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Cardinals Break: Still Hanging Tight

I figured it’s time to do a mid-season report, since it’s the All Star break, even though it’s a little past mid-season. It’s tough to complain much since we’re still hanging in there, but I actually think we should have had four or five more victories so far, and Saturday’s debacle against the Pirates is a perfect example. You can’t blow a big lead in the late innings against a team that’s just not very good. A stupid loss like that can bite you in the ass come September. Anyway, on with the grading — after the jump.

Starting Pitching: A

This is actually a tough category to grade, since just about everyone in the Redbirds system has had the chance to begin a game this year. Regardless of who they’ve trotted out there though, the starting pitching has managed to keep us in the game.

The biggest and best surprise of the bunch is Kyle Lohse. He has shown signs in the past of being a decent pitcher, but this season he has really turned a corner, building on what he did in the second half last year with Philly. It could just be an extended hot streak, but I think it’s more likely attributed to Dave Duncan and maturity. I feel very happy when he’s on the mound.

Wellemeyer is basically in the same boat, but he’s fallen off a little bit. Regardless, he’s far better than I expected. Wainwright should be back fairly soon, and if he can somehow manage to pick up where he left off, the staff could be pretty decent. If Chris Carpenter can also manage to contribute, it could actually be a formidable rotation.

Bullpen: C

I have done nothing but curse these guys lately and they really deserve it. I realize the starters could make it easier on them by going a little deeper into games, but Geez Louise, there’s a freaking limit. They’ve had some injuries, though I might argue that Lefty specialist Randy Flores being gone might have actually helped. The new kids, Perez and McClellan are getting better but they also seem a little prone to the home run ball.

The real problem is Jason Isringhausen. I don’t know what the hell he has on Tony LaRussa, but it must be something really incriminating. Otherwise, I can’t imagine why he would continue to trot him out there to bleed three or four runs with painful regularity. His ERA is around a 6.00, not good for anyone, especially a closer. He’s personally dicked up enough games all by his lonesome to have us in first place. If he’s not willing to fess up that he’s finished, the Cards should probably do it for him.

Defense: B+

I can’t believe what a difference it makes having a decent shortstop. Izturis may not hit for much, but he’s solid defensively and it makes the pitching staff look a whole bunch better. Glaus is also better than I expected at third. Everyone in the outfield not named Chris Duncan is also very good (Ludwick) to almost great (Ankiel). Molina is still tough behind the plate. They actually look like a Cardinal team again.

Offense: B

This was also a tough category. Some days I like it, some days — not so much. That’s sort of the problem. We tend to be a little streaky. Glaus can go 0 for 24, then go 10 for 13. That would be fine if it was just one guy, but it’s the profile of three or four guys in the line up sometimes. Ludwick, Pujols, and Molina seem to be fairly steady, but many times the stars have to align perfectly for us to score over five runs. Don’t even get me started on how many guys we’ve left on base this year. Let’s just say it’s more than a bunch.

Overall, as I said earlier, I can’t complain. We’re giving ourselves a chance to get into the post season, a place most thought we didn’t stand a chance of getting to. The Cubs and Brewers will be tough in the second half, but I just don’t think the Cardinals are going away any time soon, no matter how much everyone expects them to.

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