Familiar Territory for Cardinal Nation
Put down the panic button and step away from your keyboard or mobile device!
The 2014 Cardinals are 23-21 and four games behind 1st place Milwaukee. Previous Cardinal teams were in this same place during some very memorable seasons.
First of all, Milwaukee isn’t going to play .614 baseball over 162 games. They’re not going to make it to 99 wins.
Second, that 23-21 record is the same as the 1968, 1985 and 2004 Cardinals had after 44 games. It is also noted here that the 1964 Cardinals were 24-20 with 44 games on the books. The 2011 Cardinals were 25-19 through 44 games.
A check of the Retrosheet website shows that the ’68 Cardinals were just starting a long winning streak that put them comfortably out in front in the National League. The ’85 Cardinals were also just starting to make their move. The ’04 team was gaining steam toward a long stretch where they went 80 and 31 to go from 2.5 games behind first place Chicago to a 16 game lead on the second place Cubs before coasting in with 105 wins.
Some will quickly note that the ’68, 85 and ’04 teams lost in the World Series. The point here is that they got there. Besides, short series baseball is a very different animal and that’s a subject that will be addressed here in late September or early October.
Can the Cardinals repeat what they did in the above mentioned seasons? Possibly. The pitching is good enough to allow a finish like we saw in those seasons.
The key is the hitting. This team won’t bludgeon people like Sanders, Edmonds, Pujols, Rolen and—late in the run in '04-- Larry Walker did. They should however, be able to score runs, especially if Kolten Wong settles in and if either Peter Bourjos or someone else in CF can be reasonably productive in the batting order.
Most of the Cardinals problems to date have to do with the hitting. The biggest factor in my view is the weather. Baseballs do not fly as far in cold, damp weather. It's hard to hit when the weather is more suitable for football or even snowball fights. As temperatures have risen a bit, so has offense in St. Louis and elsewhere.
Allen Craig had a slow start, but he's starting to sting the ball again. Wong may have squared things away with the short stint in Memphis. We saw what Wong could and should mean to this team during this last series with Atlanta.
Center field is the biggest question mark here. Jon Jay does not appear to be the answer. Bourjos is also among those scuffling at the plate. Word is that Oscar Tavares is getting time in center at Memphis. Wouldn't surprise me one bit if Oscar is in CF by the time football training camps open in July.
The schedule won’t make it easy either. The interleague opponents are all solid and at the moment, you can make a good case for everyone in the National League except Arizona and the Cubs grabbing at least a wild card berth.
Baseball seasons are marathons, not sprints. We're just past the 1/4 mark and there is a very long way to go. I'll take my chances from here with the '14 Cardinals.