clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

May Powers

Were it not for Albert Pujols's sudden resumption of Albert Pujols-related activities, the Cardinals—who, you'll remember, feature Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Ryan Ludwick on offense—would have gone the entire month without a single batter managing a slugging percentage over .500. As things stand he landed at .505, with David Freese just behind him at .491. Matt Holliday's double left him just short of .450. 

It was not a punchy month, to say the least; in 959 at-bats the Cardinals hit 19 home runs and stole 18 bases, a ratio that doesn't seem right at all. That annualized pace of 114 home runs would have been the Cardinals' fewest since 1995, when the next highest home run total after Ray Lankford (25), Brian Jordan (22), and Bernard Gilkey (17) was a four way tie with five—a tie that included Tripp Cromer, John Mabry, Danny Sheaffer, and Todd Zeile, who was traded in June. It's not often the Cardinals evoke references to their ante-La-Russian era, but hitting in such a way as to invalidate any complaining about too many home runs is one way to do it. 

That said, unless you go looking for it it won't jump out at you down the line; things look pretty conventional now. Albert Pujols leads the team in OPS (with his worst month since... last July); Matt Holliday doesn't hit the ball very hard but puts up an OBP near .400; the slumps (Ryan, Rasmus, Schumaker) are bad but not astonishingly so, each leading to an OPS over .600. The most uncharacteristically ugly line is Adam Wainwright's 1-16 stretch. So I guess you had to be there. Or better yet—you could have not been there. There were a few times I wouldn't have minded that. 

In the end, the Cardinals scraped together one additional game over .500—the final record sits at 15-14. 116 runs scored, 105 against. 

Things to take from this small, arbitrarily defined sample size: 

The middle infield needs a little reconfiguration. Since this month saw what I can only hope will be the nadir of Brendan Ryan's career I can't blame La Russa for the middle infield we saw, but when Ryan plays himself out of protective doghouse custody Felipe Lopez, whose defense is a liability at short and more or less Schumakery at second, needs to see more time at second if and when he's done caddying for Ryan. 

So far La Russa's been admirably consistent about platooning Schumaker with Lopez against lefties; all five of his starts at second are against left-handed pitching. But with Schumaker's defense and offense in question it makes sense to give him a (less intensive) course of the Lopez treatment that appears to have kept Boog off that fifth story balcony. The Cardinals are in an awkward position here; their backup infielder is basically the same player as their starting second baseman, only more versatile and not mired in a season-long slump. But it's nothing La Russa's propensity for sticking Schumaker in left and center field in the late innings of baseball games can't allow him to massage into a starters 1 and 1A situation. 

Also, this month's reason to not use a month of at-bats as anything but a novelty: as of May 26 Brendan Ryan's May had been demonstrably worse than his April—he'd been hitting .170/.235/.234. That 4-4 day brought his May numbers all the way up to .220/.281/.320. He's not out of the woods yet; he might not even be able to see out of the woods yet. He might not even know he's in the woods yet. But he looks better, and that one day took his May numbers from nightmare-season to extremely-light-hitting-shortstop-month.

La Russa needs to watch Yadier Molina's playing time. Molina started more games last month than Colby Rasmus; he started nearly as many as Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick. Jason LaRue made as many starts this month as Nick Stavinoha, Tyler Greene, and Kyle Lohse

Attributing his sub-Molina performance at bat to his overwork would be too easy and probably wrong, but the Cardinals seem near the edge of reasonable catcher use. Either they have too much faith in Yadier Molina, and need to realize his knees are made of the same stuff as everybody else's, or they have too little in Jason LaRue, and need to find a second catcher they're not afraid of using. 

Jon Jay still hasn't walked yet. I don't have anything in particular to say about that, I was just surprised to learn it. 39 plate appearances into his major league career only one, a sacrifice bunt, is not an official at-bat. He hasn't walked very often since his big year in AA, which also surprises me; he just seems like the kind of guy who should have good plate discipline, like Skip Schumaker seems like the kind of guy who should be able to run significantly faster than I can, like David Freese seems like he should have more power than he's shown. Stylistic and aesthetic baseball player prejudice: it's not just for managers anymore!