The St. Louis Cardinals lineup has been wildly inconsistent to start the year. Maybe, it’s time to break out a different look with the batting order.
It’s been an odd but somehow familiar start at the plate for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2021. Some days, the offense looks amazing and puts up a ton of runs, then other days, they look lost at the plate and get buried.
This was demonstrated perfectly in the final two games against the Phillies this past weekend when the Cards scored 9 on Saturday, then got shut out on Sunday. It’s the same story, just a new year.
Globally, the Cardinals are 7-8 on the year, treading water in third place in the division just 2.0 games back of the leading Reds. In no way is anything out of hand or lost for the season, the Cards just need to find a way to be more consistent.
In wins, the Cardinals average 7.42 runs a game, in losses, they just average 2.38 runs. What these big wins have caused is the offense to look better as a whole. Right now, the Cardinals are a top 10 team in baseball in runs scored but are a bottom third team in wRC+ at 88.
As Mike Shildt fairly points out, the Cardinals might be suffering some batted ball luck as they sit 3rd in hard-hit percentage in baseball. The Cardinals are also in the top five unluckiest teams when it comes to their difference between wOBA and xwOBA and have the biggest (unlucky) difference between their expected and actual slugging to this point.
The offense has definitely gotten unlucky and would look a lot better if they slugged the expected 90 points higher, but they also haven’t been consistent.
This lack of luck should even itself out, but there is another way Mike Shildt could try and jump-start the offense — by changing the lineup.
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Late in spring training, I enjoyed the idea of Paul Goldschmidt batting second and Nolan Arenado hitting third. When it has gone well for the Cardinals this year, it has gone very well. However, the problem that stacking the team’s two best hitters at second and third in the lineup creates is that the lineup isn’t as deep.
Even with Goldy and Arenado being protected by the ageless wonder Yadier Molina in the cleanup spot, after Molina things get a lot worse, especially when Shildt insists on batting Matt Carpenter fifth. Carp is still hitting the ball hard but is still not getting results. For the time being, there aren’t any other outfielders pushing for playing time outside of the platoon of Justin Williams/Austin Dean, so playing Carp is fine, just don’t bat him fifth.
Shildt made the right move by not pushing Dylan Carlson too hard out of the gate, keeping him lower in the lineup. However, batting him 7th or 8th is wasting the production he has been showing. Carlson has a .255/.357/.511 slash line so far. Moving him up to the top of the lineup runs the risk of putting too much pressure on him, but he also looks like a great two-hitter.
Here’s a look at a different lineup configuration:
- Edman, RF
- Carlson, CF
- Goldschmidt, 1B
- Arenado, 3B
- Molina, C
- DeJong, SS
- Carpenter, 2B
- Williams, LF
With this, Carlson’s on-base percentage would make for more chances for the big bats in the lineup to do damage. Sure, the team’s two best hitters wouldn’t bat in the first inning, but Arenado has preferred to hit cleanup his entire career.
Molina can still provide protection for Arenado while he’s hot, and the bottom three in the lineup can contribute as best they can. The great thing about this lineup is that it also would work fine when Harrison Bader returns. Put Carlson in left field and switch out Williams and Bader in the order.
This lineup just looks deeper than the current configuration and would likely lead to more RBI chances for Goldy and Arenado.
The Cardinals need to figure out some lineup consistency, no matter how they do it. Changing the lineup is just one idea, but if the issues continue, they have to try something.