The St. Louis Cardinals start the second half of the season in Cincinnati. Their record sits before the first game of a three game series with the Cincinnati Reds is at 46-40. They are two and a half games behind the surprising first place Pittsburg Pirates. After a roller coaster first half that included a host of injuries to key players, they are in good shape to win the division.
Allow me to give you my take on how the St. Louis Cardinals have done so far and what we can expect in the second half. My analysis will be broken down into five parts: offense, defense, pitching, bench strength and intangibles.
Offense – The St. Louis Cardinals are 2nd in the major leagues in just about every offensive category. This is despite the fact that many of the starters have missed a large number of games due to injury. The starters who have been bitten by the injury bug include: David Freese, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Skip Schumaker and Allan Craig. These injuries are a large reason why the Cardinals were so inconsistent offensively in May and June. As of this weekend, all of these players are back on the field and healthy. And all are hitting over .300, with the exception of Freese who is hitting .294. I think you’ll start to the offense that was so productive in April. As of now, I give the offense a grade of A-.
Defense – The St. Louis Cardinals rank 13th in fielding percentage out of all ML teams with a .984. They are 12th in double plays and 16th in errors. So far, 2nd base has been the Card’s biggest bugaboo but, in my opinion, it’s their own doing. 1st base has been another position decimated by injuries to Lance Berkman and Allan Craig. The outfield has also been in flux but, with Jon Jay back, I think that area will settle down. As of now, I give the defense a grade of C.
Pitching – Let’s divide pitching into two areas; starting rotation and bullpen. Both areas started off fine at the beginning of the season but, the problem with pitching has been the inconsistent performance of the two areas and the loss of Chris Carpenter and Kyle McClellan to season ending surgery. In the grand scheme of things, I think McClellan’s loss is more devastating as, we didn’t see that coming at all. The team ERA for the pitching staff is 13th at 3.93. The starters are at 3.68 and the relief corp. is at 4.49. As of this writing, the Redbirds are reportedly looking at LHP Brian Fuentes to help the bullpen. Regardless, I think the bullpen has to make improvements in order for us to win the division. And I think whether the Cardinals sign Fuentes or not, they should call up a pitcher from Memphis and part ways with Marc Rzepczynski. The starting rotation will be fine but, due to the overall ineffectiveness of the bullpen, I give our pitching a C-.
Bench Strength – Our players from Memphis have gone a long way of giving us a reliable bench. Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Shane Robinson have all been major contributors when needed. Daniel Descalso and Tony Cruz have also helped either defensively or offensively when called upon. Our weak link on the bench is Tyler Greene. Even though he was starting for most of the season, we should part ways with Greene sooner than later. I give our bench a B+.
Intangibles – Our team knows what it takes to win a championship. They realize the importance of winning series and playing every inning. Even with a first year manager in Mike Matheny, from what I’ve read, we have a good clubhouse atmosphere. An atmosphere that will improve even more with Berkman back with the club. Make no mistake in my opinions in this article; I know we have what it takes to repeat as champions. In many ways, our team is stronger and better; even with the absence of Chris Carpenter, Kyle McClellan and that machine guy. Nothing personal but, I strongly believe Tyler Greene and Marc Rzepczynski should be waived or traded soon. I’m not blaming them solely on the team’s problems, but, they are two players that usually, whenever they are in the game, bad things happen. That said, I give the team an overall B- for the 1st half of the season. Thanks for reading…GO CARDS!