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Holliday’s 1,000th RBI Is the Sign of a Career of Consistency

Matt Holliday has always been in an odd place as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.

While plenty of fans recognize him for what he has done, there is a certain faction that seems to always be looking for a reason to complain about Holliday.

This is the same faction that always sees him as the obvious “trade chip.” He’s the fan base’s perennial fall guy even when he’s putting up solid numbers—and that’s something he’s done regularly during his time as a Cardinal.

His 1,000th RBI serves only to underscore his role as one of the more consistent outfielders in the game today.

Just as food for thought, here are a few points to keep in the front of your mind when thinking of Matt Holliday.

• An overall career .309 hitter, Holliday is the team leader in batting average among active Cardinals. He has hit .302 in his six seasons with the Cardinals—second only to Albert Pujols. One notch below him is Jon Jay, but that’s a column for another day.

•He’s never hit less than 22 home runs in a full season with the Cardinals. He is the only player currently on the roster who can make that statement.

•Holliday is also the team’s active leader in OBP (.388), slugging percentage (.507) and home runs (117). The fact that he’s in his sixth season with the Cardinals has played a role, however, his ability to put up consistent numbers year after year is the true difference maker.

• While he has suffered through some painful slumps over the years, his hot streaks are capable of carrying a team for several weeks. Overall, he’s had a slow start to 2014, but if we can learn anything from history it’s that Holliday could crank things up at any time.

• It’s long been understood that Holliday’s defense isn’t his strongest tool. No one’s arguing against that. Matt Holliday is a hitter. However, to the naked eye Holliday looks to be making serious strides in left field this year. He seems to be legging out balls that in the past I would argue he wouldn’t have reached.

In 2014, 11 years into his career, Holliday continues to grow as a player. He’s not content with just “mailing it in.”

In St. Louis, playing for an organization with a Triple-A outfield worthy of most major league teams, job security comes only through performance.

While his 2009 contract paying him $17 million per year through 2016 (with a 2017 option) seemed like a huge chunk of change at the time, as time passes it’s beginning to look like a bargain.

With teams beginning to dump more dollars and years into contracts for similar players, Holliday’s ability to stay on the field and put up long-term consistent numbers make him one of the Cardinals better signings in recent history.

When you look at, for instance, David Wright, who signed a contract of similar value, the Holliday contract looks even better. Despite a few minor injuries, Holliday has never missed significant playing time in his career.

Things like appendicitis and the moth incident are just freak injuries. Life happens.

In the meantime, let the naysayers complain about Holliday all they want. His numbers can speak for themselves.

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Keeping Competition Healthy Is a Key for the St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals have always reveled in the underdog role.

They were the underdog against the Texas Rangers in the 2011 World Series. They were the underdog against the Los Angeles Dodgers in last year’s playoffs. They’ve been the underdog against just about everyone in past Octobers.

Except for this year.

Before a single pitch has been thrown (as Mike Matheny will remind you), the expectations are high for the 2014 Cardinals.

Matheny’s not a fan of talking expectations. Of course, neither is anyone else in MLB. While veteran players and front office personnel might be able to put those expectations aside, it’s not always so easy for young players.

“We like our chances just as much as anybody else, but to start making bold statements and predictions is really not wise,” Matheny said. “At this point, we’ve got to play the game.”

And the game starts now.

Whether they fully live up to those expectations, Matheny believes in playing every game like it’s your last—regardless of how much or how little is expected of you.

“It doesn’t matter the expectations and it doesn’t matter what people are saying,” Matheny said. “It’s a lot of talk and it gets you nowhere.”

They don’t talk about it regularly, but Matheny said he makes it clear to his players that the expectations and predictions for this team are just talk and nothing more.

“We have things that are said about us—compliments is what they are—but these guys have gone about their business the right way,” Matheny said.

While the team looks good on paper, that means nothing until it’s translated into on-field production. Just because a group of guys look good together statistically doesn’t make them winners.

Matheny is quick to point this out.

“People in this business understand we have talent, but talent has to come together as a team,” he said. “You’ve got to form the right kind of clubhouse and the right kind of play on the field.

“All of the speculation in the world gets you no runs. It doesn’t get you any outs from the mound either.”

Despite all of the hype and the need to play it down, Matheny understands why this team is drawing so much attention. Aside from the numbers, he feels he has a group of guys who all understand the importance of putting in their time.

“They go about it the right way,” he said. “They realize there’s a short window of opportunity in this game and they don’t want to lose any of those opportunities. They’re ready.”

It’s also important to remember that teams require change throughout the year. Whether it’s minor league call-ups or major league trades, more often than not a team looks different at game 162 than it did at game one.

