88-74, 2nd in the NL Central, 2nd Wild Card
Lost in the NLCS to the Giants
After winning the 2011 World Series in dramatic fashion the Cardinals came within one win of making it back to rekindle the 2006 series against the Tigers. But falling short can hardly be called a failure in a game filled with parity. The Cardinals had an amazing season that was capped off by one of the more amazing wins in recent memory.
They lost Albert Pujols to free agency and Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan to retirement after 2011, but the Cardinals didn’t panic and had a solid season. They won the inaugural NL Coin Flip game against the Braves with a little help from a bad call and came back to stun the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS. They took a 3-1 lead on the Giants in the NLCS, but couldn’t close the deal and went home one win shy of the Fall Classic.
The offense led the way as we all thought it would. Yadier Molina (6.5), Matt Holliday (5.1), David Freese (4.1), Jon Jay (4.1), Carlos Beltran (3.6), and Allen Craig (3.1) all racked up solid to great WARs and role players like Matt Carpenter and Pete Kozma delivered when they needed them to do so.
All told, they were baseball’s second best offense and third best group of position players when you factor in defense. As expected, they Cardinals bats delivered.
But the league’s 9th best pitching staff also called Busch Stadium home in 2012. Adam Wainwright led the staff (4.4 WAR) and had a great #2 in the form of Kyle Lohse’s breakout year (3.6). Lance Lynn and Jamie Garcia also contributed along with a respectable year from Jake Westbrook. Joe Kelly picked up the slack and filled in when those five couldn’t go, allowing Chris Carpenter to rest up for the very late stretch run.
The bullpen was middle of the roadish, but they certainly didn’t cost them enough games to make it hurt.
Mike Matheny’s first season as a manager went well for the club, even if he does think bunting is compulsory.
It was a very strong year from one of baseball’s strongest franchises. The Cardinals locked up the newly minted 2nd Wild Card and carried that good fortune deep into October. They didn’t miss Pujols and managed without Carpenter.
With some exciting young arms coming to a Busch Stadium mound near you, it’s hard not to be bullish on the 2013 Cardinals while commending them on a fine 2012.
2012 Grade: A
Early 2013 Projection: 90-72