I get it. This is a Cubs’ blog. And I am a Cubs’ fan. So anything critical of the Cardinals comes off as “jealousy”, a “hot take”, or any series of things that the Best Fans twitter account could have a world of fun with. But here’s the God’s honest truth from my perspective…
I don’t think the Cardinals are that good. I don’t. I know they added Dexter Fowler, and he helps fix their disjointed outfield defense and gives them a true lead-off hitter that they missed last season. I know that they’re *always* good. But they don’t look that good. Their pitching is kind of middle of the pack. Their offense was kind of the same last year, too…except they pasted 225 HRs, tops in the National League. That covered a lot of short comings. And I don’t think it happens again.
A lot of the stuff that made the Cardinals *THE Cardinals* is getting older. Or it’s gone. Adam Wainwright is old. Yadier Molina is old. Matt Holliday is old…and gone. Jason Heyward left. Michael Wacha hasn’t been the same as he was as a rookie. In my estimation, the Cardinals are closer to needing a rebuild than they are to legitimately contending for another championship.
Pixie dust. Seriously. That is THE ONLY EXPLANATION FOR JEDD GYORKO. How in the world did they pull 30 HRs out that guy? Granted, he still only hit .243/.306/.495…but it’s the .495 that’s mind blowing.
Consider me not sold on their power, yet. I do not think Jedd freaking Gyorko hits 30 more bombs this year. Brandon Moss and his 28 are gone…and I don’t think they get repeated in Kansas City, either. Frankly, a team that was last in HRs in 2014 and 11th in the NL in 2015 needs to show more than a propensity for hitting pinch hit blasts at a staggering (and record) rate and finding close to washed up or replacement level guys to give them 28-30 each. Stephen Piscotty‘s 22, Randal Grichuk 24 (maybe), Matt Carpenter‘s 21…that I can see happening again. Sprinkle 15-20 in from Dexter Fowler. The birds may hit for some power, but I highly doubt they set the NL pace in dingers again.
Aside from freakish and unexpected power, they Cardinals were without any real strength last season. And apart from Dexter Fowler, they didn’t make any significant moves to correct that.
Although the Cardinals weren’t particularly strong at any area, they weren’t all that bad at most areas, either. They were dead last with 35 stolen bases in the NL, and although Dexter Fowler is fast, he’s not a great base stealer (only 20 or more twice in his career, 2009 & 2015). And the typically sure handed Cardinals were 11th in team UZR in 2016. But, they were middle of the pack in most statistical categories. 6th in defensive runs saved. 7th in ERA. 6th in FIP. 8th in pitching K%. 6th in WHIP. 9th in team batting average. 6th in on-base percentage. 10th in BABIP.
The Cardinals are in the middle of the pack in a lot of areas. Adding Dexter Fowler helps balance out a poor outfield defense by allowing Randal Grichuk to slide over to left and take over for the ancient Matt Holliday. But Yadi’s best days are behind him. As are they for Adam Wainwright. And they’ve had some notable misses in free agency, losing Jason Heyward and missing out on David Price. And their typically plug and play farm system hasn’t produced a star caliber player in a while. So, no real areas of enormous strength, no areas of enormous weakness (maybe except for speed).
2017 Is a Success If…
For the Cardinals, success is measured in pennants. Making a playoff run past the Wild Card Game would probably be about the ceiling for this ballclub, though. They’re not good enough to overtake the Cubs in the division. They could probably win a playoff series, especially a best of five, if they get hot at the right time. But any good team who makes the playoffs can do that. Seeing this team advance to the NLCS would be a surprise. This team has some real problems with depth, match-ups, and talent level. Unlike the Cardinals that we’re used to…it just isn’t there. And it caps the potential of this team in 2017.
2017 Is a Failure If…
It’s always a failure in St. Louis if the Cardinals don’t make the playoffs. They missed the playoffs last year. I think they do this year, too. So this season, in my estimation, is a failure for the Cardinals, if they don’t improve their talent level. Yes…I’m saying it…they need to make trades. It’s very difficult for me to see this team competing, so if they can move some of their veteran players at the deadline to get prospects to aid a not great farm system, they absolutely should. Failing to see that this team is uncharacteristically out-manned would make 2017 a failure. Remember, they will not pick until the 94th overall selection in the draft. Restocking the farm this year will have to come with trades. Not working on that would be a failure for a usually smart, forward thinking organization.
Projected Record: 84-78
The Cardinals get second in the division because the Reds and Brewers are rebuilding and the Pirates are a mystery. Even if the Cardinals move some veterans, the core they have is young enough that it could keep them floating around .500 or maybe a little above. There is a chance they compete for the playoffs, but they didn’t make it last year, didn’t do a lot to get markedly better, and they probably don’t pound the cover off the baseball at the rate they did last year.. The Cardinals don’t suck. They probably never will. But they’re not a real threat this year without some significant moves (plural…they’re more than 1 player away) to improve their team in season. And they don’t really have the fire power in their farm to do that. They’ll be ok. But that’s about it.