive player. OR... the Cardinals might shuttle Anderson and Pagnozzi back and forth to Memphis and use them both. B

21 - Jason LaRue -- He was a steady understudy for Molina. But LaRue's season was unforgivably cut short by Johnny Cuetto during the brawl in Cincinnati. The longtime backstop could recover from post concussion symtoms over the winter. But he seems resigned to calling it a career. B

23 - David Freese
-- The Cardinals third baseman was shaky with the glove early on, although he steadied a little bit as the season entered May and June... Still, it's not a good thing when your defense is compared unfavorably to Troy Glaus. I have serious concerns about Freese's durability when he missed nearly 3/4 of the last two seasons. Serious ankle problems aren't easily overcome. I think the Birds would be well advised to come up with a Plan B at the hot corner. Incomplete

26 - Kyle Lohse
-- He claimed he was healthy in spring training after getting hit by a line drive on the forearm in 2009 and never being the same afterwards. But he was terrible from the start in 2010 and eventually had to have an unusual surgery to get back on the field. Since his return, he has generally been okay for a couple of innings and then terrible after that. Hopefully he can get his stamina back and be an effective third or fourth starter in 2011. He's going to be making more than $12 million per year for each of the next two seasons. So we can only hope. Meanwhile, his 4-7 record with a 6.75 ERA leaves MUCH to be desired. D-

27 - Tyler Greene -- Again, he didn't get much of a chance. Which is a shock with the way the whole Lopez thing played out. Greene doesn't seem to have much of a place in the Cardinals plans, even as a utilityman. C-

28 - Colby Rasmus -- Sandwiched around his request to be traded, Rasmus started out like a house of fire but later the only heat he could generate was in the the strikeout column. Rasmus has a world a talent, but he is stubborn and selfish in his play. He won't hit the other way (at least not on purpose) at any cost and because of it he is very vulnerable to outside pitching. I have also grown weary of his fragility, taking any kind of suggestion or criticism as a personal attack. Rasmus really needs to change his attitude -- or else I think a change of scenery would be for the best. The Cardinals can't afford to dump him for the sake of dumping him. Consider it more along the lines of trying to get a return while his value is at its highest. Despite his shortcomings, Rasmus hit for a respectable -- if not spectacular -- batting average and had pretty good power numbers. GM John Mozeliak said the team won't trade Rasmus. But what else is he going to say? C

29 - Chris Carpenter -- It has become pretty obvious that Carp isn't the pitcher he was five years ago. He nibbles more instead of taking on hitters head on. And that's probably because he has lost a little bit of giddyup on the old fastball. But, that being said, he's still one of the top 10-20 pitchers in the National League. And he could have been a Cy Young Award contender if he was on a team that could score with any sort of regularity. It is a thing of beauty to watch Carpenter pitch when he's right. Fortunately his last start against Colorado will help us to remember that. Carp started 35 games for the Birds this season, tied for tops in the NL. A-

30 - Jason Motte
-- He's made a lot of progress -- for a work in progress... But Motte still needs to develop a consistent second or third pitch. He's done pretty well with a limited arsenal. B

31 - Ryan Franklin -- Is he overworked or underworked? It's hard to tell. But over the last two years Franklin either has it or he doesn't. He was obsurdly hot in the first half of 2009 and obsurdly bad the last month and a half. In 2010 he's been somewhere in between. His numbers are decent. But I admit that I still have an uneasy feeling seeing him enter the game with less than a three-run lead. C

33 - Brad Penny
-- He started off the season looking iike he could be the Cardinals' third ace. But he only lasted nine starts before a muscle strain put him on the shelf for at least one start. One start? He never made it back. That's some muscle strain. The Cardinals overpaid for the fragile starter who only has pitched as many as 200 innings twice in his career. Was it a freak injury that cost him this season? Yes. But he has to take responsibility for his production shortcomings. D

34 - Nick Stavinoha -- He had a red hot spring but couldn't carry it over to when the games started to count. He managed only 120 or so at bats and spent time on the disabled list to play himself out of the outfield picture. He put together a .261 average with two homers and nine RBIs. D