General manager John Mozeliak knows that even with the best of teams, adjustments are usually required.

He thinks it’s a matter of “learning the DNA” of a particular team.

“We’re not perfect on day one and we know that,” Mozeliak said. “Our rotation looks stable, our everyday core players look solid. In terms of what we may have to go get at some point, we don’t know, but we know it will probably be something.

For now, as the Cardinals prepare for the season opener in Cincinnati, all they’re thinking about is getting back to baseball.

“It’s fun because now we get to go out there and actually see what we’ve got,” Matheny said.

All quotes obtained firsthand by the author.

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What the Matt Carpenter Extension Gives the St. Louis Cardinals

The decision by the St. Louis Cardinals front office to grant an extension to Matt Carpenter was the next step by John Mozeliak to solidify the team’s core for the next few years.

According to Jenifer Langosch of, the deal will make Carpenter a Cardinal through 2019 with an option for 2010, and it costs the team a total of $52 million.

The signing shows that the team sees Carpenter as a key part of the squad’s nucleus for years to come. He joins Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta, Yadier Molina and Allen Craig as the only Cardinals locked up through 2016 or later.

That’s good company—especially for a player many doubted could handle second base in 2013. How did that work out again?

During the press conference announcing the deal, Bill Dewitt Jr. made reference to the fact that he would like to see Carpenter finish his career as a Cardinal. The decision to buy out a lock year, all three arbitration years and his first two years of free-agent eligibility is a step in the right direction. It shows that the Cardinals don’t believe what Carpenter accomplished in 2013 is a fluke and that they think the young man from Texas is, in fact, the real deal.

There are plenty of other reasons that it made sense for the Cardinals to lock up Carpenter early.

Here are a few thoughts.


*All stats are courtesy Baseball Reference and Cot’s Baseball Contracts as of March 8, 2014.

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Odds of St. Louis Cardinals’ Top 5 Non-Roster Invitees Making the 2014 Roster

With the Super Bowl now in the past and trucks already being shipped to Florida and Arizona filled with baseball gear, it’s time to officially start thinking about baseball season again.

While spring training will be filled with all of the usual suspects—Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright to name a few—there will also be a number of new faces.

On Jan. 21, 2014, the Cardinals announced a total of 18 non-roster invitees that would be joining the squad at its camp in Jupiter, Fla.

Non-roster invitees can be either players already within the organization, or individuals outside the organization given a spring training invitation in an effort to allow them a chance to prove themselves to the front office. At that point, the hope would be to earn a major league contract.

While the Cardinals have a number of full positions, they also have several positions where they could possibly bring in backup assistance. It’s likely an additional pitcher or two will make their way into the roster, and a backup fielder, whether infield or outfield, could also find themselves in the mix for a position.

Will those lucky players be NRIs? The answer to that question can’t yet be known.

For the sake of this piece, I selected who I believe to be the five NRIs with a chance at making the major league team. Following are their odds for making the 25-man active roster from spring training.

Stats courtesy of and unless otherwise noted.

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4 Things the Cardinals Still Need to Do Before the Start of Spring Training

The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot to look forward to in 2014.

The arrival of Oscar Taveras, a full season from Kolten Wong and a possible rotation slot for Carlos Martinez are all highly anticipated highlights of the season to come.

That’s enough to justify getting anyone excited, but before things begin to get under way, there are decisions that have to be made by Mike Matheny and the front office.

The decisions can be very simple, such as player adjustments and work schedules, or something as difficult as determining a player’s role on the team altogether.

The following list is five things the Cardinals will need to take care of before they head down to Jupiter, Fla. for the start of spring training.

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5 St. Louis Cardinals Prospects Set to Break out in 2014

With the end of a year comes the final chapter of the season that nearly was. For the second year in a row, the St. Louis Cardinals were inches away from their 12th world championship.

The arrival of 2014 means it is time to put the season fully in the past and move forward to the future of the organization.

The 2013 season brought to the forefront many new faces within the organization that made an impact on 2013 and will in all likelihood continue to do so next season.

Another exciting note that comes with a new season are the new faces and players who will become major parts of the team in 2014.

As always there is no guarantee with prospects. Some of them are typically lost due to injury, while many never become the player they have been hyped to be.

With that said, some players become more than was ever anticipated. Few predicted the rapid rise of Michael Wacha or Matt Carpenter to become the player he has developed into—even though in retrospect we likely should have expected such performance.

Following are five prospects I believe are set to break out in 2014 and make a name for themselves.

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Furcal Could Be the Cardinals’ Answer at Shortstop

While nothing has been said about Rafael Furcal returning to the St. Louis Cardinals, if the right deal doesn’t come along, it could be the smartest option.

