Home Series 5 Preview: Cubs vs. Cardinals

Wainwright2014

Adam Wainwright is the centerpiece of a strong Cardinals pitching staff. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Cardinals are perennial contenders—as evidenced by their remarkable 10 playoff appearances since the turn of the century—and this season should be no different. Time and again, St. Louis proves to be the ideal franchise, consistently churning out a lineup that features strong veteran leadership (e.g., Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright) paired with up-and-coming, high-end talent (e.g., Matt Adams, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha). Add in that the Cards’ farm system is consistently rated one of the best in the game, and you have the makings of a formidable franchise for the foreseeable future. As with the New York Yankees, who dominated the AL East at the end of the 1990s, you can go ahead and pencil in the Cardinals as one of the teams to beat in the NL Central pretty much every season.

PITCHING
(3.1 Runs Allowed/Game, 2nd in the NL)

For anyone wondering if Adam Wainwright would return to form following Tommy John surgery, his 2013 campaign silenced any doubters. The Cardinals ace finished second in Cy Young voting, logged a career-high 241.2 innings and displayed significant improvement in his already stellar command, posting a career-best 3.7 percent walk rate. And he’s backed that up this season, with a 5-1 record and a 1.20 ERA through the first month. Behind Wainwright is a young nucleus with a ton of potential, including Miller and Wacha, who didn’t become a fixture in the rotation until September. There’s no step down when you get to the bullpen, as it features a pair of young, hard-throwing righties in Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez; two strong lefties in Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist; and a ground ball artist in Seth Maness when the team is in need of a double play.

HITTING
(3.6 Runs Scored/Game, 13th in NL)

The Cardinals were the best offense in the NL last season, largely because they led the league with a .332 on-base percentage and hit a remarkable .330 with runners in scoring position. Through the first month of the season, they’ve fallen back to earth a little. So far in 2014, they’ve posted a .314 OBP, and they find themselves toward the back of the NL in runs scored. Jhonny Peralta isn’t strong defensively at short, but he’s a major offensive upgrade over Pete Kozma, as his six April homers proved. While the seemingly ageless Carlos Beltran is gone, the ever-consistent Holliday and perennial MVP candidate Molina should help keep this lineup as potent as ever. The Cardinals were lacking in the home run department last year, but a full season of Adams’ power bat could balance out Beltran’s departure.

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