(BaseballStL) -- As we have reached the unofficial end to the first half of the 2012 regular season (technically the Cards have played more than 81 games but who’s counting?) it’s time to start handing out some grades.
Entering the All Star break in the top 5 in all of the major leagues in runs scored (4th), batting average (2nd), on-base percentage (2nd) and slugging percentage (5th) constitutes an exceptional 3+ months. When you take into account the fact they’ve had as many injuries as they’ve had and it becomes even more impressive. Lance Berkman has contributed just 42 at-bats this season. Matt Carpenter was out several weeks. So was Jon Jay. Skip Schumaker. Allen Craig. The list goes on and on and on and yet this club has consistently found ways to score enough runs to win more often than not.
When Albert Pujols left for Anaheim the silver lining for the Cardinals was that they could use that money to become more balanced. Instead of having a huge chunk of money allocated to one position, they would be able to spread it around and make several other spots better. Well, turns out, that’s what has happened. No, they’re not spending $20 million at 1st base. But Allen Craig is still .313 with a .377 OBP with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs. Saving that money allowed the Cards to grab Carlos Beltran for $13 million and get 20 home runs to go along with 65 RBIs from him so far. It’s about balance. And the Redbirds have it right now.
Starting rotation: B+
The best thing you can say about this rotation so far is whenever someone has struggled, there’s been others stepping up. This rotation hasn’t clicked on all cylinders, but it hasn’t fallen completely apart either. When Adam Wainwright was getting back into form in April, Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn were posting around 1.5 ERAs. When Lance Lynn was going through a hard time for a few starts, Adam Wainwright was getting back into form. And this has all been without Chris Carpenter the entire season and Jaime Garcia for a while too. It remains to be seen what GM John Mozeliak is going to do with this rotation moving forward...but looking back at the first half...what they were able to do was respectable. The slow start Wainwright went through (7.32 ERA in April) was understandable as was the regression Lynn had. Jake Westbrook was off to another brutal start but quickly regained form to the point where his numbers now (3.75 ERA) fall right in line with what this team needs from him. Heck, even Joe Kelly has done a wonderful job filling in.
It’s been a very solid 3+ months for the rotation. Wainwright’s slow start, Westbrook’s early struggles and Lynn’s recent bumps in the road are the only things keeping this from getting a higher grade.
If you’re looking for a reason why the Cardinals are sitting in 3rd place, here ya go. This bullpen is 25th out of 30 in ERA, it’s tied for 2nd in blown saves and only three teams have a lower save percentage than the Redbirds. Let’s start with the easy ones. Jason Motte has been pretty darn good. No, he’s not perfect. But an ERA barely over 3, a WHIP barely over 1 and striking out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings is nothing to sneeze at. He’s 20/24 in save opportunities but only has one blown save since May 21st. Mitchell Boggs has been a beast as well. He’s given up just 8 earned runs all season long and hasn’t given up a run since June 12th.
That’s the good. Ready for the bad? Well, Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez and the rest of the righties have struggled mightily. Getting to Boggs in the 7th has been a huge struggle. Even lefty Mark Rzepczynski hasn’t been able to do well in that role. Making matters worse is the fact they have had a rotating second lefty all year long. JC Romero lasted about a month and a half. Sam Freeman struggled too. Now Barret Browning seems to be doing well but it’s only been a few games. It’s been a struggle back here a lot of the year.