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Bases Loaded Woes and the State of the Offense

A look at how the Cardinals have fared with the bases loaded in 2014

Ezra Shaw

It was July 1st. The Cardinals were in the midst of a three-game set against the San Francisco Giants on the road. In the 4th inning of the game, the Redbirds had loaded the bases against Tim Lincecum, with the game still tied at 0.

My stomach turned the second Yadier Molina had been hit by a pitch to load the bases full, because of the situation that lie ahead. St. Louis had loaded the bases with no outs, and I should have been (at the least) a happy fan. But I had seen far too many instances like this that went down the drain, and instead of a joyous few minutes with the game essentially in the Cardinals' hands, I was left to shake my head at how they could botch something that seemed so easy. It was like a wide-open shot on net in hockey, a breakaway goal in soccer, an easy layup for the win in basketball.

Despite the simple goal - scoring some runs - I felt uneasy and couldn't look away. I watched with one eye open even though I knew what the odds of success were. It didn't matter that it felt like the kiss of death - I decided to watch anyway.

Sure enough, Allen Craig and Jon Jay followed Molina's HBP with consecutive strikeouts. Daniel Descalso came up to bat, and there was no chance then, either. As he grounded out to second, I found myself believing two things: it would be the turning point of the game (it was), and the Cardinals were going to lose the game (they did, 5-0). I changed the channel the instant Descalso grounded out. I didn't need to watch the last 5 innings to know how the game would turn out.

The Cardinals had committed a big blunder. Their chance to put the game away turned out like Jean Van de Velde winning the British Open in 1999. Alright - I contend that may have been a touch harsh - but the point remains the same: there was a chance to break away with something, and the Cards swung and missed. Their chance to run away with a golden opportunity had been squandered, and their lack of production in the moment would cost them later on.

Despite the disappointment of that game, that moment got me thinking about this very article: how exactly has St. Louis fared in bases-loaded situations in 2014?

(All stats through Tuesday afternoon)

# of outs (when bases were first loaded)
# of situations # of runs scored (avg # runs in situation)
0 8 13 (avg 1.625)
1 16 22 (avg 1.375)
2 30 21 (avg 0.7; no runs scored in 20 situations with 2 outs)










While the team has struggled at times with the bases loaded, stats like these are encouraging:

  • The Cardinals are 4-0 in games that they've loaded the bases more than once..
  • St. Louis has won 4 of their last 5 ballgames in which they loaded the bases (their last loss was to the Marlins on July 5th - in that game the Cards failed to score with the bases loaded & 2 outs in the 2nd inning)

It is no secret that the 2013 Cardinals had something special with runners in scoring position, or the bases loaded for that matter. St. Louis hit .370 with the bases loaded last season. The most successful player in that situation with 10 or more at-bats was none other than Allen Craig, who batted .700. Of players with more than 5 at-bats, Matt Carpenter was the most successful, with a .778 average.

In 2014, the Redbirds are batting .256 with the bases loaded. That average ranks third in the NL Central, behind the Reds' .324 - which also leads the NL - and the Brewers' .271. The Cards' .256 average is 8th in the National League.

Craig, who leads the team with 11 at-bats in this situation, is hitting .273. Matt Holliday and Tony Cruz have the highest average, each hitting .500 in small sample size (Holliday 6 ABs, Cruz 4). Jay is the most improved in bases-loaded scenarios, going from .083 in '13 (in 12 ABs) to .444 this season in 9 at-bats.

And, as a whole, the Cardinals have scored the 2nd fewest runs offensively in all of Major League Baseball (370), with the Padres' 291 runs being the only worse number in the bigs. To put that in perspective, St. Louis has finished in the top five in runs scored in each of the last three seasons.

The main difference between the two teams, if you disregard players who have come and gone (like Freese, Beltran, or the stuck-in-Memphis Pete Kozma), is the production of Allen Craig.

VEB's own Craig (Edwards, that is) put together a superb post on Sunday on Allen's hitting woes and possible future - or lack thereof - in a Cardinal uniform. There is no question that the Allen Craig of 2014 is not the same Allen Craig from 2013. The same player who hit .315 last year (and hit an unreal .454 with runners in scoring position) has regressed quite a bit, sporting a .244 batting average while straddling a .256 average with runners in scoring position this season.

Sure, regression was bound to hit the Redbirds after their offensive success last season, but nobody expected this. Not out of Allen Craig, not with runners in scoring position, not with the bases loaded. Sure, the Cards weren't going to hit .330 with runners in scoring position again, and some players were bound to regress. But for the Cardinals to have the seemingly endless, ant-under-a-magnifying-glass kind of struggle months after succeeding under the same philosophy is, to say the least, confusing. Ah, the joys of baseball.

'Til next time...

Zoom Zoom's playlist for July 23, 2014

"Paul Revere" - Beastie Boys

"Cath" - Death Cab for Cutie

"Running on Empty" - Jackson Browne

"Married with Children" - Oasis

"Rollover DJ" - Jet