A look back at the top projected stories across the St. Louis Cardinals world in 2016 from last January
Last January, I published my predictions of the topics I thought could evolve into the top five stories across the Cardinals Nation for the then-coming year of 2016. Today, with the benefit of full hindsight, including the top 20 stories of 2016 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 2016 summaries here, so click on the hot links if you’d like to read those detailed stories.
My predictive powers were only so-so this year. I hit on three of my top five guesses from one year ago in the final top 10, covered by six different stories.
Almost always, how the season concluded becomes my story of the year. Of course, the rise of the Cubs was a factor in why the Cardinals season ended with their first post-season miss since 2010.
|Pre-2016 prediction story||rank||rank||Post-2016 actual story|
|The Re-born Cubs Rivalry||1||1||Taking October Off|
|2||Free Agent Fowler Finalized|
|The Aging Core||2||5||Martinez Means Ace|
|6||Molina Defies “Aging Core” Label|
|8||Holliday’s St. Louis Finale|
|The Young Outfielders||3|
|The Correa Aftershocks||4||9||Correa Convicted, No Cardinals Closure|
Revisiting my predicted top five St. Louis Cardinals stories of 2016.
- The Re-born Cubs Rivalry
One year ago, we could all see the Chicago Cubs coming. After all, the Northsiders had just bumped St. Louis from the 2015 playoffs. But no one could have predicted how rapidly the two clubs’ lines would cross.
Though the head-to-head record in 2016 was just 10-9 in Chicago’s favor, the Cubs beat opponents good and bad, while the Cards struggled against the better teams and inexplicably forgot how to win at home. The result was a 17 ½ game division cushion owned by the soon-to-be World Champions.
From year to year, the trend is ugly. Chicago added just six more victories than the year before, while St. Louis dropped 14 wins from their 2015 total.
Though it is arguably a stretch to link it to the rivalry, St. Louis signed Chicago’s former leadoff man, Dexter Fowler, to a five-year free agent contract last month.
- The Aging Core
Though some were insulted by the insinuation, the reality is that the Cardinals’ core players – Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday – are in fact approaching the ends of their long and productive careers.
For the 2016 Cardinals to have met expectations, all three veteran leaders were needed, firing on all cylinders, but only Molina performed at expected levels. Even the catcher, who had a stellar offensive year, showed signs of defensive erosion.
Wainwright suffered through his worst season as a professional and Holliday’s final Cardinals season was injury-plagued – to the point his contract option for 2017 was declined.
As it turned out, all three of the “aging core” had their own top 10 stories of the year. In all honestly, though, the Wainwright story was as much or more about Carlos Martinez taking his role as staff ace.
- The Young Outfielders
Grichuk did not grow as hoped. His contact problems continued as were his tantalizing signs of power. Two stints in the minor leagues last summer, with his last return in mid-August, underlined his continuing status as a work in progress, rather than a budding team leader.
Piscotty was a dependable player – the only Cardinal to appear in more than 147 games (at 153). Perhaps because he goes about his job so quietly, I did not give him ample credit for leading the team with 85 RBI. His OPS and OPS+ placed him a distant third in the 2016 offense pecking order behind Matt Carpenter and Aledmys Diaz.
His standing would have even been higher had his performance varied so widely. Piscotty was well above average in April, May and July but below in June, August and September.
I did not include either outfielder in my year-end top stories.
- The Correa Aftershocks
There is not really much more to say here. There was plenty of 2016 activity in the story of former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa’s conviction for illegal access into Houston Astros computer systems, including his sentencing and reporting to prison.
However, the open sore remains due to the fact that the follow-on investigation by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is inexplicably dragging on for months. Penalties are expected to be assessed against the Cardinals at some point this off-season.
- Offensive Help
Readers may recall that in 2015, Cardinals pitching performed at an unprecedented high level, with the offense often sputtering. Unfortunately for them, the club made roster and playing time decisions in 2016 that optimized home runs while sacrificing fundamentals, including baserunning and defense.
When the pitching returned to middle of the pack status in 2016, the team’s success with the long ball was not nearly enough to cover the gap.
Now, the plan for 2017 is to become “more athletic.” Moves include the departure of plodders Holliday and Brandon Moss and the addition of a new quality control coach as part of the plan to tighten up inconsistent execution last season.
The offense as a line item did not make my top stories of 2016, though a tip of the cap to sluggers Moss and Jedd Gyorko for their feats is warranted.
Next up: In my final article of this annual series, I will outline my predictions for the top five Cardinals stories of 2017.
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