-With the Holliday situation still unresolved, I figured it would be a good time to present the December UCB project while the Cardinals and Scott Boras play a multi-million dollar game of chicken. This month’s project focuses on the top five stories of the year in Cardinal baseball, and there were plenty of great choices to choose from. In this list, I put down the five things that most define 2009, so without further adieu your top five stories of this year:
5. The Cardinals trade for Mark Derosa, Julio Lugo, Matt Holliday and also sign John Smoltz
-The Cardinals stayed in the race for the central division until John Mozeliak brought in an impressive group of reinforcements that helped the Cardinals steamroll to the central division crown. The Cardinals traded some of their top prospects in the Derosa and Holliday deals, but the front office saw an opportunity to add to a core of Carpenter, Wainwright, Pujols, and Molina and had their most active period of in-season acquisitions in years.
4. Co-Aces and another MVP
-Chris Carpenter returned as good as ever after missing most of the past two seasons with injuries and Adam Wainwright overcame an early season struggle with his command to post his best season. Together the Cardinals 1-2 punch combined to throw 425.2 innings and led the N.L. in many different categories. Wainwright led the senior circuit with 233 innings pitched and 19 wins, and Carpenter led the pack with a 2.24 ERA. Albert Pujols won his second straight and third MVP overall, after posting a .327/.443/.648 line to go along with 47 homers, 124 runs, and 135 RBI’s. Advanced statistics have the trio of Carpenter, Wainwright, and Pujols combining for 19.7 Wins Above Replacement, which is actually above what the Cardinals posted as a team (18.8)! *This is because of the large amount of negative value the Cardinals got from under performing players like Khalil Greene, Joe Thurston, etc.
3. Schumaker moves to second
-In what started out as a crazy idea in spring training, the Schumaker experiment was largely considered a success by the end of the season. Schumaker struggled defensively early on, but was actually a league average second basemen defensively in the 2nd half of the season per UZR. Going forward, if Schumaker continues to hit like he has, the Cardinals have their answer to their decade long second base carousel.
2. Division Champs
-Led by another MVP season from Albert Pujols, a stellar 1-2-3 rotation punch in Carpenter, Wainwright, and Pineiro, and through mid-season acquisitions like Matt Holliday, The Cardinals won 91 games and their first division crown since 2006. Although they were swept out of the first round by the Dodgers, it was still a good year for the Redbirds, who were the heavy underdog to the Cubs going into the season.
1. The Mid-Summer Classic
-When fans think back about the 2009 season, the biggest event of the year was undoubtedly the return of the All-Star Game to St. Louis. Events like the Home Run Derby, Celebrity Softball Game, and other various events provided memories for fans as the All-Star Game was back in St. Louis for the first time since 1966.
-I hope everyone enjoys this list, and I’m sure some stuff is being left out, like Whitey Herzog’s Hall of Fame induction and Albert’s act of kindness to the man that fell out of the stands in Pittsburgh. Overall it was one heck of a year in Cardinal baseball, and fans can only hope 2010 will be as special as 2009.