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Grading The Cardinals In 2011

Posted By Chaz Ingram On Nov 3 2011 @ 6:04 pm In St. Louis Cardinals | 1 Comment

I could make this article very short and sweet and simply issue the St. Louis Cardinals a letter grade of an “A” considering [1]they just won the 2011 World Series.  However, just as in school a grade is given based on a student’s effort over the course of the entire year, not just on the final exam. And as we all know the Cardinals were struggling well into the second half of the season before making thier phenomenal run to win the World Series title. With that in mind we’ll take a look at the Cardinals’ efforts over the course of the entire season and issue an overall grade for the team as a whole.

[2]Offense:  Led by Albert Pujols the Cardinals offense experienced a very productive year in 2011 under second year hitting coach Mark McGwire.  The Redbirds scored 762 runs, had 1,513 hits and had a .273 batting average on the year leading the league in all three categories. . They also tied with Milwaukee for the league lead with a .425  slugging percentage.  Their 762 runs were nearly 100 above the league average per team (668.)
Grade: A 


Cards' pitcher Adam Wainwright recently recovered from Tommy John surgery

Pitching:  The Redbirds’ starting pitchers struggled early in the season to find its identity with the absence of last year’s leader Adam Wainwright and the slow (really slow) start of ace Chris Carpenter. Despite that slow start to the season the pitching staff turned things up a notch as August came to a close and finished the season strong going 23-9 in its last 32 games. Starting pitching was 62-42 on the season with a 3.81 ERA and 7 complete games ranking 8th amongst the 16 teams in the National League.  In comparison their opponents in the national league playoffs, Philadelphia’s and Milwaukee’s starters were 76-42 (2.86 ERA) and 73-43 (3.81 ERA) respectively. [4]  

Unlike starting pitching the bullpen’s struggles lasted for the better part of the entire regular season. They recorded a regular season record of 28-30 as it struggled to identify a bona fide closer.  Although never officially labeled as such reliever Jason Motte became the team’s unofficial “closer” during the post season in which he and his fellow co-hearts in the bullpen delivered a string of scoreless innings to turn around an otherwise poor season and contribute to the Cardinals 11th World Series title. The addition of Mark Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel at mid season paid dividends that far exceeded expectations.
Grade: B

[5]Coaching:  Often criticized for an over abundance of double switches and constant substitutions that produce little results, if any, Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa may have produced the best managerial job of his career in 2011 (only 2006 comes close.)  Despite his World Series game five blunders when LaRussa experienced what many consider one of his worst managerial meltdowns and more or less gave the game away he returned two days later to manage perhaps the greatest game not only of his career but in World Series history.

As mentioned above hitting coach Mark McGwire did a superb job with Cardinals’ hitters this year as they led the league in several offensive categories and got major contributions from role players.  One can’t help but believe that McGwire’s mere presence on the staff instilled a sense of confidence in the Cardinals’ young hitters such as World Series and NLCS MVP David Freese as well as Allen Craig. LaRussa’s bold decision to hire the much maligned former slugger has paid off handsomely for the Redbirds. [6]Grade A-


Pitching coach Dave Duncan played a large role in helping Cardinals’ pitching staff to rebound from a mediocre start to finish the season strong.  Carpenter’s 1-7 start and ultimate 11-9 regular season finish as well as his 4-0 record in the post season was typical of the type of the turnaround that the Cardinals’ pitching staff experienced as a whole, thanks largely in part to Duncan.  Grade A-  


Cards' pitching coach Dave Duncan has coached four Cy young Award winners


Team: Given the team’ sluggish play (up until late August that is) for the most part of  2011 it is safe to say that a  World Series title was not even in the realm of possibilities for this team. However, the grit and determination they displayed as the season wound down to earn a berth in the playoffs as a wild card is nothing short of amazing.  Considering the team’s rocky start to the regular season coupled with their miracle run near season’s end one could have been totally satisfied even if the Cardinals made the playoffs and eventually lost in the first round, chalking it up as a “great effort.”  But the Cardinals were not satisfied with “just getting in” and  carried that never say die attitude over into the post season and actually delivered a championship. That, my friends,  is a great accomplishment and is par for the course for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals. Grade: A [8]

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