The St. Louis Cardinals' career years

Aug 26, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) doubles during the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. The Cardinals defeated the Reds 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

It's taken 104 more runs scored and 11 fewer runs allowed, but the Cardinals are now three games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the race for a Wild Card spot. It's a credit, I guess, to baseball's postseason realignment that that makes me feel nothing like the security it would have a year ago—with the constant threat of a play-in game the Wild Card is now just a guarantee that you'll be really nervous a day or two longer than usual.

Divorced of the implication that there's something these Cardinals could have done to win more games, or that there's some moral failure involved in proving unable to connect high individual stats to huge win totals, it's kind of fascinating to see how many career years it's taken the Cardinals just to get within six games of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.

Starting with yesterday's pitcher: Kyle Lohse is now third in the league in ERA, and in the top 10 in wins and innings pitched. Jon Jay's OPS+ is over 120; David Freese and Matt Carpenter are over 130; Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday are over 140; and Allen Craig, who wasn't even pegged to start this year, is over 150 for the second year in a row. Skip Schumaker, in more than 200 at-bats, has an OBP over .370.

Not all of that is shocking—Jay's been a well-above-average hitter for three years now, surprised though I've been each time—but it seems like a weirdly high proportion of Cardinals are in the midst of career years. In fact: It's easier to talk about the players who aren't.

Carlos Beltran: Check. Beltran's off his MVP pace from April and May, but I don't think anybody's in a position to complain about the year he's having. He's on pace for 35 home runs and 108 RBI, if you're into that sort of thing, and he's worth 3 WAR thus far and set to play 153 games if you're into that sort of thing.

For $13 million, particularly on a two year deal, that's just about perfect.

Rafael Furcal: It's easy to lose the distinction between having a little power and having no power at all. Furcal's batting average is just a little off his career average, but his slugging percentage is .355—about 50 points lower. He's lost about five doubles per 500 at-bats, along with a triple and three home runs—that's about the difference between Rafael Furcal and David Eckstein.

He's basically having the same year he did in 2007, only a dose of offensive-climate-change has made up for the difference in defensive skill between a shortstop's age-29 season and his age-34 season.

Lance Berkman: .267/.389/.467 sounds about like what I was hoping Lance Berkman would do in 2012. I was hoping he'd play more than a month's worth of games, but that was probably too much to ask.

Daniel Descalso: When your only offensive skill is hitting .260 with a few walks, it's important to hit .260. If it's any consolation, he's still drawing the walks.

Jaime Garcia: Mostly due to the injuries—he's actually got the best peripherals of his career so far.

Basically every reliever except Jason Motte and MItchell Boggs: Marc Rzepczynski's career strikeout rate before this year, during a career spent mostly in the rotation, was 8.6.

And that's about it. It seems like everyone else who's played a major role on this team is having a better season than the one I expected him to have.

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