Every December you will see various publications posting their Top 10 lists relating to the concluding year, whether it be top news stories, top sports moments, best defensive plays, etc...
This year CFCL, as part of the United Cardinals Bloggers December project, is joining the fray with the top 5 Cardinals stories for the 2013 season.
My criteria for the top stories are those that I feel impacted the Cardinals the most in their run to the World Series.
So, without further ado, here are my picks for the top 5 Cardinals stories of the year, in countdown order:
5. Edward Mujica steps up
After losing Jason Motte to Tommy John surgery and fill-in closer Mitchell Boggs to ineptitude, the Cardinals were desperate for someone to step up and fill the closer role.
Enter Edward Mujica. After taking over the closer role in mid-April, Mujica saved 35 out of 37 games before tiring down the stretch and losing the closer role to Trevor Rosenthal.
However, make no mistake about it, the Cardinals would not have reached the playoffs without Mujica's quiet efficiency as closer from April to August.
4. Cardinals redefine the term "clutch"
When it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position (RISP), no one did it better than the Cardinals in 2013. As a team, they hit .330 with RISP, nearly 50 points higher than the second place team, the Tigers, who hit .282 with RISP.
Leading the way for the Cardinals was Allen Craig who hit an insane .454 with RISP. In 130 at bats with RISP, Craig had 84 rbi's, despite just 4 homers.
In addition to Craig, Matt Holliday was 4th with RISP with a .390 average, Matt Carpenter was 5th with .388 average and Carlos Beltran 8th with a .374 average.
3. Cardinals rookie pitchers come up big
Due to an seemingly endless string of injuries and ineffectiveness, the Cardinals relied on their rookie pitchers early and often during the 2013 season.
It started with Shelby Miller, who won the 5th starter spot in spring training and finished the season with a 15-9 record, a 3.06 ERA and a third place finish in the ROY voting.
Second on the list was Trevor Rosenthal who absolutely dominated in the setup role, posting a 2.63 ERA and 108 K's in 75.1 innings. He took over the closer role late in the season and locked up the 2014 closer role with 11.2 scoreless innings in the 2013 postseason.
Other key rookie arms were Seth Maness (2.32 ERA and an incredible 4.40 GO/FO ratio), Kevin Siegrist (0.45 ERA in 39.2 innings), Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 ERA) and Carlos Martinez (5.08 ERA in the regular season, but a 3.55 ERA as the primary setup man in the playoffs).
2. Adam Wainwright returns to form
After shaking off the rust from Tommy John surgery during an up-and-down 2012 season, Adam Wainwright showed he was back as the Cardinals ace in 2013.
Wainwright was among the top 5 in ERA for most of the season, holding a 2.58 ERA through August 23, before back-to-back poor outings against the Reds ballooned his ERA up to 3.14. He settled down after that to lower his ERA to 2.94, good for 7th in the league while tying for the league lead with 19 wins.
Add to that his leadership and dancing ability, and its easy to see why Waino is a fan favorite.
1. Michael Wacha dominates the postseason
In all my years of watching and following the Cardinals, I am hard-pressed to think of any pitcher, let alone a rookie, who had a better stretch of starts than Michael Wacha did in his first 4 postseason starts.
It started with game 4 of the NLDS against the Pirates. Facing elimination, Wacha no-hit the Buccos through 7.1 innings before allowing a homer against Cardinal killer Pedro Alvarez.
He followed that up by throwing 13.2 scoreless innings against the Dodgers in the NLCS, including 7 innings of 2 hit ball in the decisive 6th game, earning the NLCS MVP award.
He then went on to win game 2 of the World Series, allowing just 2 runs on 3 hits.
All told, Wacha went 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his first 4 postseason games.
That he ended up losing the decisive game 6 of the World Series does not diminish his heroics as the Cardinals certainly would not have even made the World Series without him.
I'm sure there are other key moments that I probably have forgotten about, but those are the ones that stood out to me. What's yours?