Despite injuries, Cards still look like defending champs

Rookie Matt Carpenter is making the most of his opportunity with the St. Louis Cardinals. (AP photo)

We are now nearly three weeks into the 2012 season and, so far, things are looking pretty good for the defending world champs. The Cards are 11-5 and, for the most part, have been hitting on all cylinders. Here are the big headlines that have made news so far for the Redbirds.

1. What’s up with Adam Wainwright? In three starts since coming back from Tommy John surgery, Wainwright is 0-3 with a 9.88 ERA. He has allowed 15 runs in just 13.2 innings pitched. Honestly, I think Wainwright will be fine. The recovery process from Tommy John is really around 12-18 months. He’s still trying to get back into his regular groove and regain his control. He may not have a great year in 2012, but I think by next April, he’ll be back to being the Cy Young-contending pitcher he was before.

2. The rest of the starting rotation has been dominant. Besides Wainwright’s struggles, the rest of the Cards pitching staff has been great. Overall, the Cards have a team ERA of 2.72. Lance Lynn has moved into the starting staff due to the injury to Chris Carpenter and has pitched brilliantly in his first three starts going 3-0 with an 1.42 ERA. Jake Westbrook, Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia have been impressive, as well. If the starting staff can keep pitching like this, it could carry the Cards to the top of the National League.

3. Offense is delivering post-Pujols. The Redbirds offense has been just as stellar as the starting staff, leading the NL with a .281 team batting average. Carlos Beltran has fit right in, too, batting .298 with an .403 OBP, while Albert Pujols is batting just .246 with a.300 OBP. Another Cardinal doing pretty well in the offensive category is David Freese, who seems to have picked up right where he left off last postseason, with a batting average of .333 and a team-high 15 RBI. One big suprise has been the emergence of rookie 1b/3B Matt Carpenter, who spent most of last year in the minors and has come up this year ready to play. With the injury to first basemen Lance Berkman, Carpenter is showing he intends to stay with the big league club.

Yes, the season is still very young, and a lot can change between now and September. But the defending world champs are playing like they’re the defending world champs. I think the rest of the National League needs to watch out.

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