Just who are the St. Louis Cardinals? Well, they’re looking like one of those teams of destiny after an amazing comeback in the NL Wild Card chase. The Phillies had their hand in that, losing 3 of 4 to STL earlier in September, then sweeping the Braves to finish the season out on Wednesday night (which by the way, was the most exciting, improbable, intense night of baseball I’ve ever witnessed).
The Cardinals had a rough start to the 2011 season losing their Ace, Adam Wainwright, to Tommy John Surgery on his right arm. Had he not missed the year, the Cardinals would have given the Milwaukee Brewers a run for their money in the Central Divsion; thats how good Wainwright is.
On September 5, they fell 10.5 games behind the Brewers in the Central and sat 8.5 games out in the Wild Card behind the Braves. It seemed like a mere formality that Atlanta would get in as the fourth team, just because that lead had been so big. But a 17-8 month, coupled with an epic collapse by the Braves, sent St. Louis to the postseason and to a match up with the best team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies. It was shades of the 1964 Phillies meltdown that we’re all well aware of. St. Louis completed the regular season with a record of 89-72.
As you know from seeing the Cardinals nine times (or so) every season, their manager is Tony LaRussa, pitching coach Dave Duncan has been a mastermind of the revolution of so many pitchers, and the face of the franchise is Albert Pujols. Let’s dig into this Cardinals team a little bit deeper so you can get to know them before Game 1 of the NLDS on Saturday.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS:
- Finished with an equal home and road split, going 45-36 at Busch Stadium and away from it.
- They finished as the best run scoring team in the NL with 762.
- The 692 runs allowed by the Cardinals was 170 more than the Phillies. Holy smokes.
- As a team, they 1st in OPS and 6th in HR
- Also as a team, they ranked 8th in the National League in ERA and 11th in opponents batting average.
- Albert Pujols is their leader had a down year by his standards: .299 BA, 37 HR, 99 RBI, .906 OPS.
- For the first time in his career he didn’t hit .300 and drive in over 100 runs, although it was obviously close.
- Pujols vs. Phillies lifetime: .279, 13 HR, 45 RBI, .848 OPS. Worst numbers vs. any team in baseball during his career.
- Matt Holliday hits 4th behind Pujols,but we may not see him. He’s dealing with a hand injury, is day-to-day.
- Lance Berkman had a rejuvenation in ’11: .302, 31, 93, .959 OPS. His OPS ranks 4th in the NL.
- Catcher Yadier Molina led the team in hitting at .305 and is a hell of a defensive catcher.
- Guys like John Jay, David Freese, Skip Schumaker, and Daniel Descalso make up the role players.
- Rafael Furcal has been dealing with a hamstring injury; his status is also unknown.
- Chris Carpenter is the Ace and had a terrible start and great finish. 4.52 ERA through May, finished at 3.45.
- Kyle Lohse is the Game 1 starter against Roy Halladay. 14-8, 3.39 ERA, 111K/42 BB.
- Jaime Garcia presents a challenge to the Phillies being left-handed, but had an average year; 13-7, 3.56 ERA
- Beyond them, it’s Jake Westbrook (ugh) and Edwin Jackson (eh).
- The bullpen is whack: 11th in reliever ERA in NL, blew 26 saves, 2nd most in NL.
- Dare you to name three RP’s: Motte, McClellan, Rzepczynski, Dotel, Boggs, etc. They can be self destructive.
- Overall: Great offense, decent 3 starters, not a good bullpen, and Tony LaRussa as manager. It’s a wild ride for STL.