30 in 30ish: MLB Preview — St. Louis Cardinals

Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals are coming off four straight playoff appearances — including a World Series title in 2011 — and two straight division titles, but they’ll have to fend off the Pirates and Cubs if they want to go for the threepeat atop the National League Central. The roster is largely from last year’s division champs, with an important addition in OF Jason Heyward.

Given the team’s 90-72 record last year, its offensive statistics might surprise you. The team ranked seventh in the NL in batting average, eighth in OPS and tied for ninth in runs per game. in addition, they were last in the NL with just 105 home runs. Injuries played a part in the subpar offensive production, with 2B Kolten Wong spending time on the DL with a shoulder injury and veteran C Yadier Molina spent nearly two months on the DL in the middle of the season. The tam’s 3.50 ERA was tied for the seventh best in the league, led by ace SP Adam Wainwright, whose 2.38 ERA was the third best in the league.

Looking ahead to the coming season, the offense may get a bump from the addition of Heyward, acquired from the Braves in a November trade, as he’ll replace a combination of OFs Allen Craig, Randal Grichuk and Peter Bourjos — each of whom hit under ,250 last season. Adding Heyward to an offense that already includes veteran OF Matt Holliday and young 1B Matt Adams should benefit the Cardinals. The starting rotation is largely intact from last year, with P Carlos Martinez, who split time between the rotation and bullpen last season, currently on the depth chart as the team’s No. 5 starter. RP Trevor Rosenthal is still slated as the closer, but he has a new setup man to pitch in front of him; RP Jordan Walden, acquired in the Heyward trade, brings a 3.10 career ERA with him to the Cardinals bullpen.

As the Cardinals look to defend their division title again, they’ll have to defeat a resurgent Cubs team in addition to the Pirates. I think the have the players to do it again and win their third-straight NL Central championship.  If the pitching staff stays healthy, I think they have the best rotation in the division, which should be enough for another first-place finish in 2015.

Source: http://www.stlcardinals.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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