Though the Cardinals played in just four games in the first week of the season, it has been a pretty good showcase of what we can expect from this team. It is an exciting time to be a fan of the Cardinals and we should all embrace this team with the love that it deserves. The Cardinals ended the first week of the season with a 3-1 record which keeps them on top in the NL Central. Here are some tidbits of the mighty Matheny era Cardinals’ first week of the season:

Starters strength:

Photo Credit: mlb.com

Last year without Adam Wainwright the Cardinals gasped as they knew there was a huge hole gaping in the rotation. The same thing happened by many when the news that Chris Carpenter would miss a few months struck Cardinal Nation. However the Cardinals proved that they will be just fine. Kyle Lohse pitched an outstanding Opening day game, where he was virtually un-hittable, the only run he allowed was inherited by not so hot reliever Fernando Salas. Jaime Garcia followed Lohse with a strong outing striking out three and only allowing two runs in six innings for a quality start. Adam Wainwright wasn’t great but he also wasn’t very sharp in his first start in over a year, where he allowed three runs through five and two thirds innings, striking out 6. Lance Lynn showed that he deserved to be a member of the Cardinals rotation as he pitched six and two thirds strong innings, he allowed just one run, and struck out a team high 8 batters. If the Cardinals starters can keep this up, the rest of the National League should be very afraid.

Albert who?: 

A new motto of the 2012 Cardinals has been Albert who? As they have shown that they do not need Albert Pujols, or need to hear about Albert Pujols at all. Players are already stepping up and are teaming up to show the strengths of the Cardinals lineup. Carlos Beltran has hit two homers, David Freese has a hit in all four games and RBI’s in three, also with a homer. Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday also hit homers in the week. And maybe the best surprise of all is the production that we have received from Rafael Furcal who is leading the team in hits and steals.

Righteous Raffy:

As I just mentioned, Rafael Furcal has shown all of his haters that he can still hit and play baseball. After a very poor end of the season and an even worse spring, many fans grew skeptical of the Cardinals giving him a two year, 14 million dollar deal this off season.  So far Raffy has shut everyone up, through four games Furcal has a .526 average (10-19), three of those ten hits have been doubles, three RBI’s, two stolen bases, a walk, and just two strikeouts. If Furcal can keep this up, and stay healthy he will provide the Cardinals with a huge and much needed spark at the lead-off spot.

Power of the Bench:

The Cardinals have shown early that their bench can be a very powerful weapon.  Erik Komatsu as a pinch hitter had a pinch hit, he drew a walk, and scored a run.  “Sugar Shane,” Robinson had a pinch hit RBI, and in his first start of the season went 3-5 scored two runs, and hit a three run homer. Matt Carpenter also hit a pinch hit RBI double in his first plate appearance of the season. If these players can continue to contribute and play well off of the bench, the Cardinals can once again show the importance of depth.

Is Beltran the new Berkman?:

It is sure nice to see Beltran off to a good start! (April 5, 2012 - Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America)

Last season the Cardinals took a gamble by signing aging veteran first baseman Lance Berkman to an 8 million dollar deal to play the outfield. Many fans questioned the thought, but were surprised by a comeback performance and a player that without whom the Cardinals would have never reached the playoffs. Well, the Cardinals also made another gamble signing another former Cardinal Killer and Houston Astro, Carlos Beltran to a two year 26 million dollar deal. Beltran who is younger than Berkman, also dealt with his share of injuries missing a majority of the 2009-2010 seasons.  However Beltran has looked really impressive through his first four games, batting .389 (7-18), with two homers, scoring four runs, driving in three RBI, and stealing a base. If Beltran can keep hitting on a torrid pace, this deal will be yet another genius move of our scarf loving GM.

Boggs is back?:

Mitchell Boggs who had an up and down season last year really needs to prove himself if he wants to remain a Cardinal this year. So far in his first two appearances Boggs has been lights out, his only mistake being one allowed run.  It may be his new biker goatee look or it may be a new found faith in his stuff, either way Boggs is looking good. In four and a third innings, Boggs has 5 strikeouts and only one earned run for a modest 2.70 ERA. What is really surprising is that he has come in with inherited runners and has stranded them all, making him a real power threat out of the pen.  The Cardinals really need him to figure himself out, keep his emotions in check, and pitch to his potential.

Bullpen failures:

If the Cardinals are going to have success again this season health and the bullpen are the two biggest keys. Already we have seen some shaky innings from guys like Kyle McClellan, Fernando Salas, and Victor Marte (Why are Marte and K-Mac still on this team?) Salas needs to pitch like he did last season and the Cardinals need to figure out McClellan’s role or else try to find a way to ship him out of St. Louis. Also, it might be wise to eventually call up Eduardo Sanchez instead of Victor Marte, one of the dumbest moves I have seen out of this club.

Player of the week:

David Freese hitting his first homer of the season in Milwaukee. (Photo Credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Rick Wood/MCT)

This is a toss up. Lynn and Lohse are qualifiers for their terrific starts. Also Furcal and Carlos Beltran have put up big numbers,but I think this one has to go to David Freese. He has shown that he can still hit, he is batting .421 with one homer and 6 RBI’s which is leading the team, he is proving that his post season performance last season was not a fluke, he is an exciting player to watch.

Team Leaders:

AVG- Rafael Furcal- .526

Hits- Rafael Furcal- 10

Home Runs- Carlos Beltran- 2

RBI- David Freese- 6

Stolen Bases- Rafael Furcal-2

Wins- Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia – 1

Strikeouts- Lance Lynn- 8

ERA- Kyle Lohse- 1.23

Conclusion:

So far, so good. The 2012 Cardinals are looking as good as advertised and should be off to another Championship season. The team is fun to watch and with all players contributing the team is a lot more exciting than a team built around one superstar. Congrats to Mike Matheny on his first few wins as a manager and may many more come your way!

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