May 1st marks the end of the first full month of the 2011 season for the St. Louis Cardinals.
A month for the Redbirds that started off slow, with a 2-6 record in the first eight games and an offense unable to produce more than four runs. The Cards have since turned around their season winning 14 of their next 19 sitting atop the NL central with a 16-11 record.
Who would have thought that the offense that began the season incapable of driving in runs now ranks first—no, not a typo—FIRST in the major leagues (going into Sunday's game) in batting average (.299), runs scored (141), and on-base percentage (.365).
The Cardinals fast offensive start is due in large part to the play of a rejuvenated Lance Berkman, hitting .396 with 8 HR and 23 RBI.
Along with Berkman, a much more relaxed Matt Holliday, who admitted last year that he was putting too much pressure on himself to perform, after signing a seven-year extension, leads the majors with a .408 batting average after missing six games early in the season due to an emergency appendectomy.
The Cardinals offense has been able to put up all of these big numbers with the best hitter on the planet continuing to struggle.
Albert Pujols, one month into the season has a batting average of only .248 and is tied for the major league lead grounding into nine double-plays. This lack of production has prompted fans and members of the media alike to wonder whether Albert is pressing because of his current contract situation.
Another bright spot for the Cardinals so far on the young season has been the performance of the starting pitching, a unit with a combined 3.5 ERA and a record of 13-5, with none of the wins coming from tough luck ace Chris Carpenter (0-2 with a 3.89 ERA).
The Cardinals pitching staff has been led by the performances of Kyle Lohse (4-1 with a 1.65 ERA) and Kyle McClellan (4-0 with a 3.23 ERA) replacing an injured Adam Wainwright.
The glaring weakness for the 2011 version of the St. Louis Cardinals has been the lack of a closer at the back end of the bullpen.
The Cardinals are a combined eight-for-15 in save opportunities; however, Tony La Russa seems to have found an answer to this problem by employing a closer by committee approach.
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