After ranking the top ten lineups and pitching rotations, ESPN senior writer Buster Olney looks at the top ten defenses, bullpens, and teams in Major League Baseball. Where do the St. Louis Cardinals stand in all of this? Let’s find out.
On Saturday, Olney ranked the best bullpens. Olney ranks the Cardinals in 6th behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, and Atlanta Braves. It’s hard to argue against Craig Kimbrel, who has led the big leagues in saves for the last 3 seasons. Olney compares Kimbrel to being the relief pitching version of Mike Trout. No argument here.
When Jason Motte felt something was wrong in Spring Training 2013, it wasn’t hard for the Cardinals to find a replacement. They turned to Mitchell Boggs, the brilliant 8th inning guy in 2012. However, Boggs never was able to find comfort in the closer’s role and the Cardinals wold turn to Edward Mujica, acquired at the 2012 trading deadline. Mujica, in turn, would turn the job over to flame-throwing pitcher Trevor Rosenthal late in the season.
If Carlos Martinez is not one of the five starters in 2014, I would not want to be in the position of facing him out of the bullpen. He’s another one of the Cardinals power arms and setting up Rosenthal would make for a lot of flame-throwing by the Cardinals’ 8th and 9th inning guys.
We can’t ignore left-handed pitchers Kevin Siegrist or Randy Choate. Siegrist was amazing after his MLB debut: 2 ER in his first 45 games, 0.45 ERA, only one home run given up. Seth Maness will be back in the bullpen and Motte is coming back, too. Between the rotation and the bullpen, the Cardinals are stocked with power arms. If someone gets injured, they can just pluck one from the minor leagues.
Olney ranked the Cardinals defense with the 7th spot on Sunday but also said that the Cards are “not an elite defensive team.” This is due in part to first base (Matt Adams), third base (Matt Carpenter), shortstop (Jhonny Peralta), left field (Matt Holliday) and right field (Allen Craig) being considered average to below-average.
What does help the Cardinals in defense is perennial Gold Glove winner Yadier Molina. If there’s one rule in baseball right now, it’s that you don’t run on Molina. Last season, the Cardinals allowed only 39 steals in 65 attempts–the fewest against any team in the majors. Players see Molina behind the plate and know better than to run.
Acquiring Peter Bourjos certainly helps with the defensive upgrade in center field.
As far as the top teams, Olney ranks the Cardinals in 3rd place, right behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and Detroit Tigers. Olney praised the Cardinals for having “the best collection of power pitching in baseball.” Olney says the offense could be just as good depending on Peralta, Adams, and Kolten Wong. The latter two are transitioning into regular players at the big league level.