|2007 Postmortem: The St. Louis Cardinals|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on December 04, 2007
third in the NL Central behind 7.0 games behind the Cubs.
Home Runs: Albert Pujols 32
Average: Albert Pujols .327
RBI: Albert Pujols 103
Runs: Albert Pujols 99
Steals:Â David Eckstein 10
Wins: Adam Wainwright 14
ERA: Adam Wainwright 3.70
Strikeouts: Adam Wainwright 136
Saves: Jason Isringhausen 32
Highlight of the season:Â Thursday September 6th the Cards culminated their best run of the season going 19-10 between August 6th and September 6th which temporarily put them back into contention and elevated them to a game over .500 at 69-68.Â Â It almost seemed they would steal the division at that point as neither the Brewers or Cubs were playing well.
Low point of the season:Â Watching their arch rivals the Chicago Cubs win the division, and despairing since the Cubs at best played mediocre ball and knowing that your team wasnâ€™t good enough to play at that mediocre level.Â Â A painful experience for any fan - but especially for the Cardinal fans who are used to a level of excellence which the team never approached this season.
Best move of the season:Â I would have said believing enough in Rick Ankiel as an athlete and loving what he did in his 172 At Bats (.285-11-33) but that was before we found out about deliveries of steroids to his home.
Because of that Iâ€™ll give the nod to Troy Percival who made 34 appearances, threw 40 innings was credited with just 3 wins and posted a 1.80 ERA.
Worst move of the season:Â Shelling out $4 million for Kip Wells and his uglyÂ numbers 7-17, 5.70 which certainly didnâ€™t offer much support to the offensively challenged Cardinals.
Key Player:Â Albert Pujols.Â Pujols is one of the premier hitters in the game today and even in what had to be considered an off year lead the team in every offensive category except steals.Â Â Of course when your off year is a .327-32-103 season you must be doing something right.Â Simply put Pujols is the cornerstone the Cards will rebuild around.
Up and Coming Player:Â Adam Wainwright.Â Wainwright was finally asked to step into the role of a starter and he showed that he could be an effective pitcher.Â While he may not have ace potential he could be a serious number two man.Â Still at age 16 he still has room for improvement.Â His record of 14-2 with a 3.70 was pretty solid although he allows too many baserunners.
What went right:Â The bullpen managed to find a stride despite the starting pitching and offensive woes, and the combination of Ryan Franklyn, Jason Isringhausen and Troy Percival were capable of shutting down anyone over the final third of a game anytime in the second half - not that the Cardinals often left them with a lead to protect.
What went wrong:Â Â The team ranked 11th in the NL both in Runs Scored and in Team ERA and that's a recipe for disaster not for success.Â The only reason the team didnâ€™t finish lower in the standings is because the Pirates, Reds and Astros were in the same division and because it is the weakest division in all of baseball.
The starting pitching was awful, the relief outside the three mentioned above was only marginally better, and the offense which relied too much on aged and oft injured stars Jim Edmunds, Scott Rolen and Preston Wilson.Â Â That trio foundered and dragged down the offense due to injuries and lack of production (821-21-116 combined).
Offseason Preview:Â The Cards are in a bad place as of their big, and bad contracts only Preston Wilson became a free agent.Â Â Theyâ€™ll also happily let Kip Wells walk away along with a handful of backups and bench players whoâ€™s names donâ€™t ring instant recognition bells (Kelly Stinnett, Gary Bennett, Russell Branyon).Â But theyâ€™ll lose some important players too including David Eckstein and Miguel Cairo both of who may be hard to replace.
Pitching will be the first priority of new General Manager John Mozeliak now that heâ€™s replaced Eckstein with the light hitting Cesar Izturis at shortstop.Â The Cards are in deep water here - the offense has been on a slide for several years now, the pitching which will be without ace Chris Carpenter for next season, is in terrible shape, and the Cards canâ€™t afford to swap their top prospects for anyone who isnâ€™t a sure thing.Â But unless ownership is willing to dig deeply into its pockets the Cards wonâ€™t get better except by wheeling and dealing in the trade market.
Its an ugly place to be as the teamâ€™s best trading chips might well be Jim Edmunds who has little left in the tank and Scott Rolen, whoâ€™s coming off a third surgery and has questionable knees and shoulders.Â Both of these guys have huge contracts that no small market team would be willing to eat and which few of the big market teams would be willing to take on unless they could have the players for peanuts.Â Thatâ€™ll force the Cards to eat a lot of dollars and get little in return.Â Â That could mean a 2008 even worse than this year.