The embarrassing final three games of the 2012 season shouldn't overshadow what was a good season for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals lost a Hall-of Fame caliber manager and player after the 2011 season and were still able to win two playoff series. Here are five players I felt came up in big ways for the team this year.
Yadier Molina, C - For the second straight year Molina set new personal highs in batting average, runs scored, home runs and runs batted in. For Molina to lead a powerful offensive team like the Cardinals in batting average, as he did in 2012 for the second straight year, says much about how Molina has made himself a weapon at the plate. Yadi was an All-Star for the fourth straight year and seems a lock to win his fifth consecutive Gold Glove. Molina's wins above replacement (WAR) was 6.7, tied for 4th best in the National League.
Matt Holliday, OF - Holliday led the Cardinals with 102 runs driven in, and he planted himself in the top-10 of the National League in hits, runs, extra-base hits, OBP, OPS, walks, and total bases. Holliday was also a reliable workhorse for the team, playing in 157 games this year. The Cardinals needed Holliday to step up his production in the absence of Albert Pujols, and Holliday was able to do exactly that.
Jon Jay, OF - Jay was playing his first full season as the Cardinals center fielder. Jay was good at the plate (.305 average, good for 10th in the NL) and moved into the leadoff spot when Rafael Furcal slumped. The way he endeared himself to Cardinals fans and his pitching staff alike, though, was by playing a fearless center field. His catch in Game 2 of the Division Series against the Washington Nationals showed his willingness to take on an outfield wall to make a play. Jay plays with a calm, professional style, and I am glad to have him in the Cardinals outfield.
Jason Motte, RP - One of the first things new manager Mike Matheny did in spring training was to declare that Jason Motte would be the closer for the Cardinals in 2012. Motte certainly responded well to that show of confidence. He went out and led the National League in saves, with 42 (Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves also had 42). Motte posted a good ERA of 2.75. Of the players in the top ten in saves in the NL, only three had WHIPs under 1.00, including Motte's number of 0.92.
Kyle Lohse, SP - Lohse will command a multi-year deal as a free agent, and the Cards have shown little interest in re-signing him. If he leaves, he will have left after a great season. With his record of 16-3, Lohse had the best winning percentage (.842) in the National League, and he was also in the top ten of a load of categories, including innings pitched, ERA, pitchers' WAR, WHIP, and walks per nine innings. Lohse turned himself into a top-of-the-rotation kind of starter, and the Cardinals will miss him next year.A native of St. Louis, Brad Boeker has rooted for the Cardinals for over 40 years.
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