St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Things We Learned in the 2013 Season

Kelsey Shea WeinrichContributor IOctober 15, 2013

St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Things We Learned in the 2013 Season

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    The 2013 regular season was kind to the St. Louis Cardinals. They finished atop the NL Central and tied for the best record in the major leagues at 97-65 (with the Boston Red Sox).

    While they are still battling it out for the pennant with the Los Angeles Dodgers, let's take a look at what lessons we can take away from the past six months.

    This article breaks down five important things we learned about the Cardinals this year, with an eye at what will be most impactful in the future. Disregarding the postseason, which players put on performances that will affect the climate of the team in 2014 and beyond?

    Read on to find out!

    *All statistics are current on baseball-reference.com as of October 14, 2013*

     

David Freese Is Not an All-Star

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    The 2011 postseason hero Freese continued to put on a bit of a show in 2012, hitting .293 with 20 homers and driving in 79 runs.

    But 2013 saw a bit of a decline. This year, he hit .262 with nine homers and 60 RBI. He left fans wondering how much of his storied past was a fluke.

    It's entirely possible that this was just a down year for Freese. That being said, it doesn't seem likely he'll ever match up to his past feats. 

    With the young Kolten Wong looking for a shot at second base, the Cardinals might opt to move Matt Carpenter to third in 2014, and then Freese would be out of a job. Or, will past precedents give the man one more shot at his next great season? 

Matt Carpenter Is a Leadoff Hitter

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    When thinking of the keys to Cardinal success in 2013, fans won't hesitate to point out that their lineup started making waves when Carpenter was put in a leadoff role. And simply put: When Carpenter hits, the team will follow.

    He had a monumental 2013, a year in which he led the majors with 199 hits, 55 doubles and 126 runs. And on top of that, he hit .318, sixth best in the NL. 

    A natural third baseman, Carpenter learned second base this past offseason and quickly became one of the premier second basemen in MLB. He could hold that position or make the transition back to third in 2014, depending on what happens with players such as Freese and Wong.

    One way or another, Carpenter will continue to make his mark on this team.

Adam Wainwright Is Back

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    After Tommy John surgery kept him out of the 2011 championship year, Wainwright made a triumphant return in the spring of 2012. But he wasn't quite his dominant self...yet.

    In 2012, he posted a record of 14-13 and an ERA of 3.94.

    In 2013, he posted a league-leading record of 19-9 and an ERA of 2.94—not to mention his five complete games.

    Yes indeed, Waino's back! And fresh off of signing a five-year, $97.5 million contract. With these kinds of numbers, the Cardinals ace will be a major factor in any success they have past the 2013 season. And having a veteran will be extremely important considering the amount of young talent roosting in the Redbird farm system.

    There's a pretty good chance that in the future, baseball fans will be looking back at 2013 and remarking, "That's the year Wainwright become Wainwright again."

     

Shortstop Wanted

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    Poor Pete Kozma.

    When Rafael Furcal was reported out for the season due to injury, the Cardinals didn't go out and put money towards a shiny new shortstop. They put their faith in Kozma.

    And Kozma responded by hitting .217 with 35 RBI and becoming the scapegoat of Cardinals fans everywhere. He was a virtual black hole in the month of August, hitting a measly .063.

    While he has a history of coming through in choice big moments, that doesn't make up for inconsistency. It's looking more and more like a shortstop might be the highest priority on general manager John Mozeliak's wish list come the holidays. 

    The Cardinals obviously did alright for themselves, making it at least as far as the NLCS in 2013. But just think of what they could do in 2014 with their usual powerful lineup and a good shortstop. 

Abundance of Young Pitching Talent

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    Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte were all Cardinals staples who found themselves on the DL in 2013. But the Cardinals farm system answered with a never-ending parade of strong, young arms to replace them.

    Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, John Gast, Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez all started games.

    Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness and Trevor Rosenthal (among others) finished them from the bullpen.

    All in all, Cardinals rookies combined for 34 wins this year - the best in the majors.

    With all of this talent, there is a lot for fans to be excited about in the coming years, as the words "Cardinal Way" echoed through the media. The young arms attributed their success to the manner in which they were treated on their way up to the big leagues. "[Winning is] kind of ingrained in you," Wacha told MLB.com's Ian McCue.

    Note: the success of the men above can also be attributed to catcher Yadier Molina acting as a second manager of the Cardinals—one on the field.