The top half of the lineup should be reserved for those with the best OBP. It makes no sense why the St. Louis Cardinals are breaking that rule.
I really don’t enjoy writing articles with negative titles or negative themes throughout, but the subject of this piece is something that has lately been frustrating to watch as a fan. The St. Louis Cardinals are generally a smart team. Mike Shildt is generally a smart manager.
Why Shildt has chosen to continue to bat Yairo Munoz at the top of the lineup when he is clearly not the right fit is what’s frustrating.
Arguably, a very similar article could be written about the Cardinals usual leadoff man, Tommy Edman, as he is not much better in this regard, but let’s focus on Munoz for today.
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The clear aim of a batting order is to set up a team to score the most runs. There are a lot of different viewpoints on how much or how little the order matters, but in the first two innings or so, it matters because those are the players that bat when the pitcher may not have found his groove yet and is the only time that a team can really choose what order to send players up in.
Following this, it makes sense to put the teams’ highest on-base batters at the very top of the lineup so that there is the best chance to get players on base in front of the mashers lower down the lineup.
All of this is widely accepted and makes a lot of sense. So why is Munoz, with his .301 OBP and sub-.700 OPS batting second so often? Over the last two weeks, Munoz has batted in the top three of the lineup five times in the month of July which may not seem like a lot, but in 20% of the games this month, the Cardinals have willingly put a player with a -0.2 WAR to bat in the first inning.
Since this tweet, Munoz’ OPS has dipped below the .700 mark, and while he still has a .280 batting average, that’s the only offensive stat that paints him positively. Again, Munoz has batted top three in the lineup just five times this month, but people seem to be wishing and hoping he stays up there.
I wasn’t going to publish these thoughts but when I saw the tweet from Mr. Saxon I felt slightly more inspired. Yairo Munoz is a good utility infielder. He has a lot of versatility all over the diamond, he can adequately play six defensive positions. Munoz can run into a pitch every once in a while and hit it out.
This is a very bad generalization, but a role player like Munoz is valuable and very important to have, but as soon as players like this start to play every day, they show why they weren’t starters in the first place. Look no further than the stints when Jedd Gyorko had to play every day in the last couple of years.
Shildt may have been trying to catch and ride a player while he was hot, something I’m all for, but when looking at his last week of performance, Munoz has a .492 OPS. The alternative in centerfield of Bader is not any better an if Munoz has to play while Fowler is hurt, just don’t put him at the top of the lineup.