The free agent market for this year is extremely slim—and there’s little doubt GM John Mozeliak would rather spend dollars (which they have) than prospects (which they cherish).

Scott Boras, the agent of Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew, hinted to Derrick Goold of that his client is interested in the Cardinals. However, Jon Heyman of reports that the Red Sox will make a qualifying offer to Drew.

Even if Drew doesn’t accept the offer, he may still go for a price and number of years beyond a range the Cardinals would view as reasonable.

With his injury history, three years would be a stretch to give to Drew.

Among the other free agents available are Jhonny Peralta and Brendan Ryan.

Peralta’s 2013 numbers would make him a solid fit, but there’s still a chance the Detroit Tigers could hang on to him as an outfielder, with Peralta telling John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press he’d like to stay with the organization. With that said, such a fit with the Tigers seems unlikely, having traded for Jose Iglesias.

Most likely, he will be looking for a multi-year deal upwards of $6 million. That doesn’t put him out of reach for the Cardinals, but they would likely be reluctant to pick up a player fresh off of a PED suspension.

Brendan Ryan is also available, but they already tried that. Great glove, no bat. In fact, Ryan batted 20 points lower than Pete Kozma.

In the end, the answer could come with a year (or half year) from Furcal. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

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World Series: Cardinals Will Face a Familiar Foe—whether It’s Boston or Detroit

A series defined by great pitching met up Friday night in St. Louis for yet another duel—only half of the duel never showed.

The St. Louis Cardinals continued their ownership of one of the game’s greatest left-handed pitchers, Clayton Kershaw.

The Los Angeles Dodgers sent the right man to the mound—Hanley Ramirez fought through an extremely painful injury—but in the end this series belonged to the Cardinals.

Michael Wacha, NLCS MVP, threw seven stellar innings of two-hit shutout baseball—an overall microcosm of the series to date.

Friday’s win does assure that the Cardinals will face one of two very familiar fall classic opponents—the Boston Red Sox or Detroit Tigers.

While most fans remember the two series in 2004 and 2006, many don’t realize the Cardinals have faced each team in a World Series three times.

In 1934, the Cardinals’ Gashouse Gang defeated the Tigers in seven games. During that series, all four wins came behind the two Dean brothers—Dizzy and Daffy—who combined for 28 strikeouts and a 1.43 ERA.

In 1968, the Cardinals met the Tigers in the World Series again, but a win wasn’t in their future.

On the cusp of Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA season—a record that won’t easily be broken—the Tigers took down the Cardinals over seven games.

In 2006, the Cardinals returned the favor when they fully dominated the Tigers over five games for a swift 4-1 championship win.

The Cardinals’ history with the Red Sox is very similar. Once again, it is painted with some of the fondest moments in team history along with some of painful defeat.

In 1946, the two teams met in the World Series for the first time. The Cardinals won the series in seven games, but not before Enos Slaughter made his famous “Mad Dash” to score from first base.

Ted Williams wasn’t at his best that year due to injury, but in typical Williams fashion, he wasn’t making any excuses.

In 1967, the Cardinals and Red Sox met once again in the World Series. Bob Gibson did almost everything. He was responsible for three wins and even one home run.

Again the Cardinals won in seven games.

When they met for the most recent time in 2004, it was the Red Sox’s turn to make history. The Sox dominated the Cardinals in a four-game sweep and finally reversed the “Curse of the Bambino” by winning their first World Series since 1918.

So what does 2013 have in store? Is it the year of the rookie pitcher? Is it the year of the beard? Will Justin Verlander finally work his regular season magic in October?

HFour of the Cardinals’ 11 World Championships have come at the expense of these two teams.

While there’s no way to know what to expect, when these teams meet in October history tends to be made. Don’t look for this World Series to be any different.

All statistics courtesy Baseball Reference are current through Oct. 18, 2013.

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NLDS 2013: St. Louis Cardinals Have to Forget Friday and History with Liriano

If St. Louis Cardinals fans partied it up on Thursday night in celebration, it’s likely that on Friday night they’re hitting the bottle.

What happened at Busch Stadium Friday afternoon was the polar opposite of Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

On Thursday, the Cardinals hit well, pitched well and fielded well while the Pirates did absolutely nothing. On Friday, the Pirates hit well, pitched well and fielded well while the Cardinals did absolutely nothing.

Just like with a win, it’s important to keep things in perspective. What happened Friday was just one game. The same was said about Thursday.

Obviously a split isn’t the ideal situation, but this team has been good at putting a bad day behind them. Manager Mike Matheny said he doesn’t see this as different from any other loss.

While he can’t control their approach, he is confident that they have the mental tools to do what needs to be done to keep the season going.

