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The Redbird Roost – May 10th
- Updated: May 10, 2012
The second edition of “The Redbird Roost” – Featuring St. Louis Cardinals News, Stats, and Thoughts!
The Cardinals finished April with a 14-8 record, are 6-3 in May, and have a 3.5 game lead in the NL Central. With a 20-8 overall record, the Redbirds are tied for the best winning percentage in the NL with the Dodgers, and only the Rangers have a better record in the AL. The team is finally getting to venture outside of the NL Central after 27 straight division games. They swept the Diamondbacks (their first series sweep of 2012) and will face the Atlanta Braves before taking on the Cubs and Giants for 2 games each. A series that will draw a lot of attention will be May 18-20, when the Cards travel to LA to take on the Dodgers. The schedule in May is tougher than it was in April, as the team has only had 7 games against teams with records over .500 as of today (Cincinnati and Miami). The team has shown impressive depth this season and has been able to sustain a good record despite injuries to some key players. Let’s take a look at a few things that have been most impressive this year, and some things for the Redbirds to watch out for in May:
-Lance Lynn and the Starting 5: Where would this team be without Lance Lynn? With a major league leading 6 wins, Lynn has solidified a spot in the rotation while filling in for Chris Carpenter. A 1.40 ERA and 38.2 innings pitched to go along with 37 strikeouts have left us all wondering who’s rotation spot will be at risk when the time comes for Carpenter to return. I know there is no timetable for Carp’s return, so the problem may work itself out as time goes by, but as of right now the starters with the worst ERA and win total are Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia. We all know Wainwright’s spot is safe, so the choice may be Garcia, but would Mike Matheny really want to take a young, talented lefty starter with a brand new contract out of the rotation? Regardless of the decision, the rotation has been phenomenal this season, posting an ERA of 3.07, second best in the majors, and is tied for the most wins with 19. In my opinion, the starting 5 of Lynn, Lohse, Wainwright, Westbrook and Garcia has been the single most important reason that the Cardinals are one of the top teams in the league. Keep an eye on Garcia in the coming weeks. He needs to establish more consistency. Starts like his most recent one in which he gave up 6 ER in 6 innings and walked 4 batters against Houston need to be eliminated. With that being said, Garcia would still be in the top of a vast majority of rotations around the league, and he is by no means bringing the team down with his performance.
-The Bullpen: If this team has a weakness, it is the bullpen. In my opinion, the Cardinals need to beef up their bullpen with another solid arm or two. Jason Motte is firmly planted in the closer role and there have been a few bright spots along the way, but let’s be honest; the starting rotation has carried such a big load for this team that the bullpen has not been stretched or exposed. If the starters don’t give as many solid innings as they have been, the burden on the pen, in my opinion, will be too much for this group. I see too much inconsistency with pitchers that are supposed to hold key roles for the team this year (Salas, Romero, etc.). To put in perspective of how little this bullpen has been used, of the 20 wins that the team has the bullpen has only 1 (Motte). Sooner or later, the bullpen is going to be called upon to handle more innings, and I just don’t feel confident enough with this group as it is right now. With as much depth as this team has in the outfield and in the minors, it may be wise to make a move to add depth in the bullpen. I know this is all premature talk, because as of right now the bullpen hasn’t been an issue, but closer to the trade deadline I can see the Cardinals looking to improve.
-Rafael Furcal: The re-signing of Rafael Furcal this offseason has turned out to be a great move. Furcal is hitting .361 this year with a .423 OBP and has set the tables game after game this year by getting on base consistently, which has led to him scoring 23 runs. The Cardinals have lacked a solid leadoff man in years past, but the addition of Furcal has solidified that spot in the lineup as well as provided good defense at shortstop, which is important with a ground ball pitching staff. Let’s hope Furcal can stay healthy all season, as injuries have plagued him in the past, but right now we are seeing what a healthy Rafael Furcal can provide for this team.
-Carlos Beltran: Not enough can be said about the impact that Beltran has had on this team so far this season. I’ll refrain from comparing his stats to Albert Pujols at this point, but the Cardinals signing of Beltran this offseason is turning out to be another great decision by the front office. Beltran trails only Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp in HR’s with 10, has 27 RBIs, a .284 average, .569 slugging percentage and has contributed 5 stolen bases. This sounds like a guy who would be batting in the 3 or 4 spot in the lineup, right? Wrong, Beltran has been hitting in the 2 spot for St. Louis. Opposing teams have to deal with Furcal leading off, followed by Beltran, Holliday, Berkman (when he returns on Friday), Freese, and Yadi. Even without Albert Pujols, this is one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball and they have proven that by posting a team batting average of .287, good for 2nd in the majors. Aside from the starting rotations performance, I’d say that Beltran has been the biggest key in the Cardinals great start to 2012, especially with the slow start that Holliday has had and the injury to Lance Berkman.
There’s so much more that could be said about this team and the success they have had so far. I haven’t even mentioned Mike Matheny and the job he has been able to do in his first season. Feel free to leave your comments and opinions and thanks for reading!
Photo courtesy of Keith Allison