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.
|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”|
|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.
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.
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