A Call for a Revival of Power
While many of the professional prognosticators are picking the Cardinals to waltz right into the playoffs, I have some concerns. One of my worries is about this lineup and how it stacks up against the last few Cardinal teams that out-muscled the rest of the division. It seems this lineup is a far cry from the Band of Sluggers it was in 2004, or even the injury riddled group that finished only 7th in the division in home runs last year. Gone are the aging but slugging outfield combo of Reggie Sanders and Larry Walker. And their replacements are a much less imposing duo of Juan Encarnacion and Larry Bigbie.
While both outfielders represent a much younger combo in the corners, they also represent a less powerful one.3 Year *Isolated Power (ISO)
Larry Bigbie .135
(So Taguchi .126)
Reggie Sanders .260
Juan Encarnacion .168
Larry Walker .232
That's a pretty big drop off, and it puts a lot of pressure on the trio of Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen to produce the majority of the runs. Pujols is the least of my concerns, as he's been the model of consistent greatness. Jim Edmonds is looking as if he is graciously heading into the decline phase of his career. His ISO dropped to .270 from .342 in 2003 and .341 in 2004. While Jimmy is still a threat for the long-ball, he may not be the force he once was. Scott Rolen hit a grand-slam Opening Day against the Phillies, and could still be the Rolen we've all come to love at the plate, but he's still a question mark with that reconstructed shoulder. The rest of the lineup consists of slap hitters like the like David Eckstein, Yadier Molina and Aaron Miles.
I got to believe for the Cardinals to repeat the success they've had in recent seasons, Walt Jocketty is going to have one of his signature deals at the deadline for a slugging left fielder. But who?
My guess? Luis Gonzalez. His contract is up at the end of the year and Arizona has got some stud outfielders on the way up in Carlos Quentin, who has not much left to prove in the minors. Gonzalez is in the twilight of his career at 38, but he still was effective, finishing 12th among all leftfielders in VORP. (35.6) I could see him as this year's Larry Walker. (Though if you've read Three Nights in August, it would be entertaining to see how the relationship between Tony LaRussa and Gonzo would play out.)
My other guess? With Chuck LaMar out in Tampa Bay, Jocketty could revisit Aubrey Huff. Last year when Walt inquired about Huff, LaMar asked for Anthony Reyes and that pretty much killed it. With Delmon Young and BJ Upton likely to see playing time soon, and Huff's contract up this season, Huff could again be on the block.
I don't think either of these deals would go down until the closer to the deadline, as Larry Bigbie and John Rodriguez will be given auditions. And Chris Duncan will be given some time for the organization to see if he's a regular or a bench player in the mold of John Mabry. A couple of other in-house wild cards that could come into play are outfield prospects Cody Haerther and Nick Stavinoha. Both are currently starting in AA Springfield. Last season, their equivalent slugging percentage according to Baseball Prospectus is .458 for Haerther and .474 for Stavinoha. If Stavinoha can hit for power in AA like he did at LSU and with low A Quad Cities; he could make the jump to the show rather quickly.
As the Right Reverend, I like to see power and glory. I'm thinking with this current lineup it will be there, but not like the past. While there is a push for small-ball with the current champion White Sox as a model, I'd still like to see a revival of power in the lineup to help christen the new Busch Stadium in grand fashion.
* Glossary: ISO - is one of five primary production metrics used in identifying a hitter or pitcher's comparables. PECOTA uses a slightly modified version of Isolated Power that assigns the same value to triples as to doubles (extending a double into a triple is generally an indicator of speed, rather than additional power). Thus, the formula for isolated power as follows: ISO = (2B + 3B + HR*3) / AB
Editor's Note: For more of the good word, from the Right Reverend, check out his blog at http://reverendredbird.wordpress.com/