The city of St. Louis will shed the winter blues for good today as they welcome the St. Louis Cardinals home for another season. Downtown will be flooded with red as Busch Stadium swings into full gear this afternoon but before the first pitch today, let’s take a look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Cardinals opening road trip.
The Good: Cards Offense Isn’t Dependent On The Long Ball
During the first six games of the 2013 campaign the St. Louis Cardinals offense scored 37 runs, the third most of any team in baseball. That statistic alone reflects just how dangerous the Cardinals line up can be but a closer look reveals the true potency of this offense. Of the 37 runs pushed across the plate, only six were tallied via the home run. This offense has plenty of power, boasting five players who hit 20+ homers last season, however this team can also play inside the park. A key example of this ability comes in the form of Matt Carpenter, who leads the team with 4 doubles. Carpenter is tied for 2nd on the team with four RBI and is carrying the fourth highest average (.320) and on-base percentage (.414) coming into today’s home opener.
Carpenter isn’t the only player worth mentioning here. Pete Kozma continues to dumbfound prognosticators by producing at the big league level. The Wizard of ‘Koz hit .333 on the opening trip, including 3-6 with runners in scoring position. He returns to Busch tied for the team lead in RBI with 5 and if he continues to hit with runners on in front of him, this line up could be even more dangerous than expected.
The Bad: Starting Pitchers Don’t Go Deep Enough
With the exception of Adam Wainwright’s start yesterday, the Cardinals rotation didn’t carry enough of the load on the road trip. Yes, Jake Westbrook had a solid outing and Jamie Garcia pitched well considering his issues on the road; but as a whole, the rotation could have been better. Cardinals starters only turned in six or more innings of work in 3 of the 6 games of the road trip. Lance Lynn’s 4-inning effort against Arizona was probably the most disappointing of the bunch.
As a unit, the starters tossed 34.2 of the 58.1 innings the Cardinals spent in the field during the opening road trip. I realize that is almost 60% of the innings and that it is early in the season, but we can’t afford to start taxing the bullpen in May, June and July. We will need much more from guys like Lance Lynn and Garcia if this club is going to stay in the hunt. Wainwright and Westbrook will likely toss over 200 innings each and it would be great if we could get at least 180 out of Lynn or Garcia.
The Ugly: Cards Striking Out Way Too Much
Last season the St. Louis Cardinals ranked 8th in walks and 20th in strikeouts, a reflection of the patience taught by former hitting coach Mark McGwire. After six games in 2013, the Cardinals have struck out 54 times and drawn only 16 free trips to first base. Only the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates have given up more outs at the plate and only the San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Pirates and Cubs have drawn fewer walks so far this season. Obviously it’s a small sample size, so it is hard to say whether the rise in whiffs is due to the way John Mabry is instructing hitters. But, if the trend continues at such a high rate, it could derail this offense.