In 2012, the Cardinals both endured some major changes and repeated their brand of success. Following are our top five stories of the year.
5. Wainwright returns, as good as ever
Entering the season, one of the biggest unknowns was how Adam Wainwright would return from missing an entire season recuperating from Tommy John surgery. The staff ace left no doubt as to his health, turning in a stellar campaign and leading the staff with 4.4 WAR and the rotation with a 3.23 xFIP. He even improved on his career-high strikeout rate as a starter with a K/9 of 8.34.
4. NLDS Game 5 comeback surpasses 2011 World Series Game 6
After the 2011 World Series Game 6, what could the Cardinals possibly do for an encore? They may not have repeated as champions, but the Cardinals relived their role as comeback kids by roaring back from
a six-run deficit to win the division championship series against the Nationals. Their resuscitation from a win-expectancy low of 3.5% was even greater than the worst moment of Game 6, when their WE hit a nadir of 4.1%.
3. Rise of the rookies
When Mike Matheny moved into Tony La Russa’s office, the new boss figured to be about the same as the old boss. But Matheny departed significantly from TLR in his willingness to give his rookies playing time. To be sure, the Cardinals had one of their strongest youth crops in a while, and they not only contributed during the regular season — a fact that didn’t escape at least one writer, who named Matt Carpenter on his Rookie of the Year ballot — but they rose to the fore during the postseason, as well, as six different rookies — Carpenter, Trevor Rosenthal, Pete Kozma, Joe Kelly and Adron Chambers and Shelby Miller contributed.
2. Albert who?
Few panicked in St. Louis when Albert Pujols left for California, $240 million and his personal hotel suite. Still, replacing five wins wins above replacement isn’t easy. And yet the combo of Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter replaced Pujols’s production and at a fraction of the cost (salary total for 2012: $975,000 compared to Pujols’s $12 million).
1. Yadier Molina has best season at catcher in club history
The Cardinals have had some legendary seasons from their catchers. Tim McCarver in 1967. Ted Simmons in just about any year (but especially 1978). Joe Torre in 1970. Darrell Porter in 1983. Walker Cooper from 1943-44. Mike Grady from 1904-05. But topping them all was Yadier Molina in 2012. Offering himself as anecdotal evidence against post-contract year letdown performance, Molina signed a five-year extension on March 1, then went out an posted a 6.7 bWAR (6.5 fWAR) campaign, personal and team bests at the position.
- Matheny maintains TLR’s success, peccadillos
- Killer Bs (Beltran, Berkman) offset each other’s production
- Play-in thriller in Atlanta