After being swept by the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, the St. Louis Cardinals’ record stands at 26-28 as the summer months begin.
With one-third of the 2017 season come and gone, the St. Louis Cardinals find themselves just two and a half games back of the division lead in the National League Central. At the same time, their sub-.500 record leaves much to be desired.
The Cardinals opened the season by dropping nine of their first twelve games, and then went on a hot streak against some of the league’s weaker competition. Since enjoying a brief first-place stay in the division in mid-May, the Cardinals are back to playing disappointing baseball.
St. Louis’ hot streak came against sub-par teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Braves, and Miami Marlins. They haven’t fared so well against premiere teams such as the Washington Nationals, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs.
The starting pitching, with the recent exception of Michael Wacha, has been superb. The defense and baserunning hasn’t markedly improved from last year. The bullpen has been a crapshoot. The offense has under-performed all year.
Management and the Front Office can either hedge its bets on the rotation remaining exceptional while the bullpen and offense improve, or they can shake things up.
It is often said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process while expecting different results, so here are some moves the organization can make in an effort to redirect the course of the 2017 season:
Jhonny Peralta is the only player in Major League Baseball this season with at least fifty plate appearances and zero extra-base hits and runs batted in. That’s a far fall from grace for a player who at times paced the Cardinals’ lineup in 2014 and 2015.
Peralta is on the last year of his contract with the Cardinals. Jedd Gyorko has a strong hold on the starting third base gig, and Peralta’s role is simply a reserve infielder and pinch-hitter at this point.
Kolten Wong, along with Gyorko, is one of the only Cardinals who is hitting better this year than his career numbers would indicate. Wong is set to return soon from the disabled list, and figures to reclaim his starting job at second base when that happens.
Paul DeJong has performed admirably as the team’s primary second baseman in Wong’s absence, but Wong’s return doesn’t mean DeJong should be demoted back to Triple-A Memphis and Peralta should be let off the hook.
DeJong can play third base and shortstop in addition to second base, and could keep himself busy as a fourth infielder, spelling both Wong and shortstop Aledmys Diaz at times. He’d also be a better pinch-hitting option from the right side than Jhonny Peralta.
Actually give Magneuris Sierra a chance
Magneuris Sierra has already seen two stints in the big leagues this season. The first was a result of Jose Martinez going on the disabled list in early May. The second was for just two games over the weekend during the Cubs series when Jedd Gyorko took paternity leave.
All Sierra’s done in his limited time with the Cardinals is set the franchise record for longest hitting streak to begin a career (eight), play solid outfield defense, and be a spark plug on the base paths for a team sorely lacking in baserunning ability.
The Cardinals already sent Randal Grichuk down to the Minor Leagues, and Tommy Pham has received the majority of the looks in left field in Grichuk’s place. But can Pham do enough to prove he’s a viable starting option in the outfield for the remainder of the season?
Even if Pham, Fowler, and Piscotty hold off any competition for their roles as starting outfielders for the time being, Sierra is a better option than Jose Martinez for the role of fourth outfielder. Martinez contributed offensively to begin the year, but has tailed off since his trip to the disabled list.
If the St. Louis Cardinals look at results and recognize that Sierra has done everything to earn an extended look on the big-league roster, they’ll make room for him.
Promote Memphis first baseman Luke Voit and drop a relief pitcher
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The Cardinals have carried eight relief pitchers for pretty much the entire season. All its done is added to the uncertainty in the bullpen. Meanwhile, the team lacks a true backup first baseman after dealing Matt Adams to the Braves, and its regular first baseman, Matt Carpenter, is in the midst of an abysmal stretch at the plate.
At Triple-A Memphis, the organization has a first baseman in Luke Voit who is slashing .323/.404/.552 on the year with eight home runs and thirty-two runs batted in. The right-handed hitter actually has reverse splits at the plate, hitting righties for a .331 average, and lefties at a still-respectable .289 mark.
Why not give the 26-year old a chance? A spot on the St. Louis Cardinals roster could easily be freed up by trimming the pitching staff to a more conventional seven-man bullpen. Voit could even press Carpenter for some starting time if the first baseman’s struggles continue.
The offense isn’t the only facet of the team that needs to improve for the St. Louis Cardinals’ fortunes to improve this season. But a few simple moves that reflect a commitment to results would be a start.