Every day, I will be presenting a season preview for individual MLB teams. Today we look at the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals, by many standards, has an excellent season in '09. They won the division and were a favorite heading into the NLDS with the L.A. Dodgers. With a pair of aces in hand in Wainwright and Carpenter, the Cardinals were locks to advance all the way to the World Series. But that didn't happen. The Cardinals were swept right out of the NLDS and left to lick their wounds.
The team was middle of the road in terms of hitting. Only with the acquisition of Matt Holliday late in the season were the Cards able to move up in any offensive categories, finishing the season ranked 12th overall in Major League Baseball. While the Cards have the powerful Albert Pujols, he is really only the one who can consistently knock the ball out of the park. What about Holliday? Holliday only hit 24 home runs during his time with the A's and the Cards. Rookie 3B Daivd Freese hopes to alleviate their power shortage. Standing at 6'2" 220 lbs, Freese has the measurables of a guy who can drive in runs. Ryan Ludwick had an excellent first half but teetered off as the year went by. He has a breakout '09 with 37 dingers, but his '09 only produced 22. Ludwick is a guy who had bounced around with Texas and Cleveland and finally was able to put together an All-Star season. He doesn't have the track record to suggest that he can put together 30-100 seasons consistently. The rest of their lineup consists of good-glove no-hit guys. Ryan and Schumaker may give you 10 HR's between them. Colby Rasmus could blossom into a great player. His 16 HRs last season as a 22 year old were impressive. The former 28th pick overall looks like he will be a good major leaguer. Can he have a great follow-up sophomore season? I bet he does. Yadier Molina is the best catcher in the NL. He defends and hits for a reasonable average.
The bullpen, while lights out for most of the season, fell apart during the stretch run. Ryan Franklin's meltdown was a main contributing factor for the Cards early postseason exit. I'm not sure he can really be counted on to get it done. He'll be 37 next year. They just don't have that lights out back-end name. I guy I like is Kyle McClellan. Bit of a late bloomer but has good stuff. Pencil him into a set-up role.
The core of this team is the starting pitching. Chris Carpenter, when healthy, is the best pitcher in the game. From July 5th to September 7th, the guy won 11 straight games. His 17-4 record was a major statement to a career that had been recently smeared by injuries. His 2.24 ERA led the NL. Behind him, is Adam Wainwright. He posesses one of the best hooks in the game coupled with a fastball that tops off at 95-96. Its almost unfair when he has control of his fastball. Brad Penny needs to get his **** together. The guy has so much talent but has trouble keeping in shape and keeping his composure. His efforts with the Giants last season showed what he can do if he is inspired. Kyle Lohse is what he is. Solid number four who will churn out innings.
The signing of Holliday was a necessity. Without him, the Cardinals just wouldn't have enough hitting to protect Pujols. A full season of Carpenter and Wainwright spells trouble for the NL Central. There is no team that will challenge the Cards in the Central and they will have it wrapped up by early September. 1st in the NL Central.
By Erik Lambertsen