Cardinals Receive Needed Offensive Help

Justin HulseyCorrespondent IMay 28, 2009

SAINT LOUIS, MO - MAY 18: Ryan Ludwick #47 of the St. Louis Cardinals watches his solo home run leave the park against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 18, 2008 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cardinals beat the Rays 5-4.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)


The Cardinals may be on a roll of late, but you can’t hide the fact that the offense is in a slump. St. Louis is 7-2 in the previous nine games, but have only scored more than five runs once in the past three weeks.

The scuffling offense gets one of its biggest weapons back on Friday night, and not a day too soon.

All Star slugger, Ryan Ludwick, is scheduled to be activated this Friday when the 28-19 Cardinals take on the 23-23 Giants in San Francisco this weekend.

Ludwick experienced a strained right hamstring on May 12th when he dove for a fly ball against Pittsburgh.

The Cards, who were the MLB’s best offensive team in the first few weeks of the season, scored an average of three runs per game with Ludwick out of the lineup. In the early stages of this season, St. Louis had a scoring average of above five.

With Luddy coming off the DL, somebody will have to be sent down to Memphis. IF I was John Mozeliak, this would be the hardest decision of this season so far.

The likely candidates to be sent down are Stavinoha and Brad Thompson.

Stavinoha has been hot of late, but it would kill me to send down a hot bat in the middle of the team’s offensive slump. However, with Rasmus, Ankiel, Ludwick, and Duncan… Stavi would see little playing time and almost be wasted.

On the other end of the spectrum, Brad Thompson has been the definition of waste. Many argue that he is in the lineup just in case a starting pitcher implodes in the second inning. Well that is great but Thompson has only pitched TWICE since May 8th. We just do not need 13 pitches on the roster.

Another option would be to move Khalil Greene to the DL and basically just switch roles with Ludwick. While Khalil CERTAINLY needs to be DLed, I think the Greene-Ludwick exchange would hurt us… as it would only leave us with one bench infielder. The lack of depth in the infield concerns me, so I would wait to put Khalil on the DL until Tyler Greene is available to promote (June 3).

As the GM, I would demote Nick Stavinoha. I hate saying that, but he would get little playing time due to the outfield depth we already have.

Not only is Ludwick expected to start on Friday, Cardinal outfielder Rick Ankiel is also part of the plan for tomorrow.

Ankiel was actually activated from the DL on the 24th, but had taken the Milwaukee series off after he experienced soreness throughout his body after his Sunday start.

There’s no question, it’s especially Ludwick that’s been missed in the batting order.. Ankiel is off to something of a slow start this year, whereas Ludwick already had eight home runs in 30 games and is slugging .538. Ank, one of the streakiest players on the team, has hit .247 with only two home runs in his 85 at bats this year.

It is obvious that the offense is just not the same without these two. If you combine Rick and Luddy’s 2008 stats, you will find one helluva player. When you take out these two, you take out a .283 average, 62 HR, and 184 RBI. Basically, home run wise, just envision at McGwire-less 1998 Cardinal team.

“Ludwick’s a quality producer, so he’s got to make it better,” manager Tony La Russa said.

The main victim of these injuries has unarguably been Albert Pujols. Opponents have been able to pitch around the St. Louis Cardinals star following the injuries to Ludwick and Ankiel that left Pujols with little protection. He drew four intentional walks in last weekend’s series against Kansas City — one of them with two on and no outs — and seven walks overall. Albert has been walked 12 times in the past six games.

With no reason to pitch to Pujols, he is finding it hard to get into a groove. There is little difference between what he is experiencing now and pinch-hitting. Lately he’s only getting a chance to hit twice a game at the most due to the ridiculous amount of walks. When he gets his protection back, expect more real at bats, and look for Pujols to heat it up a little bit.

The Cardinals have still found a way to breathe with two of their top three sluggers out of the lineup thanks to amazing pitching. The opposition has only scored a mere eight runs in the past seven days.

St. Louis will likely take a dose of there own medicine when they visit the Bay City this weekend. They will face greater pitching with Cain, Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez taking the mound.

I suspect more 2-3 games in the next few days. With Lohse missing his Friday start due to a “burning cramp” in his elbow that may DL him, Pineiro, Carpenter, and Waino will take the mound for the Redbirds at AT&T Park where the Cards are 12-15.

Both teams’ offense has been pretty poor of late. Hopefully, the return of Ludwick and Ank will spark something in St. Louis’ lineup.


Justin Hulsey
Cardinals Front Office