The St. Louis Cardinals enter the 2014 season as the defending National League champions. There are a lot of reasons to feel that they would repeat.
Manager Mike Matheny has a strong cast on the field in front of him. With a deep bullpen, a strong rotation and a strong lineup, confidence is running high in St. Louis. The rest of the division failed to improve over the offseason.
The ace of the pitching staff, Adam Wainwright, is one of the best in the game. Yadier Molina just keeps getting better. Indeed, there is reason for optimism.
The following six points may be revisited by October as the reasons why the Cardinals are in the playoffs yet again.
Adam Wainwright Is One of the Best Pitchers in Baseball
The ace of the Cardinals pitching staff, Wainwright, is finally out from under the shadow of his mentor, Chris Carpenter. For the first time in his career, Wainwright will lead the team without Carpenter in the dugout for the entire season.
That seems just fine with him.
He shared as much with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently:
In baseball terms, what I want more than to be a name on a plaque or to be an All-Star is for people to look back and say he was a great leader of men, a great teammate, a great friend. Like how they talk about Darryl Kile here. If people were ever to talk about me in that same way, man, that would mean the world to me.
It doesn't hurt that he is one of the best players to toe the rubber, either.
Wainwright returns to the mound after a 2013 season that saw him at or near the top in most every statistical category for pitchers. It earned him a second-place finish in the Cy Young Award voting behind the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.
He continues to work on his approach, and despite walking four hitters in his first start of the season, he shows few signs of backing down. With seven innings of shutout baseball on Opening Day, he earned his 100th win of his career.
Wainwright on the mound every fifth day leads to a good share of optimism. Wainwright in the clubhouse working with the young pitchers and position players leaves very little room for a lackluster attitude.