After winning 100 games to lead the majors in 2015, the St. Louis Cardinals lost ground, slipping to just 86 wins and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The Cards got away from the Cardinals’ Way of great pitching, solid defense and clutch hitting. Instead, the 2016 version was one that powered the ball out of the park, struggled at times defensively and saw a regression in most of its pitchers not named Carlos Martinez.
To have a chance to unseat the unanimous favorite in the Cubs, the Cardinals will need the pitching to return to form and the defense to play much better.
2016 Record: 86-76
2016 Moneyline Record: -6.49 Units
2016 Over/Under Total Record: 83-73-6
Current World Series Odds: +2910
Current Odds To Win NL: +1459
Current Odds To Win NL Central: +615
Regular Season Win Total: 84.5
Dexter Fowler was the Cardinals big offseason acquisition and he helps the rest of the offense—and defense—fall into place.
By taking over in centerfield and at the top of the order, it allows Randal Grichuk to slide over to left where his skill set is much more appropriate. The team automatically improves defensively in both positions.
As for the lineup, by hitting first, Matt Carpenter can slide down into a more run-producing role where his clutch bat can thrive.
Across the diamond, St. Louis seems set with an solid major league option at every position. Sure, Grichuk and Kolton Wong had their struggles last year which led to demotions to Triple-A, but both came back better players and both have previously shown that they can play well at the Major League level.
Since the outfield is now set with Grichuk, Fowler and Stephen Piscotty, the Cards had to move Wong back to second after he patrolled the outfield in the second half of last year. That move—along with a glut of options at third base and Aledmys Diaz establishing himself at short—prompted St. Louis to move Carpenter to first base.
This team has a ton of moving pieces and manager Mike Matheny utilized the versatility of his players a lot last year. That, however, could have been a bad thing as the defense suffered with players not getting a chance to establish a rhythm at any position. This year, the lineup appears much more stable and set.
So, while we can expect a bit more consistency offensively, combining the Cardinals’ way with jus a bit more pop, the pitching is where this team will live or die.
Last year was not a good year for this rotation. Adam Wainwright came back, but he wasn’t himself. He got near 200 innings, but had a 4.62 ERA in the process. Meanwhile, Lance Lynn missed the year, Mike Leake and Jaime Garcia were just as bad as Wainwright and Michael Wacha eventually found himself in the bullpen. Five starts and seven bullpen appearances for Alex Reyes was the only bright spot outside of Carlos Martinez’s 3.04 ERA and 16 wins. Unfortunately, while Martinez is still a player in this rotation, Reyes will be sidelined for the season.
The loss of Reyes is a big one. It eats into the team’s depth, but even without him, look for the Cards’ rotation to bounce back.
Wainwright is now more than a full year removed from his injury and should pitch better. He was not happy with the way he pitched last year and is motivated to improve. Meanwhile, Mike Leake and Michael Wacha should also be better. Wacha has looked different in Spring Training. Look for a bounce back year for him.
While Leake won’t ever pitch like a top of the rotation arm, they just need him to be a serviceable back end guy and that’s what he’s been over the course of his career. Add back Lance Lynn and this is a pretty good rotation one through five. The only issue is depth in case Lynn’s arm doesn’t hold up, Wacha falters again or someone else gets injured.
Look to the bullpen, Seung-hwan Oh is already one of the NL’s best closers after hold the spot for less than a season. His 1.92 ERA and 0.916 WHIP proves that. Factor in Kevin Siegrist, Brett Cecil and Jonathan Broxton and the setup men should be more than capable of getting nine outs as long as the starts can give the team six innings.
April 2-5: vs. Cubs
April 7-9: vs. Reds
April 10-12: at Nationals
April 14-16: at Yankees
April 17-19: vs. Pirates
April 20-23: at Brewers
April 25-27: vs. Blue Jays
April 28-30: vs. Reds
The Cubs/Cardinals series to start the season should be a fun one. A rivalry along the lines of Yankees/Red Sox and Dodgers/Giants, the Cardinals and Cubs’ feud goes back a long ways, but it’s always been a bit one-sided with St. Louis having the consistent upper-hand, until now. Coming off their first World Series win in well over a century, the Cubs are the better team, but the Cardinals did steal away Fowler this offseason and as Joe Maddon of the Cubs said, ‘as he goes, we go’. The same will be true for Fowler and Cardinals.
There are a couple series against the Reds and a series in Milwaukee that help break up the schedule for the Cardinals. They’ll get to play those two teams quite often in 2017 which should help the Cards pad their win/loss record despite sharing a division with the odds-on favorites in Chicago.
View this years MLB game match-ups with the complete seasonal schedule for all MLB teams. Each year we will be updating the season schedule with the current information including final scores, so bookmark this page.
The 2017 Major League Baseball season is tentatively set to begin on April 2, 2017, and feature three games, including the 2016 World Series champions Chicago Cubs facing off against the St. Louis Cardinals, which will be ESPN's first Sunday Night Baseball game of the year.
The 88th MLB All-Star Game will be hosted by the Miami Marlins and will be played at Marlins Park on July 11, 2017. It will be televised nationally on Fox.
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