Time for Rolen to Bring Eckstein Home

Brian Walton wants to see a lot more of Scott Rolen driving in David Eckstein this season.

Lost in the Cardinals Sunday afternoon 15-run offensive explosion against the Padres was the fact that leadoff man David Eckstein scored three runs. It was the first time as a Cardinal that he crossed the plate three times and only the third time all season he had scored more than a single run in a game.

To put that into additional perspective, coming into Sunday, Eckstein had scored just ten runs over the first 29 games of the 2005 campaign. Even after Sunday, Eckstein is on pace to score just 70 runs over the full season.

As a point of reference, in 2004, Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins was the top run-scoring leadoff man in the major leagues with 119. Albert Pujols led all of MLB with 133.

Looking around the game this season, here in 2005, Baltimore's Brian Roberts, the American League Player of the Month in April, is tied with the Dodgers' Jeff Kent for tops in the majors with 27 runs scored. Milwaukee's leadoff hitter, Brady Clark, is among those right behind with 26.

Now, just hold on a second. How in the world can the Brewers' leadoff man be scoring runs at double the rate of the Cardinals' first batter?

Well, in all fairness, Eckstein is doing his part fairly well. His on-base percentage (OBP) of .357 looks decent in comparison to Tony Womack's astounding (for him) .349 mark in 2004. It also compares well to Edgar Renteria's .327 OBP in 2004, for that matter. As a final data point, while usually leading off, Womack scored 91 runs last season for the Cardinals.

While we all know that the Cardinals' big bats have not heated up yet here in the 2005 season, a look at batting averages with runners in scoring position helps us understand why so many innings are ending with Eckstein standing on base.

While Albert Pujols (.393) and Jim Edmonds (.375) are surely doing their part bringing home the table-setters, Scott Rolen's lack of productivity stands out like a sore thumb. His mark with runners in scoring position is a paltry .189.

Some may argue that only with five weeks of the season in the books that the sample size is too small. However, Rolen has already been in this position 37 times in his 28 games played and converted only seven.

That 7-for-37 mark includes his gift three-run double Sunday that should have been caught by defensively-challenged Padres leftfielder Ryan Klesko. Rolen's other RBI Sunday came via a fielders' choice ground out.

Still, let's hope that Rolen's performance Sunday is what he needs to get back to where he should be in terms of bringing home Eckstein and the rest of the Cardinals' table-setters.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


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