Comparing the Cardinals' 2014 Lineup to the 2011 Championship Lineup

Corey Noles@@coreynolesCorrespondent IApril 23, 2014

Comparing the Cardinals' 2014 Lineup to the 2011 Championship Lineup

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    Frank Franklin II

    As the St. Louis Cardinals head back to Busch Stadium for the team’s second homestand of the year, columnists are already questioning whether they can live up to the hype.

    Picked by many to go deep into the playoffs in 2014—possibly all the way—the Cardinals have high expectations.

    While the organization isn’t fond of discussing external expectations, its internal expectations are also quite high.

    With such a solid team throughout the roster, the Cardinals stack up quite well against the 2011 championship team. Even with the absence of several key players, this team’s construction is quite different than in other years.

    The following is a position-by-position breakdown comparing the 2014 roster to its 2011 counterpart.

1. C: 2014 Yadier Molina/2011 Yadier Molina

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Yadier Molina is still Yadier Molina, but with a twist.

    He was solid in 2011—which is considered the year he became a legitimate offensive threat in addition to one of the game’s best defenders behind the plate. Molina’s batting average and RBI total have increased each year, and I see little reason to expect anything less in 2014

    Better, Worse or Draw: Better

    As he continues to grow, the Cardinals will continue to improve. Arguably the best defensive catcher in Cardinals history, he seems to be improving with age.

2. 1B: 2014 Matt Adams/2011 Albert Pujols

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Matt Adams may very well have a good season for the Cardinals, but I’m not anticipating 37 home runs and 99 RBI—what Albert Pujols provided in 2011.

    With that said, Adams could no doubt beat Pujols' slash line that season (.299/.366/.541). Plus, Pujols hurt the 2011 Cardinals by grounding into more double plays than anyone in MLB that season (29).

    Better, Worse or Draw: Draw

    I’m not saying that Adams is a better player than Pujols, but it’s entirely possible he could put together a better season than 2011 Pujols. He may fall short in the home run category, but I expect that to be the only one.

3. 2B: 2014 Kolten Wong/2011 Skip Schumaker

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    David Welker/Getty Images

    Skip Schumaker had a decent 2011, but an average one for Kolten Wong should still be an improvement on that.

    Wong has a consistent bat, capable of hitting in the .300 range. Combined with his speed and a well-above-average glove, this one is a no-brainer.

    Better, Worse or Draw: Better

    Wong brings the 2014 Cardinals a substantial improvement in every aspect of his game. Schumaker was a fan favorite, but Wong will put up better numbers. Hands down.

4. 3B: 2014 Matt Carpenter/2011 David Freese

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    There’s no doubt that 2011 was the greatest year of David Freese’s life. He may not have put up his best career numbers, but he was an integral cog on that championship team.

    Matt Carpenter may well be that same guy for the 2014 Cardinals. He’ll match or exceed Freese’s home run and RBI totals, and should obliterate the hometown kid’s 16 doubles.

    Better, Worse or Draw: Better

    Matt Carpenter, despite his early defensive struggles, offers an obvious upgrade at third base. With both his glove and his bat, the Cardinals should be an improved team at the hot corner.


5. SS: 2014 Jhonny Peralta/2011 Ryan Theriot or Rafael Furcal

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    Jeff Curry/Getty Images

    Jhonny Peralta is a definite improvement for the Cardinals over 2011 Ryan Theriot, who struggled offensively until the Cardinals eventually traded for Rafael Furcal.

    When Furcal arrived in St. Louis though, he came to life. He didn’t hit well for average (.255), but his seven home runs, 11 doubles and 17 walks over 50 games played a major role in the Cardinals' epic 2011 postseason run in August and September.

    Better, Worse or Draw: Better

    Despite Furcal’s success, a full season of Peralta should give the Cardinals the added pop at shortstop they’ve needed for several years now. Peralta is a solid upgrade and then some.

6. LF: 2014 Matt Holliday/2011 Matt Holliday

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Matt Holliday had a decent 2011, batting .296 with 22 home runs and 75, but injury became an issue for him for the first time as a Cardinal.

    Assuming he can avoid random attacks of appendicitis and ear moths, he should be able to build on his 2011—the strangest injury season of his career.

    He’s off to a slow start, but there’s no reason to expect any less than the usual from Matt Holliday.

    Better, Worse or Draw: Draw/Better

    With Holliday’s time missed in 2011, I see no reason to be concerned about how his 2014 will compare. Calling it a draw is the safe bet, so I’m giving him a borderline call.

7. CF: 2014 Peter Bourjos/2011 Colby Rasmus

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    David Welker/Getty Images

    The Colby Rasmus of 2011 and Peter Bourjos of 2014 have something in common—they were both filled with unrealized potential.

    Rasmus had a chance, but in the end it just wasn’t going to happen in St. Louis. With personal squabbles showing their face on the field, his performance wasn’t where it should have been. Bourjos’ performance in recent years has been disappointing as well.

    Better, Worse or Draw: Draw

    As much as I believe Bourjos can turn his career around with the change of scenery, he’s yet to show it. Struggles early in the season combined with Jon Jay’s success make me reluctant to see Bourjos as a plus at this point in time. With any luck, that opinion will change soon.

8. RF: 2014 Allen Craig/2011 Lance Berkman

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    Kathy Willens

    Allen Craig is poised for another good season, coming off of a stellar 2013. Lance Berkman circa 2011, however, was the National League Comeback Player of the Year for a reason.

    He did everything the Cardinals had hoped for and then some. Batting .301 with 31 home runs and 94 RBI, Berkman was the X-factor for the 2011 Cardinals.

    Better, Worse or Draw: Worse

    There’s no reason to expect less than the usual from Craig, but I don’t see him putting up superstar-caliber numbers like 2011 Berkman. He has the talent, but with his slow start those would be hard numbers to catch.

9. Overall

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    Matt Slocum

    Comparing these two teams is quite difficult. The 2011 team was focused more on power and explosive games. The 2014 team seems to following in the footsteps of 2013—aiming for more contact as they simply get the ball in play.

    Teams win regularly with both schools of thought, but I see something in 2014 that I like.

    Better, Worse or Draw: Better

    If the two teams played one another, I think the current roster would win. The small-ball style of play the current Cardinals are employing is more consistent than a reliance on power. Power sells tickets, but consistency wins games over a 162-game season.

    Both teams are impressive, but I’m giving 2014 the edge.