It’s the last day of the year, that time where everyone is looking back through the past year’s worth of memories. For me, that means it’s time to look back on the top 5 stories for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.
1. The Death of Stan Musial
I didn’t really know much about Stan the Man other than the words inscribed on his statue outside of Busch Stadium for the longest time. I have been reading through his biography written by George Vecsey and I am convinced that not only did the Cardinals lose a great player, but the world lost a good man. Words will never be enough to explain what Stan the Man meant to so many people. I wish I would have been able to meet him and even just to shake his hand.
2. The emergence of Matt Carpenter
We saw a bit of him in 2012, and I don’t know why, but I was just drawn to him. I think it was because I have a soft spot for good players who can play multiple positions. In 2012, he played both corner outfield positions, and every infield position except SS. In 2013, he emerged as an everyday player and good defender at 2B. Not only that, but he took the leadoff position, and he did well. He lead the MLB in multiple hitting categories. he broke Stan Musial’s record for single season doubles for a left-handed Cardinal. He broke Pujols’s record for most number of hits at Busch Stadium III in a single season. He came almost out of nowhere and put himself into the conversation for MVP by the end of the year.
3. Yadi continues his dominance
Molina continued to play very well. He led the NL in average for a lot of the season, which is huge for a guy who came into the league struggling at the plate. He is still the best defensive catcher in baseball. In my opinion, with the addition of his bat at where it is now, it makes him the best player in baseball when put together with his defense and leadership. I’m glad he’s on our side, that’s for sure.
4. While Carpenter tried to come back, Wainwright dominated.
Carpenter got scratched from the team in Spring Training, and it looked bleak. He started working his way back in May, throwing a bullpen session and pitching in the minors. But, in the end, he was shut down in July and retired at the end of the season. It was a great run, but his arm just wouldn’t let him pitch anymore. With Carpenter done, the role of leader was passed to Wainwright, and he took it and ran with it. Wainwright not only mentored a lot of young arms, but he also led the MLB in innings and complete games. He tied for the NL lead in wins, at 19. He was the ace of the club, and outside of a couple bad starts vs. the Reds, he pitched like an ace.
5. Due to injuries, rookie pitchers came in, and they won.
Westbrook wasn’t healthy. Carpenter didn’t throw a pitch. Garcia went down mid-season. Boggs was ineffective. The Cardinals reached down into their pool of talent and came out with some great arms. Miller, Wacha, Lyons, Gast, and Martinez all got at least 1 start. Siegrist, Rosenthal, and Maness all dominated in the bullpen all season, mixed with Freeman some and Martinez late. Combined, they got 36 wins and 22 losses. That’s great, especially for rookies, and that’s a lot. That means that of the 162 games, 35.8% of the decisions went to rookies. That’s a lot of a season. You have the fireballer, Rosenthal, who had 108 Ks in 75.1 innings. You have the ground ball machine, Maness, who got hitters to hit ground balls 68% of the time, and induced 16 double plays. Siegrist came out and destroyed lefties and righties, and had a couple scoreless streaks in the season. Wacha was huge down the stretch and in the playoffs. Those rookie pitchers made the season for the Cardinals. Without the depth and the talent that they brought the organization, there’s no way they make the playoffs and certainly no way they make the World Series.
Those are my top 5 for the Cardinal season (in no particular order). I may have missed a couple. It’s hard get just 5 as there are so many story lines within any year. I hope that 2014 has some great stories waiting for us and maybe a 12th trophy waiting for the Cardinals in October.