The 2013 season for the St. Louis Cardinals ended with disappointment after the Boston Red Sox hit their way to a third championship in ten seasons. The Cards finished with the best record in the National League and topped baseball darling Yasiel Puig and the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates before being dismantled by the American League’s best.
St. Louis made it to the Fall Classic despite dealing with their fair share of injuries and setbacks. Allen Craig was lost for most of the playoff run, and looked like a shell of himself in limited action in the World Series. The starting rotation lost Jaime Garcia early in the season, and received minimal contributions from Jake Westbrook. The bullpen was a constant work in progress after closer Jason Motte was lost for the season in the spring.
St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak deserves a lot of credit for replacing the lost arms during the season. The contributions received from the minor leagues, mostly rookies, were not expected. Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, Tyler Lyons, and John Gast contributed throughout 2013. Their prized rookie, starter Shelby Miller, ended up being the second best pitcher behind veteran stud Adam Wainwright. Michael Wacha also made his presence known during the postseason. Wacha was one win away from tying the record for postseason wins (5).
The lack of experience may have contributed to some of the big hits against Boston’s veteran lineup, but just as much of the issues could have been blamed on manager Mike Matheny. Miller and 2013 interim closer Edward Mujica were just names in the World Series. Mujica lost some velocity and was dealing with fatigue from the regular season, but being off for over a month may have lead to the decision to not be used.
Miller’s exclusion from the starting rotation or bullpen is the biggest head-scratcher of the postseason. There was a potential innings limit on the future ace, but in an important situational start, Miller had to be used and was not. Lance Lynn has proven to be a reliable regular season starter, but continues to flop in the playoffs. Lynn has had documented issues pitching five or more innings during a start.
Benching your second best pitcher in what would have been a back-breaking loss for Boston in game four was inexcusable.
Yes, the season would have been much better with a 12th world championship, but beggars can’t be choosers. The Boston Red Sox went from worst to first in the ultra-competitive A.L. East. The pitching staff was healthy for majority of the season, and the corps offensive players bounced back from an unusually poor 2012 season. David Ortiz had a record-setting World Series, altering each game. Shane Victorino continued to impress with the bases loaded, and is now 6 for 8 lifetime in the postseason. Mike Napoli had two home runs following walks to Ortiz, as well.
Both teams appear to be set for runs after more titles in the next handful or seasons. The St. Louis Cardinals have some time to unwind before baseball’s hot stove season begins. Before you now it, baseball will be getting ready to head south for Spring Training.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffrotull44 for more sports and entertainment ramblings. If you play fantasy sports, check out The Fantasy Fix, where Jeff covers your add/drop/watch needs during baseball and hockey season, and does weekly podcasts, as well.Follow paulmbanks