At the farthest level of competition away from the Major Leagues – in both distance and experience - the Dominican Summer League, the Cardinals have also struggled with the Baby Bucs this season.
After moving to the eight-team Boca Chica South Division in 2013, the Cards went just 2-6 against the second-place Pirates2 club and 3-5 versus the division-winning Cubs on their way to a 35-36 record. The Cards fielded a very inexperienced club, with 24 of the 35 players on the roster playing in their first season of professional ball.
Due to a huge final month swoon, the Cardinals finished the summer in fifth place, 15 games behind the Cubs and 10 ½ back of the Wild Card-winning Pirates2. The Yankees1 came in third with the Nationals, with whom the Cardinals are temporarily sharing a facility, four games ahead in fourth.
The DSL schedule had each team playing exclusively in its division (to ease travel). Series were always of two-game duration – one at home and one away.
Here are the DSL Cardinals records by year. Though the .493 winning percentage this season is both fourth-best and fourth-worst in the organization's seven years in the league, their fifth-place finish tied 2008 for their lowest spot ever in the division standings.
By the month
Manager Fray Peniche's third Cardinals club began slowly, dropping five of six after taking the June 1 opener against the Nats. Things were looking up as the team went 10-2 over its next 12, including a season-best four-game winning streak, and finished June at 13-11.
Despite never being able to string more than three wins together at a time, the Cardinals logged their best month in July, going 15-10.
After three wins to open August, tying their longest streak of four in a row, the club reached its high water mark. On August 3rd, the Cards were 10 games over .500 at 31-21. With just three weeks remaining in the season, the playoffs seemed unlikely, but their fourth winning record in the last five years was clearly in sight.
It was not to be, however, as injuries and perhaps fatigue brought on by a long season took their toll. The pitching remained solid, but the hitting disappeared. During a 12-game losing skid that ran from August 7 through August 19, the offense scored just 25 runs.
With only four games remaining and the team long eliminated from the post-season, the Cardinals needed to sweep both the Yankees1 and Nationals to finish with a winning record. They took three of four, losing the other contest by a single tally.
The dreadful 7-15 August left the Cardinals with a 35-36 overall record.
In recent seasons, the DSL Cardinals had relied in large part on their pitching. While the offense was expected to take the lead in 2013, the season did not develop completely as planned. The hurlers overachieved and while the hitters improved overall, there was considerable inconsistency.
The young staff, tutored by long-time pitching coach Bill Villanueva, logged an aggregate ERA of 2.94, good for 11th in the 35-team league. That was the exact same spot they finished in 2012, when the Cards had a 3.17 ERA.
They threw the ball past their opponents with regularity as their strikeout total of 545 was eighth-most. The staff was in the middle of the pack in two other categories. They issued the 16th fewest walks at 255, and were 15th in baserunners allowed with a WHIP of 1.28.
Though they suffered that big August slump, the Cardinals improved their offensive showing in most categories from year to year. Under first-year hitting coach Kleininger Teran, the team batting average rose from .219 last season to .228, but that was still in the bottom third of the league.
However, in 2012, the Cards were dead last in runs scored, improving to 15th with 317 runs scored this summer. The team OPS of .636 was right in the middle at 17th compared to .608 and a 33rd-place ranking in 2012.
The Cardinals featured two 2013 DSL All-Stars, shortstop Edmundo Sosa and pitcher Frederis Parra, both of whom competed in the mid-season game. With just a few days remaining in the season, infielder Robelys Reyes finally received his visa to enter the US and was promoted to Johnson City.
Looking ahead, the three will be joined by pitcher Ramon Santos and outfielder Bladimil Franco in the Cardinals fall instructional league that begins this month. The other 2013 DSL Cardinals will compete in the Dominican version of instructs, which will commence at the Cardinals academy on October 15.
Expect a number of the more advanced members of the 2013 DSL Cardinals to be invited to extended spring training in Jupiter, Fla. starting in April.
The 2014 DSL Cardinals should improve with a year more of experience, building upon the learning gained in 2013.
Link to master article with all 2013 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the DSL Cardinals Reliever, Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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