Jun 1, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Oscar Taveras (18) bats against the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning at Busch Stadium. Giants defeated the Cardinals 8-0. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals: Jump Them With Your Best

The St. Louis Cardinals are on pace to win 85 games in 2014 and would likely miss the playoffs with that win total. The main problem is that their most productive hitters are having down seasons. Matt Holliday is not slugging like he used to. Matt Adams is undisciplined at the plate, and is not the same hitter he was with runners on base. Allen Craig, despite playing better of late, got off to a prolonged bad start. Winning is predicated on the best players getting the job done.

Fans do a lot of gnashing of teeth about lineup construction. They wonder why managers put certain players into particular spots in the order. Sabermetricians have studied the issue, and it turns out that lineup construction matters very little as far as run production. A team might score two more runs a year based on lineup optimization.

The golden rule is that the best hitters should get the most at-bats. Adaptability regarding personnel, match-ups, who’s hot, etc. should figure into the equation of who hits where in the lineup, so flexibility should not be thrown away.

There is a pragmatic jolt available to the club with the personnel on hand. The St. Louis Cardinals should adopt–as a strategy and reasonable experiment–a set lineup of names for a short period. This is the lineup, against both left-handers and right-handers: Carpenter, Wong, Holliday, Taveras, Craig, Molina, Peralta, Bourjos/Jay, pitcher.

This lineup achieves several objectives: The first four hitters do (or will, in the case of Taveras) get on base above the league average, percentage-wise. Lefty and righty hitters are staggered, so it’s less easy for an opposing manager to play match-ups with relievers later in games. Craig and Molina are dropped one spot in the order. This is based on their recent performance, and the upside offered by the re-jiggering proposed above and below.

They key to this is Oscar Taveras. Unless everyone is wrong about him, he should be one of the Cardinals’s top hitters this year. He is an unknown commodity to the league. He hits left-handers about as well as right-handers. He projects to hit for extra bases. Craig is better than he was, and Adams will be back, but during this time Craig should bat fifth.

Wong should play most days because he is a better player right now than Mark Ellis. They should ditch the reflexive platooning when a left-hander pitches. Wong adds dynamism with his base-stealing threat. Platoon Jay and Bourjos if they must, but let Wong and Taveras play, and get their at-bats.

The Cardinals don’t have holes like they did five years ago, when they brought in Mark DeRosa, and then Matt Holliday. They have cost control around the diamond. There aren’t good trade options. They aren’t that far back of the lead. Getting the young newcomers heavily involved would be a positive step.

These changes may not make much difference, but it’s a rationalization whose time has come.

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Tags: Oscar Taveras St Louis Cardinals

  • ceeza

    1. Wong 2. Carpenter 3. TAVERAS 4. Holliday 5. Molina 6. Craig/ Adams 7. Peralta 8. Jay/Bourjos/ Grichuk 9. Pitcher

    My lineup. Oscar is our best hitter and it will be apparent by the all star break.. 3 hole is where he should be and where he will be the next 10 years.. Why is Holliday a lock in 3 hole? I really want someone to ask Matheny this. He’s better suited for cleanup anyway.. Also with Wong emerging why is Carpenter lock at leadoff when 2 hole would be more natural for him as well..

    • wonk

      Yes BUT having Taveras 3rd instead of 4th bypasses the platoon-relief thing by having three consecutive lefties in a row followed by three righties (when Craig not Adams) which seemed to be an important aspect to that lineup construction by the author. Not to disagree, but having Taveras hit around 6th until his feet get wet might serve well to take some performance pressure off of The Kid. He SHOULD get lots of RBI opportunities in that slot but the way this offense has been sluggish, maybe not. I’m okay with Wong at the top followed by M Carp though.

      As I re-read my post, that pressure factor may be why Wong isn’t batting leadoff yet also, hmm?

      • ceeza

        all good points..this is more my lineup in a perfect world if they were in their most natural lineup spots for success. This would be my way to go after the all star break.. The leftie leftie rightie rightie match ups late games in relief is especially a valid point.. Still somethings got to give and Holliday definitely needs to get out of the 3 hole.. If they were worried about the 3 straight leftie x 3 straight righties because baseball “rules” then in my new lineup Carpenter would have to get pushed back to maybe 6th(ouch).. wong holliday taveras craig molina carpenter peralta jay pitcher. I think Carpenter as a leadoff man was a one off and Wong just makes more sense in the near future and longterm.. I still like my first lineup better.. What i do know is The lineup needs to get shaken up.. it just does.. and everybody should be able to get touched like Holliday and Carpenter who’s current spots are locked and I dont know why.

        • wonk

          Yeah, Matt the Bat has been killing us so far this year in the three hole, with no guarantee of a 2013 redux of a solid second half. Methinks you’re right about a shake-up being in order, by whatever design. Holliday in the second spot maybe would work out the way Beltran did….

          • ceeza

            the lineup tonight is an absolute joke. neither grichuk or taveras’ “feet are wet” but he’ll put gruchick at 2 hole and Oscar at 6? How can anyone defend Matheny?

  • Mercury

    Wong 2B, Holliday LF, Carpenter 3B, Craig RF,
    Adams 1B, Molina C, Peralta SS, Jay CF (Until Oscar returns).