PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 09: The St Louis Cardinals line up in the dugout to congratulate Allen Craig #21 after he hit a two run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on May 9, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
So: Lance Berkman, at least if you ask him, is likely to return from the DL Friday. Thus concludes about a month of the least painful loss of a guy coming off a 164 OPS+ I can remember experiencing—despite getting all of seven games from Berkman the Cardinals' OPS is still highest at first base, where a cromulent Matt Carpenter base (.281/.352/.484 in 71 plate appearances) is mixed in with 30 each from Berkman (.348/.500/.522) and Allen Craig (.333/.387/.778).
Positional splits—you can find them here—are a little frivolous, inasmuch as it doesn't matter, in the end, what Tyler Greene hits at second base and what he hits at shortstop, but sometimes I find it easier to understand the impact a good or bad bench has on a team when I see it spelled out this way. We're getting just far enough into the season where that sort of thing can show up in the numbers, even when your starter didn't hustle a little too much on an early-April triple.
Catcher (.786)/Yadier Molina (.872)
This one, in particular, caught me off guard—Yadier Molina, who seems to never get a day off, is hitting .301/.348/.524 as a catcher, but Tony Cruz's 2-18 start brings the Cardinals' positional OPS down almost 100 points. Those of us on the Bryan Anderson side of the debate don't have a lot of room to gloat so long as he's hitting .146 in Memphis, alas; if Cruz has to play a few more days while Molina heals—and let's hope, having just discussed his backups, that that's all he might have to do—he'll probably hit above .200 on balls in play.
First Base (.969)/Matt Carpenter (.836)
In addition to the players mentioned above, Yadier Molina is 1-2 with a double and a walk as a first baseman. The composite sketch of the four of them is basically last year's Lance Berkman, only he's on pace for 21 triples. So dead-ball-era Lance Berkman, I guess.
Second Base (.782)/Tyler Greene (.756)
You know that feeling you get after you play a bunch of really great rounds of Skee Ball or something in a row and you just want your friend to win a few already so you can be proud of it instead of feeling bad about getting so lucky? That's how I felt when I saw that the Cardinals' big sinkhole, second base, was hitting .250/.354/.429 as a unit. Daniel Descalso, who's had five fewer plate appearances at the position than Greene, is closest to the mark himself, hitting .244/.354/.390 there; Schumaker's at .320/.414/.480 there, while Greene is hitting .217/.321/.435, which, okay, sure.
(For all his vaunted strikeout problems, Greene's BAbip on the season is still just .281. Of all the confusing things about Greene's MLB career so far, his chronically low BAbip is the weirdest.)
Third Base (.903)/David Freese (.942)
Here's the place in the books where the Cardinals have hidden Daniel Descalso's crappiest 15 plate appearances—he's 2-15 with a triple and a walk as a third baseman, which is almost all that separates the third base position from David Freese's World Series hangover year.
Related note: I don't know if anybody's still putting a lot of hope into the idea that Allen Craig might someday play some third base, but I think this season has a good chance of wiping that possibility out semi-permanently. It's mostly just circumstance: The Cardinals' starting second baseman is a third baseman, and their backup first baseman is a third baseman, and Craig is coming off a leg injury and playing mostly first anyway.
Shortstop (.907)/Rafael Furcal (.932)
Rafael Furcal has been really good, you guys. He's hitting .361, he's got 13 extra-base hits already, and he's stolen six bases. Also, he's played 29 games out of 31.
Left Field (.802)/Matt Holliday (.799)
Center Field (.893)/Jon Jay (.926)
I know it's completely ridiculous, and that it would lead to his being permanently overrated by a singles-adoring Busch Stadium crowd, but there are few things I'd love more than an extended flirtation with .400 from Jon Jay, who's currently at .379/.432/.494. Komatsu and Schumaker are 1-9, while Robinson is 11-27 with a double and a home run.
Right Field (.912)/Carlos Beltran (.976)
Komatsu, Carpenter, and Robinson combine to go 2-13 in relief of Beltran, who at .290/.397/.579 looks like a refugee from, say, 2004.
I haven't had a lot of problems with the Cardinals' bench so far—Tony Cruz is fine, they've solved the infield problem so far by just throwing a lot of infielders around—but I think it's fair to say that any positive evaluation of their outfield has come from the knowledge that Allen Craig would be back soon. If the Cardinals are reluctant to play Beltran in center field, though, it would be nice to have a better fourth outfielder than Shane Robinson.