Ah, the All-Star break. Time to watch all the festivities today and tomorrow, then endure the long wait until games resume again on Friday. What better time to look back at the first half and present some awards?
First, some numbers.
After the rollercoaster of May and June, the St. Louis Cardinals enter the break 46-40 — at six games over .500 for the first time since May 23 (which is the last day they were in first place in the NL Central). They are 23-20 both at home and on the road. Their record in one-run games is slowly improving, especially thanks to the last two wins — it’s now 10-14.
So who made the first half what it was?
Player of the half
Chris: Carlos Beltran. He’s been everything the Cardinals had hoped and more so far, as he’s leading the NL in RBI with 65 and is second in homers with 20 – even with cooling off the past 10 days or so.
Miranda: That’s a bit of a tough one as there have been a lot of really good players. But, I’ll say Yadi has been consistently good since the start of the season. Running that pitching staff. Keeping an eye on runners. These are things he’s been doing for years. But this season, Yadi seems to have stepped it up a couple of notches. Yadi can hit AND run. I’ve been under the impression that he was a bad runner. He has stolen bases this season. He’s had some impressive home runs this season. It’s almost as if signing that contract to stay with the Cards for quite a few more years relaxed him. How about that! Awesome!
Tara: I have to say Carlos Beltran, for many of the same reasons we picked Lance Berkman last season. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect of him (particularly health-wise) and he has, in many cases, carried this team. Yadi Molina has bee stellar as well, but overall, I have to go with Carlos.
Pitcher of the half
Chris: Kyle Lohse. He leads the starters in ERA at 2.79, he’s consistently solid and wins regularly, he consistently goes deep into games … and he still never gets much attention.
Miranda: Kyle Lohse. I’m already shocked enough that I’m admitting it, OK!
Tara: I’ll make it unanimous — Kyle Lohse! The guy just quietly does his job, more often than not doing it very well, and yet he doesn’t get the same praise as others. Lance Lynn deserves an honorable mention for the way he started the year, too.
Chris: Lance Lynn. I know he started in the minors, I know he was a good starter in the minors, I know how good he was last season, but I still didn’t expect him to be this good. Hopefully his last start means he’s turned the corner from the rough patch he was in. And hopefully our Wolf Pup will get to pitch in the All-Star Game!
Miranda: Lance Lynn has proved himself to be a damn good starter. While he seems to have gotten his groove back after falling into a light slump, Lynn is 11-4. Consider this … he went into camp thinking he was going to be in the bullpen in a long relief role this season. After the team became concerned with Chris Carpenter’s situation, they had Lance step up. And did he ever! He has the most wins on staff. And he’s been selected to the All-Star team. Not bad Wolf Pup! Not bad!
Tara: Again, I’ll make it unanimous. No one expected Lance Lynn to come in and dominate the way he did to start the year. We all saw that he had good stuff, knew that he’d pitched well as a starter in the Minors, but making the transition to the rotation on the big club is always a bit of a question mark. Plus, filling in for Chris Carpenter is no small task! But he’s done brilliantly, even with a few bumps along the way.
Chris: Losing Chris Carpenter for the season. Deep down, I’m one of the negative ones when it comes to him — I think we might have seen the last of CC on the pitcher’s mound. Although reading that his goal is to win the Comeback Player of the Year award for a third time (“Why not? That would be funny stuff,”) I shouldn’t feel that way. He’s determined and driven enough to make it happen … provided his body will cooperate.
Miranda: All of the injuries. Especially Chris Carpenter being out for the year.
Tara: The bullpen. After seeing what the ‘pen did to stabilize the team heading into the post season last year, it’s a shame that hasn’t been the same force this year.
Chris: June 25, the 8-7 comeback win against the Marlins. It was just such an improbable victory, even more than yesterday, with the lineup mix-up leading to Tony Cruz playing first base and having to use Joe Kelly as a pinch-hitter. That RBI single he hit is probably my single favorite moment of the year.
Miranda: July 8. Easy answer as it was yesterday. But it just shows, this team can get down but they will not give up and going into the second half of the season that is REALLY important! Good way to leave for the break.
Tara: There were a lot of great games early on, but funny enough, those don’t stick out in my mind quite so much. If I had to pick one, it would likely be that June 25 game, for many of the reason’s Chris said. It seemed to me that that game proved — to us, and to the team — just how much heart and fight this team has. I mean, Joe Kelly? Ridiculous. I loved it!
Thoughts on Mike Matheny’s first half
Chris: He’s done well overall. We had to realize there would be growing pains, and sometimes — like yesterday’s curious bullpen moves — his decisions are really, really frustrating and questionable at the moment. But so far, so good. He’s learning and gaining experience every day. And definitely looks better in the dugout than Tony La Russa ever did.
Miranda: Considering this is the first half of his first season of ever managing professional ball players, he is doing darn well. Sure there have been some injuries, down moments and situations where he’s had to be a leader of these men. They are not “out of it” by any stretch of the imagination. They have a chance. And honestly, I think it’s wonderful considering everything. We have a whole new regime with neither TLR or Duncan here and we’re doing fine. No panic. These players and the coaches, even Matheny, have learned enough from TLR and Duncan over the years that they can take what they have learned, expand it and make it better. This team, while they have had their moments, are doing just that. TLR and Dunc should be proud.
Tara: I’ve been most impressed with his calm, collected attitude, even in the roughest days of the first half when his team was bombarded with injuries, struggling to find ways to win, and a handful of games back in a division they should be able to win. His decision making sometimes proves his inexperience. I’m not quite sure he knows how to arrive at some of those decisions, at least not on that “gut feeling” that a more experienced manager would have. He sometimes depends too much on the numbers, the data. That said, I’ve always been on board with Matheny as the manager, and I think, just as the team is starting to gel, he will do the same.
Your thoughts on the first half? Share them below!
Also, remember that Carlos Beltran is in tonight’s Home Run Derby — starting at 7 p.m. on ESPN.