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The 2015 St. Louis Cardinals - A Year In Review

Updated on June 1, 2016

If there is one thing we can hang our hat on that describes the year, it has to be injuries. Matt Holiday was gone for a substantial amount of time as was Matt Adams, and when your number three and four hitters are out, that puts a significant amount of pressure on other parts of the team. When you add the loss of your ace, Adam Wainwright to the picture then that picture looks bleak indeed.

Yet, they won. Somehow in spite of these injuries (and others) they still posted the best record in the league. Pretty good job guys.

However, we still ended with a loss in the division series to our soon to be nemesis Cubs. Always a thorn in the side of the Redbirds, the Cubs took a major step forward a year or two early with the arrival of Joe Maddon and others. Who knew the three best records in baseball would all be in the Central Division? And that they would beat themselves up entering the postseason?

But our hitting took a turn for the worse this season, a far cry from what it was just a couple of years ago when they led the league in hitting with runners in scoring position. This year, they barely did the job well enough to cover their superb (some call it historical) pitching. But in the end, the pitching fell off (no doubt due to the enormous pressure put upon them during the year) and the hitting never came to play. So, the Cubs moved on only to fall to Daniel Murphy (Murphy's Law!?) and the Amazing Met's.

But back to our hitting. While I loved the upsurge in power Matt Carpenter showed this year, having the team leader in that category in the lead off position lends itself to a whole lot of one run home runs when no one is on base in front of him. I would rather have a higher on base percentage with more doubles than home runs out of him. Personally, that is.

Jason Heyward was as advertised, although I predicted his stats a bit higher than they ended up at. He did his job both at the plate and in the field. No complaints here! And a (not so) gentle push to SIGN HIM!!! I feel a contract of 8 years at 200 million is a good price for his talents. I mean, he is just now coming into his prime so this should be a no brainer.

Matt Adams. I just don't know where I stand on him. Is he a .300 hitter with power? Or is he a platoon player against the lefty/righty pitchers? Will he ever develop into his possibilities? Can we afford to take the time to find out? Sadly, I feel the time has come for him to move on and open the door for Stephen Piscotty to play here full time. An American League team (say, Oakland?) would love his potential power while allowing him to be a part time player.

Jhonny Peralta did, well, okay. His first half was solid yet he fell way, way off in the second half to the point of being non-existent. He became a liability and whether he was tired or not, he hurt the team. Put up or shut up, or move someone else into his spot. At best, he has become a 6 or 7 hole hitter now.

Kolten Wong has ability to be one of the best, yet he has fallen in love with his power. Or rather, his supposed power. Yes he hit a few home runs this year but his bad habits have caught up with him and the time has come to focus on contact over power. Get on base more often! The answer is in the section below. Read it Kolten.

Predicted Avg
Predicted HR
Actual Avg
Actual HR
Matt Carpenter
Jason Heyward
Matt Holiday
Matt Adams
Jhonny Peralta
Jon Jay
Yadier Molina
Kolten Wong

In looking at the table one will immediately notice a significant drop in expected production from several players. Notably, Holiday and Adams in the power department and Jay in, well, everything. Wong achieved success in the home run department while failing to measure up in the average. To be honest, Holiday and Adams missed significant time due to their leg injuries but even when Holiday returned he had no power. The legs provide the drive so having no legs can cause a swing that is totally dependent upon the arms and while his are huge, they are not enough in the Major League arena.

With Jay, his wrist injury left him little more than a ground ball out for the majority of the year. Adams returned late but without the opportunity to get his swing to a healthy level. So for them, injuries totally derailed their year.

Now, I like Wong, don't get me wrong. But I like him as a hitter and defender, not a home run happy strikeout artist. I like him as a solid defender, not a highlight reel that can't turn a double play. Wong was hot, surface of the Sun hot for the early portion of the year. What happened? Simple, really. Pitchers found the hole in his swing. Go back and watch some of his ugly swing and misses. Down and in, down and in, down and in. Hell, some of the pitches he swung at left the pitcher's hand as a ball and deteriorated from there into balls in the dirt at Wong's feet, yet he could not lay off of them to save his soul. He should have spent some time with Piscotty. He learns from one at bat to another and is very astute about learning what the pitcher is doing to him. If Wong learns, look out. If not, he's another Kozma. Defensively, he makes the sensational play while failing to maintain a level of concentration on the routine plays.

Yadi is aging, as much as it pains me to say that. In another year or so he will be relegated to fewer and fewer games behind the plate and then where will we be? Maybe he plays more at 1B and gives Tony Cruz a shot, although Cruz may not be the answer and if not, I do not know who the final answer will be at this point. Molina's defense will hold his place but eventually Father Time catches up with all of us.

The staff he controls has promise, yet questions as well. How much longer will Waino be Waino? Is Martinez really on the right track? What the hell happened to Wacha? And as I stated before, while I like Lynn he throws way, way too many balls for my taste. He needs to take a page out of Lackey's playbook and throw more first pitch strikes. And develop a curve ball! You can't survive on a steady diet of fastballs for too much longer.

