St. Louis Cardinals: Grading the first third of the season

The first third of the MLB season has come to an end and the next two thirds will be here and gone in no time. What have the St. Louis Cardinals accomplished in the first third of the season? Simply put, nothing special. The Redbirds are two games above .500 and are four games in second place to the NL Central division leading Milwaukee Brewers.

Based on the tradition of “The Cardinal Way,” this year’s Cardinals team is underperforming to the expectations set forth by last season’s World Series loss to the Boston Red Sox. Yes St. Louis lost hometown hero David Freese, but the squad has been restocked with a power hitting shortstop Jhonny Peralta, and outfield talent in Peter Bourjos, a healthy Allen Craig, and the young phenom Oscar Taveras.

The team should be scoring more runs and as a result, winning more games. The Cards are third worst in the league in leaving runners on base, averaging 16.31 LOB per game. This has a direct correlation in the fact that the Redbirds are 24th out of 30 teams with runs scored with 3.83 per game. If the Cardinals do not improve in scoring runs and bring in runners on base, the team will not make the playoffs, let alone compete.

Last year the Cardinals were able to get hot late, which eventually led them to a World Series against the Red Sox. This was due to the fact that the team was able to bring in runners when it mattered most. Cardinals fans may feel the same way about the scoring situation this season, but with a slightly more competitive division along with other strong National League teams like such as the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, and the surprising Miami Marlins, the Cards playoff hopes look bleak.

It is nice to see the ball club give Oscar Taveras his big shot, putting an exclamation point on his first start by cranking out a no-doubt homer in only his second at bat of his MLB career. If this is a projection of things to come, the Cardinals should be bringing in more runs with the Dominican Republic native.

Regardless of the club’s lackluster batting, the pitching staff has been doing their part to put the team in a winning position. Ranked sixth overall in ERA at 3.44, Cards veteran Adam Wainwright is setting the tone for the rest of the pitchers. He leads the team in wins (8), strikeouts (89), WHIP (0.90) and an ERA of 2.31.

If the organization can match the talented pitching with quality hitting throughout the entire lineup, the Cardinals could be an NL Central leading, World Series contender. Right now this possibility seems nothing short of a dream that manager Mike Matheny is trying to overcome.

With the first third of the season over, I give the St. Louis Cardinals a B- rating. As stated before, the pitching staff has put the ball club in the position to win, but with a lack runs scored and lifeless batting averages throughout the lineup, the Cards can and will miss the playoffs, even with an extended Wild Card. If hitting coach John Mabry improves the hitting and runs problem, the Redbirds will receive a better grade later in the season.