Quickly the baseball season has crossed the one third mark. After a late-April/Early-May eruption had thrust the Cardinals into the thick of the division race, they have been mostly hovering for the last month or so. As Mike Matheny’s lineup continuously evolves, here are a few observations, 58 games into the season.
Greg Garcia carries a modest slash line of .254/.325/.388. He has made only 12 starts through the first 58 games. The Cards are 8-4 when Greg starts. They are 24-22 (.522) when he doesn’t.
Yadier Molina was back in the lineup last night for the first time in about a month. He made his thirtieth start of the season. St Louis is 18-12 (.600) when Yadi starts, scoring 4.70 runs per game. When Yadi is out of the lineup, the Cards are a 14-14 team, scoring 3.86 runs per game.
Speaking of injured Cardinals, Paul DeJong has been out of the lineup since he broke his hand back on May 17. Tonight, Miami will start lefthander Wei-Yin Chen against the Cards. Chen will be only the second left-hander to face St Louis since DeJong’s injury, 17 games ago (they lost to lefty Brent Suter back on May 28). Suter has been the only lefty to start against St Louis over their last 20 games.
The “Who Should Hit Leadoff” debate swings undecided into its third consecutive season. To this point, Tommy Pham earns a slight edge. He has hit there slightly more often (22 games) than the other contenders (Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter have both led off 17 times). The team is 13-9 with Pham at leadoff (.591), while scoring 4.55 runs per game. They are 9-8 with both Fowler and Carpenter hitting there, scoring 4.53 runs per game with Fowler, and 3.88 runs per game with Carp.
Pham also leads the team in hitting second. He has been second in the lineup 19 times, with Carpenter trailing him with 15 games batting in that spot. Offensively, the team has done better with Pham (4.32 runs per game to just 3.93 with Carp), but the winning percentage has been better with Carpenter. The team is 9-6 when he bats second, and just 10-9 (.526) with Pham hitting there.
Jose Martinez has found himself batting third in the lineup slightly more than half of the time (30 of the 58 games). This makes third the second most solidified spot in the Cardinal lineup. St Louis is 17-13 (.567) when Martinez hits third – albeit scoring just 4.20 runs per game. They have averaged 4.59 runs per game in the 17 games that Carpenter has hit third, but they are only 9-8 in those games.
The most solidified spot in the Cardinal lineup is cleanup, where Marcell Ozuna has hit 51 times in the season’s first 58 games. St Louis is 28-23 (.549) in those games, scoring 4.22 runs per game.
When Martinez isn’t batting third, he is usually batting fifth. His 15 appearances in this spot of the batting order also leads the team. Molina has hit here on 14 occasions, and Jedd Gyorko has hit fifth 12 times. Record-wise, Yadi has the clear edge. The team is 9-5 when he hits fifth. They are just 7-8 with Martinez there and 5-7 with Gyorko. They, however, do more scoring when Martinez hits fifth (4.67 runs per game, vs 4.29 with Molina and 3.83 with Gyorko).
The sixth spot in the order is such a grab bag, that two of the only three Cardinals that have hit there at least ten times have spent considerable stretches of the season on the disabled list. Molina – who has hit there the most (14 times) has just returned from an extended absence, and Paul DeJong (out for 17 games, now) has hit there 10 times. In between these two is Fowler, who was dropped to sixth to help him work his way out of his slump. DeJong’s presence in the lineup has been missed. The team was 6-4 in his games there. They have gone 7-6 with Fowler and 7-7 with Molina – although the offense has been perkier with Molina (4.86 runs per game) than the other two (4.10 with DeJong, and 3.92 with Fowler).
With the lefty starting (and because he is hitting just .183 on the season), Kolten Wong won’t be in the lineup tonight. In spite of his season-long offensive struggles, the team is still 9-2 when Wong hits seventh – and scoring a healthy 4.45 runs per game in those games. The only Cardinal who has hit there more often is DeJong. The team is 9-8 when Paul bats seventh, scoring 4.65 runs per game. They are 14-16 (.467) with everyone else there, scoring just 4.03 runs per game.
Wong is the most frequent eighth-place hitter. In his 23 games batting eighth, the team is just 11-12 (.478), albeit scoring 4.57 runs per game. Recently catcher Francisco Pena has made inroads here. He has hit eighth 16 times now, leading the team to a 9-7 record. In the 19 games that neither has hit eighth, St Louis is scoring just 3.89 runs per game – but has won 12 of the games (.632 winning percentage).
Fifty-eight games is enough to make these number interesting – but there is still far too much baseball ahead. As the season rolls on, we will keep an eye on these trends.