The Cardinals have always been a threat to win the NL Central Division. With guys like Wainwright and Carpenter anchoring your starting rotation, and now with the emergence of Jaime Garcia, three days out of five you have an excellent chance of winning. Lets not forget the three time NL MVP, quite possibly the best player in baseball, Albert Pujols, and the extremely dangerous Matt Holliday batting one after the other. I thought about why they fell out of contention to the Cincinnati Reds, who quite honestly came out of nowhere to take the division away from the red birds. With everyone else in the division falling to pieces, it only took so much effort to reach out and take first.
As I researched more and more on the Cards, I looked into how they faired against the NL central. I found that they are 34-35 against central division teams. The Reds are 44-27. Even the Houston Astros are 42-27. What also struck me as bizarre. is they are 5-10 against the Astros. Not to take anything away from the Astros, but you wouldn't expect that out of St. Louis. But the more I looked, the more surprised I became. They are 12-6 against the division leading Reds.
All of that aside, I think one move this season really hurt them. The trade of Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres. At the time the move seemed necessary, acquiring Jake Westbrook from the Cleveland Indians within the trade to help the starting rotation to become even more solidified than it was before, but I feel taking the big bat of Ludwick out of a lineup that, quite frankly, is lacking clutch hitting aside Pujols and Holliday. Outside of those two, there isn't much to rely on. They have no solid lead off hitter, their sixth and seventh hole hitters are usually not very strong. Ludwick before leaving the Cardinals had a .281 batting average, .484 SLG, a .343 OBP, 11 hr and 43 RBIs in 77 games. Since he joined the Padres he has not faired as well only batting .239 with 5 HR and 21 RBIs in 46 games, consider the pitcher friendly PETCO Park and other NL west parks. As good as Colby Rasmus has been, I think the clutch hitting of Ludwick has really hurt them in close games.
I also do think the lack of consistency in their bullpen has also affected them, as it does with all teams. St. Louis bullpen has an ERA over 4.00 on the road this season.