Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Breaking down baseball: St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals won the NL Central last year and are looking to avenge a playoff loss in which the Dodgers swept them. A re-signed Matt Holliday and one of the best pitching duos in the game makes their return to the playoffs seem likely.

Offense

When St. Louis traded for Matt Holliday in the middle of last season, they feared exactly what every team trading for an expiring contract fears: trading prospects for a chance to rent a player.

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Fortunately for the Cardinals, Holliday could not get a better deal from the Red Sox or Mets and signed with the Cards to the tune of a seven-year, $120 million deal.

Securing Holliday not only means another strong bat in the lineup, but it also provides some much-needed protection for Albert Pujols. Holliday’s arrival in the middle of last season started a fire under the Cards, and his .313 average, 24 home runs and 109 RBIs should help St. Louis win the Central for a second time in a row.

Two seasons ago Ryan Ludwig broke onto the scene with a 37-home run and 113-RBI season. He followed his breakout with a strong showing in 2009 by blasting 22 and driving in 97 while playing in 13 fewer games.

If he can stay healthy this season, he can provide a much needed third power bat in this lineup. Ludwig turns 32 this year, though, and will need to stay on the field if the Cards hope to advance throughout the playoffs.

Colby Rasmus is the most intriguing young bat on the Cardinals’ roster. In his rookie season last year the center fielder hit 16 homeruns and drove in 52. If he can develop a little more patience at the plate he has the potential to be a very gifted ballplayer.

And of course, at the heart of the Cardinals’ lineup in first baseman Albert Pujols. Finding a fault in Pujols’ game is perhaps the hardest task in baseball.

For seven years in a row the man has not hit under .330. For the past decade he has averaged 40 homeruns and 124 RBIs. In a time when baseball has never been harder to play, Pujols is the best, bottom line.

Brendan Ryan (SS) and Skip Schumaker (2B) will both hit for the average for the Cards, Yadier Molina continues to be among the best defensive catchers in baseball, and David Freese will get his first full time shot at third base. If any of the infielders begin to falter, Felipe Lopez is waiting and ready to step in at any time.

Pitching

The Cardinals one-two combination at the top of the rotation finished second and third in the NL Cy Young race last season. That speaks volumes to how strong Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright pitched in 2009.

Carpenter, the Comeback Player of the Year last year, led the NL in ERA (2.24) while posting 17 wins and striking out 144.

Wainwright was arguably more impressive last season. He also posted a blistering ERA (2.63) while winning 19 games and striking out 212 batters. Wainwright is 28 years old and looks poised to have a repeat season.

Brad Penny has been given a shot to resurrect his career and showed up to spring training in the best shape he has been in for years. He still managed to win 11 games last year on the Red Sox and Giants, so if he can find his form he could make this rotation very deep and very dangerous.

Kyle Lohse will be pitching in the fourth spot while Kyle McClellan, a converted reliever, will get his first shot at starting in the majors.

Ryan Franklin, coming off a 38-save season, will start the year as the Cardinals’ closer.

Prediction

The Cards are the odds-on favorite to win the NL Central Division.

Provided each of their big four (Pujols, Holliday, Carpenter and Wainwright) can stay healthy and maintain their form, the Cardinals should be fine. But in order for them to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs players on both sides of the field will have to step up.

The Cards will most likely have to get through the Dodgers and/or Phillies to get to the World Series, and at this point I do not believe they have enough firepower to get the job done. The Cardinals will win the division, but will be disappointed with another first round exit from the postseason.

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