“They’re going to do what they want to do and think how they want to think, but it would surprise me if they’re doing anything different than just getting ready to go out and put their best effort forward,” Matheny said.

With that said, the Sunday game likely won’t be an easy one. They’ll have to contend with a crowd that is beyond energetic and Francisco Liriano, who has owned the Cardinals in 2013.

During the regular season, Liriano was 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA against the Cardinals. He’s surrendered only 10 hits and two runs over a span of 24 innings pitched.

There are two ways to look at this for the Cardinals. The pessimist would likely say the Cardinals are doomed to go down 2-0 in the series. The optimist, on the other hand, would say that Liriano is due for a bad start against the Cardinals.

A look at his success against other teams shows that Liriano—despite his current appearance—is not Cy Young. He has been shelled by the Milwaukee Brewers (5.52, 14 IP, 9 ER in three starts), the Colorado Rockies (9.64, 10 ER in two starts), the San Francisco Giants (7.20, 8 ER in two starts) and the Cincinnati Reds (0-3, 3.70, 10 ER in 24.1 IP over four starts.)

Each of those teams’ batting averages against Liriano is double (the Giants are triple) what the Cardinals have done when they faced him.

While the Cardinals have struggled badly against left-handed batters, Liriano is beatable. Matheny continues to remind them of that.

“Hope the mindset is they can’t wait to get back out there and compete regardless of who they throw out there against us,” Matheny said. “We’ve had some matchups with some guys that have had success against us in the past, and they’re able to get past what the projections are and just play the game.”

“So, that’s what I’ll be encouraging.” 

The reality of the situation is that because they are tied, what the Cardinals face now is basically a three-game series where they don’t have home-field advantage. However, the first pitcher they will face is more mediocre than his numbers against the Cardinals indicate.

If the Cardinals can keep their heads on straight, focus on what they can change and ignore their history with Liriano, they could turn this series around in a hurry on Sunday.

Hang in there, Cardinals fans.

Stats are from Baseball Reference and are current through Oct. 4, 2013.

All quotes obtained firsthand by the author.

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St. Louis Cardinals/Pittsburgh Pirates Numbers Tell an Interesting Story

The St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates seem like they have been within a game of each other all season.

There’s a reason for that—they almost have been.

The idea that neither team can gain any ground is more than a feeling (Boston pun intended).

Thanks to a savvy reader, a very interesting correlation was pointed out Tuesday morning. They obviously share the same overall record and winning percentage or there would be no tie, but the numbers tell a more interesting story.

The Cardinals and Pirates have identical home and road splits.

As of Tuesday, Sept. 17, each team is 48-27 at home and 39-36 on the road. Like I said, that feeling that every time the Cardinals win so do the Pirates isn’t a feeling, it’s fact.

But the similarities don’t start there. Following are a number of interesting stories within the numbers.

• Each team’s biggest lead in the division has been by only four games. For the Cardinals, that happened on Sunday, June 9. For the Pirates, it was on Saturday, Aug. 10.

• Each team’s biggest deficit under first place is also only four games. For the Cardinals, that was on Aug. 10, the same day the Pirates had their widest margin. For the Pirates, that day was on Sunday, June 20.

• Both the Cardinals and the Pirates longest game this season was 16 innings. For the Cardinals, it’s happened twice—once on April 3 and once on Sept. 4. The Pirates 16-inning game was on Sunday, Aug. 18.

• Each team has been shutout by opponents 11 times this season.

• The Cardinals first half record was one game better than the Pittsburgh Pirates. To date, the Pirates second half record is one game better than the Cardinals.

• The teams have identical records against four teams: the Atlanta Braves (3-4), Miami Marlins (4-2), New York Mets (5-2) and the Oakland Athletics (1-2.)

• The Pirates own the season series against the Cardinals by only one game (10-9.)

While there are a lot of similarities, there are also many differences. Just for fun, here are a few of those.

• The Cardinals are considerably better in—and have been involved in more—blowout games. The Cardinals are 32-17 in games decided by more than five runs. The Pirates are 17-14.

• Despite their close records, the Cardinals have scored far more runs. In 149 games, the Cardinals have scored 715 runs, while allowing 556. The Pirates have scored 580 runs and allowed 534.

• In extra innings, the Cardinals are 5-5 with a .500 winning percentage. The Pirates are 9-8 with a .529 winning percentage.

• The Pirates have a slight edge in one-run games (28-21) over the Cardinals (17-15.)

As the season winds down, each team is well aware that everything is on the line. Each win, run and even pitch could be the difference in a division championship and Wild Card play-in game.

As tight as it has been so far, don’t be shocked if this race comes down to the last night.

Stats current as of Sept. 17, 2013, via


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