Albert Alone Can't Carry The Cardinals To Success

Brian McDowellCorrespondent IJune 15, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 31:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals walks up to bat during their game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on May 31, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

After yesterday's travesty of a game, most of the media attention is going to be focused on Indians starter, Cliff Lee—clearly one of the best pitchers in the Major League who managed to shut down the increasingly pitiful Cardinals.

But, besides being a nice showcase for Lee's talents and abilities, the 3-0 loss to the terrible Cleveland Indians once again revealed some deep, underlying problems with the offense of the beloved St. Louis baseball team.

Think about this for a second. Besides Albert Pujols, there is only one Cardinal this year with a batting average over .275; Skip Schumacher is currently hanging on at .276. I think that even the most optimistic Cardinal fan would say that, not only is Shumacher unqualified to be an everyday second baseman, he is also not a super-consistent hitter, and his average probably won't stay that high.

So, what I am saying is that if Albert has an off-day (and all baseball players have plenty of those), there is no reason to predict any real success is possible for the Cardinals.

Let's ignore the obvious weaknesses in their pitching rotation and the ineffectiveness of their middle relievers and concentrate strictly on offensive production. I'm afraid that the Cardinals are becoming the baseball equivalent to the Cleveland Cavaliers—a one-man show featuring the best player in the sport, that won't ever accomplish anything substantial in the postseason (I am aware that, unlike LeBron, Albert does have at least one World Series ring. But, at this point, that seems to be a relic of the time when he wasn't the only guy on his team that was capable of reliably using a bat).
To prove that my worst fears have at least a little bit of a foundation, I looked at all of the teams that have won the World Series this millennium to see if any other team in recent history has been successful with only two players batting at least .275, and the answer was no.

2000 New York Yankees- Six Starters Batting At Least .275 (Posada, Knoblauch, Jeter, B. Williams, O'Neil, and Spencer)
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks- Four Starters Batting At Least .275 (Grace, M. Williams, Gonzalez, Finley)
2002 Anaheim Angels- Seven Starters Batting At Least .275 (Spiezio, Kennedy, Eckstein, Anderson, Erstad, Salmon, Fuller)
2003 Florida Marlins-Four Starters Batting At Least .275 (Rodriguez, Castillo, Lowell, Pierre)
2004 Boston Red Sox- Six Starters Batting At Least .275 (Varitek, Millar, Mueller, Ramirez, Damon, Ortiz)
2005 Chicago White Sox-Three Starters Batting At Least .275 (Konerko, Iguchi, Posednik)
2006 St. Louis Cardinals-Four Starters Batting At Least .275 (Pujols, Eckstein, Rolen, Encarnacion)
2007 Boston Red Sox-Five Starters Batting At Least .275 (Youklis, Pedroia, Lowell, Ramirez, Ortiz)
2008 Philadelphia Phillies-Three Starters Batting At Least .275 (Utley, Rollins, Victorino)

Of course, last year's Phillies also featured Ryan Howard, who had a relatively low batting average, but managed to hit 48 home runs. No equivalent to this at all can be found anywhere on the Cardinals.

As you can see, a couple of teams managed to win with only three .275 batters in their lineup, but I think we can agree that those teams had both more well-rounded pitching staffs and more reliable fielding than this year's Cardinal team.

In fact, after some quick research, the only team in the entire span of baseball history I could find that won the World Series with only two players batting over the .275 mark was the '69 Mets. Of course, that storied team also featured both Tom Seaver in his prime, and a young Nolan Ryan in the bullpen—a claim that the Cardinals can't quite make.

Currently, most of the other teams in statistical playoff contention this year have more hitters batting at least .275 this year than the St. Louis Cardinals.

Phillies-5 starters batting. at least .275.
Mets-6 starters batting. at least .275.
Dodgers-5 starters batting. at least .275. (They'll have six once Manny Ramirez comes back)
Yankees-6 starters batting. at least .275.
Red Sox-5 starters batting. at least .275.
Rangers- 3 starters batting. at least .275.

There are a few teams this year in the same statistical boat as the Cardinals in this regard. Both the Milwaukee Brewers and the Detroit Tigers are experiencing relative success this year. They both feature only two starters batting at least .275. To be fair, this year's Brewers do have a better assortment of reliable power hitters than the Cardinals do.

I will admit that neither of these teams, and, indeed, no team in the Major League has a batter that is as impressive or dominant as Albert Pujols. But, as I think I have illustrated, for the Cardinals to be truly successful, they need other batters in the lineup besides him.

As fun as it is to watch Pujols do well, there is no evidence to suggest that a one-man lineup is going to lead the franchise much of anywhere.  

Either the other Cardinal hitters need to step up their game, or LaRussa needs to place some new hitters in the lineup.


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