The first half of Major League Baseball has come and gone and the St. Louis Cardinals are where I believed them to be. Finishing second, one game back from the Milwaukee Brewers with a 52-44 record. As I predicted, the Cards finished the first half slightly above .500 while still in the hunt for a weakened National League Central Division.
By far the Cardinals’ best player from the first half was Matt Carpenter. Carp put together a .283 average at 364 trips to the plate. He boasted 103 hits, scoring 60 runs, while bringing in 34 RBIs. Although he didn’t start hitting for extra bases until late in the first half, Carpenter found his stride before the All-Star break, making him a solid reserve for the NL All-Star squad.
By far the biggest disappointment was the loss of Yadier Molina due to injury. With the Cards catcher being out of commission due to a torn ligament in his thumb, the team took a huge blow. Out 8-12 weeks following surgery, it doesn’t appear Molina will be making a game appearance until a potential postseason appearance. Yadi had a great .287 average at the plate, but his defensive abilities throughout the season have made him a continual force to be reckoned with. He had 611 putouts in 658 total chances only allowing 18.00 stolen bases allowed all season. Although veteran Tony Cruz has filled the position behind the plate, not having Molina in the starting catcher position will have a bad effect on the Cardinals this second half.
As for a second half prediction, I do believe the Cardinals still have a shot at the Central Division regular season title. Although the Brewers have sat atop the division for the grand majority of the season, it appears to be anyone’s for the taking. The Redbirds have currently slipped 3.5 games back into third place behind the first place Brew Crew and the second place Pittsburg Pirates. As of right now, the Cards are in fourth place in the NL Wild Card rankings, so without a second half surge the will most definitely miss this year’s playoffs.
In order to keep within the divisional title or wild card spots, the Cardinals will need to make some improvements. The player I believe that needs to make a bigger impact in the second half needs to be Allen Craig. Manager Mike Matheny continues to put him in the four spot in the lineup, believing he will get out of his hitting slump. If Craig doesn’t find his swing, Matheny and General Manager John Mozeliak should consider moving on. The team still lacks pitching due to injury so Craig could be decent trade bait along with prospective players from the Cards’ farm teams. Regardless, if St. Louis plans on keeping Craig around, he needs to improve his bat.
I see Matt Carpenter continuing his first half success into the second half, helping the ball club make the improbable streak to the postseason. On streak to have over 200 hits this season, Carpenter has not only been a great lead-off hitter, but he has begun hitting for extras as well. I also believe Matt Adams will continue to have clutch moments late in games and late in the season. “Big City” has a great .319 average, ripping out 12 homeruns already. These aren’t huge numbers for a power hitting first baseman, but Adams is young. He will continue to improve this season and throughout his career.
The Cardinals playoff hopes aren’t looking great as of late, but the team has been known to put together late season surges into the playoffs. Many didn’t see the Cardinals making it to the World Series last year, so anything is possible. With a team that continues to make the impossible, possible, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the Redbirds in this year’s playoffs.