One item discussed this spring by me and others is the heavy skew of the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting lineup toward left-handed hitters - while the projected bench could be entirely right-handed swingers.
Among the projected members of the starting eight, only Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta bat from the right side, with Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay and newcomer Jason Heyward all lefty swingers.
Only once in the last 17 years, going back to Tony La Russa’s third year as Cardinals manager in 1998, did the club open the season with even four left-handed hitters in the regular lineup, let alone five, as we could see in 2015.
When we include switch-hitters along with full-time lefties, however, a starting total of four would not be unusual at all. That was achieved six times in the last 20 years, including as recently as 2013. Yet, 2015 would be the first time during this period with five left/switch-hitting starters to open the season.
At first blush, that would seem to suggest that the current roster construction might be out of balance. In terms of the starting lineup alone, it is definitely at the extreme; however in the larger context when including the bench, this would be a very typical population.
Taking the starters plus the reserves, the projected 2015 overall roster construction of five left/switch hitters on the 25-man opening day roster would be right on the team’s 20-year average. Yet, there has never been an entire right-handed bench since at least 1996.
In conclusion, the overall population of 13 hitters, split eight and five righty-lefty, could give Mike Matheny enough material with which to work. The challenge will be on the manager to determine how to deploy them most effectively in his daily lineups and to have the right bullets remaining for key late-game situations.
St. Louis Cardinals, left-handed and switch-hitters, opening roster, 1996-2015 (projected)
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