Okay, it’s not as bad as I had feared, nor as good as I had hoped. The Cardinals are 49-43, tied with the Brew Crew for first place in the National League Central, but with the worst W/L record of any first-place team.
After a miserable start, ending with being swept by Cincinnati in mid-May, the Cardinals went on a three-week tear, going from 22-19 after the Cincinnati debacle to 38-26 on June 9th. Then they stalled, losing seven in a row and being swept first by Milwaukee and then (argh) Washington.
Early on, nothing was working very well. Pitching was inconsistent, the bullpen was dreadful, fielding was sloppy, and hitting was good, but not enough to make up for everything else. Albert Pujols, in his free-agent year, got off to a particularly horrible start. Chris Carpenter’s first 2 1/2 months were a nightmare for him, as well, although he is showing more of his old form of late. Jamie Garcia has been a welcome lift in the rotation, and the Kyles – Lohse and McClellan – were pleasant surprises, at least to me.
But the big surprise – at least to me – has been Lance Berkman. Frankly, I and a lot of other people groaned when they announced they were signing him for 8 Large for one season. I thought, “oh, Lord, big bucks for another slugger on the downside of his career.” He’d had an awful 2010 and was hurt, but he has returned to his youthful form – for how long? – hitting .291 with 24 homers and 63 RBIs. His walk/strikeout ratio is about 1:1, and his OBP is over .400.
I am still not enamored with the manager, Tony LaRussa, who I regularly deride as “LaGenius.” I still think he can’t handle pitchers very well, too often leaving them in to get shelled when they don’t have their best stuff and putting the team into a deep hole.
Still in all, they’re in contention at the Break, although unless the pitching gets really, really, solid and the pen stops blowing games, I doubt they’ll be around in October.