When a team struggles in the first part of a season, the fans’ typical response is “no worries, it’s still early”. While that is a good point given the right circumstances, there comes a time when that phrase starts to lose it’s value.
That’s what happening to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Yes, it’s June, and there is still plenty of season left to play.
Yes, if the Cardinals have proven anything in the past, it’s that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish (see: 2006, 2011).
But, with a team as young and talented as St. Louis, the expectations are (and rightfully so) higher than their record currently is (at 32-31). Against Toronto on June 6th, despite turning their first triple play in nine years, and despite a decent pitching performance by Lance Lynn, the hitting once again fell flat, stranding multiple runners in scoring position in a 3-1 defeat.
But it was their performance on Saturday that showed the potential this team really has. With Shelby Miller (7-5) pitching his first complete game shutout of the season (and second of his career), St. Louis defeated Toronto 5-0 with help from backup catcher Tony Cruz, who is an underrated baseball player in his own right, as he droves in two runs. And the team also got an early boost from rookie Randal Grichuk. The Cardinals exhausted the Blue Jays’ pitchers.
Cardinals’ fans have really begun to lash out at the team for their sub-par performance as of late.
But Cardinal Nation need to hang in there.
There is too much talent on this team to give up on them.
Last week, the long-awaited debut of Oscar Taveras, one of the most hyped baseball players in years, finally happened. And he made an immediate impact. In his second at-bat, Taveras launched a home run to right field in a 2-0 Cardinals victory. The fans got excited, mainly at the fact that they know Taveras is one of their future stars.
It’s also no denying that the Cardinals have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, spearheaded by the best pitching duo in baseball: Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. There is good support from the other pitchers, such as Lynn and the return of Jaime Garcia. Miller is still a young and talented pitcher who just pitched one of the best games of his career.
As for the hitting, consistency is the major issue. St. Louis has some of the deepest roster depth in all of baseball, and they’ve shown that thus far. Manager Mike Matheny has done a good job of giving many young players a shot on the big league roster, with mixed results. St. Louis is 24th in runs (233), but they are 16th in batting average (.251).
Hitting in general isn’t the huge issue, scoring consistently is. Last year, the Cardinals were the best team in baseball history when it came to RISP (.330 average).
Now we get to the bullpen. A very talented group, including Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Pat Neshek, Trevor Rosenthal, and Jason Motte among others. But Rosenthal, while a good pitcher, has struggled quite a bit this season. Even in some of his saves, it still came too close for comfort. Motte has recently returned from injury, and is gradually working more innings in the bullpen. This is a young group as well that, once more developed, will be an MLB force to be reckoned with.
St. Louis has had a bumpy start to the season, with real good performances becoming overshadowed by struggles. But this year is far from over. As the “best fans in baseball”, Cardinals’ fans can be frustrated and disappointed in bad performances, but they also should be confident in the franchise that is being built. Since the 1940’s, the Cardinals have been one of the best at developing new, young talent, and this year is no different.
The future looks bright, Cardinal Nation. But there will be peaks and valley’s on the road ahead regardless.