As we all know, the Cardinals finished under .500 in 2007, with a record of 78-84. It was the team’s first losing season since 1999, when they went 75-86. Most Cardinal fans aren’t expecting a World Championship in ’08, and many aren’t holding out for a division title either. I’d guess most of us would be happy to be in the hunt come September, and finish with at least 81 wins to avoid back-to-back losing seasons.
Springtime always brings new optimism and a clean slate. Every team is even. Every team is a legitimate contender. Then Baseball Prospectus releases their team projections, based on PECOTA, a sabermetric system for predicting player performance. The system is rather accurate each year, and picked the Cards to finish third behind Chicago and Milwaukee last season. They’ve done it again. This time, they predict a 72-90 record for this year’s Birds, finishing only ahead of Pittsburgh in the division. For some, the optimism dwindles. Not for me.
Sure there’s a lot of question marks penciled throughout the Cardinals’ roster. We don’t know what to expect from guys like Clement, Mulder, Reyes, Izturis, Kennedy, and maybe some others. What if Albert needs surgery and is shut down for the year? What if Looper or Pineiro can’t continue to improve as major assets in the rotation? What if Ankiel and Duncan can’t better their plate discipline? The questions could go on. They way I see it, however, is that if a few things can go right this season, the 2008 Cardinals will be a better team than the one that lost 86 games last year. Don’t count this club out before the games are played. Look for a few surprise performances from some unexpected contributors. No team in the Central is going to run away with the division. I’m still optimistic. The Cardinals will contend.