The St. Louis Cardinals intended to start a younger lineup in 2014. That plan went awry before the end of the first month of play, as they sent down 23-year-old Kolten Wong, the second baseman who bats left, and right-handed bat and outfielder Shane Robinson on April 27th. Second baseman Greg Garcia and outfielder Randal Grichuk were brought up in their places, but Garcia is not expected to get regular starts at the keystone.
This means 37-year-old Mark Ellis, signed to be Wong’s tutor and backup, and starting against left-handed pitching, will get the bulk of the starts in the near term. Ellis was an above average second baseman in the league in 2013, but he has trouble with right-handers, and doesn’t have the speed that Wong promised to inject into the offense.
One of the Cardinals’ first orders of business over the winter was to upgrade their outfield defense. They did so by acquiring Peter Bourjos from the Angels for David Freese. Bourjos is whiffing at a high rate, and he can’t get regular starts in center field. With Jon Jay in center, it’s about the same quality of defenders as they had last season with Craig replacing Beltran in right field. Craig isn’t delivering the power that Beltran is providing now in the Bronx, with the Yankees.
Matt Carpenter‘s all-around game has not been up to the standard he set last year. He has two extra-base hits, and has been shaky in the field. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta leads the team with six home runs, but has been an almost automatic out in his other at-bats. Second base has been a hole for weeks. Matt Adams has been quiet, batting often in the cleanup spot.
With the configuration of Ellis at second, Peralta at short, and Jay in center the Cardinals are, if anything, less athletic in the field than they were last year, and their power at the plate is down as well. They were hitting homers at half the rate of 2013, until last night’s solo blasts from Holliday and Craig. They can’t continue to rely on “moving the line along”, as John Rooney says on the radio. Guys here now have to pick up the slack, by getting from Craig and Adams what they were projected to do, for starters.
Kyle Lohse looks to pick up his fifth consecutive win tonight. Lohse is a smart pitcher who helps himself in the field and at the plate. It could be another quizzical night for the Cardinals’ sputtering offense.