The St. Louis Cardinals lost a huge part of their offense when Albert Pujols signed a 10-year, $240-million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but that also forced the team to build a more balanced lineup. Now every spot in the order consistently pushes across enough runs to put the Cardinals atop the NL Central as April comes to a close.
But, the margin for error is much slimmer without Pujols. There were times during the last decade when Pujols basically won an entire game with his bat. If it was a close game late, Cardinals fans always felt like the team had a chance to win as long as Pujols got another at-bat.
That’s no longer the case. The 2012 Cardinals have to string together multiple hits to score runs in bunches, but they have done surprisingly well to start the season. From shortstop Rafeal Furcal to centerfielder Jon Jay, each part of the lineup is contributing to give the Cardinals a .278 team batting average, which is the best in the National League.