Last night, we were officially eliminated from postseason play. The sad thing is, the Mets and Brewers have played very poorly the last three weeks, if we could have just been decent, we would have had a chance. Alas, a team that was probably playing over their heads finally came back down to earth, and in a big way. I just hope now we can finish over .500 and finish ahead of the Astros. The next few days, I'm going to do a 3-4 part series examining what went right this year, what went wrong, and what the team should do in my opinion next season to make in back to postseason baseball. Today, I'll start with the easiest part, the offense:
What went right: Albert had his usual stellar season, despite having the fewest proven bats around him that he has had in his career. Ludwick had a great year, probably a career year. Ankiel was quite good when healthy. Miles, Shumaker, and Molina were all better than expected. Glaus was probably only about average, but with his better than expected defense, there is no question that we got the better of that trade.
What went wrong: The middle infield provided almost no power, with our shortstops and 2B hitting a COMBINED 10 homeruns this year. Chris Duncan was either injured or ineffictive this year. Ankiel was unable to come back from an late July abdominal injury, Joe Mather was lost for the year just as he was finding his way, and Molina and Glaus also struggled with late season injuries. The combination of those things had the Cards with little left in the tank in September.
Bottom Line: The Cardinals currently rank 1st in BA, 7th in HRs, and 5th in runs per game in the National League. That's got be considered a successful season from an offensive standpoint.
Plan for next year: If it were up to me, I'd shut Albert down right now, and have him get the elbow surgery he needs immediately. He may still not make it back quite in time to start next season, but it should be close. I believe Miles and Izturis are free agents. I'd resign Miles, and let Izturis go. His plus glove isn't enough to make-up for his minus bat. Kennedy wants to be traded - if we can find a taker, I say good. Lopez has hit pretty well since coming over, but is weak defensively. I think he'd be worth re-signing if the price is right. Ideally, I'd like to trade for or sign a better hitting SS (a return for Renteria maybe?), start Lopez at 2B and let Miles be the main back-up at both middle infield positions. Glaus, Molina, and Albert are back next year. Ludwick, Shumaker, and Ankiel as well I assume. I'd have Mather as the 4th outfielder/platoon with Shumaker. Rasmus doesn't seem ready for the big show yet it seems, but we have enough good outfielders to allow for another year in the minors. All in all, I think only one big move needs to be made to give us another good offensive team next year, that being the shortstop position. The really big question in all honesty is whether Ludwick can repeat what he did this year. A little more consistency from Glaus and Ankiel to back-up Albert wouldn't hurt either.
Coming up next, I'll examine the starting rotation.