If the Cardinals hope to make up 8.5 games on the Brewers over the next 26 days, there’s one thing that they might want to consider: Avoiding hitting into so many double plays! I mean seriously. This is a double play problem of historic proportions, and it may prevent any chances of a St. Louis comeback. After the jump, I’ll take a deeper look into why exactly the Redbirds can’t seem to avoid the DP.
As a fan, there’s nothing I hate more than watching my team hit into a double play. Okay, I suppose triple plays are worse. Anyway, of course I love to see double plays turned against the opposition, but as is the case with many things in life, it’s only enjoyable when it’s not happening to you. Why do I have such a burning hatred for DP’s, you ask? Well, they are just flat out momentum killers. They save the opposing pitcher from having to face an extra batter, therefore cutting him a break in the pitch count department. Also, to be honest, double plays are annoying. I mean even a strikeout would be better in those situations.
Let’s get to the numbers. Through the first 139 games of the 2011 season, the Cards have grounded into 147 double plays as a team. That’s an average of about 1.06 GIDP’s per game. Just for some perspective, the next closest team (Baltimore) has grounded into 125 double plays. There are a total of 14 teams across MLB that have grounded into at least 100 double plays, but only four of them (including St. Louis) are from the National League. I’m not sure that that means anything, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
In case you’re wondering (I know you are), the single season record GIDP’s is 174, set by the 1990 Boston Red Sox. Oddly enough, the 1958 Cardinals hold the NL record with 166 GIDP’s in 154 games. As of right now, the Cards are on pace to ground into 171 double plays.
So, why exactly is this team getting doubled up so frequently? Well to start, St. Louis is simply hitting a lot of ground balls. Hitting grounders on 47.2% of batted balls, they rank second in all of baseball. The Redbirds also have a 1.43 GB/FB ratio, which is as high as it’s been in more than a decade. Combine this with the fact that the Cards are making contact nearly 70% of the time when they swing at balls out of the zone, and it makes sense.
I think the key theme behind all of this is plate discipline. The Cards are just swinging at balls that are low far too often. This has been a noticeable problem from day one when Albert Pujols grounded into three double plays on opening day, but the small sample size argument is no longer valid. The problem has not gone away over time, and it’s not about to go away unless adjustments are made. To be specific, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina, who have combined for 63 GIDP’s, need to bear down in every at-bat and try to take a no-DP approach.
I understand that a double play here and a double play there might now seem like such a huge deal, but when you’re racking up one or two every single night, they add up quickly. If they occur in key situations, they really take a toll on the chances of winning. Although DP’s might not be directly responsible for St. Louis’ struggles, there’s no doubt that they’re a contributing factor. Whether this team makes the postseason or not, this disturbing trend that must come to an end sooner rather than later.