Tha Sports Junkies 101

A Cardinal Rule: Never Count Out St. Louis

Joey Bowyer/ Via


The Cardinals are On the Rise, and They Are Just Getting Started.

Turn the clock back to June 3rd, 2016.  On that Friday evening, the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the San Francisco Giants, dropping Mike Matheny’s squad to just one game over .500.  The Cardinals held a promotional giveaway that night in which the first 30,000 fans to enter Busch Stadium would receive a mini-replica of the Cardinals 2006 World Series Trophy.  Only Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina remain from that great team that won it all ten years ago.  The other members of the Cardinals may have seen what the organization gave away that night and decided they wanted their own.  But Matt Carpenter and company don’t want six-inch miniature versions; they want the real thing.

The Cardinals have taken off over the past seven weeks or so.  They have won seven of their last ten games including the first game of a double-header with the New York Mets on Tuesday afternoon.  This Cardinals team has not caught a ton of breaks lately, though.  All-star Matt Carpenter was having a career year, leading the National League in OBP while posting a menacing .988 OPS, before he landed on the DL with an oblique injury.  Shortstop Jhonny Peralta has dealt with multiple ailments throughout the season, most recently a strained ligament in his left thumb.  Maybe the biggest blow to the Cardinals in 2016 has been a lackluster season from former closer Trevor Rosenthal, who was recently put on the shelf with shoulder inflammation.  After saving 48 games last year, Rosenthal has already blown more saves in 2016 than he did in all of 2015.  The Cardinals have had to battle with many issues throughout the year, but they find themselves in the playoff hunt nonetheless.

Despite a ton of setbacks, the Cardinals have gotten unexpected production from emerging offensive star Aldemys Diaz.  The 25 year-old shortstop has come out of nowhere in 2016 to join a crop of talented offensive shortstops around the league.  Diaz is batting .314 with 13 home runs and 53 runs batted in for St. Louis.  Diaz ranks among the top 15 N.L. players in hits, runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.  Although the Cuban-born infielder has played poor defense, he is a key reason why the Cardinals rank third in baseball in runs scored.

More recently, the second-place Cardinals have found offensive firepower coming from former Padres’ infielder Jedd Gyorko.  Over his last 15 games, Gyorko is 17 for 52 with seven home runs and a Ruth-like .692 slugging percentage.  Carlos Martinez has been great all year, posting a sub 3.00 ERA through 19 starts.  Stephen Piscotty has been effective in his rookie year, hitting 14 home runs.  Perhaps the most important contributor in 2016 has been Seung Hwan Oh.  Signed out of South Korea, Oh has been nothing short of spectacular out of the bullpen.  He has 68 strikeouts in a little over 50 innings, and he has now assumed the closer’s role from Trevor Rosenthal.  Now, “The Final Boss” can truly be the final challenge for opposing lineups when they face St. Louis.

Many people have overlooked the Cardinals simply because they play in the same division as the Chicago Cubs, who just bolstered their bullpen by trading for Aroldis Chapman.  In a way, the closers for each respective team represent the way the public perceives them.  Chapman is a dominant powerhouse, who uses sheer power to beat opponents.  Seung Hwan Oh is relatively unknown, yet extremely effective.  The Cardinals may not be as good on paper as their longtime rival.  But after an early exit last October, the Cardinals are hungry to reclaim their throne.  They don’t have the reigning MVP like the Nationals.  They don’t have the best pitcher in baseball like the Dodgers.  And they aren’t as young and flashy as the Cubs.  But the 2016 Cardinals are as good as any team in the league.