A Look at the First One-Third of the St. Louis Cardinals Season

May 23, 2012; St. Louis, MO. USA; St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal (15) is congratulated by right fielder Carlos Beltran (3) after scoring during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Before the season began we took a look at twelve stats to watch this season for the Cardinals. With the Cardinals at the official one-third mark of the 2012 season, let's take a look at how the team has fared in comparison to those numbers from the preseason.

FIRST BASE: 66 EXTRA-BASE HITS

The loss of Albert Pujols to the Angels prompted this number. In 2011, Pujols had a career-low 66 extra-base hits (XBH). In the spring, Lance Berkman was set to fill in for at first base for Pujols. If not Berkman, then Allen Craig would get the plate appearances at the position. What a difference injuries can make.

First base has been a revolving door this season in St. Louis. The following players have logged PAs at the position: Matt Carpenter (118), Craig (63), Matt Adams (50), Berkman (49), and Steven Hill (5). Despite the Cardinals being forced to rely on the insurance policies for their insurance policies for the aging Berkman, the first base corps has been stellar: .308 BA, .384 OBP, .547 SLG, .932 OPS, and a .393 wOBA. The group has pounded out 30 XBHs, which means the current pace for XBHs from the first base position is 90. Pujols averaged 83 XBHs per season during his time with the Cardinals.

SECOND BASE: .345 OBP

In 2011, the second base hydra posted a .345 OBP. This season, the three-headed monster of Cardinals is not doing so well, managing a .329 OBP collectively. At 8.9%, Skip Schumaker is walking at what would tie his career-best rate from 2009. Not surprisingly, his .379 OBP leads the second basemen. In second is Daniel Descalso at .339; this, even though his BA sits at only .245. Tyler Greene's horrendous OBP of .286 comes in last. Taking into account offense and defense, Descalso should probably be the primary second baseman moving forward.

SHORTSTOP: .320 wOBA

After joining the Cardinals last season, Furcal posted a .323 wOBA due in large part to a homer binge. An average of the publicly available projection systems gave us a projected wOBA of .320 for the veteran. Furcal has blown that projection out of the water in the season's first two months with a line of .369 wOBA on the strength of a slash line of .327/.386/.449 and eight stolen bases.

THIRD BASE: 20 HR

In the preseason, we looked at David Freese's reduced power in the big leagues (excluding the 2011 postseason, of course) compared to his minor-league performance. In the big leagues, Freese had averaged one homer every 44 PAs through the end of the 2011 regular season. If Freese could hit a homer 30 PAs while tallying 600 PAs in 2012, Freese would end up with 20 round-trippers. So far this season Freese has looked more like the minor-league power hitter. He already has ten homers in 274 PAs, or, one every 27.4 PAs. If Freese keeps this up and stays healthy, he could reach the 30-home run plateau.

CATCHER: .401 SLG

In 2011, Yadier Molina hit 32 doubles and 14 home runs. His .465 SLG was by far a career high. None of the projection systems foresaw him continuing his powerful hitting. Averaging the publicly available numbers for Molina gave us a .401 SLG, which would be the second-highest of his career. So far, Molina has smashed the ball. Yadi already has eight homers and may very well club 20 or more this season. He is slugging .536 with a .207 ISO. Sure, this is unlikely to continue, but ZiPS foresees him ending 2012 with a .467 SLG, which would set a new career best.

LEFT FIELD: 676 PA

Last season, Holliday may have been the Cards' top hitter. Despite injuries cutting down on his PA total, he still reached the 5.0-fWAR benchmark. With Pujols leaving, Holliday's health became all the more important (and is perhaps even more so now with Berkman out). Entering play on Sunday, Holliday had totaled 234 PAs, which puts him on a 700-PA pace for this season. That would be the second-highest PA total of his career. ZiPS projects him to notch just 634 PAs and amassing a 5.1-fWAR season in those 634 PAs. Holliday seems a good bet to come close to the 676 PA total and surpass the 5.0-fWAR mark for the sixth consecutive season.

CENTER FIELD: .331 BABIP

Jon Jay entered the 2011 season with a career .344 BABIP, which made him one of 50 players in the history of Major League Baseball to amass 826 PAs with a BABIP of .344 or higher. Given his low walk rates, Jay needs to hit for average in order to manage a good enough OBP to merit playing. Before hitting the disabled list, Jay had a .370 BABIP, .343 BA, .395 OBP, .438 SLG, and a .369 wOBA. With a 25% line drive rate, Jay was blistering the ball. Hopefully he is able to pick up where he left off upon being activated from the DL. The offense could use his production.

RIGHT FIELD: .283 BA

In 2011, Beltran hit .300 on the strength of a career high .325 BABIP. For his career, Beltran was hitting .283 entering the season; coincidentally, an average of the publicly available projections for Beltran in 2012 was .283. This season, Beltran's BABIP is .295, which is a bit below his career mark. His BA of .287 is almost exactly what one would expect. The pleasant surprise with Beltran has been his power. His .292 ISO would be the highest since 2006. His 15 homers have him on a 45-homer pace, which would surpass the 41 he hit in 2006 as a career high.

STARTING ROTATION: 6.1 IP/GS

Chris Carpenter has been on the DL for the entire season, meaning that the Cards were without the league leader in innings pitched from a year ago. The questions became one of whether the rotation could pick up the slack without Carpenter so that the bullpen would not become overworked. In 2011, Cardinals starters averaged 6.1 innings per game started. Through Saturday, in 2012 the rotation had started 53 games and pitched 325.2 innings, which is good for an average of 6.14 innings per game. This is right in line with what the rotation did last season.

BULLPEN: 9.9 SwStr%

In 2011, the Cardinals bullpen posted a Swinging Strike % of 9.9, which was slightly above the league average of 9.6%. This season, the Cardinals relief corps has many new members and fewer swings and misses. Their 9.0 SwStr% is nearly one full percentage point lower than last year and well below the league average for relievers of 9.8%. Hopefully the promotions of Eduardo Sanchez and Maikel Cleto will help the relief corps get more swinging strikes, more strikeouts, and more shutdowns.

BENCH: .650 OPS PINCH-HITTING

In 2011, Cardinals pinch-hitters posted a .650 OPS. In the grand scheme of things, that is not a high number. Compared to the rest of the National League, however, it was the third best for pinch-hitters. This year, Cardinals pinch-hitters have managed a line of .173/.216/.272/.488 in 88 PAs. That's a Split OPS+ of only 42.

DEFENSE: 0.14 PARK ADJUSTED DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY

Bill James invented a metric called "Defensive Efficiency," which measures how many balls put in play a defense converts into outs. Baseball Prospectus then made a park-adjusted version of the stat, "PADE," because some parks are easier to record outs in than others. Last season, the Cardinals had a PADE of 0.14 that ranked them fourteenth in baseball. So far this season the Cardinals have been a degree worse on defense. Their PADE of -0.24 is worse even if it ranks eighteenth in MLB.

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