Three weeks into the season, what are the takeaways?

Right now, the Cardinals sit in at #2 in the Central right now with a 9-8 record. They’re a loss better than the Reds and Pirates and 3.5 games behind the Cubs.

So three weeks into the season how significant is this? The record itself is a lot less indicative than what we’ve been able to learn just by watching the games.The 2006 Cards started 11-6 through three weeks, the 2011 Cards started 8-9, and last year they were 12-5.. Teams will hit hot and cold spells throughout the season and their success will fluctuate (just ask the 2006 Cardinals that had two eight game losing streaks).

So if records aren’t the key, what does matter? I’d argue it’s potential and passion. What can this team potentially bring night in and night out, and how bad do they want it?

The answer to that first question is easy. The Cardinals are second in the MLB in runs scored, They’re 11th in runs allowed, and that’s given Waino’s poor start (7.25 ERA), and Leake’s 5.71 ERA. Plus there aren’t any pitchers now that are going to significantly deteriorate. The best starter is in at a 2.70 ERA, nothing unheard of or due to significantly drop off. And for the icing on the cake, the bullpen (other than Maness) has been magnificent. Siegrist, Broxton, Bowman and Oh have put together 28.6 innings of work with 4 runs given up.

So then is the hitting going to digress? It could, but I’ll tell you why I doubt it will. It’s because Matt Holliday, Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, and Randal Grichuk are hitting 40, 94, 60, and 68 points below their career averages, respectively. Is Aledmys Diaz going to end the season hitting .467 or Yadi at .344? Almost certainly not. But those four guys (that make up nearly half of a regular day starting lineup!) haven’t even hit their groove yet. Will all of them rise to the occasion and pick it up? I think so, but even if two of them do, it’ll make up for what the overproduction by Diaz and Molina.

Answering concern #1, the potential is there. No question about it. How about the passion?

Unfortunately, it’s too soon to answer that one. Yeah the team has been fighting in each game and coming out hard and ready, but the Cardinals could have all of the fire they need in their hearts right now, and if it’s still not there come October, it doesn’t matter one bit. As the season progresses and the team has its ups and downs, the thing to continue looking out for is passion. How are they learning from losses? How are they handling wins? And are the team leaders leading in the right ways?

Three weeks in, it’s way too soon to tell with this year’s group. But the possibilities, the potential, and the glimpses of heart (the things that those 2006 and 2011 teams thrived in) have given us reason to be optimistic. It’s a long road ahead, but strap in because, boy, will it be a good one.

Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports