Last year, the St. Louis Cardinals put together an incredible season that far exceeded many expectations. The Redbirds set an all-time record for batting average with runners in scoring position (.330), which was key to scoring runs in an offense that ranked 27th in the majors in home runs (125). Meanwhile, the pitching staff saw several young arms emerge from the farm system. Rookies Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, Michael Blazek, Kevin Butler, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez, Tyler Lyons, John Gast, and Michael Wacha all saw playing time in 2013, and all made meaningful contributions to the team.
2013 could easily have been a disaster for the Cardinals, but somehow they were able to hit and pitch their way to a 97-65 record, tying the Boston Red Sox for the best regular season record in the big leagues. The Cards rode that momentum to a National League pennant, and held a 2-1 lead in the World Series before losing to the aforementioned Red Sox. All in all, the season was a rousing success for the Cardinals, although anyone in the organization would probably tell you otherwise after falling short of a championship.
Entering 2014, the expectations are high. With major league experience–as well as valuable playoff experience–their young arms are expected to carry the load alongside veterans Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, and Lance Lynn. Offensively and defensively, the team has upgraded in multiple positions from a few wise offseason moves. However, power may once again prove to be the team’s Achilles heel.
The Tigers are coming off of a somewhat disappointing season, in which they failed to run away with the AL Central division like they were expected to do all season. Although they eventually wound up in the AL Championship Series, the Tigers barely made it past the Oakland Athletics in the AL Division Series, only to have the bullpen fall apart in the late innings.
The expectation for the Tigers in 2013 was to win the World Series, and they failed to do so. Most of the pieces were there, but clutch hits and a solid bullpen eluded them when they were needed most.
Heading into 2014, those expectations will remain the same: World Series or bust. Two-time reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera has had an entire offseason to recover from his abdominal surgery, and the pitching staff once again features three potential aces in Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. Combine that with a new and improved bullpen, and you have a team primed for another late postseason run.