Most Cardinals fans are still steaming over Ryan Franklin’s latest blown save and that’s understandable. What they should be is ecstatic about what’s to come during the remaining 5 ½ months of the 2011 season. Do they have issues at closer, yes. Ryan Franklin’s 11.57 ERA and 4 blown saves in 5 attempts have Cardinal Nation begging for Jason Isringhausen to make a comeback. But the closer issue will get worked out soon: Tony La Russa, stubborn as he can be, will make a change soon Franklin doesn’t turn things around. And with the closer issue behind them, the Cardinals will once again be the team to beat in the National League Central.
That may seem hard to believe, especially given all the doom and gloom hyped up prior to the season (yes, I’m guilty as well). The Cardinals, of course, do not have the services of ace Adam Wainwright, and most experts picked the Cardinals to finish third in the division. I picked them to finish 4th. But let’s reflect back on the first 16 games of the 2011 season, essentially 10% of the season, to see what really lies ahead for this team.
A look back at the first 16 (10%) of the season:
-The team managed more than 3 runs just once in its first 8 games, compiling a record of 2-6
-The Cardinals are 2 games under .500 at home.
-Ryan Franklin has blown 4 saves in the 9th inning, all of which resulted in losses.
-Matt Holliday missed 7 games after an emergency appendectomy.
-Albert Pujols’ average was down to .128 at one point, and is only at .239 currently.
-Colby Rasmus dropped a fly ball that would’ve won a game, instead he dropped it and the Cardinals lost.
-Chris Carpenter has no wins, including a game in which he got 8 runs of support.
…and despite all these things, the Cardinals are 8-8 and just 1 game out of first place. Now ask yourself: “Is Albert Pujols going to hit .239 all season?” Certainly not. “Is Chris Carpenter going to go winless?” Nope. I trust you follow where this is going. Bottom line, the Cardinals are playing some pretty ugly baseball, and yet they’re just a game behind the Reds, and assuming a closer does his job 80% of the time, the team should be no worse than 11-5 right now.
How have they done it? Colby Rasmus, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman are on fire at the plate. The starting pitching, save for one bad start by Carpenter and Jake Westbrook, has been lights out. And yes…Albert is beginning to be Albert again.
The Cardinals will finally return to Busch Stadium today… hosting the Washington Nationals, and then the division leading Cincinnati Reds. I fully expect to be writing about the first place St. Louis Cardinals come next Tuesday.