Power Rankings Week 4: When there’s a Wong there’s a Way
By Hamm Hooper
A weekly Power Ranking of Cardinal position players and pitchers.
The Cardinals may have had their best 10 game stretch of the season as they took three out of four from the Pirates and two out of three from both the Brewers and the Dodgers. This brings the Cardinals weekly (and three game) record to 7-3 and they have now moved into a tie with the Brewers for first place in the N.L. Central.
9. Allen Craig
Despite hitting safely in his last four games and chipping in an RBI double against the imposing Clayton Kershaw last night, Allen Craig continues to be in a funk. He only hit .181 in the past ten games with one RBI while he watched his playing time diminish as he platoons with Oscar Taveras. If the Cardinals are asking for the price of David Price, which it appears they are, Craig’s name might be on the trading block.
When the Cardinals offense is clicking like it has been in the past ten games it is usually because of leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter. However, Carpenter only hit .206 with seven hits in the past week and a half but, thanks to Carpenter’s great set of retinas, he’s also managed seven walks. Carpenter had an especially key at-bat last night against Kershaw when he grinded out a ten pitch walk setting up Peter Bourjos’ surprising homerun. Walks are all fine and dandy but I’d much rather see Carpenter spraying the ball into gaps like he did last year.
While Carlos Martinez was solid in his first start of the week against the Pirates, going six innings while giving up four runs, he has struggled in his last two starts. Against the Brewers and Dodgers, Martinez only made it through four innings each time and while he was able to get out of jams against the Dodgers to keep St. Louis in the game, he has put a lot of stress on the bullpen. It almost seems like Martinez is doing too much as he hurls the ball into hitters without any indication of where the ball is going and constantly falling off the mound because he is so unbalanced. With the Cardinals rotation suddenly in limbo with Shelby Miller relegated to the bullpen and no timetable for Michael Wacha’s return, Martinez is going to have to tone it down a bit and try to go deeper into games.
6. Joe Kelly
It was the tale of two starts for Joe Kelly as he got shelled in his first start against the Brewers, giving up six runs in only three innings of work. However, Kelly tinkered with his mechanics over the break and the result was possibly the best start of his career as he threw seven innings of one run ball against the Dodgers. Joe Kelly also reinforced his status as Public Enemy Number One in Dodgers eyes as he plunked Yasiel Puig in the hand resulting in Puig missing the rest of the game. Following last night’s game, it appears like the Cardinals and Dodgers have started a true rivalry and hopefully these teams can meet again in October.
Jhonny Peralta continues to play steady Eddie for the Cardinals as he batted .382 over the past ten games. One glaring problem with Peralta though has been in his inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Coming into last night’s game, Peralta was only batting .178 with runners in scoring position, a microcosm of the Cardinals season thus far. If Peralta ever aspires to reach the top of this Power Rankings list, which I’m sure he does like every other Cardinal player out there, he is going to have to come through in the clutch for St. Louis.
Is it possible for Adam Wainwright to win the league MVP pitcher award as a pitcher? It’s been done 22 times in the history of baseball with Justin Verlander winning the award most recently in 2011. Before Verlander, it hadn’t been done since Dennis Eckersely in 1992 for the Oakland Athletics. But Wainwright has been that good and important to the Cardinals that I think he deserves some warrant for the award. Wainwright was his dominant self against the Pirates and Brewers as he threw 14 scoreless innings while only allowing two runs and adding one win to his resume. Also, is anyone else pissed that Don Mattingly and Mike Matheny did not set it up so Kershaw and Wainwright faced off against each other last night? That could have been one of the most hyped pitching matchups in the history of baseball and could have served as a talking point for the CY Young award as those two are far and away the best pitchers in the NL. Baseball fans were robbed.
Matt Holliday has aspirations of the second half he had last year as he hit .313 with two home runs and nine RBIs over the past ten games. Holliday has moved back to his traditional three spot in the lineup and his one of the key reasons the Cardinals offense has started to produce again. Also, I’m convinced that Holliday did not even feel that pitch that Kershaw threw at him last night. 94 right off the thigh and Holliday didn’t even flinch or grimace. It looked like a harmless fly landed on him. Respect, Matt Holliday.
2. Lance Lynn
Seriously, Lance Lynn’s walk-up song for when he comes up to the plate should be “All I do is Win” by DJ Khaled. Lynn notched another two wins in the past ten games, throwing 12.2 innings while only giving up four earned runs and tallying 13 strikeouts. In the past three years, only Wainwright has more wins in the majors with 45 compared to Lynn’s 44. Baseball’s most underrated pitcher even got some T.V. time in last night’s game when he got interviewed by the ESPN broadcasters and he said the word “fun” at least ten times. It is all fun for Lynn right now.
1. Kolten Wong
Is Kolten Wong on steroids? Should he have been in the Home-Run Derby? Is he the Cardinals best power hitter? These are all questions that need to be answered after Wong exploded in the last ten games with four home runs and seven RBIs. Wong batted a steady .333 average as he moved up to the number two spot in the lineup, setting the table for Holliday and Matt Adams to drive him in. The higher-ups within the Cardinals organization are convinced that the teams offensive woes can be solved in-house; Kolten Wong is proving them right.