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The offensive gains the Cardinals get to keep

Thank you, Pedro Feliz. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Pedro Feliz. Thank you so much.

Prior to tonight's game against the Atlanta Braves the Cardinals are hitting .301/.367/.464, for an OPS+ of 128. In 2010 they ended up completely average, an OPS+ of 100. It's easy both to enjoy the Ruthian numbers Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman are putting up and realize that they won't continue to Ruth indefinitely, but this is a better offense anyway; it's reasonable to expect they'll continue to outhit their 2010 counterparts for the rest of the year. 

Here are the places where they're most likely to do that.

1. Third Base. David Freese, for all his high-profile defensive lapses, is hitting .358/.391/.481. His .298/.362/.409 line at third base last year, in 64 games, is eminently reachable, and with both his ankles surgically repaired he might even reach 64 games again. 

He'll need to, because so far the Cardinals' reserve third basemen, in the form of Daniel Descalso's 23 at-bats at the position, are doing their best Felipe Lopez impression. (Pedro Feliz fact: Daniel Descalso is 5-23 at third, but his OPS there is 17 points higher than Feliz managed over 35 starts there last season. Feliz hit zero doubles in 118 at-bats as the Cardinals' third baseman.) 

If Freese plays 120 games at third base the Cardinals can erase from memory the 55 games in which Lopez hit .250/.322/.319. That's like turning Regular Lance Berkman into road-trip Lance Berkman. Meanwhile, they could play Kyle Lohse at third base and at least match Feliz's production. 

2. Shortstop. I'm not sure I expect a .361 OBP for the balance of the season, but last year's shortstops combined to put up a .229/.289/.311 line. Theriot and Tyler Greene should be enough to balance out that midseason fiasco where the Cardinals realize they haven't rushed Pete Kozma up a level in three months and briefly name him the starting shortstop. 

3. Right Field. The Cardinals' right field situation wasn't actually terrible in 2011—Ryan Ludwick put up an .838 OPS there, and Jon Jay hit .329/.374/.482 over 170 at-bats—but the .789 team OPS there is weighed down enough by Nick Stavinoha's 12-56 slap-hitting adventure there (still a higher OPS than Pedro Feliz, at .491) and Randy Winn's empty-.300 reserve play that Lance Berkman, even when he's no longer hitting .400, should leap over it. 

4. Center Field. Tony La Russa is playing Colby Rasmus like he's Yadier Molina, and Jon Jay is unlikely to hit randomly poorly at CF in his capacity as fourth outfielder again. Even if Rasmus doesn't improve on his 2010 season there's a good chance he plays more than 128 games there. (Sad reminder: Joe Mather's .250/.294/.313 line in center over 35 plate appearances there, which is only 123 points higher than Pedro Feliz's OPS at third base.) 

5. Catcher. The Cardinals won't, unfortunately, have Matt Pagnozzi's .359/.405/.487 bat to play with, but Yadier Molina's coming off his worst offensive season since 2006 and Gerald Laird is, somehow, no worse than Jason LaRue. Second base is another possible worst-season-yet play, but Nick Punto will probably soak up any offensive gains made from Schumaker's return to the art of empty-.280 hitting.