Friday, June 14, 2013

Cardinals continue to get better following fast and furious start

The St. Louis Cardinals are off to one of their best starts in the franchises' long storied history as they own a major league leading 43 wins through 66 games -- and even with all of the injuries they have dealt with through out the first two and a half months -- they somehow, some way, continue to get better and stronger.

General Manager John Mozeliak took a big risk in hiring former player and now the current manager Mike Matheny -- and it has paid it's own dividends as he his doing way more than what was expected out of him through his first season and a half into his managerial career as he was brought in with having no prior experience outside of being a catcher on the players side of the game.

He managed to finish one win away from the World Series in his first full season. The Cardinals lost to the eventual champions in the San Fransisco Giants in a series that they had led three games to one after the first four. To reach the National League Championship Series, the team had to defeat the Atlanta Braves in the one game playoff -- then they defeated the Washington Nationals in a desicive game five that was capped off by an electric seven-run ninth after trailing by six at one point during the game.

Following the heart-breaking end to the season and looming into the off-season and into Spring Training was even more dramatic, unexpected bad news. On February 22nd, right before the Cardinals first practice game, Chris Carpenter was placed on the 60-day DL and at the time was hearing the word 'retirement' uttered around by the media whirlwind, as well as the media. Then, on March 30th, just days before the teams first regular season contest, Jason Motte was placed on the 15-day DL which eventually led to the news of Tommy John Surgery, and the end to his season before it had even began.

A year removed from losing an all-time great in manager Tony La Russa, as well as eleven-year icon in Albert Pujols, who would have thought that on June 14, 2013 -- 66 games into the baseball calendar year -- that the new-look Cardinals would be 20 games over the .500 mark, own the best record in baseball, and making it happen with one of the youngest teams in all of baseball -- with the youngest pitching staff in the league too.

The team lost one of their best pitchers in Chris Carpenter and starting closer in Jason Motte, both of which played huge roles last season -- as well as in 2011 when they won the World Series against the Texas Rangers.

They replaced the Carpenter loss with young talented pitchers such as Shelby Miller, Tyler Lyons, John Gast, Michael Wacha -- who all have done great jobs in their roles as starters as they are all rookies as well -- and they replaced the Motte loss with Edward Mujica, who is flourishing in his role as the closer with 19 saves in as many opportunities, and numbers that arguably make him the best pitcher in baseball in the ninth inning.

The pitching staff as a whole has given up 210 total runs on 548 hits which has them as a unit owning an earned-run average of 3.17 and a WHIP of 1.19 . The bullpen has consisted of rookies playing a lot in big roles as well as Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez and Lyons have all had some major impact in one way or another. The starting pitching has seen injuries to Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook as well, which is three starters theyve been without that were opening day rotation guys projected heading into the spring. Adam Wainwright has been the anchorman as always and leads the majors in wins with 10.

The offense was one of the best last season, and is continuing to be again this season. The power trio of Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig have put a lot of pressure on opposing pitchers and have made Cardinal Nation forget all about (dare I say it) the days of Albert Pujols and company. Craig leads the team in RBIs with 50 while Beltran leads the team in home runs with 14. Yadier Molina, along with consistently being one of the best -- if not the best -- catchers in baseball behind the plate, he has the best batting average (.353) in all of baseball while leading St. Louis in hits with 83.

Although its still early on, Mo and his Cardinals have the largest differential in baseball at +102 (329 runs scored, 227 runs allowed), the best road record in baseball at 24-11, and the best record in the league and the NL Central.

They are third in runs scored (329), second in batting average (.276), third in on-base percentage (.336) and 12th in slugging percentage (.409). The offense overall ranks first while the pitching staff as a whole does as well. They are first in ERA (3.17), fourth in quality starts (42) and WHIP (1.19), and 10th in batting average against (.246) as well.

As the past has shown us over and over again: winning is just the Cardinal Way. Everybody knows that the Major League Baseball season isn't a sprint, but rather a marathon. With that said though, through 66 games, it's hard to put into perspective what this team has really done so far -- but one thing that I feel 100 percent positive in saying, is that even with this amazingly fast start from the Cardinals, they will still only continue to get better and better as the youth will get more experience and confidence. Will this translate into a 12th World Series championship though? That is a question that only these individuals -- as well as time -- has the ability to show us. Grab your popcorn and soda, this summer is going to be magicful in Baseball Heaven.

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