Position Wars is another little tradition around here. At intervals throughout the season we look at the team won-lost record depending on who is starting at which position.
Catcher on the St Louis Cardinals, of course, belongs to future Hall-of-Famer Yadier Molina. Yadi has started 11 of the 12 games so far this month, and 31 of the 36 played. The team is 8-3 this month when Yadi catches, but only 16-15 (with a 3.78 ERA) in his 31 starts this season.
Addressing an area of some concern from last season, Eric Fryer has returned as an extremely capable backup catcher. The team is 5-0 with a 2.60 ERA when Eric starts.
So far this season, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha have only thrown to Molina. Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright have both made one start with Fryer catching. Lynn threw 7 innings of 3-hit, shutout ball in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on April 17. Wainwright’s performance was a little more ragged, but he lasted 6.1 innings in getting a 6-4 win against Toronto on April 27.
For whatever reason, Mike Leake has been the most frequent to draw Eric as his catcher. In his 7 starts so far this year, Mike has made 4 with Molina as his catcher (1-2, 1.71 ERA) and 3 with Fryer (3-0, 2.25 ERA).
The Cardinal management has opted for stability this season. That pointed to Matt Carpenter (a defensive nomad last year) being anointed as the everyday first baseman. Even though there was some momentary concern about third base, Matt has only played there once so far this season. Meanwhile, he has started all 12 games this month, and 30 of the 36 for the season at first.
In these games, the Cards are 18-12, scoring 4.83 runs per game with a team ERA of 3.78. When it hasn’t been Carpenter, first base has been manned by Jose Martinez (4 games) and Matt Adams (2 starts). In those 6 games, St Louis is 3-3 with a 2.83 ERA while scoring 3.33 runs per game.
The other beneficiary of the move toward continuity has been second baseman Kolten Wong. After a difficult start that may have had some questioning the organizational commitment to Kolten, Wong has settled in both offensively and defensively. He has started 11 of the 12 games this month, and has made 30 of the 36 this season at second.
The team has responded with a 19-11 record, a 3.35 ERA and 4.93 runs per game while Kolten has been the second baseman. His backups have been Jedd Gyorko (4 games) and Greg Garcia (2 games). St Louis is just 2-4 in those games, allowing a 5.12 ERA and scoring just 2.83 runs per game.
Shortstop has belonged to Aledmys Diaz ever since April of last year. Aldemys has started 32 of 36 games at short this season. He has been spotty, both offensively and defensively, and the record (17-15) sort of suggests that. Greg Garcia has been the backup at short, with the Cards winning all four of his starts.
Third base is the one position that has undergone a complete upheaval since the season began. Coming out of Spring Training, Jhonny Peralta wore the starter’s mantle. But Jhonny’s frigid start – complicated by health issues – sent him to the disabled. From whence he hasn’t yet returned.
Jhonny started at third 8 times in the team’s first 12 games. In those 8 games, St Louis went 1-7, with a 4.90 team ERA and a 2.38 runs per game average. In Peralta’s absence, everyone who has landed at third as seen substantial success. The Cards won Carpenter’s only start at third (6-4 over Toronto on April 27), and have won all 4 of Greg Garcia’s starts there.
But the man who has taken over there is Jedd Gyorko. He has started 19 of the last 22 games at third, and has started 23 games there this season – helping the Cards go 15-8 in those games with a 3.43 ERA and scoring an average of 5.43 runs.
The outfield positions – exceedingly stable early in the season – have been the scene of considerable tumult lately, as starters Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty and top backup Jose Martinez have all missed lineup time.
It was, in fact, the rapid loss of those three outfielders (they all went down in a three-game span from May 4 – 6), that initiated the most intriguing roster shuffle of the season, so far – the ascensions of Tommy Pham and Magneuris Sierra.
Pham has recently settled in left field. This month, he has started there 7 times with Randal Grichuk playing the other 5 games. St Louis is 6-1 in May with Pham in left, scoring 5.29 runs per game. They are 3-2 with Grichuk, scoring 5.09 runs per game. The team ERA has been better in May while Randal is in left (2.35 to 3.04).
For the season, St Louis is still just 10-12 in Grichuk’s 22 starts in left.
While left field has seen some changeover, center field – because of the injury to Fowler – has been ground zero of the Pham-Sierra intervention. In the first 12 games of May, all three have logged starts in center field. Pham has the fewest – he started there twice in between Fowler’s injury and Martinez.’ The Cards, of course, won both games. Fowler and Sierra have divided the other 10 starts evenly. The team is 2-3 this month when Fowler starts in center and 5-0 with Sierra.
For the season, Fowler has played 28 games in center. The Birds are 13-15 in those games. Throwing in one start that Grichuk made there, and the team is 8-0 so far this season when someone other than Fowler starts in center field. It’s only 8 games – mostly against lesser competition – but the Cards are scoring 6.50 runs per game in those 8 games and allowing an ERA of 2.45. Those numbers in Fowler’s starts are 4.04 and 3.98.
Right field has been Grichuk’s landing spot since Piscotty’s injury. He’s played 6 of the 12 games there this month – with the team winning 5 of the 6.
For the season, Stephen Piscotty is still the team leader with 23 starts in right, with the Cards going 11-12 in those games. They are 6-3 in the 9 games that Grichuk has started there.
Neither Fowler nor Piscotty started the season playing up to their capabilities. Nothing suggests that they won’t as the season goes along. How the Cards have played with Pham and Sierra is how they will play with Fowler and Piscotty eventually.
It’s hard to imagine Sierra sticking with the club once Piscotty is healthy. As impressive as he’s been, there is more development for him to do. Pham, of course, is another story. Until proven otherwise, the Cards consider that they have four quality starting outfielders.
Going forward, the three that hit will be the three that play.