And one might wonder, why is that? How does this team continually build on the run and compete? It’s because of a few things.
They have the most solid organization in baseball. Their fan base is partly responsible for this. Ownership knows every year what they’re going to make at the gate, so they’ll spend the money. Now, it helps when you’ve got the best player in perhaps a century in Albert Pujols and a manager in Tony LaRussa who consistently gets more with less then any other manager in the NL.
This offseason they went out and threw a big chunk of change at Matt Holliday to return as their cleanup hitter behind Pujols. Holliday was aprently forgiven for the blunder out in left field that cost his team an NLDS game.
Skip Schumacher and Colby Rasmus will be atop the lineup at the 1-2. These are a couple of guys who could score a lot of runs, and Rasmus (StL’s version of Jay Bruce) could be a 20-20 guy in the making. He hit only .211 in the second half of last season but attributed it to fatigue and weight loss. The third man making up the heart of the order is Ryan Ludwig, the right fielder. Ludwig didn’t have the 2009 that equaled his monster 2008 campaign, but he should be as good of a candidate as any to rebound. Yadier Molina is a solid, but not spectacular catcher offensively; and Brendan Ryan (shortstop) and David Freese (third base) will round out the left side of the infield.
LaRussa loves to use his bench early, and often. At his disposal will be guys like newly-acquired Julio Lugo, Allen Craig, and Tyler Greene.
The rotation has a chance to be pretty nasty. This is largely because of their 1-2 guys. Adam Wainwright is growing into one of the finest pitchers in baseball. Chris Carpenter didn’t pitch all year last season but showed that he was still capable of having more then shut-down stuff on any given night. The big wild-card in this is the #3 starter, Brad Penny. He made six starts for the Giants late last year and fell short of the 7 inning mark only once. He’s had most of his sucess in the NL so he could be a potential third ace for the Cardinals. Rounding out the rotation are Kyle Lohse and Kyle McClellan. None of these guys are candidates to get rocked and they give you quality starts 4 out of 5 times. Like their organization, it’s just a solid veteran group.
In the bullpen you’ve got everything built to getting the ball to scrappy Ryan Franklin, the closer. Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Trever Miller, and the ageless tubby left-hander Dennys Reyes are the guys LaRussa signals for most often.
Overall, there’s no reason why these guys shouldn’t win the NL Central. Not sure if they’ve got World Series type stuff yet, but if they’re looking good heading towards August, they’re always looking to make a move and add that complimentary piece to put them over the top. They have one lone world title to their name since the Great Pujols has been around; a 2006 season in which they won only 83 games. You have to think at some point, a player like that gets another crack at a ring.