The Cardinals are 12-7, which has to qualify as one of the bigger surprises in the early going. I don't think it's going to last, but I also think that many pundits (probably including myself, though I don't think I ever published a pre-season prediction) underestimated this team in the spring.
I don't have any important points to make, but St. Louis is an interesting team, and I thought I'd poke around and see what factoids I could find:
- Of the six pitchers who have started games for the Cards so far this year, five of them--everybody but Lohse--have spent substantial time in the majors as relievers. Wainwright was always slated to become a starter, but everybody else has been an experiment of some sort or other.
- On that subject, I don't think you can give Dave Duncan enough credit. It must be frustrating for a team like the Reds to watch Duncan, year in and year out, take a couple of guys making the minimum and turn them into league-average-or-better 10 game winners. I certainly wouldn't mind if Jeff Weaver skipped extended spring training and did a few coaching sessions with Duncan before making an appearance for the Brewers.
- So far, the Cards are a very strong on-base team. Their team OBP is .365, a very close second to the Cubs at .366. Pujols is no surprise, and we saw the kind of ridiculous start Ryan Ludwick is having, but...Cesar Izturis and Adam Kennedy above .340? Really, Ankiel and Molina are the only sub-par OBP guys getting playing time.
- During the series in St. Louis, I heard from a few different angles that Jason Isringhausen might be the best closer in the division. I guess you can make the argument, but at this point, it's more because the competition is in such flux than because of his dominance. I haven't been sold on Izzy for a couple of years, and I continue to be skeptical. Sure, he'll rack up 35 saves (just like Gagne will), but I don't think he'll be the shutdown guy of 3-5 years ago.
- Are the Cards still a stellar defensive team? I don't know. Molina and Pujols are great, and Izturis has that reputation, but Glaus instead of Rolen is a huge step down, and Edmonds is gone, too. Certainly Chris Duncan is not a strong fielder in left, and while Ankiel is still something of an unknown quantity (remember, arms get talked about, but range matters more in the long run) in center, I think it's safe to assume he won't be gold glove-worthy in his first year. One approximation we can use is Defensive Efficiency, which measures the number of batted balls that turn into outs. The Cards are currently at .702, which is a little below average. (The Brewers are at .718, so take that for what it's worth.)
- St. Louis has now played their entire season series with the Giants, and lost four out of seven. That's not an endorsement of their playoff chances. True, two of those losses came at the hands of Tim Lincecum, but the other two were thanks to Kevin Correia and Jonathan Sanchez. I'm not going to pretend that I can tell a team's chances from a few games against one opponent, but...3-4 against San Fran?
- I mentioned yesterday that teams tend to revert to average in extra inning games; the same is true in one-run games. The Cards have played five one-run games, and won four of them. Perhaps they'll lose one or two in Milwaukee.