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Could a new Cardinals MV3 appear in 2011?

How does the current middle of the St. Louis Cardinals lineup compare to their 2004 predecessors?

With the addition of free agent Lance Berkman, the St. Louis Cardinals will have a formidable middle of the order. Manager Tony La Russa has the former Houston star penciled into the fifth spot in his 2011 lineup behind incumbent all-stars Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday.

Memories return to the 2004 season, a time when the club had three offensive heroes, a trio that performed so well that they may have canceled each other out in the National League Most Valuable Player voting – yet still finished 3-4-5. Pujols, then 24 years of age, was joined by Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds.

It was the last time a noteworthy label stuck to the offense, as the three were called the “MV3.”

Could the new group justify the return of the moniker or perhaps earn a new tag of their own? Of course that remains to be seen on the field in 2011, but based on career numbers, the idea is not crazy.

A long-time member of Houston’s “Killer B’s,” Berkman will be one year older next season than Edmonds was in 2004, 34. That season, Rolen was 29, two years younger than Holliday will be in 2011. Obviously, the constant is Pujols, with six more stellar years of performance logged since 2004, including three MVPs of his own.

Putting Albert aside, let’s look at how the two pairs stack up using career accomplishments through 2004 and 2010 as a comparison. The Triple Crown categories of batting average, home runs and RBI along with Gold Gloves as a defensive indicator follow. The first three measures especially are often cited in MVP-worthiness comparisons.

2004 MV3 Pujols Rolen Edmonds Rolen+Edmonds
NL MVP rank 3 4 5
Age 24 29 34
# .300 years 4 1 5 6
# 30 HR yrs 4 3 5 8
# 100 RBI yrs 4 5 4 9
# Gold Gloves 0 6 7 13
2011 MV3? Pujols Holliday Berkman Holliday+Berkman
Age 31 31 35
# .300 years 10 7 4 11
# 30 HR yrs 10 2 5 7
# 100 RBI yrs 10 4 6 10
# Gold Gloves 2 0 0 0

Batting average. Led by Holliday’s seven years with a .300 or higher average, the 2011 pair has substantially more such seasons than did Pujols’ 2004 cohorts at the time.

Home runs. This is a very close category, with the 2004 duo holding a slight eight seasons to seven edge.

RBI. Berkman’s six 100-plus RBI years puts the 2011 pair barely ahead, ten to nine.

Gold Gloves: This is a blowout. Neither Holliday nor Berkman own a single fielding excellence award, while Rolen and Edmonds already had 13 Gold Gloves between them by 2004.

Of course, the past is just that. It remains to be seen if Berkman can return to his previous level of offensive prowess while dealing with the demands of returning to full-time outfield duty.

For a rebirth of the “MV3” to follow, it would be required as the 2011 Cardinals clearly need this group to hit.

Poll: Other than the 2004 MV3, which pair did/will best complement Pujols?

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