To make-up for my lack of blogging activity lately, I'm going to use the holiday weekend to do a series of posts. Today I'll cover the main team. Later today or tomorrow I'll discuss the NL as a whole. And then finally I'll briefly go over the AL race and give my mid-season awards and playoff predictions based on what we've seen so far. So, here's how I stack-up our team so far:
Where we stand now: Well, the team obviously hasn't played great since April. The main reason for that is the offense. Amazingly, Albert is having probably his best season ever to this point, which is really saying something. The rest of team, however, has been not too good. Shu and Ryan have done a pretty good job of getting on base thankfully, or else Albert would never get pitched to. The so-called power hitters in Ludwick, Ankiel and Duncan have been dreadful, though Luds has begun to show signs of life this week. I'm beginning to wonder if Ankiel will ever to disciplined enough to truly be an everyday player and I'm glad he's a free-agent after this year right now. Rasmus looks like not just the future in CF, but the better player by far right now. Duncan to me has looked like he at least has a clue at the plate, but he just hasn't shown the power this year yet. You have to wonder if his neck is 100%. I definitely applaud the DeRosa acquisition by management. He is a big upgrade at third for starters, and is the kind of versatile player LaRussa loves. It's not Mozeliak's fault he got hurt right away, that's just bad luck. Certainly Perez has the potential to be a good closer in the future, but right now, Franklin has been golden and you have to give-up something good to get something good. IF we can get DeRosa healthy and a couple of the outfielders step-up a little, that should be enough offense -because the pitching has been outstanding. The best pitched game I've seen all year was this past Wednesday with Wainwright going 9 and striking-out 12. Carp has been great, Pineiro very good. Wellenmeyer has been the weak-link, but he showed good signs this past start. Thompson has been a decent fill-in, but fortunately Lohse should be back in a week. The bullpen has been almost the polar-opposite of last year. Led by the near-perfect Franklin, they've given-up few leads and often kept us in other close games late. Now, yesterday was one of the few times the offense has managed to take advantage of that and stoke a come-back, but I believe more of those are in the future. We'll need Kinney and Motte to pitch better than they have with Perez gone, but I'm hopeful they can do that.
So what about the future, Conan? Well, looking ahead, all the way to September, 2009, the NL Central is obviously still up for grabs, as well as the wild-card. As poorly as we've played, we sit today atop the division by one game over the Brewers. Granted, we only have a 6 game lead over the LAST PLACE team (the Pirates), so that shows we still have a lot of work to do. Personally, I don't think the Brewers have the pitching to stay with over the long run unless they can find another Sabathia-type deal out there. The Cubs, obviously, are a team to watch. Their line-up has been even worse than ours though, and they don't have a Pujols to carry them. Their bullpen has also been a problem. Honestly, the Reds could be a team to watch if they can get Volquez back, because that would give them a great rotation. Overall, however, I think this race is ours to lose. I feel we've weathered the worst from an offensive stand-point, and the team should just better from here on out. Lohse and DeRosa hopefully shouldn't be out much longer and there is even hope Glaus could return sometime in the next 6 weeks or so. Certainly, other injuries could happen. We always keep a watchful eye on Carp and I'm a little worried we've asked too much of Franklin so far (has has pitched the last three days in a row for instance). Still, I think the team has to start hitting and hitting for power, and even a little more run support should send us on a big streak which could easily allow us to run away and hide from this mediocre division. It would be nice to have a little lead heading into what should be a fun and historic all-star break for the Cardinals and the city of St. Louis.