5 Reasons the St. Louis Cardinals Will Win NL Central
Courtesy of UrbanChristianNews.com
The Cards' biggest loss is franchise player Albert Pujols, a nine-time All-Star, three-time National League MVP and former NL batting champion, who signed with the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim.
Also, Tony La Russa retired as manager after 16 seasons with the team, and the Cards hired former team catcher Mike Matheny as his replacement.
However, St. Louis successfully retained utility man Skip Schumaker and top-tier catcher Yadier Molina, and signed heavy-hitting Carlos Beltran to try and spark the team's offense with the departure of Pujols.
Despite all the changes in the Cardinals organization, the team's pitching rotation remains very much the same, the team defense is strong enough to contend, batting should not be heavily affected by the loss of Pujols, and the the Cards have the luxury of playing in a relatively weak NL Central. It seems clear that winning the NL Central is a definite possibility for the organization.
Chris Carpenter highlights a solid starting rotation for the Cardinals.
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The Cardinals pitching is strong. Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse lead the way on the mound for St. Louis.
Carpenter, 36, finished with 11 wins and nine losses last season and only a 3.45 ERA. He started and won both games one and seven of the 2011 World Series. The 2005 Cy Young Award winner and three-time All-Star, despite his age, still has enough to lead the Cardinals to a division title.
Westbrook, 34, finished 12-9, and Lohse, 33, finished 14-8.
The pitcher to watch is Jaime Garcia. The Mexico-native is only 25 and showed a ton of potential last season. He finished 12-9 with a 4.66 ERA in only his third season. He is poised to become one of the game's top pitchers with a successful 2012 season.
Yadier Molina leads a decent Cardinals defense.
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The Cardinals defense is good enough to win.
Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran form an experienced outfield for St. Louis.
David Freese, named the 2011 World Series MVP, continues to improve at third base, Rafael Furcal and Tyler Greene make a formidable combination at second base and shortstop, and Lance Berkman is an established major league first baseman.
The Cardinals' real gem is behind the plate. Yadier Molina won an Platinum Glove last season, is a four-time Fielding Bible Award recipient and Golden Glove Winner, and has been selected to three All-Star games. He needs to prove he is worth the contract extension he signed with the Cardinals this offseason, making him the second-highest-paid catcher in professional baseball.
It may not be the best defense statistically, but the Cardinals' fielders are good enough to win, even without Pujols.
The Cardinals hope Carlos Betran helps compensate for the loss of Puljos.
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The Cardinals offense is still very, very powerful.
The acquisition of Carlos Beltran is a move to add some offense to the team. The 34-year-old was selected as a designated hitter to last season's All-Star game as a member of the New York Mets. He has a .283 career batting average, is nearing 2,000 career hits, and eclipsed the 300 home run mark last season.
Matt Holliday, 32, hit .296 last season and led the team in doubles. He has a career batting average of .315 and has over 1,300 career hits.
Lance Berkman finished second only to Pujols in batting statistics for the Cardinals last season. At 36, he's nearing the end of his career, but managed to hit .301 last season, led the team in walks, and was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year.
The Cardinals won the franchise's NL leading 11th World Series last season.
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They say history repeats itself. The Cardinals are hoping this proves true.
At the end of August, the Cardinals floated just above .500 with 67 wins and 63 losses and had less than a 10 percent chance of making the playoffs.
The team won 18 games and lost only eight in September and won 23 of the final 32 games of the season, clinching the NL Wild Card on the final day of the regular season, and capping one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Major League Baseball.
The team proved resilient and beat the odds, thanks to leadership from veteran players and the saavy management of La Russa.
Much of the team is still intact and capable of performing at an even higher level than last season.
Weak NL Central
It looks like only the Milwaukee Brewers stand in the Cards' way.
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The NL Central consists of a few of MLB's bottom feeders. In fact, the Cardinals (90-72) were one of only two teams in the division to finish the regular season above .500, behind only the division-winning Milwaukee Brewers (96-66).
The Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros did little to improve their clubs this offseason, and save for the breakout years of a few players within their respective organizations, don't really have enough high-caliber players to make up winning teams this season either.
The NL Central will likely be a battle between the Cards and the Brew Crew, and the Cardinals match up well against Milwaukee. The Brewers lost first baseman Prince Fielder to free agency, but 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun avoided suspension after proving he failed a drug test because of an STD medication.
If the Cardinals can outplay the Brewers, it looks like a NL Central victory is easily attainable.