At intervals throughout the season, we look at the way the Cardinal lineup is evolving and note the team’s response depending on who is playing and who is sitting and where they hit in the lineup.
Today, roughly one-fifth of the way through the season, riding a six-game winning streak as part if an overall 16-5 streak, and poised to open a compelling 8-game homestand against some teams we have some history against, this is as good a time as any to take our first look.
In short order at the end of the last home stand and the beginning of the road trip, the Cards had three outfielders go down. Stephen Piscotty and Jose Martinez landed on the disabled list. Dexter Fowler has stayed with the team – and made some contributions from the bench – but hasn’t been in the starting lineup since dinging his shoulder. It’s the kind of concentrated injury event that tests a team’s depth and resolve.
Sometimes, though, a run of injuries at one position will significantly profit a team. Remember that last year it was injuries to both Jhonny Peralta and Reuben Tejada that opened the door for Aledmys Diaz to take over as the team’s shortstop.
Stunningly, into the gap this year came Tommy Pham and Magneuris Sierra. The team hasn’t lost since. At 21-years-old and having never played above A ball, Sierra is sensationally unlikely to stick once Fowler is healthy enough to start. He has certainly sent the message, though, that he is very much in the future plans of this organization.
Pham is a different story. Always a great potential, Pham’s advancement has been stunted by health and eye issues. If these are, indeed, resolved – and Tommy believes they are – then Tommy Pham becomes a very intriguing presence on the Cardinal roster. As long as he is hitting, I can’t see him sitting.
More than Pham and Sierra
But the productive depth on this team doesn’t stop with the re-called outfielders.
Last year the Cards mostly suffered when catcher Yadier Molina needed a day. While Eric Fryer was on the roster, the Cards were an OK 5-3 when Eric started. But after a roster jam sent Fryer to Pittsburgh, St Louis went on to go 2-6 when Alberto Rosario started in Molina’s place, and 0-2 in the 2 games that Brayan Pena started.
This year, Fryer is back – and the Cards are 5-0 in his starts.
Greg Garcia is another “taken for granted” resident of the St Louis bench. The Cards are 8-1 when Greg finds his way into the starting lineup.
Jose Martinez hit his way onto the team in spring. Whether or not he returns to the roster when healthy, his impact has been positive. The Cards are 8-2 when he starts.
Gyorko and Wong Rising
Whether there was a discussion, or whether it was the result of Mike Matheny pondering the state of his team, the roster and lineup changed significantly after the Yankees finished off their three-game sweep with a 9-3 win on April 16. At that point, St Louis was 3-9 and 4.5 games back in the division. At that point, Peralta was the starting third baseman and Matheny was sort of splitting second base between Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong.
As the Cards returned home to face Pittsburgh on Monday, April 17, they did so without Peralta. Jhonny, fatigued by some medications prescribed him, was disabled. Third base was opened to Gyorko (he has made 16 of the last 19 starts there). And Kolten Wong took possession of second base. He has started there for every game of the Cards recent 16-5 run. Gyorko and Wong were two prominent question marks entering the season. To this point (33 games in) they have emphatically answered the questions. For the season, St Louis is 18-10 (.643) when Wong starts, and 14-10 (.583) when Gyorko starts.
It’s still a bit early in the season to put too much credence in these numbers, but there are certainly some interesting trends developing.
Dexter Fowler was brought here at significant expense to hit leadoff – and I’m sure that by the end of the season this will have worked out well. At this point, St Louis is 12-14 (.462) when Fowler hits leadoff. They are 7-0 when anyone else hits there (6-0 when that someone is Kolten Wong).
For most of the early part of the season, Aledmys Diaz hit in this spot. The Cards were only 9-13 (.409) in in those games. St Louis is 10-0 with Randal Grichuk (4 games), Martinez and Garcia (3 games each) batting second.
Fowler’s addition pushed Matt Carpenter into the third slot in the order. This move has worked out as well as could be expected. St Louis is 17-12 (.586) and scoring 4.86 runs per game with Carpenter hitting third. They are only 2-2 with other hitters there.
Shortly after Jedd Gyorko settled in at third base, he settled into the fourth spot in the batting order. Piscotty had been there at the beginning of the season. In his 11 starts in the cleanup position, St Louis floundered to a 4-7 record (.364), scoring 3.82 runs per game. Gyorko has now started in the cleanup spot for 14 games – the Cards have responded with a 10-4 record (.714), scoring 5.93 runs per game.
All the lower spots in the batting have been subject to a great deal of flux. Already this season, 8 different players have batted fifth, five of them more than once.
To this point, Molina has hit here the most – 16 games – during which the Cards have been 9-7 (.563). They are 10-7 (.588) when someone else hits here. However, the team scores 5.19 runs per game when Molina bats fifth and only 4.12 when he doesn’t.
Molina has also hit here the most of any of the ten different Cardinals that have batted in this spot. They are 5-5 scoring 3.80 runs per game with Molina in this spot. They are 5-1 scoring 7.00 runs per game with Diaz hitting here.
Randal Grichuk has landed here more frequently than anyone else so far – although that only constitutes 14 starts. Grichuk and the Cards haven’t really prospered with him here – they are 5-9 (.357) in those games. Eight other players have batted seventh so far this season, with the team winning 14 of those 19 games (.737).
This is where Wong was hitting before he replaced Fowler at the top of the lineup. In his 18 starts batting eighth, St Louis is 9-9, scoring 4.28 runs per game.