Monday, July 9, 2012

Cardinals Half Season Wrap-Up

The All-Star break is here!

Tonight at 7 P.M. CST, 8 of Major League Baseball's best power hitters will crush more balls than an angry girlfriend for all to see. The Cardinals' own Carlos Beltran will help represent the National League alongside Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies, Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The American League will be represented by Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays, Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees, Prince Fielder of the Detroit Tigers and Mark Trumbo of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It pleases me to no end that there is a representative from the Angels and his name is NOT Albert Pujols, but I digress...

Other Cardinals to be named to the NL All-Star team are Yadier Molina (who will miss the game due to bereavement), Matt Holliday (Molina's replacement), Rafael Furcal (starting, batting 9th), David Freese (the Twitter #FinalVote winner for the NL) and Lance Lynn. The Cardinals have 6 players on their League's All-Star roster. That's the second most in the MLB, behind the Texas Rangers at 8...but again, I digress.

The first half of the 2012 MLB season was a wild ride for Cardinal fans. The team reached 5 games above .500 toward the end of April then peaked at 8 games over in May before falling into a dreadful slide that lasted through mid-late June. Luckily for Cardinals fans, the team has straightened up (as well as healthy'd up) and is currently on the rise, sitting at 46-40, only a half game back of both Wild Card slots and 2.5 games back of the NL Central leading Pirates. The second half of the season should be fun and entertaining for Red Bird fans, but we'll discuss that later in the week.

Let's look at some of the highlights from the first half of the Cardinals' season.

First off, despite their record and place in the standings, the Cardinals are dominating in the National League. In the NL, they are currently ranked 1st in runs (4th overall), 1st in hits (2nd overall), 6th in triples (6th overall), 4th in home runs (9th overall), 1st in RBI's (2nd overall), 1st in batting average (2nd overall), 1st in on-base percentage (2nd overall), 2nd in slugging percentage (5th overall), and 2nd in on-base + slugging percentage (4th overall). Anyone worried about the Cardinals' offense with Pujols gone can rest assured...the current roster has it covered.

Yadier Molina is shutting critics up. Molina's career batting average of .276 is nothing too impressive. In fact, he has often been criticized for his lack of hitting ability, despite being one of, if not the, best defensive catcher the game as seen in some time. However, Molina has picked up his performance at the plate this year, and heads into the break with a .304 average. Last year, Molina set a personal career record with 14 home runs all season. As of the break this year, he has 13. Molina's on pace for about 90 RBI's this year. His career high? 65. He's also looking to increase his career high in runs by about 15 this season. Barring an injury (knock on wood), this should turn out to be one heck of a breakout year for Molina offensively.

The Cardinals' upper management, again, made a bold offseason move that turned out great. Before the 2011 season, the Cards picked up Lance Berkman. Needless to say-that worked out. This past offseason, Carlos Beltran was added to the roster. Needless to say-that is working out. Beltran is 3rd on the team in runs, 3rd in hits, 1st in home runs (also 9th in the league), and 1st in RBI's (3rd in the league). Beltran is on pace for about 100 hits, which would be his best number since 2008, 40 home runs, one shy of his career best in 2006, and 130 RBI's, which would beat his career best of 116 in 2006 by 14. Yeah, he's working out REAL well.

Laslty, there's Lance Lynn. At the start of the season, everyone was excited to have Adam Wainwright back on the mound. Unfortunately, his 7 wins and 4.56 ERA are leaving something to be desired. On the other hand, Lance Lynn has taken up some of Wainwright's slack, as well as some of that left over by Chris Carpenter's (now season-ending) injury. Lynn is 11-4 with a 3.41 ERA in 17 appearances. While those numbers aren't phenomenal, they are fantastic for a guy who had 2 MLB starts under his belt at the start of the season. If Wainwright can get back to full strength (which I personally believe he has not yet), and Lynn can keep up his stellar play, the Cardinals look to have a rather formidable lineup heading into the rest of the season; but, again, we'll talk about that later in the week.

In case this article doesn't help any Cardinals fans be happy about the way the first half of their season went, let me remind you of two 9th inning comeback games against the Miami Marlins (that's the new Florida Marlins for you casual fans). In fact, let's just watch the last at bat for the first half of the Cardinals' season, shall we?

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