The Cardinals played amazing baseball in September and were even better in October. Albert Pujols was fantastic, hitting home runs and driving in run after run.
Chris Carpenter pitched lights out. Lance Berkman looked revitalized. Players like David Freese and Rafael Furcal stepped up and played well enough to earn a World Series. Tony La Russa, despite the bullpen phone call debacle, was amazing in his coaching and management of the Cardinals.
The Cardinals 2011 World Series win was the definition of a team win.
Now I am going to tell you why they will repeat in 2012.
I know what you're saying, what about Pujols? Certainly he leaves in the offseason to sign the biggest deal in the history of the MLB.
I don't believe that he leaves the Cardinals. Somehow, someway, the Cardinals will find a way to resign the best player in the majors. I believe that La Russa's retirement will make this more of a struggle than it would have been, but St. Louis is what Pujols knows and I believe that he will stay.
The Cardinals have already extended the contracts of Berkman, Garcia and Carpenter. Holliday, Freese, Molina, and the other players that helped to make the run to the 2011 World Series will be back.
Adam Wainwright, arguably the Cardinals' best pitcher before injury, will be back. If he can come back as good as he was before, then the Cardinals will have one of the better pitching rotations in the National League. We already know that the Cardinals can hit the ball and play good defense.
One of the most important parts to a championship team is depth. The Cardinals have a great outfield in starters Matt Holliday, John Jay and Lance Berkman. Their reserves include Allen Craig and Skip Schumaker, two players that can step in and immediately make plays. Schumaker can also play second base and the Cardinals also have Ryan Theriot backing up Rafael Furcal at shortstop. Molina is solid at catcher and Berkman and Craig can fill in at first or second base in a pinch.
The next question is at the manager spot. Who takes over for the legendary, future Hall of Famer, Tony La Russa? At this point, most people have the same short list. That list includes:
- Jose Oquendo (current Cardinals third base coach)
- Bobby Valentine (current ESPN Baseball Analyst)
- Terry Francona (former Boston Red Sox Manager)
Any of these three could come in and be given a great team to manage. All three are also more than capable of leading the Cardinals to the 2012 World Series. Any of these guys will also have the Cardinals ready to defend their 2011 World Series Championship. In fact, the Cardinals could actually be better next year.
The Cardinals showed during the 2011 NLDS and NLCS that they can not only compete with the best NL clubs, but dominate. The series against the Brewers was a mismatch and the Cardinals played the Phillies as well as anyone.
There are a good amount of teams in the National League that could lose key players. The Brewers—St. Louis' main competition in the NL Central—will more than likely lose Prince Fielder. The Phillies already released Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge.
If the Cardinals keep the majority of their current roster—which they should—then the Cardinals seem to be in place to make another run next season.
In 2011, the Cardinals were fifth in runs, fifth in batting average, third in on base percentage and sixth in slugging percentage. They should be able to keep up those statistics. They were also 12th in ERA, 15th in quality starts, 15th in WHIP and 20th in BAA.
Granted, these are not the best pitching stats you have ever seen, but remember that they did that without Wainwright, one of the best pitchers in the NL. In 2012, the Cardinals should improve just about every one of these statistics.
It is quite fitting if you think about the fact that 2011 ended up being the Cardinals' 11th World Series title. It is only natural that 2012 will result in the Cardinals' 12th MLB Championship.