Get Ready For The ‘Zombie Cardinals’ Version 11.0 In 2016: Cubs Are Favored In Division – But Gap Isn’t Huge

St. Louis has been an elite team in the National League for the last 15 years. While Chicago deserves to be favorite in the NL Central - and to win the World Series, never sleep on the St. Louis Cardinals. This team has 9 LCS Appearances since 2000, and did win 100 win games last campaign. Throw in a championship pedigree - and a brilliant youth movement, aided by a few cagey veterans, and the gap is just not that great compared with the Cubs.

St. Louis has been an elite team in the National League for the last 15 years. While Chicago deserves to be favorite in the NL Central – and to win the World Series, never sleep on the St. Louis Cardinals. This team has 9 LCS Appearances since 2000, and did win 100 win games last campaign. Throw in a championship pedigree – and a brilliant youth movement, aided by a few cagey veterans, and the gap is just not that great compared with the Cubs.  A huge effort by Adam Wainwright, with less than perfect years from Arrieta and Lester may be all it takes for the RedBirds to remain the kings of the NL Central.

Hunter Stokes (BBBA Featured Writer) 

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The Cubs have signed Dexter Fowler and traded away Chris Coghlan yesterday, and the Cards will have another week this winter where they are not the focus of the NL Central.  It probably suits them just fine.

On the heels of a 100 win campaign during 2015, the gambling websites, PECOTA and FanGraphs are all projecting a massive regression for St. Louis in 2016.  I am not one of those people.

I, for one, think the Cardinals are still to be reckoned with.

Switch out a potentially healthy Matt Holliday, coupled with full years from Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk – for the departed Jason Heyward to the Cubs, and I like that.

Throw in Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake, for the loss of Lance Lynn and John Lackey, and I still like that almost as even.

No doubt that Ben Zobrist was a good singing for the Chicago Cubs this offseason, but lets not throw St. Louis over the cliff just yet.

Yes Jason Heyward is about the best RF in the game, however his offensive production could be surpassed by a full year of Randall Grichuk. The Cards did go to 4 sraight League Championships in a row prior to the J-Hey kids arrival. The Cubs also pried away John Lackey from the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals, but the Cards responded by signing quality starter Mike Leake.

Yes Jason Heyward is about the best RF in the game, however his offensive production could be surpassed by a full year of Stephen Piscotty patrolling his former post at Busch Stadium. The Cards did go to 4 sraight League Championships in a row prior to the J-Hey kids arrival. The Cubs also pried away John Lackey from the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals, but the Cards responded by signing quality starter Mike Leake.

One could say that Heyward may just duplicate what Chris Coghlan offered offensively for the 2015 squad.

I have no problem with the experts projecting the Cubs for 1st place in the Division.  They are loaded with young studs, and should see a major power surge in 2016.  However the gap is just not that far.

I love the Cardinals Bullpen more than the Cubs.  St. Louis is also close with their Starting Pitching Rotation with Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Leake, Jaime Garcia and Carlos Martinez is still a great complement of 5 Starters.

Chicago does have reigning NL Cy Young champ Jake Arrieta, but can he be counted on to duplicate his brilliant 2015 campaign?  Going to be tough.  Jon Lester is a gamer, but he is not heads and tails above the top 3 guys in the Cards staff either.

Lackey is durable, but once you pass the top 3, I love the bottom end of the rotation better with St. Louis.

Matt Carpenter is one of the most underrated and underpaid players in the MLB today.  Maybe he won’t put up the same HR and RBI numbers as Kris Bryant, but this is not David vs Goliath either.

The Shortstop production has the Cards with the better offense, where Addison Russell provides better defense.

Kolten Wong versus Ben Zobrist would have to go to the cagey Veteran (fresh off his World Series win with KC).

Anthony Rizzo has the biggest advantage over a position player in St. Louis – with Matt Adams, Brandon Moss, Piscotty and Holliday all potentially fielding 1st.

Kyle Schwarber is a force that may turn out to be a superstar,  but it also may take a few years.  Holliday is the listed Starting LF – an if he can remain healthy, his OPS should be decent.

It is different when you are the 'hunted' instead of the 'hunters' and Chicago has many players that could suffer from a sophomore slump in their second go around the Senior Circuit.

