Here we are, late on the night of June 28 in the year of 2008. The St. Louis Cardinals currently sit at 46-36, three and one half game out of first place in the National League Central. They sit atop of the NL Wild Card and look primed to make a run. So, here's a breakdown of the Cardinals year at hand and what the Cardinals have to look forward to in the late summer months.
The Cardinals offense has been somewhat disappointing at times. They are batting .273 on the season, which ranks second in the National League (sixth in the Majors) only behind their NL Central rivals Chicago Cubs. They have scored 374 runs, which ranks sixth in the National League (13th in the Majors). They're currently eighth in the National League (14th in the Majors) with 82 home runs. They're 33/48 in stolen bases which is 12th in the National League (24th in the Majors). Luckily for the Cardinals they rank second in the National League in on base percentage at .347 (that's tied for third in the Majors with the Texas Rangers) behind the Chicago Cubs. So while it has been disappointing times, the offense has definitely been better than the 2007 season. It's nowhere close to 2004 or 2005, but it's definitely better.
The Cardinals pitching was suppose to be HORRIBLE in 2008. After signing Kyle Lohse, the rotation went from worst to first very quickly. The Cardinals lead the Majors in starters records with a record of 37-19. The entire Cardinals pitching staff has an ERA of 4.11, which ranks sixth in the National League (13th in the Majors). The Cardinals pitching has allowed 353 (333 earned) runs to cross the plate, which ranks (from least amount to most) fifth in the National League (12th in the Majors). They have walked only 249 batters, which ranks second in the National League (tied for sixth in the Majors).
If you ask anyone who this years Manager of the Year will be in the National League, every single one of them will tell you Tony LaRussa. The 2008 Cardinals will expected to lose 90 games or more. If the Cardinals play .400 ball the rest of the season, they would end up 78-84. LaRussa has done, by what many say, his best managerial job of his career. Now think of that statement because it's a bold one. He lead the 2006 Cardinals through two eight game losing streaks to a World Series title. Lets not forget the late 1980s Oakland Athletics that were the most dominant teams around.
Dave Duncan took on a big project in 2007 in Kip Wells. Wells failed and proved he isn't a good pitcher, so some thought Duncan ran out of magic and should move on. Not anymore. Duncan has turned Todd Wellemeyer, Braden Looper and Kyle Lohse into the three best pitchers in the league this year when no one gave them a chance to pitch well. He has also turned Mitchell Boggs into a quality starter. Plus, he has turned Jason LaRue around and maybe saved his career. Another quality year out of Mr. Fantastic.
The 2008 Cardinals were told by many that they would lose 90-100 games, Albert Pujols would break down and have to have Tommy John surgery and that they were the worst show on turf (next to the 2007-08 St. Louis Rams). They have turned it around and have it the NL Central the best division in baseball, all of this with people laughing in their faces. If they make the playoffs, you can call this the best team the Cardinals have had for a long time. Why do I say this? Because this is a TEAM. Every person on this roster has stepped up and went well beyond the call of duty (with the exception of Chris Duncan) to make this team click. Even with close to 15 players spending time on the DL, this team is still fighting and won't give up. Now that's a team.