Yesterday I mentioned that ESPN's Buster Olney pegged the Cardinals as having the fourth best lineup in Major League Baseball -- and the best in the National League.
On the other side of the coin, Olney has also named the Redbirds as the team with the fourth-ranked pitching rotation in the big leagues.
That's a pretty good combination. Rating top five on both sides of the ball. There have been a lot of teams over the years who are good at one or the other. But it's the teams that can both hit AND pitch who are the serious contenders.
Unlike the hitting ranking, the Cardinals aren't tops in the Senior Circuit. The Dodgers rate second behind the Detroit Tigers and the Washington Nationals are third. Just behind St. Louis in fifth are Central Division rivals the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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I have some of the same concerns about the 2014 Cardinals that I had about the 2013 edition: While St. Louis has a lot of talent, it doesn't have a lot of experience and, with Chris Carpenter now permanently out of the picture, I'm not sure that the team has a true number two pitcher.
That's not because the hurlers aren't good enough. I just wonder if they have the experience to match up with other top pitchers in the National League on a weekly basis. While Michael Wacha was ridiculously good after being added to the rotation late in the season, is it really fair to ask a guy with a third of a season under his belt to face the number two guys from the Reds, Pirates, Dodgers and Braves every time out?
Still, I feel a little bit better about the Birds this year than last because Shelby Miller has a whole year in the majors to his credit and Lance Lynn, despite the naysayers, proved it's no fluke that he's a 15-game winner.
While the Birds might not have a true number two, I think it's safe to say that the back end of their rotation is among the best in baseball. The Cardinals will have a true competition for those spots while other teams just use the best journeyman they can dig up. If Adam Wainwright, Wacha and Shelby Miller are 1-2-3, that leaves Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly and potentially Kevin Siegrist and John Gast to fight it out for the last two slots.