What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I'm a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2013 title for all 30 teams.
No National League team has won more World Series than St. Louis, and in 2013 the Cardinals made it an even dozen world titles. It’s truly a golden era for baseball in St. Louis — this is their second title in three years, and their fourth NL pennant in the past decade. They haven’t had a run like this since the days of the late Stan Musial, and based on the way this season went, you could say The Man was looking over them this season.
Pitching again was the key for this latest title run. Adam Wainwright, now two years removed from Tommy John surgery, finally got his Cy Young award after coming so close in 2009 and 2010. Lance Lynn turned in another solid season, Jaime Garcia made it through the year without any major injury scares and Jake Westbrook was perfectly fine as a back-of-the-rotation guy. But really, the key to the rotation was Rookie of the Year Shelby Miller, who quieted doubts about his makeup and dedication by striking out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings at just 22 years old.
The bullpen, one of the few weak spots on Cardinals teams at times the past few years, was actually solid. Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte were once again lights-out in the 8th and 9th innings, and the middle relief was bolstered by the likes of Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, who were unable to make the rotation out of spring training but still provided great value. It was the September call-up of phenom Carlos Martinez that put the group over the top, though. Martinez dominated hitters out of the pen in the season’s last month, worked his way onto the postseason roster, and came up big in October as he repeatedly slammed the door on middle-inning rallies.
The offense was among the five best in the National League once again, led by the duo of Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. The two put up a combined 60 HR and drove in 200, even though getting runners on base ahead of them proved to be tricky in the season’s early months. With Yadier Molina, Allen Craig and David Freese adding another nearly 70 HR, the middle of the Cardinals’ order proved to be one of the most dangerous in the league. And believe it or not, with all the balls flying out of the park, manager Mike Matheny actually stopped calling for as many sacrifice bunts, opting instead to play for more big innings.
The Cards needed their big bats to stay healthy in order to have a chance at the NL Central crown, and that’s exactly what happened: not only did St. Louis beat out Cincinnati for the division crown, but they led the pack wire-to-wire. The Reds were never a serious contender for the division, with St. Louis clinching the title with nearly two weeks left in the season. With teams in the ultra-deep NL East beating eachother up all season, the Cards coasted to the best record in the NL, setting up a homefield advantage throughout the postseason, which they rode to the title.