5 Reasons the 2012 Cardinals Are Reminding Us of the 2011 Champions
The question that has to be on the minds of Cardinal Nation is: Haven't we seen this before?
The Cardinals seem to repeating the script to a degree from last season's World Series championship team. Taking out of the mix this most recent surge by the Cardinals, inconsistency has been the theme of this Cardinals team so far in 2012.
A hot start in April, an up and down May and until recently, a poor June, the Cardinals seem to be repeating their 2011 history. They have their NL Central foes right where they want them, confused and probably slightly frightened based on the last five games the Cardinals have played.
Here are five reasons the 2012 Cardinals remind fans of the 2011 Championship squad.
The bullpen in the first half of the season was an Achilles' heel for the Cardinals in 2011. Closer Ryan Franklin was about as useful as a sock filled with athlete's foot. Franklin couldn't close the door on a cab and the Cardinals were leaders in the NL in blown saves.
Add to that, inconsistency of Trevor Miller and Miguel Bautista and the Cardinals didn't know which way to look.
Turn the page to 2012 and the bullpen has been up and down to start the season. Jason Motte only throws one pitch and when hitters catch up, he can be ineffective. Motte is a major improvement from Franklin last year and does deserve a little credit as he has converted 16 of 20 saves thus far.
Mark Rzepczynski has not carried his 2011 success into this season. His ERA is 5.19, and he has already blown five saves. Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas both have an ERA over 5.00. It seems to be a roll of the dice as to whether or not the bullpen will hold a lead when they enter the game.
It wasn't until a trade deadline move that brought Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel to town that the bullpen took shape was a major factor in the Cardinals magical run in 2011.
The injury bug has raised its ugly head again in 2012 in St. Louis. As in 2011, many Cardinal regulars are finding themselves on the DL.
David Freese got off to a great start last year before breaking his hand and spending a good chunk on the DL. Maybe the time off did him some good as his playoff performance would back up, but there is no question the Cardinals would have rather had him the lineup.
Lance Berkman was almost lost for the season earlier this year, but has been on the DL twice this year and his current stay has him there until at least late July.
Skip Schumaker and Allen Craig spent time on the DL in 2011 and 2012. Both played big roles for the Cardinals down the stretch and will need to this year as well to help the Cardinals repeat their success of last year.
Perhaps the Cardinals' mentality should be as long as everyone is healthy during the stretch run, everything will just work out.
Aces Not Perfoming
The Cardinals went into 2012 as they did in 2011, without one of their aces. Last season, Adam Wainwright was lost for the season in spring training. This year, Chris Carpenter was injured in spring training and has no time table for a return this year.
But if you compare how Carpenter started last year and the way Wainwright started this season, they share some similarities. At one point in 2011, Carpenter found himself with a 1-7 record and 4.47 ERA. He did rally to finish 11-9 with a 3.45 ERA and was strong in the playoff run, including pitching one of the best games in Cardinal history with his Game 5 NLDS performance.
Wainwright has started 6-8 with a 4.32 ERA and has only gotten to that point after two strong starts in a row. The Cardinals are going to need Waino to step it up and pitch like the ace he has proven he is in years past for the Cardinals to make a serious run at a repeat.
Streaky at the Plate
The Cardinals pounded the ball at times last season and beat their opponents into submission. Then as if a light switch was flipped, the bats went silent for games at a time.
Fast forward to 2012. The Cardinals started the season by bludgeoning their opponents at a 135-70 clip in the first 24 games. The bats then seemed to go off and on for the next two months, hitting hopefully the season low during their trip to New York. The Mets held the Cardinals scoreless for the first 25 innings in the series, including the first no-hitter in Mets history tossed by Johan Santana.
The Cardinals have gotten hot this last week, putting up 43 runs in their last five games leading to a 5-0 record in those games.
Once Lance Berkman gets off the DL and with the recent return of hot hitting Jon Jay, hopefully the runs will continue to come in bunches.
Even Tempermant and Belief They Can Win
One of the keys for the Cardinals last year was they never stopped believing. They knew once they had their full squad healthy, they could compete with anyone. It took the steady hand of Tony LaRussa to keep the club focused in late August when it seemed their goal was floating out of sight.
The Cardinals put together a magical run in 2011 en route to their 11th World Series Championship.
As for 2012, Mike Matheny is the right man to lead the ship. The Cardinals have been all over the board this season, but have never fallen below .500. Matheny has taken the heat off the players in games where they didn't perform as they should and wants all the criticism, even if he didn't deserve it.
Matheny has the Cardinals believing they can repeat. Now if the Cardinals can all get healthy and perhaps a trade deadline move is made to improve the bullpen, it could be a similar tale as the city of St. Louis saw last year. As I remember, it had a pretty good ending.