CHICAGO, IL - JULY 27: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a solo home run in the 1st inning against the Chicago Cubs in the 2nd inning at Wrigley Field on July 27, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The 2012 St. Louis Cardinals got off to a scorching hot start this season, but have since tailed off. As of today, they stand at 54-47, six and a half games back of the Cincinnati Reds. However, they've continued to impress in one specific facet of their play: their offense.
With the bulk of their production coming from the core quintet of Matt Holliday, David Freese, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, and Yadier Molina, the Cardinals have raked their way to a .276/.344/.433 triple slash line this season. They've also stolen 63 bases at a 74% success rate. Overall, the team has a .337 wOBA, good for a 113 wRC+. Not only do they lead the NL in wRC+, but no team is even close. The next highest mark, which belongs to the Milwaukee Brewers, is a 100 wRC+.
Believe it or not, through 101 games, St. Louis ranks among the best National League offenses over the last 50 or so years. During the expansion era (since 1961), only three teams have posted a higher wRC+ than the mark that the Cardinals currently boast: the 1975 Reds (114 wRC+), the 1998 Astros (114 wRC+), and the absurdly good 1976 Reds (123 wRC+).
That's especially impressive in light of the fact that this franchise just lost its icon -- Albert Pujols -- to free agency. Pujols, of course, had been the best hitter in baseball over the previous decade, but suffice it to say, the Cardinals have filled the void created by his departure admirably. Offseason additions Carlos Beltran (.283/.360/.520) and Rafael Furcal (.272/.341/.352) have both added some punch to the lineup and Matt Carpenter, Lance Berkman, and Allen Craig have all hit well while splitting time at first base.
The Cardinals' overall production is impressive for another reason, too: they haven't exactly avoided injuries to major contributors. Jon Jay has missed 40 games due to injury, Allen Craig has missed 37 games, and Lance Berkman has missed 71 games, yet the lineup has continued to produce.
Anyway, the aforementioned quintet has been money. Each of Holliday, Freese, Beltran, Craig, and Molina has topped +15 wRAA on the season -- and that's really understating Holliday's contributions, as he's produced +31.0 wRAA while appearing in all but three of his team's games. His 160 wRC+ represents a career high, and he's slugging over .500 for the eighth consecutive season.
If the Cards can keep this up, they'll find themselves very high up in the ranks of history, and at the top of their own franchise's history.