Then we come to Jaime. Oft injured, yet incredibly gifted, does he stick around another year or does he move along somewhere else? Will Lyons take his spot? Maybe another of the young guns? Just not sure, here.

Back to Lackey. I know he's older, I know he somehow led the team in just about every positive category this year and some think its time he moved on, but I'm not one of them. I say sign him for another two years and let he and Waino lead this team into the next generation of greatness. With those two at the top of your lineup you can't go wrong.

So, we had an overachieving year from our pitching staff, and an underachieving one from our hitters. What to do moving forward? Signing Heyward is a given to me. Moving Wong is a possibility too. Move Carpenter back to 2B and add a third baseman. Trade Adams and give Piscotty the bag full time. Start Peralta but bring up Diaz for insurance. Drop Jay like a hot potato and insert Grichuk full time. Give Holiday a holiday a couple of times a week and play Pham there, while supplementing his playing time at center and right periodically during the week. Four outfielders into three spots over a week with days off will allow them to be both in time on their swings and allow for sufficient off time to heal from the daily bumps and bruises that occur along the way.

Play Molina four days then off two, thereby allowing Cruz some time to show whether he can or cannot play. If not, bye. If so, we can look forward to a day when Molina is a real coach on the field.

A Week's Lineup (Maybe?)

Carpenter 3B
Carpenter 2B
Carpenter 3B
Carpenter 3B
Wong 2B
Carpenter 3B
Carpenter 2B
Piscotty 1B
Piscotty LF
Piscotty 1B
Heyward RF
Piscotty 1B
Piscotty 1B
Piscotty CF
Holiday LF
Heyward RF
Holiday LF
Holiday LF
Holiday LF
Moss LF
Holiday LF
Heyward RF
Moss 1B
Pham RF
Moss 1B
Heyward RF
Grichuk CF
Heyward RF
Grichuk CF
Grichuk CF
Grichuk CF
Grichuk CF
Pham CF
Pham RF
Peralta 3B
Peralta SS
Peralta 3B
Molina C
Peralta SS
Peralta 3B
Peralta SS
Diaz SS
Molina C
Molina C
Wong 2B
Molina C
Diaz SS
Molina C
Molina 1B
Wong 2B
Diaz SS
Diaz SS
Wong 2B
Cruz C
Wong 2B
Cruz C

Looking ahead, a part of me says (fears?) that next year's Cardinals will look basically the same as this year's. Yadi will catch, Carp will man third, Wong at second, Peralta at SS, Holiday in left. From there, I pray Heyward will man right and hope that Grichuk gets his shot at center. I also feel Piscotty will play a lot of first. The staff will be Waino, Martinez, Wacha and Garcia. I do feel Lackey will be a good fit but we might lose him to a Texas team. The final starter, if not Lackey, is up for grabs. But one thing is for certain: we better hit because we will never get that kind of shut down pitching again. In the bullpen, Rosey will be the closer, with someone getting him to the ninth. Siegrist hit a wall and the other teams hit him too hard this postseason so the question is will he recover? I say yes, so long as he doesn't get used 90 times again. Same with Maness; the fewer time used the more effective he will be. But the rest of the bullpen? Who knows.

Now, who to go after in the market. Heyward first and foremost. Basically, I say whatever it takes. We need his defense and bat, to say nothing of his leadership. Someone has to take the mantle into the next decade after Yadi and Holiday depart. Who better than Jason? But from there, what other free agents or trades do we look hard at?

Price is out of our league in terms of cost. Cueto? Make an enemy a friend? Possibly, but at what cost? He'll get a contract that the Cardinals won't approach in terms of years or money so he too is probably out of the picture. Grienke? Forget about him. In looking over the list of free agents to be, almost all are too long in the tooth to expend much energy or money on, and those that aren't are too costly. So, back to the farm!

The Farm

Alex Reyes is the next Carlos Martinez. Heat (mid to upper 90's), a vicious curve (termed un-hittable by one reporter) and with a good head on his shoulder (crediting his catcher with calling a good game - smart) he may well break Spring with the club, sending someone away.

Marco Gonzales may well make the club as well. And Jack Flaherty is another solid pitching prospect. But the Birds have other prospects too. Charlie Tilson is a gifted outfielder should someone falter. And Patrick Wisdom may be that third baseman I spoke of earlier as one who mans the bag while Carp moves back to second if need be. Carson Kelly may be the answer to the Yadi question if Cruz isn't. Or maybe it's Mike Ohlman, a 6'5" man-child who has power is the catching answer.

Basically, whatever the question, an answer resides within the organization, whether it be a direct fit or via a trade involving assets for an established player. The Cardinals are in place to continue to fight for the Central Division title for years to come, even if the Cubbies are the current darlings of the media.

