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Past predictions: TCN blog’s top five Cardinals stories of 2013

Last January, I published my predictions of the topics I thought could evolve into the top five stories across the Cardinal Nation for the then-coming year of 2013. Today, with the benefit of full hindsight, including the top 20 stories of 2013 countdown now on the books, it is time to take my annual look back at my initial forecast. After all, anyone can make predictions, but how many actually return after the fact to review how they fared?

The original top five projections follow, along with where the stories actually ended up, including links to the appropriate articles. I won’t be repeating my 2013 summaries here, so click on the links if you’d like to read those detailed stories.

My predictive powers were good, but not great. Three of my top five guesses from one year ago made the top 20 with two being direct hits. Other connections required some leaning into the wind.

As always, I also did not predict how the season would end up. As the Cardinals played deep into the World Series, that turned out to provide the subject of the number two story, aligned with manager Mike Matheny below.

Prediction Actual
Pre-2013 prediction story rank rank Post-2013 actual story
Wainwright’s contract 1 5 “Wainwright’s continuing leadership”
What’s on second? 2 4 “Matt Carpenter’s rise”
Happy flights without Furcal? 3 14 “Peralta, PEDs and penalties”
Young starting pitcher takes NL by storm 4 7 “Miller’s puzzling rookie year”
8 “Wacha’s emergence”
Matheny’s sophomore season 5 20 “Matheny’s extension”
2 “Back on top of the National League”

Revisiting my predicted top five St. Louis Cardinals stories of 2013.

1. Wainwright’s contract

Looking back at 2012, I was probably among those who expected too much from the Cardinals’ young ace coming off his Tommy John-scrubbed 2011 season. Wainwright wasn’t bad at all in 2012, but his 14-13, 3.94 ERA, performance led some to suggest that the Cardinals should let their ace depart after the final year of his contract in 2013.

Fortunately, the Cardinals decision-makers were not among the doubters. They moved quickly during spring training to secure a contract extension with their ace, doing a great job in heading off a huge potential distraction during the season. More importantly, they ensured their staff leader would remain for years to come to mentor the remainder of a very young and talented rotation.

In March, the right-hander signed the longest-duration contract for a pitcher in team history. His new five-year deal covers the 2014-2018 seasons and will pay him $97.5 million, another club record for a pitcher.

2. “What’s on second?”

Let’s agree. No one, and I mean no one, anticipated how successful Matt Carpenter would be in 2013. It was one thing to master a new position, second base, despite no prior experience there.

It was another to become an offensive force for a World Series club before ever becoming eligible for arbitration. I won’t recap all Carpenter’s stats here again, but suffice it to say that he could have placed higher than fourth in the National League Most Valuable Player vote had it not been for teammate Yadier Molina.

The club has returned the second base situation to the question mark category by trading David Freese and shifting Carpenter to third base for 2014. Rookie Kolten Wong and newcomer Mark Ellis will be asked to fill Carpenter’s shoes, a substantially taller order than anyone might ever have anticipated.

3. Can there be “Happy Flights” without Furcal?

The reality is that the 2013 shortstop situation did not make my top 20 stories. I took some liberty by noting the number 14 Jhonny Peralta article in the table above. That signing is really addressing the need for 2014 and beyond.

It is a tribute to how good the rest of the Cardinals were that they could prosper in 2013 despite the shortstop position being an offensive black hole. When Rafael Furcal was lost for the entire season – in hindsight because he did not get Tommy John surgery in 2012 – the Cardinals decided to go with Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso at the position.

While Kozma was fine with the glove, overall the position delivered a line of .222/.280/.303/.583 in 2013. To their credit, the Cardinals decided that could not continue for 2014, signing Peralta to man the position going forward.

4. A young starter takes the NL by storm

In 2012, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly stepped forward to help stabilize the Cardinals rotation. With Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter on shaky ground heading into 2013, it seemed likely that another new rotation member would be required.

