As of today, the Cardinals have the best record in the majors with a 21-12 mark. Even more impressive is that they are a major league best 14-7 on the road. The biggest reason why is their starting rotation. The quintet of Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook, and Shelby Miller has been dominant in the first five weeks of the season. The Cardinals lead the majors in starters ERA at 2.28. 5 of the 12 losses by the Cardinals have been the fault of the bullpen. Even that is starting to get worked out with Edward Mujica taking over as closer and a shakeup of the bullpen in the last week.
Each member of the rotation compliment each other with their different styles of pitching. Wainwright has the best curveball in the game and has regained his command this year. Garcia is the rotation's only lefty and is off to a 4-1 start. Lynn is a power pitcher who lost a lot of weight in the offseason, so he shouldn't wear down in the second half this year. Westbrook is a sinkerball pitcher who's specialty is inducing ground balls. Miller takes over for Kyle Lohse and has filthy stuff. Miller is a top Rookie of the Year candidate and is second on the staff in ERA and WHIP. The Cardinals also have plenty of depth if one of their starters went down to injury. They could turn to Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez, or Michael Wacha if need be.
Wainwright looks to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery this season. Last year, his command was off, his control wasn't as sharp, and he was hit harder than usual. Waino posted his highest ERA(3.94) in 2012 and suffered a career high 13 losses. He now is resembling the pitcher from 2009-10 who was contending for the Cy Young Award. With Carpenter out, Wainwright is now the unquestioned ace and leader of the staff. The Cardinals also locked Wainwright up to a five year contract going to the end of the 2018 season.
There were some questions about Garcia coming into the season. He had an injury plagued campaign in 2012 and was limited to 20 starts. So far, Garcia has been avoiding the disastrous inning that has hurt him in the past. This might be the season he finally cracks the 200 inning barrier. Lynn also had a up and down season last year. He was terriffic in the first half and made the All Star team. He then wore down in the second half and was temporarily put in the bullpen. Lynn got in better shape in the offseason and shouldn't have the same problem again this season.
Westbrook has been off to a hot start to start the season. He has a staff best 1.62 ERA, which is currently 3rd in the National League. His 1.46 WHIP is a concern, though he has been pitching out of trouble so far this season. Like Lynn, Westbrook has wore down late in the year the past two seasons. He missed the 2012 postseason and only pitched 1 game in relief in the 2011 postseason. However, the one game was very important, and he got the win in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Miller is the Redbird's fifth starter and he looks like a future ace. Miller was the Cardinals first round pick in the 2009 draft and is in his rookie season. He hasn't had a bad start yet in his brief major league career. After struggling in the first half in Triple A last year, Miller made some adjustments and started using more of his off speed pitches. It's worked out quite well for him.
The Cardinals offense is starting to heat up as well. Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Matt Holliday are starting to hit well after slow starts. Like I mentioned earlier, the bullpen is starting to straighten itself out. David Freese is still slumping, but I think he will get straightened out before long. Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina have been off to terrific starts so far, and Matt Carpenter has been impressive with the bat this year. Carpenter leads the NL with 12 doubles and is fourth in runs scored. His defense has been solid, whether if he's at second or third. The only thing Carpenter needs to work on is his baserunning, he's had a few gaffes so far this year.
Last year's closer Jason Motte will be out for the season and will undergo Tommy John surgery. Mitchell Boggs started the season out as closer, but had to be demoted to Triple A because of his struggles. Boggs did a great job as the 8th inning guy last year, and I suspect he will get straightened out and be back up at some point this year. I think Boggs struggle could be in part of him changing his pitching motion this year. Hard throwing Trevor Rosenthal has took over as the 8th inning guy this year, but he will need some help from Fernando Salas, and Joe Kelly, who have been off to rough starts. Rookies Carlos Martinez and Seth Maness could play a bigger role than expected if those two continue to struggle. From the left hand side, Randy Choate has done a good job as a lefty specialist. However, Marc Rzepczynski's struggles have carried over to this year. John Mozeliak didn't sound to impressed with Scrabble this year, and one has to wonder if he's going to make it back to the majors. Still, with Mujica as closer, the bullpen has been much better and hasn't been blowing as many leads.