Now that baseball is over, it is time for us to shift gears and put our focus completely back on the Cardinals again. This past season has opened the eyes of every Cardinals fan. It has been a wake-up call, a learning experience, and a hard push in the back to just move forward.
Reflecting on the past season is a priority for me before I move on to the next. First off, I will start by saying this: We needed this season. We needed to fail. By the middle of the season, it started to become a harsh possibility that this team was not going to make it far into the playoffs. That is not just negativity - it is just reality.
What could we, as Cardinals fans, do about this? Two options. Either you accept the fact that the season was going to be cut shorter than Cardinals fans are used to and take what you can get. Or, you do not look at the season as a big learning experience and just look at the season as a huge waste of time. I recommend the first option - life is so much more enjoyable that way.
To add light to the end of baseball, let's just take a minute to look back at the past season - let's see who thrived, who impressed, and who made the 2016 season fun to watch. We'll break it down category by category and I will explain my personal pick.
Side note: As mentioned, these are my personal picks. It is COMPLETELY FINE to disagree and I would love to hear your opinions.
Player of the Year: Matt Carpenter
This one was a no-brainer for me. Matt Carpenter exceeded my expectations this past season and he never fails to "wow" me. Carpenter finished off the season with .271/.380/.505. With 36 doubles in the season, the guy knew how to come in clutch in the most needed situations.
I hope Matt Carpenter sticks around for a long time. There is an excitement that a lot of Cardinals fans feel every time Carpenter comes up to the plate. There is something about his style, plate presence, and overall swagger that makes him a great representative of this ball club. No matter where he ends up in the future, whether it be third base, second base, or first base, Carpenter is seen as a hero to this organization. He is great with a bat, and he sure knows how to flash a glove.
There is no doubt that Carpenter has stolen the hearts of many Cardinals fans.
Pitcher of the Year: Carlos Martinez
Carlos Martinez has improved in all aspects in 2016. This youngster (25) ended the season with a 16-9 (.640) record and threw a 3.04 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. If the Cardinals were to have made it into the Wild Card game, Martinez would have been the first pick of a starting pitcher for many people.
There was the argument that Martinez was "too immature" and that he needed to be a little more serious. As much as I disagree with this statement, as he is young and is just having fun, it seems as if Martinez took this criticism to heart. He learned how to be serious when he needed to be, showed business on the mound, but still had fun while doing so.
Not only is Martinez a great pitcher, but he is also a great soul to have within the clubhouse. When things start getting too serious, leave it to Martinez to build pyramids out of Gatorade cups or splashing players in the face with water after a home run.
Martinez executed far much more than I would have ever expected this season. This guy is going to be a scary pitcher year in and year out. He fits perfectly into the Cardinals' starting rotation.
Surprise Player of the Year: Jedd Gyorko
I'll be honest: I was not all that thrilled when we received Jedd Gyorko. With 16HR and a .247/.297/.397 line in San Diego, I had no idea how this guy would help us in a dramatic fashion. Although, he came to prove me and many others wrong.
Although his .243/.306/.495 was only a slight improvement compared to his time in San Diego, his home run count is what really stood out this season. Gyorko hit exactly 30 home runs this past season - and almost every one of those home runs ended up being very crucial.
Gyorko ended up being a great add-on to this team. In addition, Gyorko is still fairly young (28). If he spends a few more years in the Cardinals' organization, there is no doubt he can turn into a great ballplayer and veteran.
Disappointing Player of the Year: Michael Wacha
This one is very difficult to write, as Michael Wacha has always been one of my favorites. I also understand that he came off an injury when he started back up this past season. So when I say "disappointing", I don't just mean "This guy didn't do well at all this year." What I mean is how disappointing it is that they could not execute.It is incredibly disappointing and frustrating that a talented and young player like Wacha ended up the way that he did this year.
With a 5.09 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP under 138 IP, it is obvious and highly noticeable that Wacha did not have a good year.
This raises the question: Should he start off 2017 in the rotation or in the bullpen?
With Wainwright, Lynn coming back, Martinez, Alex Reyes possibly in the rotation, the contract extension of Jaime Garcia, and Mike Leake, it might be a hard fight for Wacha to squeeze into the five-man starting rotation.
Depending how well spring training goes, the bullpen might be a good place for Wacha to start come April 1st. It is all about time, fighting to stay healthy, and practice, practice, practice. I hope the best for Wacha, and I really want to see him do exceedingly well in the 2017 season.
Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz
This was a very hard choice between Alex Reyes and Aledmys Diaz, but I had to go with Diaz. Diaz finished the season with a .300/.369/.510 line and a fairly impressive 3.5 WAR. For a rookie, this is more than this club could ask for.
Fielding wise, there is no question that he could use a little work. Diaz was responsible for 16 errors on the field in 2016. Although, other than the errors, he made some pretty flashy plays at shortstop.
As it goes for any other player, if Diaz works hard at spring training and if he stays open to any advice he can get, then he can turn into a superstar that produces day in and day out for the Cardinals.
Diaz is young, smart, athletic, and he holds a substantial amount of promise and talent. This rookie is clearly a Cardinal and he shows it very well.
Acquisition of the year: Seung-hwan Oh
What a treat Seung-hwan Oh has been to watch. Every time I went to Busch Stadium to see a game, I would pray that I would be able to see Oh pitch in person. Oh pitched his way to a 6-3 (.667) record, an astonishing 1.92 ERA and 0.916 WHIP.
He's called the "Stone Buddah" for a reason. Oh is cool, calm, collected, and emotionless - setting off a fairly intimidating threat to his opponent. He sets off a vibe that is absolutely dominating and he never fails to continuously impress.
I was very excited to hear the news that the Cardinals signed Oh. We all knew that we were fairly desperate for some bullpen help - and Oh most definitely got the job done. Watching this man pitch was nearly mesmerizing.
Oh should stay in the bullpen. As great of a starting pitcher Oh might be, we need his relief support in the bullpen, because quite frankly, it has been doing this ball club absolute wonders.
2016 was (to say the least) an interesting and lesson-filled season. The Cardinals need to work their tail feathers off if they want to enter 2017 with a point to prove. They have full capability to be a highly successful organization next season. Let's make some offseason moves, work hard, and set a goal for ourselves to be a great team.