Are recent off days proving beneficial or harmful to the St. Louis Cardinals?
Before the start of the 2015 regular season, new Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred introduced pace of play rules for players to abide by during games. Although the first week of baseball is nearly half over, it might be time to start questioning the pace of the season for years to come.
In regards to scheduling, the St. Louis Cardinals have arguably had one of the slowest starts of any team this season. After starting Major League Baseball festivities with a 3-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, the Cardinals have been inactive in three of the past four days, due to two scheduled off days and a rainout from Tuesday.
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No other teams across the league have played more than three games so far. But given that teams generally come out of Spring Training action looking to build a rhythm, this recent stretch of inactivity proves vital to the Cardinals. More importantly, this recent span of off days may cause St. Louis’s pitchers and hitters to make unexpected changes moving forward.
This current surplus of off days has allowed the Cardinals to adjust their rotation plans for the next few series. While Lance Lynn was originally anticipated to start the Cardinals’ home opener, Adam Wainwright will instead get the nod with an extended period of rest.
While the general population of Cardinal fans would be thrilled to see Wainwright on the mound, eight days of rest may be slightly concerning for a pitcher looking to build a routine and avoid injury woes. Wainwright lost twice in 2014 when given more than the normal four days of rest in between starts.
This issue does not only affect Wainwright and Lynn, but it pushes back the season debuts of John Lackey and Michael Wacha as well. The shortage of action also caused recently-named fifth starter Carlos Martinez to pitch out of the bullpen on Opening Night. As a result, the Cardinals’ bullpen has been fairly inactive during the past week and relief pitchers may need more time to develop roles.
Given that teams generally come out of Spring Training action looking to build a rhythm, this recent stretch of inactivity proves vital to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Additionally, this recent stint of prolonged rest factors into the production of hitters. Perhaps Cardinal hitters can use this downtime to upgrade offensively, especially after posting a .194 team batting average and only scoring three runs through the first two games.
However, the lack of exposure to big league situations develops into a main concern during this recent period. For instance, Cardinal newcomers Jason Heyward and Mark Reynolds are taking on slightly differentiated roles from the previous season and could use more at bats early on to sustain their talents during this change of scenery.
The same principle could apply for St. Louis’s bench players as well, particularly for younger players like Randal Grichuk. After proving his value with a strong Spring Training, Grichuk worked his way to a bench spot on a team that consistently boasts a crowded outfield. If the Cardinals don’t carefully provide Grichuk with enough action, it’s possible that this recent scheduling could stunt his development as an athlete and cause a demotion to the minor leagues.
When looking from a manager’s perspective, this span of off days doesn’t necessarily allow Mike Matheny to access the team’s talent accurately. One could only hope that the Cardinals have used recent practices to prepare for the long haul of the season, but once again it won’t be easy for Matheny to manage the Cardinals until off days become more scarce down the stretch.
The Cardinals currently have two off days built in the schedule for the remainder of April. Barring any postponements, St. Louis is set to play four straight days until their next day of rest, which involves a three game road series against the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend and the highly anticipated Home Opener against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday.