The one thing the St. Louis Cardinals did better than any other team in baseball last year it was come up with the big hit. Better than any team in Major League Baseball in 40 years. Time after time Mike Matheny’s squad delivered with runners in scoring position and especially with two outs. This year, not so much. The Cardinals are lacking the big hit in a big way this season.
Nine games in to the 2014 season the Redbirds have scored just 29 runs in nine games while last year they had nearly double that offensive output when they scored 56 runs in the same amount of games. Their average with runners in scoring position last season was .388. This season their RISP is .181.
It gets worse. For the season the Cardinals are hitting .215 and they’re averaging 3.2 runs a game and have been held to two runs or fewer in five of their nine contests. To compound matters only three Cards have homered and the cleanup spot in the lineup has managed just four hits in 35 at-bats. Allen Craig, who is just having trouble getting the ball out of the infield at the moment and Jhonny Peralta are a combined five for 60. Peralta, for his par is hitting .069 with just two hits on the season. The Cards pitching staff has more hits (three) than Peralta.
Despite this futility at the plate the Cardinals record is 5-4. While it is early it should be noted that St. Louis general manager John Mozieliak had planned for this. Well sort of. They acknowledged it was highly unlikely the Cards could maintain that kind of RISP batting average, especially with two outs but thought they would compensate in other areas. Their average was much lower with one or no outs last season and the Cardinal brain trust also thought they would get more power this year now that Peralta and slugger Matt Adams are every lineup every day.
Obviously that has not happened yet and the slump on offense has extended to some in the St. Louis starting rotation as well. Right-handers Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller have combined for a 6.44 ERA in the four games they took the hill with Lynn winning both of his starts while Miller losing both his starts. Thankfully for the Cards Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha have combined for an 1.12 ERA early on.
The leader of the offense last season was Craig who has delivered more big hits for St. Louis than any other Cardinal hitter the past two seasons and led all of MLB last season with a RISP of .427. The Cardinals slugger has been abysmal thus far in 2014 however so Matheny gave him the day off Wednesday before the Chicago Cubs come to St. Louis on Friday. Craig believes he is close to getting back on track though and acknowledges that perhaps he should be giving his opponents some credit, “We’ve faced some good pitching,” Craig admitted.
If that is the only problem for the Cards offense than good news is on the way. The Cubs come in to St. Louis with a 3-6 record, a young team still rebuilding and pitching staff giving up plenty of hits. Plenty of big hits. Which is just what the Cardinals need at the moment.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the St. Louis Cardinals