In aggregate, the four have barely won a third of their games over the first three weeks of regular-season play. Three of the four are in last place in their respective divisions with the other is in fifth, only one game out of seventh.
They are the Memphis Redbirds of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, Springfield Cardinals of the Double-A Texas League, Palm Beach Cardinals of the A-Advanced Florida State League and the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League.
While each has generally received good pitching, one key reason for the poor showing is the same in each case – anemic offensive production.
The following table, with data coming into Sunday's action, illustrates each team's record and its divisional standing. Next is runs per game (RPG) scored by each of the four clubs, followed by that ranking in their league.
The final two columns indicate a comparison between the Cardinals affiliates and their league counterparts. This is important to consider since each league has its own characteristics.
"RPG Beh. Lg. Avg." indicates how many runs each game the Cards club scores below the average of the rest of their league. This varies from 0.6 run per game difference (Springfield) to an alarming two runs per game under the league average (Memphis).
The final column, "RPG Beh. Lg. Ldr.," shows how many more runs per game the top team in each league is scoring compared to the Cardinals. In every case, there is at least one league competitor scoring a whopping three more runs each game on the average than the Cardinals affiliates.
|RPG Beh.||RPG Beh.|
|As of 4/24||W-L||Div.||RPG||Rank||Lg. Avg.||Lg . Ldr.|
Some of the struggles could be attributed to players adjusting to a new level, while injuries have also played a part.
Memphis – Timely hitting has been lacking as seven of the Redbirds' first 11 losses were by just one run. New arrivals from Springfield, Pete Kozma and Matt Carpenter, started very slowly. Outfielders Andrew Brown and Shane Robinson collided and went onto the disabled list. Cleanup hitter Mark Hamilton was walked regularly and is now in St. Louis. Veteran Nick Stavinoha (.688 OPS) has yet to heat up.
The Redbirds are last in the PCL in runs scored and third from the bottom in batting average.
|PCL w/o Mem.||5.5||0.278|
Springfield – Veteran cleanup hitter Steven Hill is on the shelf. The heart of the lineup, hitters two through six, are three players making their Double-A debuts and a veteran free agent signing this past week. They are Ryan Jackson, Matt Adams, Alex Castellanos and former Yankees first-rounder Eric Duncan.
The S-Cards have the third-lowest batting average in the Texas League and are tied for the third-fewest runs scored. San Antonio has had an extraordinary start.
|TL w/o Sprf.||5.5||0.274|
Palm Beach – Despite having the consensus top hitting and pitching prospects in the entire system in Zack Cox and Shelby Miller, the Cardinals can't seem to buy a win. The Cardinals have endured ten one-run games so far including three defeats in extra innings. Cox is batting .296, but has just two doubles and no home runs.
The Cards are dead last in the Florida State League both run scoring and batting average and it isn't even close.
|FSL w/o PB||4.6||0.267|
Quad Cities – Since losing hot-hitting Oscar Taveras after just four games, the Bandits have been fighting the weather as well as the opposing pitchers. Quad Cities had six weather-related postponements and suffered through one stretch in which it was shut out in five of six games.
In the Midwest League, the River Bandits are third from the cellar of the 16 teams in runs scored and only one other club has a lower team batting average.
|MWL w/o QC||4.4||0.251|
While over four months of play remain, one has to have some concern over such a consistently rough offensive showing across the full-season clubs from top to bottom. The problem seems to have both breadth and depth.
Memphis manager Chris Maloney, a two-decade veteran of managing in the minor leagues, isn't overtly worried about his club's slow start. He probably spoke for his three peer skippers as well when I asked him on Monday what was going on with all the slow hitting.
"Sometimes they go in streaks like that," Maloney observed.
"We are going to be ok," the manager said about his Redbirds hitters. "We've just got a lot of young kids and they are just learning their way. Once they get going and get a little more confidence, it will be fine."
One can only hope the bats warm up along with the weather. Otherwise, it will be a long, cold summer across the upper reaches of the Cardinals system.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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