So, the blog is my opinion on the Saint Louis Cardinals review of 2009 so far and the outlook for the remaining season.
Well, what's not to like about a 19-11 team who is leading their division? I know a lot of people don't think the Cardinals can keep this up, much less win the division, and I wouldn't bet against them. However, the Cardinals have their own set of skills that allow them to play successfully. I would like to start with some players I think are performing either good or great.
Brian Barden and Joe Thurston:
These guys have been excellent in platooning the 3B position while Troy Glaus has been out. Barden won NL rookie of the month and has been performing above expectation, so the Cardinals can continue to develop David Freese, Brett Wallace and Joe Mather. Joe Thurston has also brought that fantastic power to the gaps and has been a great guy in relying on the key RBI. These two guys might not be that great compared to an above-average 3B, but they each have brought a great aspect to the Cardinals and have done a good job so far.
When I saw Chris Carpenter go down, I thought we were in for some trouble. Little did I know this guy would step up. He may not have blow out numbers, but for an expected #2 or 3 pitcher he is currently performing either at or above expectation. His ability to go 6+ innings for the majority of his starts takes a good load off of the bullpen, and he has shown he has the ability to throw a shutout. I hope he can continue his 3.22 ERA and rack up 175+ innings.
Man oh man did we need another compliment to Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright. Pineiro has shown just how good Dave Duncan is at his job. His 4-2 record with a 3.66 ERA has been pleasantly over expectations, and he also has shown something new this year, that he can pitch 7+ innings. He will probably not keep this up, but he is a large reason the Cardinals are leading their division right now.
I am pretty sure everyone was depressed after Motte allowed 4 ER his first outing and was booed off the field. However, Tony LaRussa proved himself right again when he predicted that Franklin would get quite a few saves this year. He has took almost all the pressure out of the 9th inning and has allowed Jason Motte and Chris Perez to develop as relievers before they jump in as closers again. His 0.00 ERA and 9 saves have helped the bullpen tremendously.
This guy ticked me off ever since 2006. I doubted him, mocked him, and when he hit .329 through May 1st, I changed my mind. Although I always wanted this guy to heat up for trade bait, he has proven a valuable asset to the Cardinals. The outfield rotation currently in place may strip Ludwick and Ankiel of some at bats, but it makes Duncan and Rasmus "compete" for the job and work that much harder. Duncan has realized this and is doing everything he can to remain a regular player for the Cardinals. His 3 HR and 20 RBI so far show just how good this guy can be when he is hot.
I knew he could do it ever since the NLCS of 2007. Cardinal fans are simply loving Yadi right now, as his .323 BA is highly respectable and he is also a force at the plate. He has 1 SB, 1 3B, 3 HR, 14 RBI and only 10 KO. It seems like this guy is doing everything he can right now, whether it is picking off runners and being a defense behemoth behind the plate, or getting that clutch RBI. I hope he can continue to be an integral part to the Cardinals' success.
In my opinion, the outfield rotation has helped Ludwick stay fresh during his cold streaks, so he has an optimal chance for a comeback, and active during his hot streaks. Either way, the stats don't lie. His 7 HR and 24 RBI so far show how crucial it is to have a good hitter behind Pujols. He has done a great job in helping Pujols score a ton of runs when he gets on base and will probably hit 110+ RBI this year barring injury.
Last but not least, Albert Pujols:
What can I say, I thought that the possibility of him being a few years older plus power numbers that were resulting in about 33 HR per year were signs of some sort of a slump. Boy was I wrong. This guy is a machine, and each time he bats it is like an all out war. He never gives up any at bats, regardless of if he fouls one off his foot and just wants to end the at bat. He has been a monster so far and a candidate to win the Triple Crown this year, which is not an impossibility by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully he can keep this torrid pace up.
I guess I was overly optimistic when I saw this guy's 27 HR and 87 RBI in 2007 and in a pitchers park. However, I neglected to see his measly 10 HR and 35 RBI in 2008 and thought that after his hot spring he would become rejuvenated with Saint Louis. So far, I was wrong. However, it is a long season. I am just unimpressed with his .237 BA and 4 doubles. The 2 HR are acceptable, but I was hoping for a bit more. I am positive that he CAN do it, but to others it is a matter of if and when.
Rookie jitters? That may be one of a few explanations for this guys lack-luster start. He is hitting .247, which isn't terrible, but has 1 HR and 6 RBI while striking out 17 times in 77 AB. This is probably a cold stretch from him, but because he is a rookie we have no true idea. I was just hoping I would see a bit more of that speed and some more HR and RBI from this kid, but I guess that's what limited AB will do to you.
Although his numbers are passable, they are not what fans are looking for out of their ace. He has only gone 7 or more innings once, and his highest KO for any of his starts is 7. His 4.08 ERA is also acceptable, but it seems like Loshe and Pineiro are outperforming him and he seems to have problems with his control this year. He has 20 BB in only 35.1 IP, but hopefully he can straighten out and get back to pitching 200 innings like he did in 2007.
I think that with some fine tuned tweaking by Dave Duncan, this guy can develop into a solid starter. I especially liked his performances against the Cubs, when he went 5 and 2/3 innings with 0 ER and only 1 BB, and against the Nationals, when he went 6 innings with 2 BB and 9 KO. Although he hasn't pitched deep into games and has been somewhat inconsistent, I think he could be the next project from Dave Duncan and could turn into something much more.
It seems like he will eventually win the closers role, as he had it near the end of 2008, but then didn't perform too well. He has 11 KO in 9 IP, but the 8 BB are unappealing. Give this guy one more year to develop either a new pitch or work on his location issues and he could turn into a great closer for the future.
The team has performed extremely well so far, competing with the best and proving their worth. A lot of key plays have contributed an important aspect to the team's success, and when your team is doing well there is often few underachievers. I am not saying the Cardinals will win the World Series, but I expect a close competition either between the Cards and Cubs for first, or the Cardinals and some other team for Wild Card. I suggest that all of you keep a close eye on the Cardinals in the months to come.