With the new year vastly approaching, we’re inching closer and closer to spring training, where the St. Louis Cardinals will rev up for what they hope to be another red October.
As Rodger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. awaits, the Cardinals lineup has been modified with raw talent, stunning power and lightning speed. The additions of free-agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta and utility infielder Mark Ellis give manager Mike Matheny more flexibility in the infield. And the arrival of Peter Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels adds a ton of speed and even more depth to what has now become a crowded outfield.
That said, there are always alterations to make before spring training gets underway. The Cardinals must learn from the mistakes that haunted them against the Boston Red Sox in last October’s Fall Classic, and adjust. After watching Fenway Park celebrate a World Series championship, the Cardinals will surely be motivated to produce better results in 2014.
Here are three changes the Cardinals should make before flying south come February.
The Cardinals have lacked true speed on the basepaths over the last few years. They haven’t had one or two guys who can cause nightmares for opposing catchers with their legs.
Take the last three years, for example.
In 2013, the Cardinals were last in the National League with 15 stolen bases and 29th in all of baseball, ahead of only Detroit. In 2012, the Cardinals ranked 13th in the NL and 25th in the MLB; and in 2011, they were 16th and 29th, respectively.
There's reason to believe this will change in 2014, considering the added talent and quickness the Cardinals will have in Borjus and the young Kolten Wong.
Cardinals fans should be ecstatic about the arrival of Bourjos, who swiped 22 bases in 2011. For his career, Bourjos is 41-54 in stolen base attempts.
Wong, another speedster, will surely get the nod as the everyday second baseman for the Cardinals in 2014. Last season, Wong stole three bases, including one during the postseason.
For a team that has lacked speed, the Cardinals will have plenty of it in 2014.
Consistency at the bottom
The Cardinals struggled to get any consistency from the bottom tier of their lineup throughout the postseason.
Hitters seven, eight and nine in the order went a combined 23-for-167 (.137) during the 2013 postseason. That must change in 2014, and I believe it will.
Freese is no longer with the team, and barring another late-season injury, Allen Craig will be healthy and ready to go for Opening Day. Also, Matt Adams figures to be an everyday player, which will give the Cardinals even more power and consistency throughout their lineup.
Approach vs. left-handed pitching
Generally, if the Cardinals went up against a left-handed pitcher, they struggled. The reasoning behind the Cardinals' struggles against lefties was puzzling.
In 2013, the Cardinals hit .238 against LHP, 13th in the NL. To put that into context, the Cardinals led the NL with a .280 average against RHP.
That must change. The Cardinals need to focus on spraying the ball to all fields against lefties, which would make their lineup even more dangerous.