Although the St. Louis Cardinals' inconsistency frustrated fans at times in 2012, the team produced another trip to the postseason.
Here is a recap of the 2012 season:
Record: 88-74, 2nd in National League Central
Manager: Mike Matheny, 1st season
Path to Postseason: Clinched 2nd NL wild-card spot
Postseason Results: Beat Atlanta Braves in wild-card playoff game (1-0); beat Washington Nationals in Division Series (3-2); lost to San Francisco Giants in NL Championship Series (4-3).
Best Month: April (14-8)
Worst Month: May (13-16)
Longest Winning Streak: 5 (June 22-26)
Longest Losing Streak: 5 (May 29-June 3)
Best Player: Yadier Molina. For a combination of offense and defense, Molina takes this title away from the departed Albert Pujols. Molina led the team in hitting and played his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense behind the plate.
Top Three Hitters by Average: Yadier Molina (.315), Allen Craig (.307), Jon Jay (.305)
Top Three Home Run Hitters: Carlos Beltran (32), Matt Holliday (27), Allen Craig (22)
Top Three RBI Totals: Matt Holliday (102), Carlos Beltran (97), Allen Craig (92)
Most Wins: Lance Lynn (18), Kyle Lohse (16), Adam Wainwright (14)
Best Newcomer (Pitcher): Edward Mujica. When the Cardinals traded for Mujica in July I was not impressed. But the righty quickly helped solidify the Cards' bullpen. In 29 games for St. Louis, Mujica posted an ERA of 1.03 and a WHIP of 0.873.
Player Ready to Break Out: David Freese, 3rd base. Freese continued to improve his numbers in 2012, hitting .293 with 20 home runs and 79 RBIs. But poor hitting in August (.213) and a lack of production in September (eight RBIs) kept this from being a great season. Freese will keep getting better, and I see him topping the 100 RBI mark in 2013.
Most Disappointing Player: Marc Rzepczynski. The lefty was so good after coming over to St. Louis in 2011, I was expecting much of the same in 2012. But Rzepczynski struggled all year. He finished with a record of 1-3 and an ERA of 4.24. He failed to dominate left-handed hitters, allowing them to hit .255 with two home runs.
Most Inspirational Moment: The Cardinals had many good moments in 2012, some of which I have already chronicled. For my money, though, the return of Chris Carpenter after surgery in a start against the Chicago Cubs on September 21 was the #1 feel-good moment of the season. A late Cubs home run spoiled the day, but seeing the big guy back on the hill was a great moment.
My Take: It's easy to remember the disappointment of the final three games of the NLCS. But getting blasted by the Giants 20-1 should not be the takeaway from this season. The Cardinals adjusted well to a new manager and to life without Pujols to make another trip to the playoffs. Once there, they won two series and provided another franchise highlight in the Game 5 win against Washington.
With a powerful lineup and lots of young power arms ready to go, 2013 looks very bright to me.A native of St. Louis, Brad Boeker has rooted for the Cardinals for over 40 years.