As the 2012 Major League Baseball regular season nears the final month of play, the St. Louis Cardinals are poised to reach the playoffs for an impressive 10th time in the past 17 seasons.
Since 1996, the Cardinals have a .544 winning percentage, yet even during this extended run of quality baseball, the team has had some traditional "soft spots" in the roster—namely second base, the bullpen and leadoff batter.
Not that the Cards have received poor production in these areas; in most cases, far from it.
But the organization has tended to have turnover at these positions for various reasons—be it salary-saving measures, a series of stop-gap veterans or draftees who simply never panned out.
Oh, you say leadoff hitter is not a position?
Tell that to Pete Rose, Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson. Actually, Rickey probably already told Rickey how important the leadoff batter is.
In the case of the leadoff spot, the Cards have had some nice production over the past decade from guys such as Fernando Vina, David Eckstein, Skip Schumaker and, most recently, an aging Rafael Furcal.
All tended to provide an on-base percentage between .350 and .360. Most were tough to strike out and offered some speed at the top of the order, but none ever gave the impression that they were long-term solutions.
As Colby Rasmus failed in center field, Jon Jay began filling the void defensively, and as Furcal has declined sharply midseason, Jay has began to settle in as the Cards' new leadoff hitter.
Here are five reasons why Jay could be the Cards' long-term solution at leadoff.