While the St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching staff has been hyped as one of the strongest in baseball, hurlers can help their case for winning with intangible skills off the mound.
In particular, St. Louis Cardinals’ rotation members can make the most of their National League environment by demonstrating their hitting abilities in efforts to win games. Despite recent interest in adding a designated hitter to the National League, pitchers provide a different strategical approach to an offense that allows them to translate their athleticism into unexpected contributions.
Last season’s .136 batting average among the St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching staff was the second-highest total in the Mike Matheny era. However, the Cardinals’ hurlers finished the 2015 campaign without producing a home run for the second consecutive year.
After losing John Lackey to free agency and Lance Lynn to Tommy Jon surgery, the Cardinals’ starting rotation will carry a slightly different set of offensive skills into 2016. A new leader could emerge in the ninth batting order spot on any given day, but the debate becomes which St. Louis pitcher has the best chance to set an offensive example for the rest of the staff?
The most inevitable choice may be Adam Wainwright, an owner of a .198 batting average, six home runs and 39 RBIs in his ten seasons with the Cardinals. Wainwright’s experience could help him understand the ways in which hitters approach the weaknesses and strengths of opposing pitchers, but his productiveness at the plate remains to be determined after experiencing an Achilles injury as a hitter last April.
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St. Louis’s most recent addition to the staff also carries some strong offensive credentials, as Mike Leake has hit a pair of home runs in three of the last four seasons. Although his batting average has not peaked over the Mendoza Line since 2012, Leake’s 23 career RBIs make him a viable offensive substitute if available in extra innings contests.
Pitchers have played roles in various small ball efforts for the Cardinals, most specifically Michael Wacha with six sacrifice bunts and four walks last year. By maintaining patience at the plate, Wacha can work the counts of opposing pitchers and register productive outs in sudden opportunities.
After combining for a .124 batting average in 2015, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia have a reasonable chance of offensive improvement in the upcoming season. Both pitchers could enhance their hitting by using situational factors to their advantage, rather it be familiar weather conditions or height differences compared to opposing pitchers.
Since Bob Forsch is the only pitcher in Cardinals’ history to earn Silver Slugger honors, St. Louis may seek gradual hitting improvements from their pitchers to maintain a balanced offensive lineup from top to bottom. If the Cardinals’ rotation can discover consistency on the mound, then utilizing their offensive potential could be the next step in becoming a pitching staff unlike any other in baseball.