Starting Pitchers
Relief Pitchers
Bench Players
Trade Bait
C Yadier Molina
RF Jason Heyward
Adam Wainwwright
Lance Lynn
Tony Cruz (C)
Ben Zobrist (IF)
Matt Adams
1B Stephen Piscotty
CF Randall Grichuk
Carlos Martinez
Trevor Rosenthal
Brandon Moss (1B/LF)
Kyle Seager (3B)
Kolten Wong
2B Matt Carpenter
LF Matt Holiday
Jaime Garcia
Kevin Siegrist
Tommy Pham (OF)
Tim Cooney
SS Aledyms Diaz
Michael Wacha
Mitch Harris
Greg Garcia (2B/SS)
Miguel Socolovich
3B Jhonny Peralta
John Lackey
Seth Maness
Peter Bourjos
Sam Tuivailala
John Jay
Carlos Villenueva
Lance Lynn
Jordan Walden

Trades or Free Agents

Yes, you saw that far right column right: trade Matt Adams, Lance Lynn and Kolten Wong. Get someone like Kyle Seager and play him at 3B. Maybe even trade Peralta and let Diaz play SS. Sign Heyward and Zobrist. Give Zobrist a three year, $20m contract to play the infield. That gives you the strength to move Carp between 2B and 3B, Moss 1B and OF, Piscotty to 1B and OF, Pham to cover any OF, and rotate virtually anyone on any given day and not lose a thing.

Some Thoughts...

For our pitchers, I say this: Lynn, get a curve or slider and use it. Siegrist, the same. Guys, you can't continually feature a fast ball 90% of the time, even if it is a 95 mph heater: they will catch up to it. Saw that this year, so learn.

Hitters, make contact. The World Champion Royals had basically only Moroles, Moustakas and Hosmer as threats to hit a homer. Mo hit like 22, Moose maybe 19 and Hos 18. Lesson: strike out less, put the ball in play more. Carpenter, Wong, Grichuk do you see this? Homers are nice but "keep the line moving" plays a lot better. Maybry, take a look at the Royals and see what works.

Coaching Staff, look at what the Royals did in the postseason. They KNEW what Bautista was going to do on that throw to 2B and took advantage of it. They KNEW what Duda's arm was like and took advantage of it. Remember the old saying "statistics are for losers"? All those stat boys that have your ear may not be as tuned in as a set of eyes watching for tendencies in the opposing players. Also, bunt a bit more often to move the runner. It's just smart baseball.

Trouble With The Curve

A Final Thought

In watching the cross state rival Royals win the Series this year, I have to give credit where credit is due. Them guys hit the ball! In one game, game 2 I think it was, they saw around 140 pitches and had three (3!) swing and misses! The starter for the Mets, deGrom, had something like 27% swing and misses for the entire season yet the Royals put the bat on EVERTHING they saw from him. Is this the turning point for the league? Has the power associated with PED's run its course and Whiteyball making a return? You remember Whiteyball, right? Whitey Herzog, former manager of the Royals and Cardinals, known for "manufacturing" runs from a walk, a stolen base, a sacrifice bunt then a sacrifice fly ball scoring the run? Pound the ball into the ground, use speed to beat it out, making the other team make good defensive plays? Sound familiar? Thought so.

The Cardinals might take a look at this. I love higher batting averages and walk totals far more than home runs and strikeouts. I'm sorry, but 200 hits and 75 walks is better than 200 K's and 25 walks. Any way to get on base, make the opposing pitcher work harder, pitch from the stretch, steal bases and bunt for crying out loud! Move the runner along to 2B and 3B. What good does a lead off walk or single do when the next three batters strike out, hit a pop up, or otherwise fail as a hitter? Next Spring, I would work those guys to death bunting: for hits and for a sacrifice. Use the speed you have (Wong, Heyward, Grichuk); teach Wong how to drag bunt; and use the field! If the other team wants to give you a single when they move into the shift, TAKE IT! I don't care if you are Matt Adams and you MIGHT hit a home run, you CAN lay down a bunt and move someone along at the same time as get on base. A man on first, a shift on for a left handed hitter, an outside pitch pulled weakly to the 2B means a double play. Bunt that ball towards third and get on base! Fundamentals, guys: learn them!

Vince Coleman and an example of Whiteyball

Vince Coleman, basestealer extraordinaire. Slaps a single just over the shortstop's head for a single. Steals second, bad throw moves him to third. Now, the pressure is on. Man on third, nobody out. This is an All Star game for crying out loud! The best in the game are at every position and STILL the pressure is on. Work the batter work the batter work the batter. The whole time Coleman is halfway to home, daring you to try and throw him out. Finally, the mistake. Wild pitch and a run scores. Pressure kills. And speed, while un-coachable, makes things happen.


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    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      2 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you Larry. Go Cards 2016!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Was a disappointing ending to an otherwise successful career for my Cards.

      Good analysis.

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      2 years ago from Missouri

      Say, you don't mind if we trade for Kyle Seager, do you? That third baseman you guys have? I'll give you a broken down centerfielder (John Jay), a never was centerfielder (Peter Bourjos) and a pitcher who throws a lot of strikes (Lance Lynn). Sound good? He sure would look good at third next year in St Louis!!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I could do a Seattle Mariner Year in Review hub, but it would be a short one.....BLAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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