It occurred to us as we were working through this list in alphabetical order that while 'St. Louis' appears after 'Seattle,' the actual name of the team - i.e. 'Saint Louis' - does not. We apologize to offended Cards fans, and blame WikiAnswers for you.
ANYWAY, 4 days left til Opening Day. You know the drill by now: breakdowns of lineup, rotation, bullpen, and a predicted record plus beer so that Pittsburgh fans can drink in appropriate style. Let's hop to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Lineup: Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball and Matt Holliday is here to provide lineup protection, however false the notion may be. Or perhaps Pujols is Holliday's protection. Either way, two great hitters in the middle of the lineup here, and Colby Rasmus is, in our not-so-humble opinion, ready to break out this year. Beyond them, there're a few quality guys, but it's not exactly an imposing group of hitters the Cards will be rolling out. David Freese isn't a bad player, but he is a rookie, and his pedigree isn't great. Brendan Ryan is a great gloveman, but not so much of a hitter - you know, the proverbial all-glove, no-stick shortstop. Skip Schumaker had a bit of a rough transition to second base last season, but if the team intends on having him start there, they could certainly do worse - and Felipe Lopez is a wonderful insurance policy for all three of the above guys, though his glove may not play at short. Yadier Molina is by all accounts a marvelous defensive catcher, and he's started to come around some with the bat; hopefully for the Cardinals, he'll be more Bengie than Jose with the stick. Not that either are great, but still. And Ryan Ludwick, who broke out at age 29 and promptly faded back into mediocrity, has the right field job for better or worse.
Rotation: Like with the lineup, there's two stars that lead this group and somewhat useful talent that follows them. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright were in the Cy Young conversation last season, and if Carpenter stays healthy, they could very well repeat the feat. Beyond them, Brad Penny will try to regain his fastball and perhaps benefit from Dave Duncan's tutelage as the #3 guy, and Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia bring up the rear. Neither of them are particularly good. Well, Garcia might become good, but he's a rookie, so our expectations are tempered.
Bullpen: Ryan Franklin was named the closer last year, and managed a 1.92 ERA...which sort of pales when compared to his 3.31 FIP and 4.27 xFIP. What we're saying is, he got lucky, and to expect the same kind of season from him is perhaps unwise. Kyle McClellan, who had been in the running for the 5th starter job, had a decent season last year, as did Blake Hawksworth, Trever Miller and lefty Dennys Reyes. So on the whole, this looks like a good unit - but a repeat of the success they all had is unlikely. Expect a good-not-great performance this season.
Overall: The Cardinals will go as far as their four stars take them. If Albert Pujols keeps up his march to Cooperstown, Matt Holliday regresses only slightly from last season, and Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter stay healthy, then they're a formidable squad - particularly if Colby Rasmus and - to a lesser extent - Yadier Molina take steps forward. They're not a great team, but in the weak NL Central, that doesn't matter - they're the clear favorites here.
Predicted Record: 86-76, 1st place NL Central
Beer: Stone Face Ale. Brewed by Anheuser-Busch (a St. Louis-based company, of course), it often gets lost in the sea of its Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, O'Doul's, and Natural Light/Ice (we kid) kin. But Anheuser-Busch has some quality, lesser-known brews. The analogy here? Colby Rasmus:Albert Pujols et al:: Stone Face:Budweiser (viz the King of Beers, not, y'know, actually good. Take the nickname as gospel here). So henceforth, Colby Rasmus shall be known as Stone Face. And we don't care if doesn't catch on anywhere else.