The Cardinals started well,
winning 18 of their first 26 games to take a five-game division lead, their
largest of the season.
They also finished well,
winning their last five games and nine of their final 11 to finish five games
off the pace in the National League Central.
What caused that ultimate
10-game swing is open to interpretation, but there were several sure
When the Cardinals lost
right-handers Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse on back-to-back days in late May --
Penny for the rest of the season and Lohse for three months -- they found they
did not have the starting pitching coverage to replace
Right-hander Jake Westbrook pitched well after coming from Cleveland on July 31, but the Cardinals did not
support him offensively or even defensively at times. Veteran Jeff Suppan
pitched well in the last month, and Lohse had some good starts at the end of the
season after coming back. But too many times, the Cardinals were at least one
starter short to support their right-handed core of Adam Wainwright (20-11) and
Chris Carpenter (16-9) and impressive rookie Jaime Garcia
When they traded for
Westbrook, the Cardinals took the chance of weakening their offense by sending
solid run producer Ryan Ludwick to San
Diego. At the time, rookie Jon Jay, who wound up hitting
.300, was doing well as an outfield fill-in, and the club was expecting third
baseman David Freese back from foot problems.
As it turned out, that
latter optimism was misguided. Freese suffered severe ligament damage in his
right ankle in his first game on a minor league rehab assignment. He required
season-ending surgery on that ankle, followed by surgery on his left ankle,
which had been injured in a car accident nearly two years
The Cardinals never did
adequately replace Freese. Veteran infielder Felipe Lopez, playing a position
rather foreign to him, neither hit well nor fielded well and subsequently was
released after some tardiness issues.
Not only was Ludwick gone
and Freese hurt, but center fielder Colby Rasmus subsequently suffered a calf
injury, so the offense wound up playing three players
When the Cardinals headed
out Aug. 23 for a 10-game trip to face second-tier clubs Pittsburgh, Washington and Houston, they envisioned going
7-3 or 8-2. Instead they went 2-8, effectively ending their chance of
As reliable as first
baseman Albert Pujols (.312, 42 homers, 118 RBI) and left fielder Matt Holliday
(.312, 28, 103) were this season, they couldn't do it by
Next year the Cardinals
must have one more power bat to go with Pujols, Holliday and Rasmus, who hit 23
homers. They also must add one starter -- or retain free agent Westbrook. And
they must get better defense and punch from their infield.
LHP Trever Miller, who
was worried about a forearm problem in mid-September, pitched very well after
resting for a week. His contract for 2011 vested along the way, and Miller is
almost certain to be back in the Cardinals bullpen for a third season. However,
fellow veteran LHP Dennys Reyes, who had elbow problems at the end of the year,
probably won't return.
1B Albert Pujols will be
a focus this offseason, as the team figures to explore a contract extension.
Pujols' option for 2011 will be picked up at $16 million, but he is looking for
a considerable multiyear deal after that. General manager John Mozeliak
cautioned, though, "We have a number of other issues that we need to get to
Manager Tony La Russa (if
he returns) is 126 wins away from passing John McGraw for second place on the
all-time list. In La Russa's first 15 seasons in St. Louis, the Cardinals reached the playoffs
eight times, but they have missed in three of the past four
OF Nick Stavinoha didn't
do all that well when he wasn't pinch-hitting. Stavinoha was 16-for-68 (.235)
when not pinch-hitting. However, he was 15-for-53 (.283) as a pinch hitter, for
that reason, he figures to be a candidate for a bench role next year even though
he had a bad knee at the end of the season.
RHP Jason Motte, who may
be a closer candidate next spring, finished the season with 10 scoreless
outings, covering nine innings, after he recovered from a shoulder sprain. Motte
fanned 54 hitters in 52 1/3 innings this season.
By the Numbers:
6 - Victories for closer Ryan Franklin, the fourth-leading winner on the staff.
Quote to Note:
"We only talk about life with
Albert Pujols, never life without Albert Pujols."
- RHP Adam Wainwright, hopeful
that the first baseman will sign a long-term contract
The Cardinals entered the
offseason with one of the best core groups in baseball: 1B Albert Pujols, LF
Matt Holliday, RHPs Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and Gold Glove C Yadier Molina. But the supporting cast must be upgraded.
At the top of the
Cardinals' wish list should be a contract extension for 1B Albert Pujols, but GM
John Mozeliak said there were other priorities. Presumably, they are to get
another starting pitcher (possibly by retaining RHP Jake Westbrook) and an
infielder or two with pop and the ability to play at least adequate defense. The
Cardinals also are looking for another power bat in the outfield, but that could
be top prospect Allen Craig, who finished the season in the
RHP Jake Westbrook, RHP
Brad Penny, 3B Pedro Feliz, LHP Dennys Reyes, RHP Mike MacDougal, OF Randy Winn,
INF Aaron Miles, RHP Jeff Suppan.
It is possible that none
of them will be brought back, although Westbrook, impressive in two months with
the Cardinals, is at the top of the list.
SS Brendan Ryan, RHP Kyle McClellan.
Ryan, coming off a .223
season, shouldn't command too much money, although he is a Gold Glove candidate.
McClellan is one of the best middle relievers in the game.
2B Skip Schumaker could
be part of a deal if the Cardinals don't consider him as a regular. He will make
$2.7 million in 2011. One of the Cardinals' strengths is right-handed relief,
where Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan are all young and
relatively inexpensive. Any of them could go in the right
3B David Freese (right
ankle surgery in August 2010, left ankle surgery in September 2010) should be
ready for spring training.
C Jason LaRue
(concussion) missed the rest of the season after he was kicked in the head by
Cincinnati RHP Johnny Cueto during an August brawl. He said he would
LHP Jaime Garcia (left
arm fatigue), RHP Adam Wainwright (right forearm strain) and C Yadier Molina
(right knee inflammation) all were shut down at the end of the season. All are
expected to be ready for spring training.
RHP Brad Penny (strained
upper back) went on the disabled list May 22, and he missed the remainder of the