The St. Louis Cardinals are a team that have over achived, according to "professionals" in the sports world. They were projected to lose close to 100 games and finish in the cellar of the National League Central.
The rotation was suppose to be in flux all season, the bullpen was supposed to crumble, Albert Pujols was going to go down with Tommy John surgery and the team wouldn't have anyone hit 20 homeruns.
Yeah, those experts were genius. The Cardinals have the second best record in the National League, Pujols' elbow is solid, the rotation is solid, the bullpen has been great (with just a few minor bumps) and we have three players on pace for 20 or more homeruns and two other possibles.
Great predictions there.
So, I am here to give you the good, bad and ugly of the Cardinals 2008 season.
Ok, there have been several goods for this team. Lets list the three most important ones: rotation, farm system and Ryan Ludwick.
The 2008 rotation has been just absolutely incredible. Besides holding the best record for a rotation in the majors, this team goes out to the mound and gives at least five innings (most of the time six) every start out.
They give up few runs to allow the Cardinals offense to keep up. That's what a rotation is suppose to do.
The farm system has been stellar. What was thought to be a good system with talent two or three years away has really turned into the holding point for the Cardinals.
On Opening Day, the Cardinals had Brian Barton, Rico Washington and Kyle McClellan making their Major League debuts.
Since Opening Day Joe Mather, Chris Perez, Mike Parisi, Mark Worrell, and Mitchell Boggs have all made contributions and their Major League debuts.
If you're counting, that's eight rookies, tops in the Major Leagues. And of course, there's more to come. Bryan Anderson, Jamie Garcia, Colby Rasmus, Clay Mortenson, Jess Todd, PJ Walters, Jason Motte, Matt Scherer, and Nick Stavinoha are all on the horizon.
Last, but certainly not least, is Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick has been one of the biggest surprises. Coming into the 2008 season, Ludwick's career numbers were as follows: .251 AVG, 28 homeruns, 96 RBIs, 80 runs, 38 doubles, one triple and 54 walks.
This season, Ludwick is tearing the cover off the ball. Here are his stats this year (as of the 3-2 loss to Kansas City on June 18): .311 AVG, 16 homeruns, 55 RBIs, 45 runs, 21 doubles, two triples and 26 walks.
If he can keep on this pace and finish the season strong, Ludwick is going to be an MVP candidate with the following projected numbers: 170/548 (.310 AVG), 40 homeruns, 138 RBIs, 113 runs, 53 doubles, five triples and 65 walks.
Yeah, I'll take that.
The bad on the Cardinals have really been the bench.
Early on in the season, the bench was clicking. Now, they're starting to falloff quite a bit.
Brendan Ryan and Aaron Miles are the only exceptions, as they play frequently enough that they are platoon players.
When Mather was up, he struggled with the bat. Duncan off the bench was terrible. Barton went from stud to dud quickly because of his diminished playing time.
Jason LaRue has been ok after a slow start, as he's starting to get more playing time due to the summer heat.
If the Cardinals want to keep pace and win the division (or the Wild Card), the bench is the key to the success.
The Cardinals have many starters who haven't started throughout an entire season. Examples: Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and Skip Schumacker.
It doesn't get much uglier than the Cardinals disabled list.
Here is the list of players that have spent time on the DL this season: Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, Matt Clement, Joel Piniero, Adam Wainwright, Russ Springer, Jason Isringhausen, Josh Kinney, Tyler Johnson, Jaun Encarnacion, Kelvin Jimenez, and Brad Thompson.
Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer came close to going on the DL, but avoided it. So, lets look at this. The Cardinals have their ENTIRE projected 2008 rotation on the DL in Carpenter, Clement, Mulder, Piniero and Wainwright.
They have their sixth starter (Thompson) on the DL. They have a 2006 World Series bullpen cog (Kinney) and the lefty with the nastiest slider in baseball (Johnson) on the DL.
Their closer and setup man (Isringhausen and Springer) on the DL, including the man who barely lost the last bullpen spot (Jimenez). And here are the 2008 Cardinals sitting at 42 wins. Simply incredible.
There you have it folks, the old Clint Eastwood of the 2008 Cardinals. Enjoy the rest of the season!