Other than Chris Carpenter as of late, our starting pitching has been hittable. Marquis and Suppan have been struggling. Izzy's been on the DL once already. Walker and Edmonds have been banged up and looking very human at the plate. Pujols has looked like he's trying to figure out what he's doing throughout the season (which makes him an even bigger freak for still dismantling pitching staffs…) and Grudzielanek is finally returning back to Earth after a strong opening and So Taguchi, well, he's probably has seen his big hot streak for the year.
So how did we end up being the best team in the National League with the second best record in the Majors?
The answer may seem simple: this team is clutch from top to bottom. Sure you have the names who can deliver big hits and the Gold Gloves who can make the amazing plays, but, even more than last year, the Cardinals is a team that rides every player. How many times have we seen Marquis struggle but pitch his way out of jams? How many plays have we seen David Eckstein make that we were told not to expect when he replaced Renteria?
It seems to be the first year I remember that everything the coaching staff has said seems to be coming true: Yadi Molina can handle the pitching staff and offensively is comparable to the departed Mike Matheny, Mark Mulder can be absolutely dominant, Chris Carpenter is a pitching machine, Eckstein is a great spark plug at the top of the order and Grudzielanek is a dependable offensive threat with solid skills at second base.
To paraphrase Rod Serling, it's like we've entered another dimension. It's even more astounding when you compare them to two other teams built around a veteran core: Cards 45-25, Team A 37-33 and Team B 40-30. The same teams ERA's are 3.62, 4.43 and 4.75, respectively. Offensively they look like this (AVG/SLG/OBP): .274/.426/.344; .275/.440/.357; .283/.454/.359. Of course the Team A and Team B have a designated hitter (not to mentioned a combined payroll in the neighborhood of the Gross National Product of Grenada) so the numbers are comparable. (And in fairness, some of the pitching stats might be also skewed accordingly.)
Bottom line is that this team is getting it done—even when it looks like they shouldn't be. I'm a little reluctant to use words like "destiny" but you just start to get the impression that if some of the slumps and injuries aren't going to slow us down, nothing is. As we close out the first half of the season I, for one, am excited to see where this team goes from here.