It is different when you are the ‘hunted’ instead of the ‘hunters’ and Chicago has many players that could suffer from a sophomore slump in their second go around the Senior Circuit.  It may just come down to the 19 tilts the two clubs have against each other to decide the NL Central race.  They also have to take care of business versus division weaklinks’  Brewers and Reds for 38 games each.  Every single series in the Division will be fun to watch in some aspect.

Dexter Fowler is a solid player, and may hold a slight edge over Grichuk to begin, but the gap is not huge.

Jason Heyward is way better defensively than Piscotty, but I would give the latter a better chance to hold the fort offensively.

Catching is up in the air with Yadier Molina potentially being hurt to begin the season injured with his thumb.

Miguel Montero is steady.  If both are healthy, Molina has the edge.

The fact Chicago has 5 guys going into sophomore years, you can count on 2 of them struggling mightily in their second trip around the Senior Circuit.

Javier Baez and Jorge Soler are unproven for now, but may be way better than the likes of Tommy Pham, Jedd Gyorko and either Moss/Matt Adams for bench play.

The biggest advantage the Cards own over their NL Central counterpart has to be their Relief Core.  Plus I would still take their Starting Staff in the playoffs over Chicago (who may be better suited for wins during the regular season.)

This rivalry has overtaken the Dodgers/Giants and Red Sox and Yankees as the fiercest in the sport in my view. 

The Pirates while making the Wild Card Game Playoff in 3 straight years, have not spent to keep up with these two clubs, and are hoping for more Ray Seardge miracles to have them in contention for he NL Central with St. Louis and Chicago

Trevor Rosenthal is better than Hector RondonKevin Siegrist is one of the best setup men in the league, and Jonathan Broxton performed great for the Redbirds last year – and is a capable Closer in his own right.

Chicago has depth in the Bullpen, yet they will have to do it in the postseason to cement their standing. When it is unfamiliar territory, the task is always greater.

People have written of the Cardinals too many times in the last 15 years.  This club always seems to rebound.  2015 saw their streak of 4 straight LCS’s come to an end.

Their depth is still admirable.  Injuries didn’t even derail the team last year when Wainwright, Holliday and Adams missed huge chunks of time on the sick bay.  Combine Grichuk and Piscotty’s AB – and they just played over a year worth.

St. Louis has a championship pedigree.  They could conceivably go to the Wild Card game and be a tough out in that contest with Adam Wainwright toeing the hill.

The Cards would also be tough to knockout beyond that.

With the amount of young players they have, I would not be surprised if they orchestrate a major blockbuster deal halfway though the season to upgrade their lineup.  Carlos Gonzalez comes to mind here.

In the end Chicago may knock out St. Louis like they did in 2015 all over again, but just don’t be so quick to shovel sand on the Cards season.  That mistake has been done countless times before!

2015 saw Matt Holliday be ravaged with injury, and it Molina's thumb also wreaked havoc on the postseason aspirations of the MLB's best club. Holliday can help things out by bashing his usual 20+ HRs and adding on OPS over .800 for the Cards in 2016. Molina is still battling his hand injury right now, and needs to be right for St. Louis to compete for a World Series in 2016.

2015 saw Matt Holliday be ravaged with injury, and it Molina’s thumb also wreaked havoc on the postseason aspirations of the MLB’s best club. Holliday can help things out by bashing his usual 20+ HRs and adding on OPS over .800 for the Cards in 2016. Molina is still battling his hand injury right now, and needs to be right for St. Louis to compete for a World Series in 2016.  If it is one thing I have learned over the years, never count out those ‘Zombie Cardinals”.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of bbba.work and their other members***

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A big thanks goes out to our featured writer Hunter Stokes for preparing today’s post.

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About hunterstokes21

I Played NCAA Baseball at Liberty University in the 90's with Sid Bream's kid Sheldon. Once Hit a Home Run by hitting a hot air balloon that was coming over 2nd base (It was agreed that if a balloon was hit before game by the umpires and coaches - even though they were setting up in LF/CF Bleachers). I believe in the "Church Of Baseball". Come in for worship anytime.

Posted on February 26, 2016, in MLB Reports and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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