For three off-seasons, now, the organizational mantra has been “find an impact bat, find an impact bat, find an impact bat.” Impact bat, here, means slugger. Two off-seasons ago they landed Marcell Ozuna. Last winter they reeled in Paul Goldschmidt.
Now, I have nothing against impact bats, and was not displeased to see Ozuna and Goldschmidt added to the Cardinal lineup. But there are some aspects of baseball that are so common-sensical that they shouldn’t need mentioning. And among the immutable truths of baseball is that offense is a function of the depth of your lineup. How many of your batters take quality at bat after quality at bat is much more significant than the number of 30 home run guys that sit in the middle of it.
They were just four games, but the back-to-back doubleheader set against Cincinnati graphically illustrates this truth.
In winning three of the four games, St Louis averaged 5 runs per contest. This is in spite of the fact that the 30-home-run men who inhabit the heart of the lineup (Goldschmidt, Ozuna, Paul DeJong and Matt Carpenter contributed almost nothing to the attack.
Those four worthies combined to go 5 for 46 over the four games, the 5 hits being 3 singles and 2 doubles. They also walked just twice and combined to drive in just 5 runs while compiling a batting line of .109/.143/.152.
Then there were the “other guys.” I don’t know whether we should call them the “non-impact bats” or not. These are your table-setter types: Dexter Fowler, Kolten Wong, Tommy Edman, Yadier Molina and Harrison Bader. These guys all carried the show against the Reds, combining to go 24 for 54 (.444) with 8 extra base hits (4 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 home runs). They combined to score 15 runs during the series, drive in 10, and slug .704.
None of this is to suggest that the sluggers haven’t been important and haven’t had their “impact.” This is simply to suggest to the front office that there is more to baseball than guys who hit 30 home runs and bat .250.
The story against Cincinnati and for the whole second half of the season has been Kolten Wong. He hit in all four games against the Reds – getting multiple hits in three of them. He was 6 for 10 in the series – with half of the hits going for extra-bases, and is now riding a six-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .632 (12 for 19) and slugging 1.158 (3 doubles, 2 triples and 1 home run).
Wong was the team’s leading hitter in August (.373) and has been so the entire second half (.381).
With runners in scoring position, Kolten went 8 for 20 (.400) last month, including 1 for 3 in the series against the Reds.
Also scorching hot is Yadier Molina. After his 4-for-8 against Cincy, Yadi is carrying an eight-game hitting streak (in games in which he has had at least one at bat). He is 16 for 32 (.500) during those games, with 7 extra-base hits (4 of them home runs) – a .969 slugging percentage. Yadi has also hit safely in 11 of his last 12, going 20 for 43 (.465).
Yadi is now hitting .344 (22 for 64) since the All-Star Break.
Molina doubled and drove in a run in his only at bat this weekend with runners in scoring position. This has always been his trademark. He is 7 for 18 (.389) since returning from the injured list, and 27 for 83 (.325) for the season in those situations.
Fowler finished the Cincinnati series 5 for 12 (.417), including 1 for 2 with runners in scoring position. Dexter drove in 21 August runs in 27 games, mostly because he went 8 for 14 (.571) with the ducks on the pond.
They were all singles, but Edman enjoyed himself at the expense of the Reds. His 5 for 13 (.385) brought his final August batting average to .308 (32 for 104).
After mostly sitting out the first game, Harrison Bader slapped 4 hits over the last three games. Bader has hit safely in 8 of his last 9 starts, going 12 for 33 (.364). He finished August with a .313 mark (10 for 32).
Harrison was 3 for 6 during the series with runners in scoring position, and is 6 for 16 (.375) in that situation since the break.
Carpenter did deliver the walk-off hit Saturday night, but that was one of just 2 hits for Carp in 11 at bats over the weekend. In the season’s second half, Matt’s .212 batting average sits very close to the .215 he has for the season.
Marcell ran his hitless streak to 15 straight at bats with his 0-for-11 in Cincinnati.
Ozuna also went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position over the weekend. In the season’s second half, Ozuna is just 3 for 23 (.130) in those situations.
Carpenter, as noted, provided the walk-off single in the Saturday night game. It was his fifth late-game-changing hit of the season, tying him with Paul Goldschmidt for second on the team behind Paul DeJong’s 7. DeJong would pick up his team-leading eighth late-game-changing RBI on Saturday afternoon when his eighth-inning sacrifice fly tied the game at 3.
That single by Carp also turned out to be Matty’s fifth game-winning hit of the season. He thus becomes one of 7 Cardinals with at least five GWRBI in 2019. With Marcel Ozuna (12) and Goldschmidt (11) battling it out for the team lead, they are followed by DeJong, who has 6. Along with Carp, there are three others at 5 – Molina, Jose Martinez and Edman.
When Rangel Ravelo started the Sunday night game at first base, it interrupted Goldschmidt’s consecutive start streak at 37 – the longest currently for a Cardinal at one position. After everyone got at least one day off during the back-to-back double-headers, the current longest streak now belongs to Bader, who has started the last three games in center field.
Prior to this series, Giovanny Gallegos had allowed only 3 inherited runners to score all season (out of 38 inherited runners). He allowed that many in one swing (Tucker Barnhart’s 3-run double) in the Saturday afternoon game.
The series win was St Louis’ fourth in a row. Of their last seven series, they have won six and split one.