The St. Louis Cardinals are quietly off to a nice start to the 2014 season with a 10-6 record. For some strange reason, the Cardinals don’t seem to be getting enough national attention for a team that is coming off a trip to the World Series and who is a favorite to get back there once again. The way I see it, teams that are overachieving so far this season are getting all of the hype (Milwaukee Brewers). This trend is one that comes back year after year – expect that to die down in the coming weeks when reality sets in. The Cardinals are used to sneaking up on people and handling their business under the radar – I’m sure this does not bother them one bit.
The 10-6 record is solid considering the tough schedule the Cardinals have faced to open the season. Additionally, a few of their key players are off to shaky starts. Ultimately, the team will be firing on all cylinders and the Cardinals should be able to pull away from the National League Central competition.
Here are my thoughts on the Cardinals (both positive and negative) so far this season:
1. Adam Wainwright – Wainwright threw a two hit eight-strikeout complete game shutout last night vs. the Washington Nationals. The Nationals were completely dominated all night with their only hit innings 1-8 being a weak infield bouncer to the pitcher. For good measure Wainwright went 2-3 at the plate with a double, walk, rbi, run scored, and sacrifice bunt. On the year, Wainwright is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 30 innings. Wainwright is also hitting a ridiculous .444 at the plate which is a testament to his work ethic and drive to be a complete player. Cardinal fans have come to expect greatness from Adam Wainwright and he is well on his way to another Cy Young caliber season.
2. Yadier Molina – Much like Wainwright, Cardinal fans have come to expect nothing but the best of Yadier Molina on a daily basis. Molina is currently riding a 9 game hitting streak and his power numbers (3 home runs already) are off to a career best pace. Overall, Molina is hitting at a .333 clip – good for second best on the roster. His offensive production, as impressive as it gets for the catcher position in baseball, is just a bonus considering the impact that he has on a game defensively. The Cardinals pitching staff is once again pitching the club into the win column more times than not – Yadier Molina deserves a lot of the credit for the way he calls a game behind the plate. New year, same Yadi.
3. Matt Adams - While Wainwright and Molina starting the season on fire will surprise no one, Matt Adams is a different story. Anyone who doesn’t follow the Cardinals regularly may not even recognize the name or know what type of player he is. The big left-handed hitting 25 year old is getting his first opportunity in the majors to be an everyday first baseman and he is rewarding the Cardinals organization for their confidence in him. Adams leads the Cardinals with a .355 average 16 games into the schedule and has shown the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field with ease (teams are showing him a David Ortiz type of shift – that’ll have to be reconsidered). There is no way that Adams keeps up his current batting average but the power numbers will rise – that is what will benefit the Cardinals more in the long run.
1. Allen Craig – I’m a huge Allen Craig fan but he has struggled mightily through the first few weeks of the season thus far. Last year Craig hit .315 while driving in 97 runs despite missing the last month or so of the season on the disabled list. So far this year, Craig is hitting .158 with 11 strikeouts. I’ll be the first to point out that Craig has hit safely in each of his last six games and even when he is getting out, he is making good contact on the ball. Allen Craig will be just fine – I’m not the least bit concerned over his struggles considering there are still five and a half months of regular season games left and he is a proven threat at the plate.
2. Shelby Miller – If you remember the fact that Shelby Miller is a 4-starter on this Cardinals roster then you may not consider him a candidate for the early season doghouse. Miller is 1-2 with 4.67 ERA through his first three starts in the 2014 season – not terrible, but not impressive either. With that said, the Cardinals and their fans have much higher expectations for the former first round draft pick. The 14 K/9 BB ratio to me is the most alarming of Miller’s numbers so far this year – well off his 169 K/57 BB pace last season. Miller is coming off an impressive 7 inning 1 run outing vs the Brewers in his last start so the hope is that he is just starting to find his groove.
3. Jhonny Peralta – St. Louis signed Jhonny Peralta to a 4 year/$53 million contract as a free agent last November. As any Cardinal fan knows, there has been a huge void at the shortstop position even since David Eckstein left following the 2007 season. Peralta only has 11 hits in 53 at bats (.208 AVG), although the four home runs he does have match the season total for shortstop position in 2013. Nobody should expect a .300 hitter in Peralta but something in the range of his career average (.267) shouldn’t be too much to expect for a guy that just signed a big contract. Additionally, his defense has been shaky at times as he has already committed three errors in the young season.