Unfortunately, for the St Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols has left them and taken his talents to Anaheim.
To many, Pujols' departure was seen as a betrayal to Cardinal Nation, but the time has come to look ahead, and with the Cardinals active offseason, Cardinals' fans have a new look roster to welcome into Busch Stadium this spring.
So, with this in mind, let's look towards the future and the projections for the 2012 Cardinals' offense.
For an offense that scored the most in runs in the NL in 2011, a lot of people seem to question the 2012 Cardinals' offense.
But, let me just point something out: The Cardinals were first in the NL in runs, and Albert Pujols had his worse statistical year-to-date. Meaning, the Cardinals offense has a ton of potential even with the loss of Pujols.
Granted, one can expect Lance Berkman to not have another season like he did in 201—which surprised most experts—and even received consideration for the MVP. Conversely, one can expect Matt Holliday to post better numbers; Holliday posted below average numbers in 2011, in part due to the amount of time he missed with injuries.
The core of the Cardinals' offense was held intact, besides the loss of Pujols, who was the primary catalyst of run production. However, if a few key players can remain healthy, the Cardinals' should be able to replace Pujols' run production.
Those players: Holliday, Craig, Freese, Beltran and Berkman must stay healthy, and produce consistently.
If that happens, Cardinals' nation won't even realize Pujols is gone, and the offense will be potent. My prediction is that the Cardinals will again finish very high in run production behind the bats of Holliday and company.
David Freese watches his legendary Game 6 home run leave the stadium
One area where Albert Pujols' statistics did not slump last year was home runs; the Machine blasted 37 homers last season. So, the Cardinals will definitely need some guys to step up and show some power in 2012.
To do this, Berkman, Holliday and Beltran need to produce like they did earlier in their respective careers. Additionally, younger hitters like Allen Craig and David Freese need to step up and prove that they can stay healthy and produce consistently.
I do not think that this will unfold how the Cardinals are hoping.
If there was one thing Pujols brought, it was consistency. Fans could count on his 30-plus home runs, and why not? He has done it every year of his 11-year career. The Redbirds will still produce good home run numbers, but they will drop off from 2011 because I do not expect them to consistently hit the long ball.
OPS is a crucial statistic to look at when evaluating a player's game at the plate.
It combines the well-known statistics of on-Base percentage and slugging percentage. The Cardinals were fifth in the MLB last season in OPS, ending the season at .766 (Baseball-Reference).
Obviously, the team will take a hit in this statistic with the loss of Albert, but Beltran will be able replace some of this production. However, it will surely take more production out of the entire lineup to make up for the loss of Pujols, and all the walks he accrued over the season.
The Cardinals seem to be in a position with their current roster to put up similar OPS numbers, if they stay healthy.
However, replacing Pujols in on-base and slugging percentage seems unlikely, but I think the guys in the core of the Cardinals' offense can pull it off, to an extent. I am definitely not saying the Cardinals are going to end up with .766 OPS again, but I think fans should expect to see the Cardinals at about .735-.740, which is still over the league average, of 2011.
Another area where the St. Louis Cardinals excelled in 2011 was batting average, finishing fifth in the big leagues with an average of .273. This is an area where I do not expect there to be much of a drop-off.
Pujols has always hit for great average, excluding 2011, so there will, of course, be a negative effect from him leaving.
However, the Cardinals have so much talent at the plate on the roster and in the minors that I think they can keep their team average up. Obviously, batting average can be a fluid stat, but the Redbirds should be able to keep it up in 2012.
My reasoning is that guys like Allen Craig, who is essentially a professional hitter, are going to start seeing more ABs. Everyone has seen Craig hit and understands his talent at the plate, so I expect a big year out of Allen Craig in 2012.
There is a reason Albert Pujols was selected for the picture of this slide, and it might have something to do with why this slide is about grounding into double plays. Pujols led the majors in grounding into double plays with 29.
He contributed more than his fair share of the double play balls that broke the old NL record.
Now, high GIDP is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, if you look at the leaders in GIDP in 2011, many were top offensive teams. Often, grounding into a double play is just some combination of bad luck and good pitching, but the bright side is you are putting the ball in play. The Cardinals did a lot of that in 2011.
For 2012, I definitely would not expect the Cardinals to be breaking any records by grounding into even more double plays, but they will hit more than the league average.