It’s almost as if the St. Louis Cardinals drew it up themselves: when the season started, Matt Adams was part-time player, usually used as a pinch hitter and making the occasional start. If the redbirds are to become World Series champions in 2013, however, the 25-year old may very well end up being the reason why.
In fact, forget about the postseason — you’d only have to look at the final month of the regular season to see that Adams might just be the most important player for the Cardinals already.
Yes, there are no shortage of leaders on this club which has to be considered title favourites at this point; but even though Adams’ 0.9 fWAR in September isn’t necessarily as good as those of Matt Carpenter (1.7) and Matt Holliday (1.5), it’s truly all about the replacement value that he’s provided to St. Louis that has made the difference.
In this case, we’d be talking about Allen Craig, the team’s super-utility 1B/OF who might very well be out until the World Series … if he’s able to play in the postseason at all.
Much like how Craig has played a big part in the Cardinals’ process of moving on from the all-world hitter that was Albert Pujols, Adams has made sure that this team hasn’t missed a beat offensively over the last month of the 2013 season as they were in the midst of a heated NL Central divisional race.
And if you don’t think that he’s made a legitimate difference, please allow his team-leading eight home runs and .314/.344/.609 triple-slash through 96 PA compared to say, Carlos Beltran‘s .217/.320/.313 line and -0.3 fWAR mostly from the middle of the order to change your mind.
If Adams was even a replacement level player in Craig’s absence, we’re talking about a potential one-win differential and a major hole in the middle of the Cards’ lineup that would have a trickle-down effect, putting more pressure on everyone else to perform with Beltran’s late-season slump.
It’d be hard to quantify just how much damage that would have done to the team’s success, but the positives of Adams’ performance are evident, as most Cardinals fans can surely attest to as this point.
That said, the team should just take it as what it is, and understand that it’s pretty clear that they’ve more or less caught lightning in a bottle here. You won’t have to look too much further past the first baseman’s poor 0.15 BB/K and lopsided .368 BABIP despite a very low 13.8 percent line drive rate to see that the success he’s having this month may be very fleeting, and that the top option is still Craig here if he can play.
Of course, getting their regular first baseman back would require them making it far enough in to the postseason, and if Adams’ incredible run gets them just far enough, he might just end up being the team’s postseason MVP even if he doesn’t get to finish the job.
If he does get that chance? Well, it’s not the this team is unfamiliar with unlikely players taking the postseason spotlight before.