While the St. Louis is eyeing its third consecutive postseason appearance, a number of important events dramatically altered the 2013 season.
Most of these events are based on opportunity, while others are wrapped around raw talent. Perhaps the most important is youth, which the Cardinals boast plenty of.
First off, as weird as it may sound, the Cardinals have enjoyed great success due to injuries to some key players, including shortstop Rafael Furcal and starting pitcher Jaime Garcia.
Furcal, who was penciled in as the Opening Day shortstop, hurt his elbow during the 2012 postseason. The injury never healed, and Furcal opted to undergo season-ending surgery during spring training.
Welcome to the big leagues, Matt Carpenter, who was a hero during the Cardinals’ run to the National League Championship Series last fall.
Though shortstop isn’t Carpenter’s natural position, he’s done wonders as the leadoff man. In fact, he’s making noise in the National League MVP race.
Carpenter, who is batting .321, with 116 runs scored, has been the best leadoff man in the NL, hands down. When batting first, Carpenter has scored 103 runs, hit 43 doubles and has driven in 67 runs. Moreover, Carpenter trails MVP contender Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh by six runs batted in. That’s ironic, because Carpenter bats first and McCutchen hits third.
Another prime event that changed the Cardinals’ season was the injury to left-handed starter Jaime Garcia.
Garcia underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on May 24. With an open spot in the rotation, the Cardinals turned to the young right-hander Joe Kelly.
Before the All-Star break, Kelly was just 1-3, with a 3.88 ERA in 24 games, including three starts. Following the break, Kelly owns the best record in the NL. He’s 8-1, with a 1.86 ERA in 11 starts.
That’s very impressive, considering Kelly is in his first full season with the Cardinals.
Out in the bullpen, young fireballer Trevor Rosenthal has been a late-inning stopper for the Cardinals, and one of the best in the NL. Mainly used as the eighth-inning man, Rosenthal has struck out 92 hitters, third-most in the NL, trailing Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Aroldis Chapman of the Reds.
There’s nothing more intriguing about this team than youth, which has really helped shape this season. The Cardinals’ average age is 27.4, tied for the fourth youngest in all of baseball. In fact, only one other team (Washington) is in the playoff race. The others (Seattle, Miami, Chicago White Sox and Houston) all have losing records and are out of the playoff picture.
The story of the 2013 Cardinals is wrapped around opportunity and youth, which is often overlooked by many. Still, these events have dramatically changed the Cardinals’ season.