2006 St. Louis Cardinals Preview
The 2005 Cardinals were led by one of the greatest offensive player’s in baseball, Albert Pujols (.330 41 117). Joined by outfielders Jim Edmonds (.263 29 89), Reggie Sanders (.271 21 54) and Larry Walker (.289 15 82), Pujols and company assembled a regular season winning record of 100-62. During the playoffs, the St. Louis Cardinals lost in 6 games to the Astros. Tony’s Larussa’s team performed well in the postseason, first by sweeping the Padres in 4 straight games and then with Pujols providing some memorable extra inning heroics in game 5 of the LCS against Houston. Albert’s mammoth homerun helped keep the series alive forcing a game 6 back in St. Louis. Unfortunately St. Louis couldn’t manage another win to force a game seven and Houston was able to make it to their first World Series appearance in team history.
The pitching in 2005 was led by Chris Carpenter (21-5 2.83), Mark Mulder (16-8 3.64) and Matt Morris (14-10 4.11). Closer Jason Isringhausen (1-2 2.14 39 saves) also performed well, closing 39 of 43 save opportunities in 2005.
Off Season Moves:
The Cardinals lost a good portion of their offensive production during the off-season as Reggie Sanders signed with Kansas City and Larry Walker retired. Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek also departed to Kansas City while third baseman Abraham Nunez signed with the Phillies. Starter Matt Morris signed a lucrative 3-year deal with San Francisco for million and the Cardinals also traded lefty reliever Ray King to the Rockies and lost Julian Tavarez who signed a two-year deal with the Red Sox.
The Cardinals did find a decent hitter and a replacement outfielder in Juan Encarnacion (.287 16 76) from Florida and also picked up Larry Bigbie (.239 in 90 games splitting time between Colorado and Baltimore) from the Rockies in the trade for King. The pitching staff sought upgrades for 2006 by adding free agent starter Sidney Ponson (7-11 6.21) and former Mets closer Braden Looper (4-7 3.94) as well as Ricardo Rincon (1-1 4.34).
The Cardinals made several off season free agent signings for the 2006 season but nothing terribly significant. The biggest hope for 2006 is for Scott Rolen to be healthy again so he can contribute. Rolen only appeared in 56 games in 2005 and will be called upon to patch up the hole left by the departure of Sanders and Walker. But any lineup with Pujols and Edmonds should do just fine. Expect to see free agent Junior Spivey (.232 7 24) compete for the 2nd base job as the replacement for Grudzielanek.
Ponson may not have much left in the tank but the 1 million dollars the Cardinals paid to find out is certainly worth the risk. The bullpen picked up two decent arms in Looper and Rincon. Looper blew a bunch of games for the Mets but the Cardinals are hoping he’ll produce in a setup role for Isringhausen. Expect Carpenter to have another productive year as the starting rotation will remain mostly unchanged from 2005.