35 - Jake Westbrook
-- He pitched pretty well after arriving from Cleveland in a controversial trade deadline deal. Westbrook had a few rough patches. But he got ground balls in bunches. The Cardinals seem to be interested in bringing Westbrook back hoping he can improve on his 3-4 record with a 3.88 ERA with more offensive support. B+

36 - Dennys Reyes --
He was 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA, whoch doesn't appear bad on the surface. But Reyes was terrible in the second half of the season. Opponents hit .218 against him before the All-Star Game and have hit .300 against him with a .375 on base percentage since. He missed a nice chunk of the second half with an injury. I wonder if his complete lack of physical fitness could have something to do with him hitting the wall. C-

37 - Jeff Suppan --
This is a tough grade to hand out. He's only 2-6 with a 4.20 ERA for St. Louis after getting released by the Brewers. But it wasn't really expected that Suppan would set the world on fire after his arrival. He was brought on board to help the Redbirds survive the loss of Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse by eating up innings and giving the team a chance to win a few games every fifth day. To that extent, he did his job fairly well. C

41 - Mitchell Boggs --
He's 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA and has held opponents to a .245 batting average. Boggs is making strides. But, with his power stuff, I'd like to see him be more dominant and make a run at the closer's role. B

43 - Trever Miller --
Miller has pitched for two years with a bum shoulder and lately he's started to show it. He seems afraid of his stuff and too many times comes in to face a tough lefty only to walk him or be forced to grove a pitch because he's behind in the count. Unfortunately, his option has vested and he'll be on the payroll next season, like it or not. He is 0-1 with a 4.08 ERA. D

44 - Randy Winn --
He was signed by the Cardinals after being released by the Yankees and batted a combined .243 with four homers. He played below average defense and offered little threat at the plate. He was almost useless from the right side with a .184 batting average. D

46 - Kyle McClellan --
He allowed 57 hits in 75 2/3 innings with a 2.32 ERA and held opposing batters to a .210 average. McClellan had his best year in the majors and figures to be a key part of the St. Louis bullpen in 2011 -- if not a member of the starting rotation. A

47 - Ryan Ludwick
-- Ludwick struggled with injuries before being dealt to the Padres at the deadline. His true value could be seen after he left when the Birds's offense fell on its face. His presence in the clubhouse was also missed. If Ludwick was still a Cardinal, things might have ended very differently. B

48 - Mike MacDougal --
The Cardinals liked what they saw from the former Royals closer when he became available late in the season. But MacDougal struggled terribly after a decent start with a 7.11 ERA and a .295 batting average against. D

50 - Adam Wainwright --
2010 was the year that the student became the master. While Chris Carpenter still pitches at a very high level, Adam Wainwright is now the best pitcher on the staff and the team ace. Wainwright finally hit the 20 win plateau this season after the bullpen cost him his 20th in 2009. A

53 - Blake Hawksworth --
He was 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA late in 2009 and looked like he could be a major bullpen find. But, splitting time between the bullpen and the starting rotation as the Birds struggled to fill the holes left by Penny and Lohse's health problems, he couldn't find the consistency and is 4-8 in 2010 with a 4.98 ERA. Definitely a step backward. Hopefully he'll be able to concentrate on the bullpen in 2011. C

54 - Jaime Garcia
-- He wasn't expected to make the team out of the spring no matter how well he pitched because he was coming off of Tommy John surgery and the Birds wanted him to take things slow. But Garcia was fantastic from day one and was the biggest positive surprise of 2010. He's got poise of a grizzled veteran and a great arsenal of pitches. A

55 - Skip Schumaker -- Playing out of position at second base and perhaps over his head as the Cardinals' leadoff man, Schumaker hit only .266 after getting off to a terrible start. He made 16 errors at second base and needs to go back to playing in the outfield where he is an above average defender. C

59 - Fernando Salas
-- He rode the Memphis shuttle back and forth all season. But Salas got into 26 games and held opponents to a .241 batting average with a 3.45 ERA. B

77 - Pedro Feliz
-- The answer to a really stupid question, the Cardinals gave up a decent prospect to the Astros to get the .221 hitting Feliz after David Freese went down for the season. Feliz announced upon arrival that he was glad to get a chance to play everyday in St. Louis because he wanted to prove he isn't a .221 hitter. He was right. Since coming to the Cardinals he has been a .218 hitter. NEXT! D