Well, you have to say we've struggled a little down the stretch coming into the break. The sweep over the Bucs certainly would've helped, but unfortunately, we choked that one game away. Here's how I would grade the team's components at this point:
Offense: B+ The team ranks 6th in the NL in runs scored, 2nd in BA, and 6th in HRs. The power seems to have surged the last couple of weeks with Ankiel and Glaus getting hot and Ludwick finding his form again. The #1 trade rumor for the Cards right now is acquiring Jason Bay from the Bucs. I think this would help mostly because he'd be a more proven threat behind Pujols in the clean-up spot, but I don't think it will happen because I think the Cardinals won't give up too much for him as he'd be taking the place of either Ludwick or Shumaker. I don't view him as a huge upgrade over either. His numbers are similar to Ludwick's this year and Shu has done a great job in the leadoff role which Bay can't provide. Shu is also a very good defensive player. Overalll, you'd have to say Pujols and been Pujols and Ludwick, Miles, and Molina have been better than expected. Glaus is the only real disappointment (I don't count Izturis and Kenneday - I knew they wouldn't hit) and he's shown real signs of life this last week, so I like how we stand in this area overall. I'll reiterate that the one place I might like to upgrade is middle infield, not outfield, but I don't know who we could trade for to do that.
Defense - A- The Cardinals are tied for 1st in the NL in fielding percentage with the Astros and Padres. The Astros have committed one less error, but have played one less game. The infield has been fantastic. Glaus has been a major plus here. Not known for his defense, he's committed only 3 errors so far. Scott who? Izturis has made some spectacular plays, but leads the Cardinals with 8 errors. With his weak bat, you can see why he's lost playing time to Miles and Ryan recently. Kennedy is another plus defender who takes hits away. The outfield has been pretty good, but makes some poor decisions occasionally with their relative inexperience. Shu and Ankiel have cannons for arms and Ludwick is probably above average in that area as well. Duncan is terrible of course, but he seems less so since coming back up.
Starting pitching B+ Lohse has carried the day since Wainwright when down. Who would've figured him for an ace? Wellenmeyer had been great, but elbow trouble seems to have really effected his performance the last six weeks. His most recent start was better, so hopefully he'll get back on track. Pineiro has been average. Looper ditto. Really, IF we do get Carpenter and Wainwright back in the next 3 weeks, you hate to see us make a move here. I just hope it's not too late by that point. If they both come back, Pineiro should be converted back to reliever to bolster the pen. Speaking of which.........
Bullpen: D This is really the difference between us and the Cubs. Their pen has been great......ours not so much. McClellen and Springer have shown some good things. Flores was OK before he got hurt (he should be back after the break, thank God). Franklin has filled a variety of roles with decent success. That's about the only good things I can say. We all know what a disaster Izzy has been. Perez looked awesome at first, but he needs to find a second pitch to go with the fastball consistently. If I'm the Cardinals GM, what I need to do at the trade deadline (and preferably sooner) is pretty clear: find at least one, but really two plus relievers. Fuentes from the Rockies would be a good place to start. He can close, and he's a lefty, we need both of those things.
On that note, I think we have to be happy with where we are right now compared to the expectations at the beginning of the season. We are in the division race, much less the wildcard, and our main competitions are well-known chokers like the Cubs and the Mets, or inexperienced chokers like the Brewers. If we can add some relievers, I like our chances going forward.
::WHOAH! Check this out. Debunked rumor concerning Jason Bay -CJ::