At this time last year, I wondered aloud if the next starter to step forward would be Shelby Miller or Trevor Rosenthal. As it turned out, Rosenthal was required in the bullpen for the entire season while Miller was the one to join the starting five and excel. As September turned to October, Michael Wacha emerged to become a post-season factor.

In other words, two of the Cardinals’ young starters ended up taking the NL by storm – Miller earlier and Wacha later.

5. Will Matheny have a sophomore slump?

The first season of any new manager is a challenge, let alone with a club coming off a World Series victory and succeeding a future Hall of Famer in Tony La Russa. Yet, Mike Matheny was up to the challenge.

While there are always small points one could question, overall, the Cardinals skipper had a strong second season as well. His team won nine more regular-games than the year before, recaptured the Central Division title for the first time since 2009 and reached Game 6 of the World Series.

For Matheny personally, the progress was recognized in November, when the 43-year-old received a three-year contract extension, running through the 2017 season.

Next up: In my final article of this annual series, I will outline my predictions for the top five Cardinals stories of 2014.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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25 Responses to “Past predictions: TCN blog’s top five Cardinals stories of 2013”

  1. […] A look back at the top projected stories across the St. Louis Cardinal nation in 2013 from last January. “Past predictions: TCN blog’s top five Cardinals stories of 2013″ […]

  2. blingboy says:

    Very interesting article about the Cards evolving efforts in the international market, including Cuba and asia. Talks about front office shuffling and has extensive Mo quotes.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Always good to get a look inside the organization, but it is very difficult for me to tell what is really new. From the time Matt Slater was hired in 2007, the Cardinals have said they are studying the international market. Gary La Rocque was already the farm director, etc…

      From an article I wrote in February 2008:

      “Another, more challenging market to enter has been Asia. In January, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted General Manager John Mozeliak as saying the Cardinals hired two individuals over the off-season to “ramp up” the organization’s activity in the Asian Leagues. They are Japanese-speaking Rob Fidler and special assistant Matt Slater.”

      The main challenge remains a huge territory and limited resources to cover it.

      • crdswmn says:

        I am happy to hear more effort is being spent on the Cuban and Asian markets. Maybe someday the Cardinals can get a Yasiel Puig or a Masahiro Tanaka.

        • Brian Walton says:

          I agree with the sentiment more than the examples. Those guys were already well known.

          All the increased investment in the world in scouting and analytics wouldn’t improve the Cardinals’ chances of getting Tanaka. Pretty straightforward situation. Either they outbid the other organizations or they lose out.

          Seems to me unless the amateur market dynamics change (as opposed to the professional market), other investment cases are always going to look better.

          For example, the Dodgers have deep enough pockets that they can risk spending $42 million on Puig when other organizations called it “crazy”. How is that dynamic going to change?

      • blingboy says:

        Maybe its a middle of winter filler article presenting old news spun in a way to make it seem like there is something new.

        With the arrival of Martinez and almost arrival of Taveras, the subject of the Cards efforts in the international area would be of more interest to the larger P-D audience now than it would have been 5 or 6 years ago.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Others then pick it up and amplify it. I just saw a tweet from crdswmn with a link to a post like that from the blog where she writes.

          • crdswmn says:

            I can’t control that. I am required to set my Twitter account to automatically tweet every post on Redbird Rants. It has led to a lot of confusion, because many people think I am the author of all those posts. I actually haven’t posted in over a month because I was granted a leave due to an arm injury that has restricted my typing for lengthy periods of time. My editor is required to post almost every day, so he writes posts on every possible Cards related topic. If it’s news, it appears on the blog.

            When I post, I attempt to be a little more original and particular in my topics.

            • Brian Walton says:

              An interesting policy. I don’t think I would allow my personal account to be used to endorse items not explicitly approved by me. I am surprised they would ask, let alone require it. Thanks for clarifying, though.

