St. Louis Cardinals: 4 Reasons Cards Win NL Central in 2012
The National League Central division could possibly be the weakest in all of baseball in 2012 after losing the likes of Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. There's also the possibility of losing Ryan Braun for the season's first 50 games.
The St. Louis Cardinals must be happy about that.
Although no team in the Central suffered a greater loss than St. Louis this winter, the team is in a great position to take the division title for the first time since 2009.
Here are four reasons Cardinal nation will be celebrating a division title in 2012.
Rotation's Front Three
No team in the Central has a better trio of starters than St. Louis.
Milwaukee's trio of Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo and Shawn Marcum is also stellar, but it doesn't stack up to the trio in St. Louis. The division's other teams come nowhere close to Milwaukee and St. Louis in this category.
The combination of Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and a healthy Adam Wainwright gives the team a great opportunity to win three nights in a row on multiple occasions during the season.
The fact that neither of the pitchers will have to face Prince Fielder numerous times this season only helps. Only Adam Wainwright has pitched well against the new Detroit slugger.
More Motivation Than Ever
Don't think for a second the St. Louis Cardinals aren't motivated to show they are a legitimate ball club without Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa.
They are. They have to be.
If the Cardinals were to have a miserable season after their 11th World Series title, grumbles would be heard for years to come. More questions would arise on why they didn't do more to bring Pujols back or why they hired a guy like Mike Matheny to replace a legendary manager.
This especially goes for Matt Holliday.
After receiving a seven-year, $120 million deal, the outfielder struggled in 2011 and was arguably the club's third or fourth best option at the plate.
Holliday has to be motivated to show he is worth his contract and that he can be the new No. 1 guy in St. Louis.
There is no denying St. Louis has a deep roster and has a surplus of guys who are able to produce on a nightly basis against other teams.
The emergence of Daniel Descalso in 2011 as a reliable utility guy shows just that.
Although he hit just .264 in 2011, Descalso played excellent defense and came up big in clutch situations. He saw time at third base, second base and shortstop.
The Cardinals also have a great outfield situation.
Behind Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and John Jay, the club has Allen Craig (once he recovers from knee surgery).
Craig hit .311 in 75 games for St. Louis last season and was amazing in the playoffs, only out shined by hero David Freese.
Let's not forget the Cardinals still have Lance Berkman who could play the outfield when needed.
Who Else Would Win It?
Even without Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals still have the best situation in the National League Central. The pitching is there and the offense will still be productive.
The other five teams have bigger issues or aren't ready to compete for a title yet.
The Chicago Cubs are in a rebuilding mode and have lost one of their biggest offensive threats in Aramis Ramirez.
The Cincinnati Reds are a solid team but the pitching is very suspect. So far the Reds have shown 2010 was a fluke.
Houston was the worst team in Major League Baseball in 2011 and lost over 100 games. This is the club's final year in the division and a title seems way too far out of reach. It'd be an astronomical turn-around for the Astros.
Pittsburgh has experienced years of failure but in 2011 they showed glimpses of brilliance. There is a nice young team there, but are they ready to handle success in 2012? Probably not.
And then there's Milwaukee. Losing Prince Fielder and being without Ryan Braun for 50 games would leave this club anemic on offense to start the year. It is very unlikely Milwaukee returns with as much success.
That leaves the weak NL Central for the taking in 2012.
The Cardinals have the best opportunity to seize it and they must do just that.
Steven Conklin is a contributing writer for the Bleacher Report and a student at the University of Central Missouri. He joined B/R in October 2011 and is currently a B/R intern. Any comments, questions or suggestions are more than welcome.