Regular season summary
The Cardinals completed the regular season with an 88-74 mark, finishing second in the NL Central, nine games behind Cincinnati. They ended two games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the race for the second wild card and six games behind the Atlanta Braves for the first wild card.
Mike Matheny guided the Redbirds to the post-season in his first year with the team. It was only the Cardinals’ third wild card ever. They tied Houston in 2001, but the Astros were awarded the division crown with the Cards entering the post-season as the wild card. The Cardinals won the 2011 World Series after entering the playoffs as the wild card.
The Cardinals logged a very solid 50-31 record at Busch Stadium – the same home mark as the division-winning Reds. It was a much different story on the road, where the Cards were five games under .500. Against the three NL division winners during the regular season, St. Louis went a combined 14-14 (3-4 vs. Washington, 8-7 vs. Cincinnati, 3-3 vs. San Francisco).
While the offense was prolific in scoring – second in the league in runs scored while averaging 4.7 runs per game – they often had trouble finding key runs in close contest. One indication is their 21-26 record in one-run games. Further, the Cards were just 6-12 in extra inning contests.
Runs often came in bunches or they did not come at all. Breaking out that 88-74 record tells the story. The Cardinals won 76 games and lost just 19 when scoring more than three runs, but posted a miserable 12-55 record when plating three or fewer tallies.
The 2012 Cardinals rarely swept series, but also avoided long losing streaks. Their longest skid was just five games, from May 29 to June 3. An inability to crack off a long stretch of winning baseball hampered their divisional chase, however. Their longest winning streak of the season was only five games as well, which they achieved from June 22-26.
Comparing the Cards to the NL
In the regular season, the Cardinals were second in the NL in hitting (.271), just three points from the top. They led the league in on-base percentage (.338) for the second consecutive season. The Cardinals had a +117 run-scored differential (765-648), second only to Washington in the NL.
On the pitching side, the Cards finished sixth in the 16-team league in ERA at 3.71, up from 3.74 (eighth) the year before. The starters were also third at 3.62 while the relievers were ninth at 3.90. The pen tied for the third-most blown saves in the league – 22 in 64 opportunities for a 66 percent conversion rate. The staff finished eighth in strikeouts but only three teams issued fewer walks.
In fielding percentage, based on errors and chances, the Cardinals were 10th in the league at .983. In terms of raw errors, the Cards committed 107, sixth-most in the league.
Individual highlights – position players
Balance was the name of the game for the 2012 offense.
For the first time in team history, the Cardinals featured five players with 20 home runs – Carlos Beltran (32), Matt Holliday (27), Yadier Molina and Allen Craig (22 each) plus David Freese (20).
The same five players had 76 or more RBI, tied for the second-most in team history behind the 1930 club with six. They are Holliday (102), Beltran (97), Craig (92), Freese (79) and Molina (76).
The club featured three .300 hitters in Jon Jay, Craig and Molina. The latter ranked fourth in the league at .315.
Molina led the team with 6.7 WAR. Next were Kyle Lohse and Matt Holliday at 3.9 with David Freese and Carlos Beltran at 3.6 each.
Craig was first in MLB in batting with runners in scoring position with a .400 average, sixth in batting average (.307) and fifth in slugging (.522).
With 19 stolen bases, Jay logged the most by a Cardinal in four seasons. He stabilized the leadoff position with a .303 average that ranked fourth in NL in that role. Even more impressive was the fact he played the entire season error-free, only the third outfielder to do so in team history. Jay’s work was especially important given Matt Holliday in left and Carlos Beltran in right are both limited in range. Jay also made a number of impressive catches in centerfield in his first full-time season as a major league starter.
Though the bench was short on experience and power, two of the members had notable seasons. Shane Robinson led all MLB rookies with 11 pinch hits. Matt Carpenter had 11 pinch-hit RBI, tied for second in the league and most by a Cardinals rookie since 1954.
On the disappointment side, Lance Berkman followed a 31-home run season with just two in 2012 as the veteran battled knee problems. He played in just 32 games.
Individual highlights – pitchers
Four pitchers on the Cardinals' staff recorded more than 10 wins. Despite being removed from the rotation for almost a month, Lance Lynn had 18, 17 as a starter. His total was fourth-highest in the league. Kyle Lohse had 16 wins (tied for sixth with six others), Adam Wainwright 14 and Jake Westbrook 13.
For the second consecutive season, Lohse logged the lowest ERA among the starters at 2.86. That mark was fifth-best in the NL. All seven of the primary starters had ERAs under four. Rookie Joe Kelly, who made 16 usually-solid starts, was next at 3.53, then Chris Carpenter (3.71 in three starts), Lynn at 3.78, Jaime Garcia (limited to 20 starts by shoulder problems) at 3.92, Wainwright at 3.94 and Westbrook at 3.97.
Lohse was the staff workhorse. With a career-high 211 innings, he was the only one who exceeded 200. Wainwright led the staff with 184 strikeouts in 198 2/3 innings. Lynn was the only starter to average better than one K per inning (180 Ks in 176 IP), however.
In a feat only accomplished five prior times in MLB history, Jason Motte collected all 42 of his team’s saves, tying for the league lead. He also tied for third in the NL with seven blown saves for an 85.7 percent conversion rate. Inconsistent lefty Marc Rzepczynski was next on the team with five blown saves.
Mid-season acquisition Edward Mujica led the relievers with a sparkling 1.03 ERA. Bullpenners with at least a strikeout per inning included Motte, Fernando Salas and impressive rookie Trevor Rosenthal.
Pitching disappointments included left-handed relief and Rzepczynski specifically. Salas did not approach his 2011 success and was often used in low leverage situations. Once-promising Eduardo Sanchez did not earn a return promotion from Memphis.
Lineups and batting orders
The most common regular-season lineups and batting orders used by Matheny during the season follow. Despite his set lineups in the post-season, he utilized 124 different lineups in 162 games. That is down from 134 by Tony La Russa in 2011.
Carlos Beltran’s name was written most often into the number two and four spots. Allen Craig took over the cleanup spot for much of the second half.
In an indication of the lineup fluidity at the bottom of the order, Descalso appeared the most often in both the number seven and eight spots. The names of 15 different players appeared next to “7” on Matheny’s lineup card at least once with 13 different hitters batting ahead of the pitcher to start at least one game in 2012.
The Cardinals drew a total of 3,262,109 during the regular season, or an average of 40,273. That is up from 3,093,954 and 38,197, respectively, in 2011. That ranked fourth-best in the NL. St. Louis’ increase of 5.3 percent from 2011 was the team’s first yearly growth after fourth consecutive seasons of declining attendance since the opening of the new Busch Stadium. Overall, MLB attendance was up 2.0 percent over 2011.
Related articles in this series
Click here for Part 1 of this article, which recaps the 2012 Cardinals results from spring training through the regular season finale.
Part 3 will recap the Cardinals post-season results, along with a 2013 outlook.
Previous articles in this series
Link to article with links to all articles about previous award winners across the system club by club as well as 2012 team recaps, much of it exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his content at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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