Apr 7, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) hits a one run double off of Cincinnati Reds relief pitcherTrevor Bell
(not pictured) during the seventh inning at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Reds 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
The first nine games of the 2014 MLB season have left many St. Louis Cardinal fans concerned about the lack of offensive production. The Cardinals, who have only been able to push across 29 runs through three series (3.2 per game), rank 23rd in the league in runs scored. Factor in a team batting average of.215 (27th in MLB), .294 OBP (26th in MLB), and a .339 slugging percentage (26th in MLB), you can see why some may be worried.
Despite the early season struggles, I am not the least bit concerned about the Cardinals offense – let me tell you why. First and foremost, we need to remember that the season is only ten days old and game number 162 is five and a half months away. Thus far, the Cardinals have only faced the Cincinnati Reds (six games) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (three games). Whether Cardinal fans would like to admit it or not, the Reds and Pirates are two of the more complete teams in baseball. More specifically, the National League Central rivals each deliver quality pitching on a daily basis – this has impacted the Cardinals production at the plate.
In case you forgot, the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals had one of the best offenses in baseball. The lineup 1-9 (yes, even the pitchers hit) was as deep as any around the league. Yadier Molina (.319), Matt Carpenter (.318), Allen Craig (.315), and Matt Holliday (.300) all met or exceeded the .300 average clip, making them the only team in Major League Baseball that had four different players achieve this feat. The Cardinals finished the season third in runs scored (trailing only Boston and Detroit) and the only NL team in the top nine (the DH factor). Statistically speaking, the Cardinals were also one the most clutch offensive teams in the history of Major League Baseball – their .330 average with runners in scoring position (RISP) was the best in the Majors in the last 40 years.
I know what you’re thinking – the 2013 lineup is much different than the 2014 lineup. While this is true, it is not necessarily a bad thing. The loss of Carlos Beltran will hurt for sure, but Allen Craig will take over in right field and should stabilize the position. New first baseman Matt Adams will give the Cardinals a much needed left-handed hitting power presence in the lineup. Matt Carpenter moves over to third place to make room for Kolten Wong, a highly touted 23-year-old rookie. Peter Bourjos, acquired in the offseason from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, gives the Cardinals some desperately needed speed in the lineup. The free agent signing of Jhonny Peralta finally gives the Cardinals an offensive threat at the shortstop position. Take one look at Peralta’s average season (.266 average/18 home runs/82 rbis) and last year’s “starter” Pete Kozma (a .232 average/four home run career) and you can see why Cardinal fans have reason to be excited.
The St. Louis Cardinals have started the year winning two out of the first three series (5-4 overall) despite the offense being a non-factor. The hated Chicago Cubs come to town this weekend for a three game series beginning on Friday night. I expect the offense to fare well and come alive – you should too.