Nearly to the All-Star break, it's time to look back at the first half Cardinals. Six players have surprised, for better or worse. Three, if they improve, can make the 2008 playoffs a reality.
Three Bright Spots:
Yadier Molina – Already established as a great defensive catcher, Molina has found his swing and batting over .300. He has impressed La Russa so much that Molina has been batting as high as six in the batting order. He is having a down year in throwing runners out, but still second in the NL.
Kyle Lohse – Simply put, Kyle Lohse has saved the rotation this season. With nearly 120 innings so far this season, Lohse has been the one pitcher St. Louis could count on the first half. Winning eleven games and posting a 3.39 ERA, many feel Lohse was close to making the All-Star game.
Skip Schumaker – What? Schumaker, you say? You bet. The least talked about of the Cardinal outfield has been, in fact, the most consistent. Despite not having the power of Ludwick or Ankiel, Schumaker is second only to Pujols with a .358 OBP. And he is second only to Glaus in number of games played. Schumaker is also tied with Ludwick for crossing home plate (55). Oh, and his defense isn’t bad either.
Honorable Mention - Ryan Ludwick
Three Dull Spots:
Chris Duncan – As Joel Koch put it in “La Russa Wants to Win Now?”, why is Chris Duncan playing everyday? Duncan has batted an abysmal .243 and has almost as many strikeouts (48) as hits (49). His defense is average, and for a guy that hits with power, he only has 6 homers.
Jason Isringhausen – Izzy has seven blown saves and has an ERA over five. Not exactly what you are looking for from your closer. After being put on DL twice this season, most likely to get confidence back, it appears Isringhausen is looking to get back to his closing role. If he wants to succeed there, he needs to stop walking batters.
Cesar Izturis – How I miss David Eckstein. Izturis is last in almost every category offensively for the Cards, so it must be his defense is what makes him great, right? Wrong. Izturis has seven errors at short, which is right on track to match Eckstein tenure here. He needs to go.
(Dis)Honorable Mention - Mark Mulder
Needs to Improve:
Troy Glaus – He will never be the defensive stud Rolen was, but the man should still be able to hit. Glaus has done better in his last few games, been more patient, and making better at-bats. His .256 BA isn’t going to cut it however, especially when batting around Pujols.
Rick Ankiel – Like the above, he needs to cut down on the strikeouts, up the BA. His 20 homers are nice but until he starts getting the ball in play more, pitchers won’t respect him, resulting in fewer walks. Keep doing what you’re doing in the outfield.
Randy Flores – He will be extremely important if the Redbirds choose not to acquire another lefty. His ERA is slightly higher than his average, and if Flores can lower it that will be a tremendous help to the lefty-barren bullpen.
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