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Baseball Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.

St. Louis Cardinals (83-78, 1st in NL Central) +3 games

Get Crunked: Albert Pujols is the best player in the game. By far. As long as he’s around and healthy, the Cardinals won’t be a sub .500 team come the end of the season. The impact he has on the game is unreal and the Cardinals know this. Chris Carpenter could very well be the best starter in the NL and has been totally dominant for three seasons in a row, proving he’s not a fluke. Scott Rolen was effective last year despite his shoulder injury, and he still can slug and play great defense. Post-season star in the bullpen, Adam Wainwright, looks ready to embrace his new role as a starter. Between him and Anthony Reyes, the Cards have some good young arms in the rotation that will impress. Oh yeah, between Rolen, Kennedy, Molina, and Pujols, it’s a very good defensive team.

Party Foul: The bullpen is much weaker now that Wainwright is gone. They need Isringhausen to rebound from hip surgery and come back strong, otherwise they’ll struggle to close games. Josh Hancock and Brad Thompson must build on their seasons from last year. Injuries are the other issue for the club. In addition to Izzy’s recovery, and Rolen’s shoulder, Jim Edmonds is already hurt, as is Juan Encarnacion. Luckily Preston Wilson, Scott Spiezio, and So Taguchi can carry the load in the meantime.Â

Albert Pujols, best player in baseball

What’d my GM do: Jocketty lost 3/5 of the rotation — Suppan, Weaver, and Marquis who aren’t stars, but whose games elevated in the post-season. Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper were moved into the rotation from the bullpen, and I think Wainwright will shine. Adam Kennedy was signed to a short-term deal to play 2B. His bat isn’t worth much these days, but his defense more than makes up for it. Other than that, it was a pretty quiet off-season for the defending World Series champs.

Lay it on me Straight: Having the best pitcher in the league and the best hitter in the game is enough to keep this team above .500 no matter what. While it’s not a stellar team, and although they lost Marquis and Suppan, I think they’ll be better this year. It seemed like a lot went wrong last year that will be corrected this year.Â

So where my boys gonna finish right now: They’ll be at the top of the division once again, this time a few games better than where they finished last year. They shouldn’t tank and make the race as close as it became down the stretch last year.

Can we be better than that: In a perfect world, this could be a 90 win team, at best. Most likely they’ll be around 86-87 wins for the year, good enough to take the crown.



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