Before I get started, how about a hand for the guys playing out the season with pride. Five straight wins, and Pujols has gone on a nice little run that will hopefully net him his second MVP award. Now, on to the hard part.......
What went right: Well, not a whole lot really. McClellen pitched well the first 4 months before seemingly running out of gas in his first major league season. Springer was pretty tough for the most part. Perez should flashes of brilliance. Franklin had his moments, especially when he was not asked to close. Motte has been great in an admittedly small sample size. Kinney likewise (props to him for making such a long comeback attempt successful though).
What went wrong: Hmmm......where to start. Izzy was alternately hurt or disastrous. Franklin was unable to consistently close games either. Come to think of it, no one was. Perez probably has the best save percentage, but that's not saying anything really. Finding relief from the left side was equally difficult for the Cardinals. Villone seemed to be TRL's favorite, but his ERA is horrible. He does get some K's, but still not good overall. Flores was the left-handed Izzy this year basically. If the bullpen could have held a handfull of the leads this year that they gave up, we'd be talking playoffs instead of next year right now.
Bottom line: This is obviously the most glaring weakness/need on the team. Just because management did nothing to shore it up at the trading deadline, doesn't mean they won't do anything in the offseason. Right?
Plan of next year: First of all, the Cards have to figure-out who will close for them. Everything else will fall in line from there. I'm not a big fan of the idea of signing K-Rod. Granted, having him this year almost certainly would have given us 10-12 more wins, but he'll command a record salary for a closer (maybe $15-16 mil for 5-6 years) and I just don't think it is worth it for a player that will pitch a maximum of 80 or so innings a year. I'm not sure what other options there will be in free agency (I think Fuentes from Colorado is a free agent), but there will be much cheaper options. Regardless or whether we sign a closer, signing a steady veteran guy from the left side is a must. We have some good young arms, but they are mostly righties (or really totally if Tyler Johnson and Garcia can't come back from injury next year). Motte and Perez look like they will be future big cogs in the bullpen, but they need to work on finding secondary pitches to go with the plus fastballs. I loved Kinney before got injured with his wicked slider, and he hasn't given up a run since coming back, so he looks like a good combo to go with Franklin as the primary set-up guys. McClellen I've heard may be turned back into a starter, but if he isn't, I think he can be effective as a seventh inning guy with the other youngsters helping more over the full season. Springer may retire or move to a team closer to his family. He was good this year, but he's not a necessity for next year. I think if we sign two good veterans (one lefty, one closer), this area could quickly turn from a weakness to a strength. Lord knows, that would be welcome news to the Cardinal nation after this past season.