St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols stands in the dugout with his left arm in a soft cast during the Cardinals' baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, June 21, 2011, in St. Louis. Pujols will be out 4-6 weeks after being injured on a play during a game against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
So the first half of the 2011 Cardinals’ season is in the books, and as Anchorman Ron Burgundy once said, “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”
There are many reasons why the Redbirds should not be anywhere near first place…Their ace Adam Wainwright goes down with Tommy John surgery before the season starts, their best player Albert Pujols thought the season began in early June, they used the disabled list 15 times, and oh by the way, the person the Cardinals entrusted to close out games, is no longer with the team. However, you must give credit where credit is due, and the Birds certainly have earned their “co” first place position in the National League Central Division.
Granted right now the starting pitching staff isn’t the Cards strong suit, but it used to be, and without McClellan, Lohse, and Garcia getting off to a great start, this team would be treading water instead contending for a division crown. Will some of the starters revert back to when they were on fire earlier this season? No, I don’t think they will. Kyle McClellan started out 4-0 in April but now is 6-6 and hasn’t won a decision since May 19th. You can only hope he finds a little bit of his early season magic because this team needs him drastically in the second half.
Regarding Kyle Lohse, the righty has made a great comeback this season going 8-6 with a 3.32 ERA in the season’s first half, but I think Lohse is an “is what he is” type of pitcher. He’s not going to win 20 games but if he catches a few breaks in the second half, and is able to limit big innings, he’ll collect 15 or 16 victories which would be great for a guy who deserves some good luck because of all the injuries he’s dealt with.
I’m confused with Jake Westbrook because you clearly do not know what you’re going to get when he steps on the hill. He looked good in May, but Westbrook has allowed four earned runs or more in four of his last five starts; his ERA is now 5.34. If his sinker ball is working, he’ll be okay, if it’s not, then he’ll continue to endure rough outings.
Jaime Garcia has won four of his last five starts, but he’s not going deep into games, and while he’s winning right now, I’d like to see the lefty last longer during his outings in the second half. Garcia is a great young talent that will eventually become a 20-game winner, but it won’t happen this season.
And lastly, Chris Carpenter must continue to pitch well if the Cardinals are to win the NL Central. He might be the most important part of the starting rotation in the second half. He’s a veteran who looks like he could have a big second half if the team gives him the appropriate run support and doesn’t make foolish errors behind him. I said it before the season began; Carpenter going on the disabled list once or twice this season wouldn’t surprise me, fortunately the 36-year-old has avoided it thus far.
In regards to a few other things…The Cardinals should NOT go after Padres’ closer Heath Bell because you would be renting him and you’d have to give up too much to get him for a few months. Fernadno Salas converted 16 of 18 save opportunities and appears to have the make-up to continue as the Cards’ closer.
Should the Cardinals make a move? Yes, I think they should pick up a solid starting pitcher or a reliable left handed reliever. Here’s what I would do, try to package a deal, and I’m not sure if the Birds could, but send Jake Westbrook and Colby Rasmus somewhere in exchange for a very, very good starting pitcher. Honestly though, I highly doubt the Redbirds do this.
The Cardinals are 49-43 at the break, and sit tied for first in the division. All things considered a remarkable first half for the Redbirds. I can’t wait to see what the second half has in store.