St. Louis Cardinals: MLB releases top-10 lineup rankings

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 10: Matt Carpenter
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 10: Matt Carpenter /

As Opening day draws closer for Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals, plenty of rankings have started to come in as well.

Yesterday, the MLB Twitter handle kicked off their rankings on teams starting with the top-10 lineups for 2018. You found the usual suspects like the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, and New York Yankees. To no surprise either, the St. Louis Cardinals also cracked the top-10 lineups for 2018.

The complete list is as follows:

  1. Houston Astros
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Washington
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Cleveland Indians
  6. Chicago Cubs
  7. Los Angeles Dodgers
  8. Minnesota Twins
  9. St. Louis Cardinals
  10. Oakland Athletics

Honestly, I can’t disagree with the top two names on the list. It makes sense to keep the reigning champs in the number one spot, but the Yankees are not far behind. The addition of Giancarlo Stanton could be the best thing to happen to Aaron Judge in his sophomore season. Four through seven makes sense as well. You could probably shuffle some teams around, like the Indians, but no one really stands out-of-place in that range.

I’ll talk about the St. Louis Cardinals here in a little bit, but there are some surprises on the list and not on the list.

I’m nitpicking here, but I don’t personally think the Twins’ lineup is better than the Cardinals. Now, how much better is up for debate, but I definitely think the list is banking on more potential than reality. That isn’t to say they don’t have good players either. They have a good mix of young and veteran hitters. Plus playing in the AL Central is a bonus as well. The Twins will be good, but I think the Cardinals offer a more complete lineup than the Twins in terms of balance.

I also have to talk about the obvious question mark on the list in the Oakland A’s. If you’re like me, you probably said, “No way,” but it’s not too farfetched to think they could have a good year offensively.

They have plenty of guys with power, and that’s great, but will anyone be on base in front of those power guys? It wouldn’t surprise me to see some of their power guys end up with numbers similar to Jedd Gyorko‘s 2016 season. That year he hit thirty home runs, but only drove in fifty-nine runs while sporting at .243 batting average. Underwhelming, right?

The biggest omissions from this list in my opinion are the Arizona Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers, and Colorado Rockies. I definitely lean more towards putting the D’backs and Brewers on the list of the Rockies because overall balance in the lineup, but not including at least one of those teams is strange. I think the Brewers offer more than the Athletics do as well as the D’Backs. If they are ten or eleven, then I guess I’ll let it slide.

As far as the St. Louis Cardinals are concerned, I can’t really be mad at the rankings. I already said they could move up a spot in the rankings, but does that really mean anything? At the end of the day, if you take a look at the teams of above the Cardinals, you’d agree the Cardinals are slightly behind them. While they sit in the nine spot for now, I think the last couple of weeks have shown what this offense is truly capable of in 2018.

The article actually presents a projected lineup for the St. Louis Cardinals. The lineup is as follows:

  1. Dexter Fowler
  2. Tommy Pham
  3. Matt Carpenter
  4. Marcell Ozuna
  5. Jedd Gyorko
  6. Yadier Molina
  7. Paul DeJong
  8. Kolten Wong

In reality, it’s not a bad lineup formation. However, I don’t believe it is the lineup manager Mike Matheny goes with on Opening Day. The more likely scenario we will see is Jedd Gyorko slip down to the seventh spot and Molina and DeJong move up a spot a piece.

Last night on our podcast, we discussed having Gyorko in the fifth spot of Molina or DeJong. The guys didn’t think it mattered too much, but I disagree. While Gyorko has plenty of pop, there is something about a career .245 hitter in the fifth spot that doesn’t bode well for a lineup. the Cardinals would do better with someone who can put the ball in play at higher clip than .245. Both DeJong and Molina do that. I think Molina would be the ideal candidate to hit behind Ozuna because of contact, but DeJong’s power and contact is something the Cardinals will need to take advantage of this season.

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The only thing going for Gyorko is he hit for a career high in average at .272. That also included career highs in OBP and OPS at .341 and .813 respectively. Unfortunately that’s the only time he’s produced the numbers. Not to also mention he was injured last season for time, so are the numbers truly a product of an improved approach or skewed by games missed? Either way, I’m not sold on him.

If I had to guess what the lineup will actually be on Opening Day, I believe we will see something of this nature:

  1. Fowler
  2. Pham
  3. Carpenter
  4. Ozuna
  5. Molina
  6. DeJong
  7. Gyorko
  8. Wong

I’ve received some push back for putting Molina fifth and keeping Carpenter in the third hole, but I can’t deny how the offense has looked since Carpenter’s return. I’m not expecting them to score thirteen runs a game, but there just seems to be a better flow and approach at the plate.

I know there are fans still wanting to see Carpenter hit in the leadoff spot, but as I’ve said before, Carpenter hitting in front of Ozuna is something people should get used to for a couple of reasons. The first being Carpenter’s OBP. While yes it is effective out of the leadoff spot, it is also something you must take into account when pitching to Carpenter knowing Ozuna is right behind him.

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Pitchers will have to make the choice between getting either Carpenter out or Ozuna out. If you were a pitcher that person would be Carpenter based on his last couple of seasons.

That means mistakes are more likely to come Carpenter’s way in some at bats, which increases the opportunity for Carpenter to deal some damage out of three spot and get on base in front of Ozuna.

The obvious rebuttal is why not just shift Carp to leadoff and then Fowler and Pham to two and three respectively? It’s alternative solution, sure, but there is one thing I worry about with this approach.

Tommy Pham in the three hole sounds great on paper and would have been nice to see last year in his resurgence, but it’s dangerous. I’m not saying he isn’t a good hitter, but you have to wonder what the regression will be like if there is one.

Can the St. Louis Cardinals afford to have Pham regress that much in such an important spot in the lineup? Tommy Pham is betting on himself and so is Cardinal Nation, but I think Matheny is keeping his lineup balanced with the lineup I suggested from above.

The reality is Matheny has a very difficult decision to make when it comes to the lineup. He is going against what he knows in Carpenter’s numbers out of the leadoff spot to potentially optimize the entire lineup’s potential. You can spit all the numbers you want for Carp in the leadoff spot, but I believe his abilities are best used in front of Ozuna to sustain the offensive attack.

Just look at the last week or so of games when Carpenter has hit in front of Ozuna. The offense it clicking right now and if they carry that into the beginning of the season and on, there’s no telling how good this offense truly could be.

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What do you think? Are the St. Louis Cardinals the ninth best lineup in baseball? Should they be higher or lower? Let me know in the comments below.