You may have noticed it’s April. As months go, April is one of the best in the business; spring weather reminds us the sky doesn’t always look like an elephant’s depressing face, tax refunds come rolling in for the fortunate few capable of forgetting they overpaid the government, and baseball kicks back in as if it never decided leaving was a necessity. There are pratfalls along the way when it comes to a new baseball season, however, as even the most seasoned fans fall victim to the Small Sample Size Blues. Everyone seems destined to either hit .097 or .540, isolated performances bleed into trends between our dumb ears, and everyone’s favorite team is clearly a whole new beast when compared to last year’s version.
I’ll admit, in the season’s opening weeks it can be very hard to tell what has really changed in a team or player. We’re all tempted to cry out to the heavens about how Anthony Rizzo is going to steal 50 bases or Alexander Guerrero is all lined up to hit 45 homers in 65 plate appearances even if our brains are actively telling us to shut up and be patient for normalization. Don’t fret, my lovely fellow baseball fans! (We assume at least some of you are lovely despite the fact that we very much aren’t.) This new StanGraphs, the one you’re reading right now, is here to tell you what things have really changed when it comes to the St. Louis Cardinals team we root for so openly. Your id can’t handle all of this just yet, but our expert eyes are up to the task.
So what is truly different about these Cardinals when compared to the 2014 squad that inexplicably fell to the San Francisco Bumgarners in last fall’s National League Championship Series?
- Matt Carpenter doesn’t make outs anymore. Resident third baseman and walk-getter Matt Carpenter didn’t make a whole lot of outs to begin with, but our trained baseball minds have noticed he decided to give up on the whole thing altogether for 2015. When he’s not lacing doubles in the gaps, driving a ball over the right field fence, or taking a free pass, Marp can be found striking out on pitches that are actually ball four or crushing line drives at fielders who weren’t even in the way on purpose. While both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference assure us that Mr. Carpenter has been retired in 2015, we beg to differ.
- Adam Wainwright is injured forever. Our research team was able to comb the 2014 season archives to deduct that ace Adam Wainwright was, in fact, not injured for the entire season last April. This April he is. After further data mining, we now believe that it is better for Wainwright to not be injured for the entire season. We don’t like that baseball has decided for this change to have happened.
- Mark Reynolds is on the Cardinals. Not content with merely digging deep to discover the difference in Adam Wainwright from a year ago, we also noticed that Mark Reynolds did not ever play for the Cardinals in 2014. He does now. Along similar lines, Reynolds did not at any point in 2014 hit a 912-foot home run for St. Louis or smash his face into the left field scoreboard like four times in the same game. All of this is new even if his surfer-ass haircut is not.
- Dan McLaughlin’s dramatic weight loss is being battled ferociously by his weight gain. A couple of seasons ago, Cardinals broadcaster-ish person Dan McLaughlin lost a whole lot of weight. Perhaps a Great Dane’s worth. Having not seen McLaughlin in a few months, it became noticeable that perhaps the microphone talker had taken the five Steak ‘N Shake commercials he sees every single TV break to heart and decided to eat himself into larger pants and a more fluid neck. As fans of eating, we totally get it.
- Carlos Martinez didn’t win the Cy Young award last season. It turns out Clayton Kershaw, a left-handed starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, won the National League Cy Young award last season. The award was the third such honor for the shaggy-haired youngster who will lose the award handily to Carlos Martinez this season. These facts confirm that, unlike in the 2015 season, Martinez did not win the Cy Young award in 2014.
There are almost certainly other differences between last year’s Cardinals and this year’s edition, but these are the most notable to our crack sabermetrics team. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as the season progresses, but remember: it’s only April, and we have months and months of wonder and excitement to go before another jaw-dropping campaign has fully revealed its true face to us as a reward for our fandom. Happy April baseball, everyone! It’s good to be back.