St. Louis Cardinals Must Find Power to Win NL Central
With a league-leading .673 win percentage, the St. Louis Cardinals continue to look dominant in a division in which we find three of the best four teams in MLB record-wise, yet there is one big sign that their stranglehold on the NL Central lead may slip.
Last night, the Red Birds overpowered the World Champion San Francisco Giants in an impressive double-header sweep, but despite posting an aggregate 15-1 score, the Cards failed to go deep.
In fact, they have only managed 42 homers this season. Busch Stadium isn’t notorious for being a difficult place to prove power, yet St. Louis sit 26th amongst all major league teams, 12th in the NL in home runs.
Their lack of power is negated somewhat by their continued run scoring — they sit second in the NL with 251 RBIs — as well as a lights-out rotation, but if the Cardinals are to make good on their designs of winning a second World Series in three years, second-year manager Mike Matheny and rookie hitting coach John Mabry will need to find a way to induce more power from their lineup.
Having registered 12 HRs, Carlos Beltran leads the team, with only Matt Holliday anywhere near him with eight. Despite this, they boast five qualifying hitters with an OPS of over .750, and continue to draw an above-average number of walks.
Getting on base is blatantly not an issue in St. Louis, but converting their baserunners into scored runs relies primarily on continued power, and to compete in a division that houses an impressive Cincinnati Reds team as well as the streaky Pittsburgh Pirates, the 2011 World Champions may look to shuffle their lineup to maximize hitting potential.
Jon Jay maintained his position atop the order in the second game of the doubleheader, and despite smaller sample sizes elsewhere, his batting average of .205 from the leadoff is his worst amongst the lineup splits. Although power is traditionally generated from the man third in the lineup, Beltran is often found in the two-hole while occasionally being used as a cleanup hitter.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that Beltran is suited to a role in the third spot, thus exploiting his bat, which would result in Holliday moving from there. He is yet to bat anywhere else in the lineup, but would shine as a cleanup hitter, and the pair could combine to create a powerful tandem.