The St. Louis Cardinals need five players to pick up the pace in May if they are going to get back to the top of the National League Central division. The good news is most of these players have done it before and getting them back on track should just be a matter of time. The bad news? It has been too much time already.
Allen Craig – Craig is the straw that stirs the drink in the Cardinals lineup. He protects hitters, drives in runners and gets on base himself. He has been the best RBI man in the National League the last two seasons and has been an elite hitter with runners in scoring position. However, he had an awful April before finally showing signs of life as the calendar turned to May. The Cardinals need more. Craig is on the right track but it has to keep getting better.
Matt Carpenter – Carpenter has not been bad but he has been his usual self either. The Redbirds third basemen has complained of not feeling comfortable in his swing yet. As with Craig, the Cardinals have been plenty patient but the Redbirds just signed Carpenter to a big extension and need more from their lead off hitter. Sooner or later the talent will take over and Carpenter, like Craig, should really heat up, but how far back do the Redbirds fall until then?
Jhonny Peralta – The only free agent in the Cardinals lineup, Peralta oddly leads the Redbirds with seven home runs. No one else is close to that number but at the moment Peralta is also hitting just.232 with 21 strikeouts. That is not what the Cardinals paid him to do. Peralta has been a good hitter his entire career but this is his first stint in the National League and he still has not adjusted. The Cardinals know that Craig and Carpenter will turn it on sooner or later. They cannot be as sure of Peralta but general manager John Mozeliak did not pay him $5o million on a hunch. Peralta will turn it around, the question is when?
Matt Adams – The Cardinals first baseman his hitting .328 on the season so at first glance he may not fit on this list. Take another look. He does. Adams has been atrocious with runners in scoring position this season and he has just two home runs in 2014. That will not do for a 260-pound first baseman. Adams also has just nine RBI on the season, a revealing number for someone hitting .328 in the middle of the batting order. Give him credit for this. He has been much better going to the opposite field and he has beat the defensive shift consistently this season but in the process he has not hit with power. He has to find some balance for the Cardinals to replace the thump they lost when they let Carlos Beltran defect via free agency.
Shelby Miller – The second year right-hander has not shown the form from a standout rookie season that saw him win 15 games and average a strikeout per inning. This season his strikeouts are down and his base on balls allowed is up considerably. In short he is trending the wrong way. Further proof of Miller’s problems are a WHIP that has gone from 1.21 last season to 1.47 so far in 2014 while opponents batting averaged jumped from .234 to .245. Miller is young, the season is young but this trend actually started at the end of last season.
The Cardinals need these five players to get back on track in May. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is another that could use a better performance in May as the management of his lineup and bullpen has been a head scratcher too many times this season. For the time being however, the blame lies with the performance of the Redbird bats, not the manager who is stuck with their lack of production.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the St. Louis Cardinals