The Cardinals scored 1.5 runs per game this week in games started by Jennry Mejia, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, and Bartolo Colon of the Mets. They hit no home runs in four games. The worst example of anemic offense came Tuesday night when, after two runs were in, and the bases were loaded with no outs, the Cardinals could not score more runs. Kolten Wong banged into a force-out at home. Adam Wainwright followed and did the same thing. Gee then struck out Matt Carpenter. They never said it, but you could hear it in the tones of the Cardinals’ radio announcers John Rooney and Rick Horton: what is going on here?
This is what’s going on here: the boppers just aren’t bopping. We’ve seen it before many times: a noticeable malaise or lull in which all of the players expected to lead the attack are struggling. Matt Carpenter just hit his first extra base hit this week. He is not walking as much–and is striking out more–from the leadoff spot. No one’s generating anything from the second spot in the order. Matt Holliday jams himself on hard stuff in–and pitchers work him inside more prolifically than almost any other hitter in the big leagues. He may have to start cheating–starting his swing earlier–which will only leave him more susceptible to sliders away from right-handers.
Allen Craig’s bat weeps. He has been bad against all pitching. There was some concern before the season about his drop in power last season. Now, management is wondering what happened to his skill of squaring up pitches. Matt Adams, the first baseman for most games can’t hit left-handers. It hurt the Cardinals yesterday in a big spot late in the game. Jhonny Peralta, the shiny addition to the attack who was supposed to provide pop from the shortstop position, is hitting .151.
The only players hitting are their part-time center fielder, Jon Jay, and catcher Yadier Molina. Mark Ellis knocked in two runs last week with sacrifices when inserted into the lineup, but since then, neither he nor Wong have scared pitchers. More and more, it appears that the Cardinals are short one veteran power bat–one embodied in the personage of Carlos Beltran, who led the team in home runs for the two seasons he spent on the club.
General Manager John Mozeliak acts on this kind of information. He is not rash, but strategic. There is a “fit” problem right now with this team. They thought the defense would be improved by moving Matt Carpenter back to his natural position, third base, and by acquiring fielding whiz Peter Bourjos to man center field. Bourjos isn’t hitting, and got one start in New York. What they glossed over is that even with Bourjos in the field, the outfield defense is subpar with Holliday and Craig in the corners, and Matt Adams is not a plus defender at first base. If Holliday, Craig, and Adams aren’t hitting, they cannot win.
The Cardinals have one week to iron out the problems with their offense. They will call up Oscar Taveras if he’s healthy enough. They will drop a pitcher from the active roster. They will not change the outfield rotation of Holliday, Jay/Bourjos, Craig, and Robinson, nor will they do anything with Descalso or Ellis–they are needed here now. They could put Craig at first, sit Adams down, and insert Taveras in right field to see what happens. This way, they keep a good left-handed bat in the lineup, improve their defense–if only marginally, but upgrade their bench, with Adams lurking for late-innings pinch-hit appearances. They could platoon Adams and Craig at first base to keep Adams’ production in the lineup against right-handers.
It’s unsettling, and unsettled. This is what it looks like when the bats cry.