St. Louis Cardinals: Jose Martinez at first creates problems for others

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SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 5: Jose Martinez
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 5: Jose Martinez /
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The St. Louis Cardinals lineup for the first four games has featured Jose Martinez at first base. This creates playing time issues for a few players.

I think it came as a relative shock for many St. Louis Cardinals fans to hear Jose Oquendo say, “He’s our everyday guy,” when referring to Jose Martinez at first base. I, along with most fans, thought Matt Carpenter was the primary first baseman, with Jedd Gyorko playing third, and Kolten Wong playing second. I assumed Jose would get a start or two at first base each week, moving Carp somewhere else. And, I thought Jose would get some starts at corner outfield positions. It seems I was wrong.

When looking at Jose’s hitting statistics and ability, it’s hard to argue against him playing everyday. In 2017, he had a .897 OPS in just 272 at-bats. But, his defensive limitations kept him in the minors for years and out of the everyday lineup when called up. He worked at first base throughout the winter and having Jose Oquendo back to tutor him throughout the year was apparently enough to put him there every game. When you hit like he has, you have to play somewhere.

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This “new” lineup, as it seems through four games, creates a time share between Gyorko and Wong.  The former started the last two games at third base, shifting Matt Carpenter to second base. The latter started the first two games of the season at second, while Carp played third.

So, Wong has started half of the young season’s games and Gyorko the other half. Gyorko had tremendous career numbers against Zach Davies, the Brewer’s starter monday. So, maybe that’s why Jedd started in place of Wong. Maybe Gyorko is truly going to be a super-utility player – getting starts at all infield spots throughout the year. Who truly knows at this point?

My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that Jedd and Wong are going to essentially split time. Jedd will play third when he’s in the lineup (at least most of the time) and Wong will play second when he’s in the lineup. Really, this turns Matt Carpenter into the super-utility everyday guy. He’ll play second, third, and first this year.

With JMart at first and Carp at third, our defense, at least early on, will be worse. Carp has negative eight defensive runs saved at third base for his career. He’s played over 3600 innings there, so it’s not a limited sample size. JMart, has negative one DRS at first base. He’s only played 295 innings there, so that is a limited sample. Carp has zero DRS in just over 1500 innings at first. Gyorko saved 16 runs at third base last year, the second best number in all of baseball. When the St. Louis Cardinals put Carp at second, the defense isn’t much better. He has negative 10 DRS for his career at that position.

However, the offense should be better. The trio of JMart, Carp, and Wong/Gyorko is better offensively than a trio of Carp, Wong, and Gyorko (this trio assumes Jose is sitting).

As some of us writers at Redbird Rants have discussed, this seemingly turns Wong and/or Gyorko into expensive bench pieces. Wong has a 5 year/$25 million deal. Gyorko is making $22 million over the next two years with a $13 million team option in 2020.

All of this could change during the season. One could get hot at the plate and earn an everyday role. One could get injured and go on the DL (as Jedd did yesterday). They might just share playing time all season. Or, maybe Wong really is the everyday guy, but due to match-ups he sat a game, and I’m thinking too much into this. Four games in, it’s really too early to tell.

Next: Cardinals beat Brewers

What do you guys think? Will the St. Louis Cardinals have a timeshare between Gyorko and Wong this year? Will Jose Martinez truly be the everyday first baseman? Let me know. Thanks for reading.

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