The St. Louis Cardinals are now 9-11 in May, and they've been visited by enough bad news to keep us in terrified-fantasy-baseball-owner search traffic through July. Lance Berkman is hurt, possibly severely; Carlos Beltran isn't the perfectly healthy base-thief he played on TV for most of April; Allen Craig is aching, Jon Jay is still dealing with a shoulder injury, and the Cardinals' best options in center field are Skip Schumaker and Shane Robinson. But the Cardinals won last night, in last fall's especially implausible fashion, and these next few-hundred words are for the good news that implausible win has allowed us to consider.
Lance Berkman! He maybe didn't tear his ACL! The Cardinals, when slightly healthier than they are now, have so many potentially cromulent slugging corner players that it's easy to underestimate the on-the-field value of having Berkman and Craig around instead of Craig and Carpenter or Adams. But if he really does just need six weeks the Cardinals have—for once, this May—managed to reduce the number of replacement-level innings it looks like they'll need to hand out this year.
Matt Adams! Short of Mike Matheny going full Brandon Belt on him, in the wake of the potentially good Berkman news the Cardinals really can't lose on this Matt Adams call-up. The worst-case scenarios: He hits too well and it's hard to send him down when Lance Berkman comes back; he doesn't hit at all and Matt Carpenter, who's earned some at-bats by now, settles in as Berkman's backup again.
(Speaking of which, Matt Carpenter! deserves his own exclamation point—he's still confusing, because he doesn't resembleat all the walk-taking machine that plate-disciplined his way through Springfield and Memphis, but he's hitting even better in May than he did in April. Maybe he's the poor man's Kevin Youkilis, and this particular skill-set just doesn't reach the majors in the way we expect it will?)
Tyler Greene! and Tyler Greene's Competitors! As DiscoJer noted in the gamethread, Tyler Greene's huge night upgraded his seasonal line from my eternal hope for his ceiling—Rob Deer, Shortstop (.227/.301/.427)—to Gorman Thomas, Shortstop (.253/.322/.494.) The best part of all this is that his Rob Deer line was already suspiciously close to a league-average hitting performance, regardless of position. Greene probably isn't an .800 OPS guy, but the hope all along from his AAA numbers has been that he could be average to average-plus; so far he's been there, and we should be excited about it.
A lot could still go wrong with Greene, who was being talked up as a DFA candidate this time last month, but his hot start shows us just how much we still have to learn about him as a major leaguer. His career line through 2011, the one that made him look so AAAA, was .218/.307/.313; 80 strong at-bats have pushed that up to .225/.310/.349.
But the real good news is that the Cardinals don't really have to rely on Greene's breakout season continuing—all three members of their ongoing, less-than-ideal second base competition have proven useful so far. Daniel Descalso is putting up Tyler Greene's weirdly passable 2010, hitting just .222 with fine peripherals, and however skeptical I am of his ability to maintain it Skip Schumaker's .813 OPS has been important in the wake of the Cardinals' sudden lack of outfielders.
Jaime Garcia! Jaime Garcia was great again, and brought his strikeout rate, a little low through 51 innings, a half-step nearer his career rates. The Cardinals' veterans have, one after the other, given us reasons to worry about their future productivity; Garcia, along with Yadier Molina and the perennially worrying Rafael Furcal, seems like one of a few holdouts in this increasingly unfunny prank.