Last year it was Adam Wainwright's injury for the St. Louis Cardinals. This year, it's Chris Carpenter and Lance Berkman.
The thrilling finish to the 2011 regular season and one of the most exciting playoff stretches in recent memory are still fresh in the minds of many Cardinals fans.
Following Albert Pujols' departure to Los Angeles, many began to question whether St. Louis had what it took to repeat. After losing Carpenter, fears increased. Now, with Lance Berkman out 8-10 weeks, according to team reports (via AOL Sporting News), another title run seems improbable to many.
Fear not, St. Louis. Meet Lance Lynn and Matt Adams—the heirs to throne, if you will.
Lynn opened the season in a big way, allowing only four earned runs throughout the entire month of April. The 25-year-old right-hander did not allow more than one earned run in any of his four starts (27 innings), holding opponents to a .176 batting average in the season's first month.
His May was not as remarkable, but still impressive for a guy who had two career major league starts under his belt coming into 2012.
Lynn put together a 3-1 record over four starts with a 3.64 ERA, while holding opponents to a .243 batting average.
With one start remaining in May (slated to take on Atlanta on Memorial Day), he is tied for first in the majors with seven wins and tied for second in win-loss percentage with Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels.
At this point last season, according to Baseball Reference, Carpenter was 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA for St. Louis. Like it or not, Carpenter is nearing the end of his reign, and Lynn has shown he's ready to take charge.
On the other side of the ball, newcomer Matt Adams has shown a lot of promise in limited action.
Since his call-up on May 20, the 6'3", 230-pound slugger has shown patience and power at the plate, batting .310 with an OPS of .810—an impressive mark, albeit with a small sample size.
In the minors, Adams pounded the ball, hitting .318 with 73 home runs and 268 runs batted over his four years in the Cardinals' farm system. In other words, Adams averaged 19 home runs and 67 runs batted in each year, playing an average of 84 games each season.
Granted, Cardinals fans cannot reasonably expect Adams to put up Pujols-esque numbers right away. Keep in mind that the former 23rd-round draft pick is only 23 and only has eight total games of experience in the majors.
The opportunity to work with and learn from veterans such as Berkman will only help Adams down the stretch and this same approach is being applied across the diamond in St. Louis.
With the leadership of Adam Wainwright, Carlos Beltran, Rafael Furcal and others, the next generation of Cardinals players are being groomed for greatness.
Lance Lynn, Matt Adams, David Freese and company will have St. Louis in annual contention for the foreseeable future.