Jays From the Couch brings you 2016 MLB Wrap Ups. This time, we sit down with Cards Onclave to chat St Louis Cardinals
Jays From the Couch is kicking off a little series of wrap ups of teams around MLB. We’ll sit down with writers from all over the league to get their thoughts on teams we might not have been paying attention to in Blue Jays Land. This time: St Louis Cardinals!
For this MLB Wrap Up, we sat down with Daniel Shoptaw of Cards Conclave to get his thoughts on the 2016 season for the St Louis Cardinals. The Cards finished 10 games above .500, and many would consider 2016 a disappointment. They trailed the Cubs by 17.5 to finish in 2nd spot in the National League Central and they missed the Wild Card spot by a single game.
You can follow Daniel on Twitter @C70 and make sure you head to Cards Conclave to check out their great coverage. Follow them on Twitter @CardsConclave
JFtC: If you could sum up the Cards’ season in a paragraph, what would you say?
Daniel: It was a frustrating year for the Cardinals, summed up by the fact that they only reached 10 games over .500 on the last day of the season, and that still wound up keeping them one game away from a shot at the playoffs. For a team that had been playing in October the last five seasons, sitting at home during that time was a strange experience. The club never got any sort of traction and its wild card contention was as much a factor of other teams also struggling as their own success.
JFtC: What went right for St Louis this year?
Daniel: When spring training started, Jhonny Peralta went down with a thumb injury and the club really didn’t know who was going to be playing shortstop. Enter Aledmys Diaz, who hit .300 with some power and made the position his own. Without Diaz, there’s no telling how bad the season would have been. Also, this team hit for much more power than anyone expected. They ranked first in the National League in home runs. They got 30 homers from Jedd Gyorko, who was supposed to be the utility infielder. They hit a home run in 25 straight games. The expense line for fireworks in the income statement is going to be all out of whack this year.
JFtC: What went wrong for them?
Daniel: For the most part, pitching. Save for Carlos Martinez, who really became the staff ace this season, no regular starter had an ERA even that close to 4.00. A team that has been built on pitching and defense, for the most part, really got neither as the defense was atrocious as well. Trevor Rosenthal was supposed to be the lights out closer but was terrible, then hurt. (Thankfully, the Cards had a great back-up in Seung-hwan Oh.) Oh, and they were a terrible baserunning team, a far cry from the Runnin’ Redbirds of yore.
JFtC: Who stood out on the roster?
Daniel: I noted Diaz above, who truly was a star for this team in 2016. Oh did a great job not only as a setup man but converting almost seamlessly to the closing role. (Not that he was unused to that, as he had that role in Korea and Japan.) Martinez really became the pitcher many have thought he could be and may be just a step away from being a Cy Young contender on a regular basis. Alex Reyes came up late but showed why everyone has been salivating over him. Yadier Molina had a great second half and continued to be a great catcher, even though his defense might have slipped a notch.
JFtC: Who went under appreciated?
Daniel: I’ve been a fan of Tyler Lyons ever since he was assigned the number 70, but he really developed into a unsung asset this season. He was a guy that, because he’s been a starter, could come in and give multiple innings on a regular basis, something that was huge this year as starter after starter had to leave the game early. Losing him for the last two months of the season to a knee injury was a big deal, though perhaps not as obvious as losing folks like Matt Holliday.
JFtC: Who underperformed?
Daniel: There were higher expectations for Kolten Wong this year and he didn’t live up to them. That said, there were some questionable playing time decisions around him as well and you wonder if he’d been able to work out of slumps if he’d have done better overall. We also expected more out of Adam Wainwright, since he’s given us so much more in the past. Even with the reason of missing most of last year with the Achillies injury, you’d have expected at least a stronger second half from Waino. He had his moments and he’s still a good pitcher, but he wasn’t up to the level we’ve been used to.
JFtC: Where does St Louis go this offseason? What do they do?
Daniel: The Cardinals have already started some of the work, extending Mike Matheny, picking up Jaime Garcia‘s option, and declining to extend a qualifying offer to Brandon Moss. The focus, according to John Mozeliak, is defense and baserunning and to that end the club seems to be looking at a stronger center fielder, allowing them to move Randal Grichuk over to left. Whether that will come from the free agent market or a trade is still to be determined. That would seem to be the biggest issue for the club and a larger shakeup would be a little out of character for John Mozeliak, though there’s an argument that says the team might need it.
JFtC: What can fans expect from the Cardinals in 2017?
Daniel: Challenging the Cubs for the division next season would be tough. Even if they take some steps back, which is reasonable, and the Cardinals get better, 17 games is a lot to make up. The Cardinals should be in the wild card hunt, though, and we know that if you get to October, strange things can happen. It should be another winning year of Cardinal baseball in 2017.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.