By Jeremy Clements
Despite losing one of baseball’s best hitters, a hall-of-fame manager, and a well respected pitching coach the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t miss a beat during the first month of the season. It’s time to look back at the first month of baseball in St. Louis.
The Good – Cards Pitching Staff Fuels Cards 14-8 start.
Chris Carpenter is yet to throw a pitch this season and Adam Wainwright went 0-3 with a 7.32 ERA in April. That’s where the negative ends for this Cardinals pitching staff. Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn both ended the month tied for the most wins (4) in baseball while posting ERA’s (Lynn, 1.33 and Lohse 1.62) that place them among league leaders. Jake Westbrook has one fewer win but has the best ERA on the staff. In fact, his 1.30 ERA is 5th best in the league and is .65 runs lower than Roy Halladay’s.
In addition to a great start from the bullpen, the much maligned Mitchell Boggs has emerged as an outstanding set up man for Mike Matheny. Boggs’ miniscule 0.87 ERA is possibly the biggest early season surprise. He’s only allowed one run in his 10.1 innings of work and has emerged as a completely new pitcher after tweaking his warmup in the off season.
The Bad – Injuries Continue To Keep Big Names Out of Lineup.
Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter and first basemen Lance Berkman have missed significant time while younger Cardinals had their debuts pushed back.
Lance Berkman has only taken 23 at bats this season and has been out for the last few weeks with a strained calf. Allen Craig and Skip Schumaker both started the year on the DL. Schumaker has already returned and Craig is continuing to make progress as he continues his rehab assignment in Memphis.
Meanwhile, Carpenter has yet to resume throwing and at this point it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready to pitch until after the All-Star break. Carp has been lifting weights and going through a strength training program since he was shut down in March but he hasn’t been allowed to throw. If team doctors start him on a throwing program within the next few weeks he might be able to make his return in June, but that appears highly unlikely.
The Ugly – Cards showing slight reliance on home runs and strand a lot of runners.
The Cardinals offense ranks 2nd in baseball producing 5.1 runs per game. That being said, the team showed a slight reliance on the long ball. During baseball’s opening month the team played 22 games and batted only .258 with runners in scoring position. The club also stranded the 7th most (162) men on base in April.
The dependance on the home run really stuck out in the 8 games the club finished without hitting one. In those games the Cards stranded 63 runners while going 20-81 with runners in scoring position. Digging deeper, they left 8 or more runners on in five of those games and left at least 10 on twice. It should be no surprise that after last night, 5 of their 8 losses have come in games they failed to homer in.
Those numbers should improve when Lance Berkman and Allen Craig return the line up. It’s also important to note that we’re only 22 games into this long season, so this its a relatively small sample to use to declare the club totally dependent on the home run.
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