St. Louis Cardinals: Power-packed Offense Continues Onslaught

Apr 10, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Stephen Piscotty (55) singles against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Stephen Piscotty (55) singles against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals have busted out the big sticks during the first month of the season. Will it continue?

Come along with me, friends…to the Twilight Zone. In this alternate reality, your St. Louis Cardinals blast majestic homers and, dare I say, lead Major League Baseball in many offensive categories.

But wait, this isn’t an alternate reality. I’ve pinched myself twice and thrown water on my face a couple of times to make sure. No, this is real life, and the Cardinals are arguably the best offense in baseball through the first month of the season. This team, at least early on, has shown no signs of slowing down when it’s come to putting runs up on the board, either.

After an 11-4 drumming of the Arizona Diamondbacks last night, which included a home run from that man again — Aledmys Diaz — the Cardinals have continued their offensive onslaught. Pause with me to really put into perspective what the Cardinals have accomplished offensively in the first month of the season.

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St. Louis currently ranks second behind the D-Backs in homers with 33 dingers, first in triples (11), first in runs scored (137) and first in RBI (131). Not to mention, the Cardinals are ranked second in the MLB with a .283 batting average, second in OBP (.362), first in slugging (.504) and lead all of baseball with an .866 OPS.

Since the Cardinals got swept by the Pirates to start the season, the offense has kicked into another gear. In 12 of their 21 games this month the Cardinals have scored seven runs or more, including five in a row since April 23.

No one could have or would have predicted an offense this potent for the Redbirds back in December. The bats have powered up in April, and the guys swinging the big sticks for St. Louis are far from household names.

Jeremy Hazelbaker (dare I say the second coming of Ryan Ludwick) currently leads these Birds with five homers. Following him are Brandon Moss (5), Diaz (4), Jedd Gyorko (4) and Stephen Piscotty (4).

The Cardinals are getting stellar production from a rag-tag group of outcasts and trade pieces. The one name in that bunch that had some big shoes to fill this season is Piscotty, and he hasn’t disappointed. Let’s pause there for a minute.

I brought up these comparisons on Twitter the other day. Piscotty has been fantastic to start the year, and he’s all but made Cardinals fans forget about Jason Heyward. After last night’s 4-for-5 performance, the right fielder holds a .305/.380/.537 slash line with a .917 OPS, 4 home runs and 15 RBI.

Heyward, by the way, currently holds a .244/.344/.295 line with a .639 OPS, 0 home runs and 12 RBI for the Chicago Cubs. Piscotty has stepped up defensively, too. The 25-year old ranks second in all of baseball with 7 defensive runs saved, which is four more than Heyward. Of course, it’s early.

It is only one month, but I’ve got a feeling Piscotty can put up similar production, at least offensively, for the rest of the season. He looks like a seasoned veteran at the plate. Piscotty has quietly stepped up and answered the call so far this season, and it has been fun to watch.

Speaking of fun to watch, how about Aledmys Diaz? After finishing 2-for-4 last night with a home run and two RBI, Diaz got enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. And right now the Cuban shortstop leads the MLB with a shiny .468 batting average. Almost more incredible is the fact that Diaz’s 4.5 strikeout percentage also leads the Majors. The 25-year old has struck out just three times in 62 at bats. THREE. Let that sink in.

I wrote earlier this week that it’s time manager Mike Matheny bats the rookie higher in the lineup. Batting him 8th is wasting this hot streak that he is on. Alas, Matheny once again has Diaz penciled in the 8th spot ahead of tonight’s game, and Matt Adams gets the start at first base batting…6th. That is a suspect decision at best, and close friends of mine well tell you that is me putting that decision very mildly.

Even still, this Cardinals offense has been incredible to start the season, but the starting pitching has been a different story. The Cardinals starting staff ranks 16th in baseball with a 4.16 starters ERA. If not for the efforts of Carlos Martinez (4-0 with a 1.93 ERA) and Michael Wacha (2-0 with a 2.82 ERA), this Cardinals staff would be sunk at the bottom of the ocean.

Imagine what the Cardinals’ record could be if the starters had lived up to expectations this first month. The pitching should get better as the season progresses, though. Thankfully, the Cardinals bullpen has still been pretty strong so far this season.

Many hitters like Hazelbaker, Diaz and Gyorko are likely to cool off. So, regulars Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk will have to pick up the slack. But if this offense can continue to keep up at even half this pace, it will be a fun season to watch for Cardinals fans.

Next: Cardinals Prospect Watch: Edmundo Sosa

Time will tell if the Cardinals can continue their power surge. In the meantime, enjoy it.