5 Reasons the St. Louis Cardinals Will Win the NL Central
However, there is the possibility that the team will have a Series hangover next year, especially with Albert Pujols heading to the City of Angels and Tony La Russa finally retiring.
However, I believe that the Cardinals will make it back in the playoffs for five good reasons.
Without further ado...
The Return of Adam Wainwright to an Already Impressive Rotation
In case anyone's forgotten, the Cardinals still have ace pitcher Adam Wainwright on the roster.
Sidelined by Tommy John surgery for the year, he is expected to return to full strength in 2012 and add at least 15 more wins to this team.
With him, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook all ready for spring, you can bet that the Cardinals will have a very solid rotation.
A Fresh Face as a Leader
Albert Pujols may have been the symbol of the Cardinals, but now that he's gone, someone will have to pick up from where he left off.
There are several people who could qualify as the team's leader, but in this case, I'll opt for Matt Holliday. Holliday has experience being a team leader. He was with Colorado back in 2007 when they reached the World Series. Not only that, but he has plenty of support should he not fulfill expectations.
Last Year's Surprises Could Be This Year's Top Contributors
The Cardinals had several breakout stars who were formally introduced during the postseason. David Freese, for instance, was named the MVP of the World Series for his power display and his go-ahead grand slam in Game 6.
Allen Craig also exceeded expectations and played a key role, both offensively and defensively in Game 7.
Let's also not forget Lance Berkman, who had one of the best comeback seasons in baseball history, earning him an All-Star nod, the Comeback Player of the Year and a high finish in the MVP voting.
Each has shown they can hit and field well, and hopefully their combined efforts can help win many games in 2012.
Shelby Miller Will Join the Team for Good.
There is no doubt about it. Shelby Miller is coming to St. Louis to stay. The Cardinals' top prospect cemented himself as a quality pitcher by pitching in the Futures game and being named to Baseball America's minor league All-Star team.
Miller will make the team and possibly contribute 10-15 wins, as well as a 3.50 or better ERA and will draw serious consideration for the Rookie of the Year award, but his part in the 2012 Cardinals will help the Cardinals regain first place.
A New Manager Who Has Learned Under La Russa
Tony La Russa was one of the greatest minds in baseball; there is no doubting that, but like all of us, he did have to retire.
In picking their successor, the Cards tabbed a former student of La Russa and former Cardinal Mike Matheny.
Matheny is a good hire because he spent five years under La Russa, and having been a catcher, he has to know the finer side of the game. He could potentially be another Joe Girardi, a catcher who has since become one of the best young managers in the game.
Not only that, but he is also a proven on-field leader who knows how to deal with pitchers. After all, he did catch such great arms as Carpenter, Darryl Kile, Matt Morris, Jason Schmidt and Kirk Rueter during his career.