This isn’t your grandparents’ batting order; this is a modern, cutting-edge way to structure the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting nine.
Remember when the leadoff hitter was a guy who could run and the No. 3 man was a masher? In this era, it’s not that simple. The St. Louis Cardinals would do well to embrace the times.
While it is not up for much debate who is going to be leading off for the Cardinals in 2019, everything below that point is up for debate in my opinion. Mike Shildt has so many different ways he could structure the lineup, and that’s part of what is going to make this year exciting.
This lineup is my vision for what I would love to see Shildt do on Opening Day and beyond. You and others on Redbird Rants may disagree, but this is my personal take. This is a lineup you can set your watch to.
So much has been said about Carpenter’s inability to hit anywhere besides the leadoff spot. The difference between his statistics when hitting leadoff and when hitting anywhere else in the order is staggering. While these splits do factor into this spot a bit, the main reason he’s here is the fact that he can get on base. He’s not a burner by any means, so he won’t fit the speedy leadoff stereotype, but the speed aspect of baseball is hanging on by a thread.
These days, the leadoff hitter just needs to reach base consistently, and Carpenter fits that description. The power might seem as if it fits better in another spot, but the leadoff hitter will always receive the most plate appearances in a game, so the more chances he has to generate runs, the better.
Goldschmidt is the perfect No. 2 hitter in the age of sabermetrics. He can wallop homers and get on base as well. When he’s behind Carpenter, who reaches base very well, he has a good shot to hit at least a two-run homer more often than not.
The No. 2 guy used to be a contact hitter without much power who could help the guy in front of him advance bases or set up the guys behind him, but that isn’t the style of today. The No. 2 guy is the new No. 3 guy.
With so many years of Albert Pujols glamorizing the No. 3 spot, its significance may be overstated. Some calculations have shown that the No. 3 batter tends to receive fewer chances to drive in runners than the two batters who follow him do. But that being said, Molina makes solid contact and can be a table-setter of sorts if Goldschmidt goes yard and leaves the bases empty.
This spot also takes into account Molina’s lack of speed and makes him less likely to clog the bases for the speedier players hitting near the bottom of the lineup.
Ozuna would make a great No. 4 hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals if he can return to the form he showed with the Marlins. He has the power to drive the ball over the fence and the ability to shoot it into the gaps to get the runs home. The No. 4 hitter should have a high slugging percentage, and Ozuna has historically fit that bill, slugging a decent .452 over his career. And there’s always that chance that the first three hitters could get on and the cleanup hitter can live up to his title.
Sorry, but Dexter Fowler does not belong in the lineup. O’Neill has raked this spring, and he deserves to hit in a spot where his talents can shine. Like the No. 4 spot, the No. 5 spot is about power, and O’Neill possesses it in spades. If his spring performance carries over to the regular season, he could be a beast in this spot.
6. Paul DeJong
DeJong was a solid hitter in his rookie year and somewhat less so in 2018, but he has all the tools to hit in this spot, which is meant to bridge the gap between the power hitters and the generally less adept batters at the bottom. DeJong has shown some pop in his bat and serves as a good transition to the bottom part of the lineup.
7. Kolten Wong
The seventh spot is ideally the place for the weakest hitter in the lineup besides the pitcher. Wong fits this bill, but he’s not a bad hitter; he’s more streaky than anything, which is fine for a batter in this spot. Wong can run decently as well, which is good for the pitcher batting behind him, who could have the chance to bunt him over.
Tony La Russa pioneered the St. Louis Cardinals’ strategy of hitting the pitcher eighth, and it was a good one. While the eighth hitter will receive more at-bats than the ninth batter over the course of a year, the effect can be mitigated because starting pitchers have shorter outings than ever, thus usually only receiving two or three at-bats a game. Pinch-hitters and double switches will minimize the drawback of pitchers in this spot.
Bader is the team’s speed demon, and he can serve as that second leadoff man some teams like to employ. He can work as more of a traditional leadoff hitter with his running prowess, and a position player batting in this spot is more important to the St. Louis Cardinals than to most other teams because of Carpenter’s power at the top and his ability to drive in runs.
Mike Shildt’s choice to hit Goldschmidt second in the lineup, at least at the start of the season, shows that he has some knowledge of how the batting order can be optimized. If he makes a couple more changes, this lineup could do even more damage and lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a playoff berth.