On Sunday afternoon the St. Louis Cardinals put the finishing touches on their 2013 campaign that saw them finish with a 97-65 record, good for best in the National League. For a team that spent most of the first half of the season in that position before floundering through the midsummer, it was a happy ending.
The team, however, will enter postseason play for the tenth time in the last fourteen seasons with about as many questions as answers. Here are three important questions that the team will need to find answers to if the franchise’s 12th World Series title is in the cards.
Who will be the postseason closer?
After the preseason injury to closer Jason Motte who led the league with 42 saves in 2012, the team began looking for a new one this spring. Last year’s setup man Mitchell Boggs was unable to settle into the role which opened up the competition. Then last year’s trade deadline acquisition and seventh inning man, Edward Mujica stepped into the role and made it his own, posting a 1.72 ERA, a 0.78 WHIP, and 35 saves in 37 chances from when he took over the position until the end of August. He even got an All Star nod of his own for his work.
But some late season struggles that included being shut down for a week in September for elbow fatigue has opened the door to questions about his health and who will close for the team. Mujica struggled to the finish in 2013 with an 11.05 ERA in his 7 1/3 innings of work and the league hitting over .500 against him. Continue reading
The Cardinals have recalled LHP Marc Rzepczynski from Memphis. RHP Carlos Martinez was optioned to make room.
The second half of the baseball season is about to begin and the trade deadline is right around the corner. Already newspapers, blogs, message boards, and twitter feeds are rife with trade rumors as everyone has a keen eye on watching how their teams will perform in the second half. So where are the Cardinals and what could they be looking to add to shore up the team as they drive towards another playoff berth?
I think a good way to get an idea of where the team’s weaknesses lay can be found by a quick glance at the team statistics. With 462 runs scored in 93 games, the offense is currently ranked third in the majors and first in the National League. On the opposite side of the ball, the starting rotation finds themselves with a 3.33 ERA which is good for second in baseball behind division rival Pittsburgh. Their bullpen, on the other hand, has a 3.56 ERA and is only good for 16th.
So a quick glance points you towards the bullpen which has rebounded nicely from an atrocious start with thanks to Edward Mujica‘s step into the closer’s role which he has taken and held onto. Trevor Rosenthal settled into the 8th inning and has once again in the discussion for best relief pitcher in baseball. However, the rest of the bullpen has been a big question mark with most of the rebound behind fueled by great performances by rookie pitchers fresh out of Memphis. Continue reading
Thursday night’s struggles were apparently the final straw for the Cardinals’ organization. Getting the call in the 7th inning to help get Joe Kelly out of a mess, Mitchell Boggs proceeded to walk the first two batters he faced, allowing Milwaukee to score their third run of the ballgame. Trevor Rosenthal came in at that point and struck out Martin Maldonado to end the threat.
It was the most recent in a series of disappointing struggles for Mitchell Boggs who was arguably the best setup man in baseball in 2012. The injury to Jason Motte in spring training put the bullpen in flux and Boggs was never able to settle in to the closer’s role. As a result, he continued to struggle with both mechanics and confidence.
Despite the struggles, he was still regularly used by manager Mike Matheny notching 14 appearances, second most in the bullpen to Rosenthal. At this point though, Boggs is allowing 2.72 walks and hits per inning pitched and has a ballooned ERA of 12.66. He has blown two saves and been the pitcher on record for two more losses. A far cry from the pitcher who was dominant in the eighth inning last season. Continue reading
This afternoon the St. Louis Cardinals officially announced that their catcher, Yadier Molina, has finalized a 5-year extension with the team. The deal, which is worth $75 million from 2013-2017, includes a $15 million option for 2018 for a maximum value near $88 million according to sources. He is already under contract for 2012 on a $7 million option from his previous contract signed before the 2008 season.
Many fans questioned the team’s loyalty to the stars of their last two World Series’ runs after they failed to match the Angels’ $240 million, 10 year offer for Albert Pujols in the offseason. Since Pujols left, the team has spent money to bring in Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran and began their talks for an extension with Molina. It’s fair to say that if Pujols had stayed, none of this would have happened.
At 29, Molina enjoyed his most successful major league season to date in 2011, leading the team in batting average at .305. He also posted career highes in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage. He was an All Star and picked up his fourth consecutive Gold Glove at catcher. He also enjoys the reputation of being the best defensive catcher in baseball with excellent pitching staff handling skills. His bat is just a bonus, though inconsistent.
In addition to the 40 man roster, major league teams typically invite other players in their organization to participate in Spring Training as non-roster invites. The Cardinals have invited 19 additional players to Jupiter. The 2011 list includes 10 pitchers, 5 catchers, 4 infielders, and no outfielders.
This doesn’t mean that guys like 3B Zack Cox and OF Adron Chambers aren’t invited, they are already on the 40 man roster and therefore should already be there.
Teams also usually invite a large number of catchers from the organization because they have a lot of pitchers needing to get their work in.
The Cardinals have also invited RHP Carlos Martinez and OF Oscar Taveras along with OF Lance Jeffries, OF C.J. McElroy, OF Charlie Tilson, and IF Kenny Peoples-Wall to report early for major league camp.
Pitchers: LHP John Gast, LHP Nick Greenwood, RHP Tyrell Jenkins, RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Victor Marte, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, LHP Kevin Siegrist, RHP Jordan Swagerty, and LHP R.J. Swindle.
Catchers: Luis De La Cruz, Koyie Hill, Steven Hill, Cody Stanley, Robert Stock
Infielders: 1B Matt Adams, SS Ryan Jackson, 2B Eugenio Velez, 2B Kolten Wong