What a difference a week makes.
The Yahoo Major League Baseball power rankings are full of respect for the Cardinals this week, naming the Redbirds the fourth-best team in baseball and the second-best team in the National League. That's quite a difference from a week before when the Birds had the same winning percentage but apparently were worthy of being ranked 16th.
The only senior circuit club that ranks higher than St. Louis is the surging Washington Nationals club at third. It was only worth a 14 rating last week.
While I was surprised by the lack of respect the Cardinals got earlier, their new high marks are impressive due to the poor health of the team. Lance Berkman has been added to the disabled list that already claimed Chris Carpenter and Allen Craig. This team has a lot more firepower than it has shown thus far. And it looks like it might be getting back some of its wounded players soon.
I can't wait to see what this club looks like with another power bat added to the mix. I, like Tony La Russa, am left to wish that Craig could play second base reasonably well. But he'll probably have to figure into a mix with Berkman, Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay (who is day to day with a shoulder injury that apparently isn't nearly as bad as originally feared) for playing time in right field and at first base.
Meanwhile, it looks like Carpenter is going to be out until at least June as his weak shoulder has responded slower than he -- and Cardinals rooters -- would have liked. But, if Carpenter was ready right now, where would the team put him? With the exception of Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis rotation has been excellent. And Lance Lynn, Carp's direct replacement, might have pitched the best of the five starters. Adam Wainwright has been the worst. But he needs to pitch through the struggles he's having in his return from Tommy John surgery. And he showed some signs of turning the corner his last time out against the Reds.
He gave up three of his four runs allowed with a solo homer, a walk and a two run shot on back-to-back-to-back hitters. Besides that rough patch, he pitched relatively well. And he's starting to get some strikeouts, which proves his stuff isn't the problem -- it's consistency.
As he gains more innings under his belt, Wainwright will gain strength in his arm and get his velocity back. But he's got to pitch to do it. Putting him on the DL and letting him rest isn't going to solve the problem if his arm is structurally sound.
The Rangers continue to hold the top spot overall with the Tigers deemed to be the second-best team in baseball.