Cockcroft: St. Louis Cardinals preview

With their World Series title in 2006, their 10th in franchise history, the St. Louis Cardinals have officially inherited the throne of the "New York Yankees of the National League," as the Senior Circuit's most dominant October team. But before we talk up the Cardinals' impressive postseason run as a sign of a burgeoning dynasty, consider that their 83 regular-season wins were the third-fewest for a World Series champion; only the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers (63 in a strike-shortened year) and 1918 Boston Red Sox (75 in a year in which the government shortened the season due to World War I) had fewer.

That's right, the Cardinals did earn their championship with a stunning postseason performance, but they weren't many pundits' pick to win it all after a 25-36 finish in which they barely managed to hang on to their NL Central lead, and they probably won't be a popular pick to repeat in 2007, not if those pundits check out their projected rotation first.

Chris Carpenter is a perennial Cy Young candidate and fantasy's No. 2 starting pitcher, but after that, it gets iffy. Kip Wells, the only other lock for a starting spot after signing as a free agent, was a combined 10-23 with a 5.37 ERA from 2005-06. The final three spots, meanwhile, will be an open competition, and perhaps one so underwhelming that the team is actually converting three relievers from a year ago -- Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper and Brad Thompson -- into starters this spring. That demonstrates their lack of rotation depth, and in the end, the Cardinals might deplete their bullpen enough in the process, hurting what was one of their strengths during their championship run.