5 Biggest Takeaways from the First Month of St. Louis Cardinals' Season
The Cardinals were streaky if not inconsistent in the season’s first 29 games. They weren’t able to torment opposing pitching, nor were they particularly sound defensively.
As of Thursday, the Cardinals (18-17) find themselves in second place in the National League Central Division, four games behind division-leading Milwaukee.
That said, here are the five biggest takeaways from the Cardinals’ first month of the season.
The Cardinals Offense
Offense was never a concern last season. The Cardinals were third in all of baseball (first in the National League) with a .269 team average. They scored the most runs (783), hit the most doubles (322) and recorded the most RBI (745) in the NL.
They were explosive, dominant and consistent.
This season, however, has been a struggle. The Cardinals are underperforming at the plate, which is a big reason for their mediocre record.
They were the best team in baseball when hitting with runners in scoring position last year, but this year is a different story.
Here’s how the Cardinals rank in all of baseball:
- 18th in average (.248)
- 18th in OBP (.304)
- 25th in SLG (.365)
- 22nd in OPS (.677)
Here’s how the Cardinals stack up with runners in scoring position and two outs in all of baseball:
- 15th in average (.211)
- 23rd in OBP (.312)
- 11th in SLG (.345)
- 15th in OPS (.636)
It’s not just one or two players struggling at the plate, it’s the majority of the lineup. I realize the season is a little over a month old, and the sample size is relatively small. After the first month last season, the Cardinals were 15-11. Ironically, the Cardinals were hitting .244 after the first month in 2013.
Allen Craig's Struggles
After hitting .315 last season (.454 with runners in scoring position), Allen Craig has struggled this season to say the least.
Craig is hitting just .202, with three home runs and 11 RBI thus far. He hit .229, with three homers, 11 RBI, five doubles and a triple in April.
However, Craig has yet to emerge from his prolonged slump.
Craig’s ground-ball rate has increased since he broke into the league in 2010. According to FanGraphs, here’s Craig’s ground-ball rate over the last five years:
- 2010: 38.2 percent
- 2011: 43.8 percent
- 2012: 43.9 percent
- 2013: 45.0 percent
- 2014: 60.0 percent
A telling stat on Craig.
Yadier Molina's Bat
Yadier Molina isn’t only the best defensive catcher in the game, but he’s also a very dangerous bat in the Cardinals lineup.
Molina, who’s in the midst of his 11th big league season, is hitting .310, with four homers and 17 RBI. Molina has arguably been the Cardinals’ most consistent bat thus far in 2014.
Kolten Wong's Demotion
The Cardinals committed to Kolten Wong during spring training. He was their everyday second baseman. However, Wong was demoted in late April after hitting just .225 in favor of seasoned veteran Mark Ellis.
The move was puzzling, considering the struggles of Ellis, who is hitting .170 on the year. The Cardinals want Wong to get more at-bats at Triple-A Memphis, which he is doing. But is Ellis an upgrade over the young Wong?
Grichuk over Taveras
Oscar Taveras will almost certainly make his major league debut at some point in 2014, but who would have thought general manager John Mozeliak would promote Randal Grichuk over Taveras?
Grichuk is a great player. He’s versatile, capable of playing all three outfield positions, which bodes well for manager Mike Matheny. However, Grichuk is hitting just .143 in the nine games in which he’s played.
Meanwhile, Taveras continues to swing a hot bat in Triple-A Memphis, hitting .297 with five homers and 24 RBI.