With the Cardinals one fourth of the way through the season at 40 games, I thought it was a good time to take a look at the season to date. There has been good and bad, as the Cards sit at 22-18, one half game behind Cincinnati to start the day.
1) Lance Berkman: Like a lot of people, I was skeptical but hopeful when the Cards signed Lance Berkman to a one year, $8 Million deal during the winter. Lance has given the Cards everything they could have asked for though, with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs while hitting over .340. He's put up MVP-like numbers for 40 games, and played adequate defense in RF
2) Starting Rotation: All we heard was doom and gloom when Adam Wainwright went down with his season ending injury. The rotation has been solid though, as Kyle Lohse and Kyle McClellan have stepped up with very consistent performances all year. Jaime Garcia has been even better than his stellar rookie campaign, going 5-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA.
3) Bench play: The Birds have gotten good production off the bench and timely hitting from the likes of Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Nick Punto, Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene. They've been able to help the team through injuries without a drop in production. The Cardinals have won some key games on late inning hits by Gerald Laird, Descalso and Craig. I think that is always a tendency of winning teams, when they get wins from the unsung heroes, and not just from the stars.
1) Bullpen: What else?? The lack of a closer has been glaring, with 9 blown saves in the first 40 games. Ryan Franklin has been beyond terrible, to the point where a release is soon going to be his only option. I like Eduardo Sanchez and his future potential, but he doesn't appear ready to handle closer duties just yet. How the bullpen performs and what Mozeliak's response is to address the situation is likely the key to the Cardinal's 2011 post-season chances.
2) Team defense: Along with Wainwright's injury, defense was one of the big concerns heading into the season. It has proved to be a legitimate concern, with sloppy defense really hurting the Cards at some key points in games during the season. The Cards are 27th in team fielding percentage out of 30 major league teams.
3) David Freese injury: Given the lack of a good power option at 3rd base, Freese staying healthy was a key to this season. His bad luck continued though when he was hit by a pitch on May 1st, fracturing his hand. His hot start production at .356-2-14 in the first month has been missed in the middle of the lineup during May.
If they continue to get solid starting pitching and the bullpen can improve, the Cards have the ability to win the Central this year, but it won't be easy. They are going to need to come together defensively as well if they want to give themselves the best chance to win this thing.