COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals own baseball's best record and look to be the most well-rounded team in all of MLB. There are several reasons why the team is the best in baseball.
The Cardinals can pitch with the best of them thanks to a starting rotation led by Adam Wainwright. They have shown they are solid defensively, led by Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina. Finally, the Cardinals can piece together some timely hitting to manufacture runs thanks to a .339 average with runners in scoring position and two outs.
While some on the team have under-performed, others have grossly out-produced based on expectations coming into the season. There are several reasons why it is unlikely these players will be able to continue the torrid pace they have set through the first 68 games of the 2013 season.
1. Carlos Beltran - 16 home runs, 44 RBIs, .311 batting average, .889 OPS
What Carlos Beltran has been able to do this season at 36 years of age has been absolutely spectacular.
Last year, as the Cardinals walked off the field after losing Game 7 of the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants, Beltran limped off the field in a way that made some question whether his chronic knee issues would allow him to repeat his 2012 success.
He has done so and more.
After two more home runs in a June 15 win over the Miami Marlins, Beltran has certainly cemented himself as a cinch to make his eighth All-star appearance, but can he continue this pace? How much longer will the knees hold up?
We saw a familiar story play out last season. Beltran was incredible during the first half of 2012 before fading down the stretch. Since history has a funny way of repeating itself, look for Beltran's production to slowly decline as the season progresses.
2. Edward Mujica - 19 saves, 1.82 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 27.0 K/BB ratio
The "Chief" has been a pleasant and necessary surprise for the Cardinals. After losing Jason Motte to season-ending Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals struggled to find a ninth inning replacement before Mujica took a stranglehold of the role.
Mujica has been perfect this season in save opportunities, closing the door in each of his 19 opportunities. But that pace is unlikely to continue, especially for a guy who had four total saves during his entire career coming into this season. Every closer has hiccups, and to expect Mujica to continue this pace would be unreasonable.
Mujica's 0.64 WHIP is unsustainable as well and would put him in rarefied territory and the fact that he has walked just one hitter all season long is quite an accomplishment too.
Mujica will likely be very good throughout the rest of 2013, but it would be impossible to continue to be this good.
3. Shelby Miller - 7-4, 2.21 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 10.1 K/9 innings
Somehow, Miller has managed to live up to the enormous amount of hype he generated this spring. The 22-year old has already solidified himself as the team's second best starter behind ace Adam Wainwright.
Opponents have just a .576 OPS against the flame-thrower, which is fifth best in all of baseball and his dominating fastball continues to cause people fits, as evidenced by his impressive 10.1 K/9 innings pitched.
But how long can Miller keep this up?
Miller has never pitched more than 151.1 innings in any season during his professional career. If Miller hits the wall at some point during the second half, it should not be a surprise. Plus, the opposition is starting to get a book on him and teams will have a better feel for him the second time they face the kid.
Conclusion: The Cardinals have been good. It is nearly hard to complain about it if you are a fan of the team in St. Louis. But there are some guys, particularly Beltran, Mujica and Miller, who are highly unlikely to continue this level of extraordinary success.
You can follow Rudd on Twitter @CoreyRudd.
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