St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Reasons The Cards Can Still Contend Without Wainwright
The injury to Adam Wainwright's elbow will officially require Tommy John surgery, ending his season and severely damaging the Cardinals' chances at an NL Central title.
Now that their season is over before it even began, the Cardinals are going to trade Chris Carpenter, their only remaining ace, and probably try to find a buyer for Albert Pujols, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
They'll probably sell the team and baseball in St. Louis will be over.
Big Mac Land will become The Whopper-ville and pitching coach Dave Duncan will take a job with the U.S. military, developing soldiers who can literally throw their bullets at enemies.
I'm kidding, of course. None of those things are going to happen.
The St. Louis Cardinals still have a good baseball team heading into the 2011 season.
Not having Wainwright hurts, but it doesn't signal the end of the season and there's no reason to pack it in.
Here are five reasons the Cardinals can still contend in the NL Central in 2011.
1. Chris Carpenter Is Still a No. 1
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Carpenter finished the 2010 season with a 16-9 record, a 3.22 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP.
He made a career-high 35 starts and threw more innings (235.0) than in any of the previous four seasons.
He's battled injuries over his career, but when healthy, this guy is one of the best pitchers in baseball.
The loss of Wainwright hurts, but it doesn't leave the Cardinals without a No. 1 starter.
2. Jaime Garcia Can Step Up and Fill The Hole Left By Wainwright
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At just 24 years old and in his first full season, Garcia won 18 games and posted a 2.70 ERA, fourth in the National League.
Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, Garcia took a big step forward in terms of workload.
The Cardinals did keep him from really pushing himself in the second half of the season.
A regression is to be expected when a young pitcher throws 60 innings more than he ever had in his career, but Dave Duncan is a pitching guru, and he is more than capable of taking this kid to the next level.
3. Matt Holliday
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I think it's safe to say that this guy was not just a product of Coors Field.
Last season, Holliday led the Cardinals with a .312 batting average and crushed 28 home runs with 103 RBI.
He struck out just 93 times last season, while posting a 79.9-contact percentage, his highest mark since 2005.
Any time you have a slugger like Holliday in the middle of your lineup, you've got a chance to beat any pitcher on any given day.
The Cardinals offense will have to take up the slack for their starting rotation, and Holliday is going to have to be a big part of that.
4. They Still Have Albert Pujols
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The Cardinals have the greatest player in baseball. That has to count for something, right?
We all know how great Pujols is, so posting stats isn't really necessary.
And we all know the situation with his contract, or lack thereof, so again, no need to beat a dead horse.
Suffice it to say that Pujols is still wearing Cardinals red and will continue to do so for the rest of the 2011 season.
I will mention that this is, of course, a contract year for the slugger, who has said he feels stronger this year than any previous year.
What does that mean? Well, it means you can expect even bigger production than in is previous seasons.
Along with Matt Holliday, Pujols helps form one of the best 1-2 punches in all of baseball.
Along with outfielder Colby Rasmus, fan-favorite Yadier Molina and offseason-addition Lance Berkman, the Cardinals do not have a creampuff lineup that can be easily handled.
5. Dave Duncan
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Dave Duncan is a pitching wizard.
If you're going to lose your No. 2 starter for the season, this is the guy you want handling the guys who are left.
It's safe to expect the Cardinals to go after one of the remaining free agent pitchers.
Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Bonderman are out there, and there is the potential to trade for Philadelphia's Joe Blanton.
Duncan has worked with pitchers with much less talent and found a way to turn them into decent starting pitchers.
With the injury to Wainwright, everyone else in the rotation should move up a spot, meaning the Cardinals don't need to find another ace, they just need someone serviceable.
The Cardinals also have reliever Kyle McClellan to consider.
Every season he trains to become a starting pitcher and the Cardinals should look to stretch him out as a possible fifth starter. He posted a 2.27 ERA in 75.1 innings pitched last season.
Don't Count The Cardinals Out
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The injury to Wainwright is a big blow to this team. Not having him only makes things that much more difficult for the Cardinals.
However, this injury didn't come with two weeks left to go in spring training.
The Cardinals now have more than a month to find a suitable replacement, and they're going to consider every available option. The Cardinals are going to find a replacement, and while whoever they get probably won't win 20 games, they wont need him to.
They still have a good offense capable of putting up big numbers, and a good No. 1 in Chris Carpenter along with the best pitching coach in baseball.
The Houston Astros are a good team at times, but they are far from being a factor in the division.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs, despite giving up everything they had to get Matt Garza, can never seem to get out of their own way.
That just leaves the Milwaukee Brewers, which are much improved thanks to the additions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, but it all hinges on whether or not Greinke can return to his Cy Young form or if that was just a one-time deal.
The Cincinnati Reds are a great team and probably the biggest competition in the NL Central.
Things are looking bleak now, but this situation only just happened.
We'll see how it plays out, but I don't think you can count the Cardinals out just yet.