St. Louis Cardinals 2018 Season Preview
Baseball fans in The Gateway City aren’t accustomed to watching other Major League Baseball teams compete in the MLB postseason, while their St. Louis Cardinals head home after the regular season has been concluded. After all, this is a team that won 100 games in 2015.
Back to Back Fails
But after making the playoffs six times out of seven seasons between 2009 and 2015, the Cardinals have now gone back-to-back years in failing to make the playoffs. Amidst the team, there’s a feeling that their current slump isn’t so much about the guys they have and the guys they’re lacking, but just more about getting back to the way they’re accustomed to playing in St. Louis winning baseball.
The fan’s have to blame someone
Manager Mike Matheny hasn’t been the problem, even though most fans will be quick to blame him for the team’s failures, but Matheny knows that the team will still need some outside help, in order to get them out their rut. With a young team overall, which was a large factor in the team’s late run towards a potential Wild Card spot, it’ll be up to manager Matheny to continue to mold the young guys and the new guys in the Cardinals way.
Enter venerated pitching coach Mike Maddux. It’s been over 20 years since the Cardinals sought help from a pitching coach outside of someone that wasn’t home grown. Clearly, they must have seen the need for getting the most out of a staff that includes new ace Carlos Martinez; incumbents Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, as well as Luke Weaver; and the new guy to the rotation, Miles Mikolas. Wacha and Mikolas will provide depth behind Martinez, who was a revelation last year.
He had two complete games, finished second in the National League in total innings pitched, and fourth in strikeouts. But the real X-factor will be if Wainwright can round back into form, after dealing with nagging injuries in each of the last two years, which really took away from his efficacy.
Maddux’ bullpen got a little better in the offseason as well, with the additions of Bud Norris, Luke Gregerson and Dominic Leone. Those guys will provide St. Louis with an even deeper group of players at their disposal, after the starters conclude their work.
On the hitting side, the headline acquisition ironically came in the form of a footnote to another headline acquisition elsewhere. St. Louis’ acquisition of Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins got overshadowed with the Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton to New York. But let’s not forget that Ozuna hit 37 home runs and 124 RBI (good for third-most in the NL), with a .312 batting average. He’s coming off a season in which he won both a Gold Glove as well as a Silver Slugger award.
He looks like he’ll move right into the clean-up spot in the batting rotation, behind left-fielder Tommy Pham and outfielder Dexter Fowler. First baseman Matt Carpenter will likely to continue as the leadoff man, after he helped jumpstart the team’s offense when assuming that role last year.
Wild card spots challenge
Simply put, St. Louis might not have the firepower to usurp the National League Central supremacy from the Chicago Cubs, but there is plenty of talent available at their disposal to challenge for one of the Wild Card spots