Pop-Tarts Series: St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals logo, while legendary today, was originally disliked by the players. Now it is one of sports' greatest insignias.
The Cardinals logo, while legendary today, was originally disliked by the players. Now it is one of sports’ greatest insignias.

The 2nd box of Pop-Tarts opened with a bang! Today on Overtime we’ve got the MLB’s leading team thus far in 2015, the St. Louis Cardinals.

How’s It Going?

The Cardinals are the preeminent team in the MLB in 2015.  Standing at 55-30 with a winning percentage of an astonishing .647, St. Louis is doing all of this without their ace, Adam Wainwright.  The Cards have actually had to deal with lots of key injuries this year, including quad injuries for Mat Adams and Matt Holliday.  Through it all, the Cardinals just keep on winning.  But will it last all the way to a World Series?

Offense:

The Cardinals have had their usual cogs rolling all season long.  Their de facto captain, Yadier Molina, is producing like his usual self.  His power numbers are down (only 2 home runs), but his stellar defense and clutch hits make up for it.  Yadi has thrown out an unreal 42% of runners this year, and the amazing part is that the 42% is actually below his career average of 45%.  His defense never slips.  Over at second base, Kolten Wong has had a strong sophomore year in the bigs,  Wong has hit .282 with 9 homers.  He has made 9 errors and his defensive stats peg him at a bit below average, but Wong does have the penchant for the big diving play when you need it most.  Jhonny Peralta is having a big year with the bat,  Matt Carpenter is a stud at third base, and Jason Heyward is having a well-timed walk year by hitting .278 with 9 homers to combine with his epic defense.  If it feels like I’m mentioning defense a lot, it’s because the Cards have one of the best defensive teams in baseball.  While the infield is merely average defensively, they can get the job done.  Molina is impossible to run on as a catcher.  And the outfield?  Forget it.  With Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos, and Jason Heyward, very few balls are going to fall between their gloves.  Matt Holliday is injured, but his 45-game on-base streak to open 2015 shows he can still hit.  Ex-Yankee Mark Reynolds has filled in for Mat Adams at first base rather poorly.  Reynolds’ power is leaving him, and that was his only calling card in the majors for years.  Once Adams gets back, the Cards can say what few teams can: that they have at least average production at all 8 fielding positions.  With no obvious weak spots on the squad and a deep bench, the Cards have the offense that teams dream about.

Verdict: A

Pitching:

The Cardinals’ pitching was thought to be shot after the loss of Adam Wainwright, but the truth is that they have been even better without him.  While no one stands out as an ace, none of their starters have an ERA over 3.10 or a BAA over .260.  The flow of the Cards’ staff is amazing.  There are truly no schlubs in this rotation.  Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha have been unhittable at times, and Lance Lynn and John Lackey provide the ever-needed veteran savvy.  Jaime Garcia and Tyler Lyons are effective back-end starters in their own right as well.  The bullpen is a bit more of a mixed bag.  There are some bright spots, including the man who sports a 0.69 ERA, Trevor Rosenthal.  Rosenthal was always a decent closer, but this year he really stepped up his game.  His primary setup man is lefty Kevin Siegrist, who is having himself a year as well.  The late-inning tandem has an average BAA of .205.  The game is over after 7 innings for St. Louis.  The Cards do have one weakness though, and that is their extremely spotty middle relief corps.  Randy Choate is toast, Seth Manness is inconsistent, and Matt Belisle is replaceable.  The Cardinals do suffer from a weak bridge, but their plus starters are able to go 7 innings a start easily making each game a cinch if they have a lead.

Verdict: A-

Overall:

The Cardinals have this year’s dream team in the MLB.  Unfortunately, if history is any indicator, it is that these teams are often upset in the playoffs (See Athletics, Oakland and Orioles, Baltimore of 2014, and Tigers, Detroit of 2011-2013).  Wacha and Martinez probably cannot throw over 200 innings effectively, and the shaky relief could bite them in October.  No team has more talent on the diamond, so here’s to hoping for a different result this season.  These Cardinals have the goods.

Verdict: A

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