After twelve games this season, the St. Louis Cardinals were in unfamiliar territory. Their record sat at an abysmal 3-9, their worst start to a season since the 1988 team (also 3-9). The worst part about it was, they were losing these games in ugly fashion. Through those first twelve games, the team committed ten errors – often in crucial spots. The best thing you could say for them honestly was “hey, it’s still super early!!!”
Fast forward to May 15. After taking 2 of 3 from the defending champion, Chicago Cubs, the Cardinals have won 18 of 25 and now have their record sitting at 21-16, good enough for 1st place in the National League Central.
A big reason for the turnaround has been the infusion of youth from Tommy Pham and Magneuis Sierra. Pham was called back up to the majors at the start of the May 5-8 series with the Atlanta Braves. In those three games, he hit three home runs, including a 14th inning blast that completed a sweep of the Braves on Sunday. All Sierra has done since he’s come up is hit, his average currently sitting at a lofty .375 with an on base percentage of .423 (in 24 at bats).
The Cardinal’s rotation hasn’t been other worldly, but it’s been solid. The starting staff of Martinez, Leake, Lynn, Wacha, and Wainwright have a collective ERA of 3.42, with Leake leading the way at an NL best 1.94. After a very shaky start, the bullpen has also greatly improved. Sueng-Hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal are a combined 13/14 in save chances. The only real disappointment has been free agent signing Brett Cecil from Toronto.
His ERA is still sitting at a whopping 5.79 in 21 appearances. Even when Cecil does something right these days, it turns into something bad. In the first game of the Cardinals’ series with Boston, Cecil appeared to easily pick off Xander Bogaerts from first base. Bogaerts took off for second, the throw beat him by a mile, but he craftily avoided the tag and was safe. Cecil proceeded to walk the next two batters, was pulled, and two runs ended up scoring, prompting this tweet from yours truly.
Hi @BlueJays what's your return policy on Cecil's?
— Jared Leeper (@jared_leeper) May 17, 2017
It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals can keep up with this recent hot trend. I’m still not fully convinced they have the firepower on offense. They are currently sitting 9th in the National League in runs scored (168), 7th in batting average (.260) and only 12th in home runs (40). If they are serious about making a run this year, they desperately need to pick up a consistent power bat at the trade deadline.
The Cubs won’t play this poorly forever either. Their lineup is just too good to be held down this long. Holding steady around the 9-10 games over .500 mark for the season should put them in the wild card discussion like it did last year. Keep in mind they were still in line for a berth on the final day of the season, but the Giants never slipped up to give them that chance.