Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Middle of the Order Provides Clues to Offensive Drought

Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, and Allen Craig are the three hitters who have batted third or fourth in the St. Louis Cardinals lineup the most in 2014. Holliday rarely appears anywhere but third in the order. These are the players who must hit for the Cardinals’ lineup to thrive. By swing- and batted-ball data, Redbird Rants finds that the 34-year-old Holliday closely matches in 2014 his approach in prior seasons. Craig, 29, gets worse results than before and hasn’t adjusted enough to his new environment. The 25-year-old Adams carries a high batting average–and high babip at .379–but whales away to get these results. What’s consistent? What is different, and who is doing it? Holliday is consistent, and most of his advanced metrics are in line with career figures. Holliday walks almost as much as he strikes out–22 walks, 28 strikeouts. He bats .314 on balls in play, which is below his career average. Craig is more selective, yet still is striking out at the same rate and is not walking more than before.  He’s making more contact on pitches in the zone, but appears to have traded fly balls for infield grounders, as both categories of batted ball have flip-flopped for him in 2014. His babip is .254, well below his average in the past. Adams swings much more than he did last season. Standouts? His contact rate in the strike zone is down, and outside the zone he’s getting to more pitches. Couple that with a strikeout to walk ratio of 33/4, and hitting a home run at the rate of once every 77 plate appearances, and one sees the profile of a hitter chasing power. The strategy hurts him. Matt Holliday is doing Matt Holliday things, and appears to be OK. He needs more of his fly balls to turn into home runs. There’s room in his present profile for him to put up his typical numbers. Pitchers have dictated to Craig so far. They’ve burned him on pitches outside the zone.  He’s struck out 32 times and walked 11. Craig has always enjoyed a high batting average on balls in play. There’s reason to believe that Craig will get better results going forward, as a higher rate of his balls in play should become hits. Adams must become more disciplined at the plate. Left-handed and right-handed pitchers bedevil him with curveballs down and in. He blocks fastballs up and away to the opposite field with more success, but every other metric has dropped off. Redbird Rants believes that considering Adams’ very high babip, things can’t get better than they are now with his current approach. Three hitters–one on target, two having difficulties. That’s two too many for this St. Louis Cardinals club.

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