In 2007, the Cardinals entered the All-Star Break at 40-45. They won their final game before the break as Todd Wellemeyer and four relievers held San Francisco and Barry Zito (one of the few times they got the upper hand on Zito, it feels like) scoreless, winning 7-0. They were 5-3 in July and, while they were still in third and 7 1/2 games out of first, you could feel that there was some change coming, that things were getting better. Chris Carpenter was reported to be improving and hopefully going to a rehab assignment soon, David Eckstein and Jim Edmonds were both to return to the team shortly, and you could talk yourself into optimism about the second half, especially with the Brewers, a team that had a history of slipping, leading the pack in the NL Central.
Feels kinda familiar, doesn’t it?
After all, the Cardinals in 2021 have gone into the break a little later in the season and a little better off, but still are under the .500 mark at 44-46. They recently took games from the Giants that were encouraging, though unlike the comparison they are actually 4-5 in July, even if they have won three of their last five. The Brewers are the team that leads the division and they took a bit of a hit to their inevitability by losing three of four to the Reds. Jack Flaherty is doing some tossing and while he’s not close to returning necessarily, there’s still a good possibility we’ll see him in August. You can see how the mood here could be like that mood in 2007.
Of course, 2007 didn’t work out well, in part because of the pitching. Kip Wells came out and dropped a bomb right after the break, Mike Maroth pitched the next day and got equally blown up, and the team was quickly seven games under and 8 1/2 games out. The division did eventually come back to them–they were a game out on September 7, even though they had a .500 record–but the team eventually wound up the year right about where they were at this point, six games under .500 and seven games out. They couldn’t sustain momentum even with their big pitching acquisition of Joel Pineiro around the trade deadline. (Yes, that was a bit sarcastic since it didn’t seem like a big move at the time, though Pineiro had a nice career in St. Louis thanks to Dave Duncan.)
Will the 2021 team have better luck? Let’s look at the two teams.
|C||Yadier Molina||Yadier Molina|
|1B||Albert Pujols||Paul Goldschmidt|
|2B||Adam Kennedy||Tommy Edman|
|SS||David Eckstein||Paul DeJong|
|3B||Scott Rolen||Nolan Arenado|
|LF||Chris Duncan||Tyler O'Neill|
|CF||Jim Edmonds||Harrison Bader|
|RF||Juan Encarnacion||Dylan Carlson|
|SP||Adam Wainwright||Adam Wainwright|
|SP||Braden Looper||Kwang Hyun Kim|
|SP||Kip Wells||Wade LeBlanc|
|SP||Anthony Reyes||Johan Oviedo|
|CP||Jason Isringhausen||Alex Reyes|
Obviously, a healthy Jack Flaherty tips the scales toward the 2021 team (heck, even a healthy Miles Mikolas–if that’s even a thing that could happen–would help) but these teams are a little more similar than I thought they’d be when I started laying out the squads. Strong corners (though injuries limited Rolen to just 112 games and eight homers), Molina in his first good offensive year and perhaps his last (2007 would get a bigger edge if you took out the first month of this season), outfielders with questions and health issues (Edmonds played 117 games that year), and a rotation that you wouldn’t necessarily want to see every night, plus a closer that puts up the saves while not being afraid to walk anyone (though Reyes has already walked more than Izzy did that season in 25 less innings).
Depending on if and when Flaherty returns and how the club plugs that question mark in the rotation, maybe you can give the edge to 2021 and hope that they can do what 2007 wasn’t able to do. You can see a path to that, even if it’s an overgrown and unpromising one.
We’ll see what develops. If nothing else, we have 72 more games to enjoy Cardinal baseball. (By enjoy, I also mean complain, be frustrated by, etc.) Come this winter, we’ll miss this. We might even miss John Gant throwing four balls to a batter. Well, maybe not that.
2007 is on my mind because 14 years ago tonight, I picked out a WordPress domain and got to writing. You can find the first post here. I think it’s safe to say that in 14 years I’ve not learned anything nor has anyplace I’ve frequented gotten more appealing.
Friday (10-5 loss at Chicago)
Hero: Dylan Carlson. Three for four with a walk and a run scored. We’ll need to see more nights like that from Carlson if he stays in front of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
Goat: Genesis Cabrera. The game was a little dicey anyway, given that Kyle Hendricks had a lead on the Cardinals, but Cabrera coming in and allowing three runs and only getting one out basically shut the door on a comeback. Junior Fernandez didn’t do well either but the damage was pretty much already done. I hope that Cabrera just needs some time off and this break will help, but he’s really struggled of late.
Notes: Wade LeBlanc allowed three in the first, which was the first time we’ve seen him be more like his reputation since he came to St. Louis….that usually is enough for Hendricks, though he hit a mortal patch and allowed two runs in the third to give some hope…..two hits for Goldschmidt and a nice, late, pinch-hit home run from Paul DeJong….Luis Garcia made his Cardinal debut and, after being called a strike-thrower, hit the first batter he faced in the head, plus gave up two hits and only got one out. Yep, he’ll fit right in…..Patron Pitcher of the Blog TNG Brandon Waddell came into this one and allowed a run, his second run in as many outings.
Saturday (6-0 win at Chicago)
Hero: Kwang Hyun Kim. Kim was a gem in this one. Not only did he throw six scoreless innings, hardly breaking a sweat it seemed (five hits, one walk, seven strikeouts) but his remarkable speed helped him beat out an infield hit, keeping an inning alive. It didn’t wind up meaning anything at the time–Dylan Carlson popped out to end the threat with runners on the corners–but the extra pitches may have been a factor in Zach Davies giving up a home run to Paul Goldschmidt to lead off the next inning.
Goat: Nolan Arenado. A tough night for the third baseman, though as someone point out on Twitter, better to have those kind of nights when the team is up big than when it matters. 0-5 with four left on base.
Notes: A five run inning? With three home runs? Those are legal? I had no idea….Paul DeJong with a second home run in as many days. Could be he’s heating up right before the break (which would probably then cool him off) or it could be he just likes Wrigley. He’s hit more home runs there than anywhere else but Busch and Great American Ball Park (11 at GABP and at Wrigley). His OPS is higher at Wrigley than any other park that he has played more than ten games at, save the 11 in Citi Field, where his OPS is over 1.000….Mike Shildt decided to get Genesis Cabrera back on the horse and, when he gave up a leadoff double, that looked like a questionable decision. Cabrera righted himself and threw a scoreless inning, though….after using Giovanny Gallegos in the eighth, I was a little surprised that Shildt went with John Gant in the ninth, but I was glad that they rested Alex Reyes in such a game…..Matt Carpenter got the scoring started with an RBI single with two outs in the first, which was nice to see out of Carpenter.