              There seems to be a lot of article quantity pressure out there, even among blogs. I guess it is all about clicks. Just the other day, I noticed a top five slideshow article from the Post-Dispatch!

              I hope your arm is better soon and you will be ready to pitch in spring training! 😉

              • crdswmn says:

                I’ve thought about setting up a separate account for the Redbird Rants posts, but decided it was too much trouble for me to maintain two accounts.

                The arm is getting better. I don’t wear the splint as much as I did, and the pain has subsided for the most part. I expect I will begin posting again in another week or two.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        The Cards would not go after Tanaka, because we are not going to outbid deep pocket teams in a competitive market for ML ready stud talent. Mo is not going to admit we are tight with the dollars, so instead he says we are studying the marketplace and gathering information. This sounds good.

        The Cards would probably be willing to enter the ML ready foreign market, on a targeted basis. For instance, Bello the Cuban catcher or a catcher from Japan. We will pay competitive market prices, on a selective basis, eg, Holliday, Wainwright, Molina, Peralta. Thus we could increase depth at catcher, if an attractive foreign player hit the competitive market. In contrast, we feel we have enough pitchers, so are not going to shoulder a huge contract on Tanaka in hopes he would become a star. We are more careful with the moola.

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      As noted above, this is almost pro-forma. Nearly every year we hear about reorganization of the front office and increased international presence. No particular evidence that these specific moves have made any difference.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        One reason there have to be annual changes within the business organization is guys are recruited elsewhere, to Houston notably, but there have been other losses of human capital. The Cards have to hire new good baseball guys to make up for losses.
        While not possible to prove that personnel moves yield specific results, this is normal and welcome.
        Gary LaRocque has seemingly become ever more important, and Jared Odom has returned.

    • blingboy says:

      In thinking about it a bit more, it seems like these markets have less potential that I thought.

      It seems like the Asian and Mexican markiets have established major leagues. So we are not very likely to find prospects that they haven’t already found.

      I do not envision a system where we find 16 year old Japanese high school kids and offer them and their family a way to escape grinding poverty.

      As to Mexico, the major league there doesn’t strike me as brimming with MLB calibre talent, and I would not think we would be better at beating the bushes than they are. I would think the same could be said for places like Korea and Taiwan.

      Cuba, I don’t know. Wait for them to show up someplace besides Cuba, I guess. I would not favor anything that involves dealing with the government there, or encouraging youngsters to swim for it.

      Perhaps Mo is thinking up some new way to exploit situations in these type of places. Or other places altogether. But I suspect that efforts in DR and latin america will prove to be more cost effective.

      • CariocaCardinal says:

        Japan isn’t the only country in Asia or even the most populous (or second most either).

        • blingboy says:

          I thought about and dismissed the idea of setting up shop in China, or other places where baseball is not played to any extent. ‘Acadamies’ there would have to start out with 8 year olds.

          My wife has been there a few times for business, and she plays host sometimes when travelers from there come here. Baseball is absolutely not part of their culture. Not on their radar at all. There would be nothing to scout or analyze other than general athleticism.

          I think it would be limited to countries where youngsters play the game and there is fairly advanced ‘baseball infrastructure’ as part of the local culture.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        The labor market often differs by country. In Japan, the local teams sign most of the local talent and develop it. The Japanese league may trail only the US in sophistication. So a star Japanese player is able to make the transition to the majors.
        ML teams do sign 16 year olds in Taiwan and this might happen in China.
        ML teams could look for high school grads in Australia.
        S. Korea will have domestic teams hovering up a lot of talent, but ML teams do sign some high school grads there.
        Mexico is similar to Japan in that local teams grab up a lot of the signable amateurs. The rights to the reliever we had from Mexico (traded with Freese) was purchased from a Mexican team.
        Cuba like Japan has very advanced players. When they escape the Castro brothers, they can command large bonuses, since a ML team does not have to pay off a team, as in Japan.

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