The St. Louis Cardinals of 2008 are playing well overall, sitting in first place, eight games over .500 at 22-14. Yet, many team watchers are less than comfortable, what with the club coming off a pair of tough losses to the Colorado Rockies.
So, how might one look at the figures to get a feel for why the Cardinals offense seems to be struggling at times?
Depending on where you look, the news can be bad or good. So, here are some factoids, comparing the Cardinals with the rest of the National League coming into Thursday's MLB action. At that point, St. Louis had played 35 games.
Good news: The Cardinals are #2 in the National League in batting average at .281.
Among the 15 other NL clubs, only the Atlanta Braves are better at .289. The Cardinals collectively are 32 points better than the overall league batting mark of just .259.
Among the regulars/semi-regulars, Ryan Ludwick (.356), Albert Pujols (.342), Adam Kennedy (.325) and Aaron Miles (.319) are all above the .300 mark. Troy Glaus (.225) and Cesar Izturis (.244) bring up the rear.
More good news: The Cards are #1 in the NL in on-base percentage at .373.
That is substantially better than the league average of .334.
Pujols dropped below .500 but is still leading the world at .494 and Ludwick is excelling at .424, too. Pujols has 34 walks, of which 10 were officially intentional, with the next highest total by Glaus with 20.
The so-so news: St. Louis is ranked #7 in the league in runs scored at 163.
That is slightly above the NL average of 156.
More so-so news: The Cards are also seventh in the NL in slugging at .418.
Still, they are collectively better than the league average of .409. The top individual sluggers are Ludwick (.701), Pujols (.575) and Ankiel (.492).
Not all the news is rosy. Major areas of concern include Glaus (pictured) at .350 and Chris Duncan at .373. To put the latter nums into context, career SLG marks for the two prior to 2008 are .500 for Glaus and .528 for Duncan.
Now for more bad news: The Cardinals are second in the circuit in runners left on base with 300.
That total is only one behind the league-leading Cubs at 301. The NL average team mark for runners left on is just 254. For the Cards, that 300 total works out to an average of 8.6 runners stranded each and every game.
More bad news: St. Louis batters have grounded into 38 double plays, most in the National League.
The NL team average is substantially less, just 25. The Cardinals' opponents have grounded into only 23 twin killings, a considerable disparity.
The primary Redbirds culprits are Duncan and Schumaker with six GIDPs each, followed by Glaus and Yadier Molina with five.
There you have it. Choose your stats to make your case as to whether the Cardinals offense is in good shape, middling or in trouble.
Here is one way to sum it up.
They seem to be getting on base very well, though they aren't especially walloping the ball. Once they get there, they aren't crossing the plate at the same frequency as a number of other clubs. Slightly more than two out of every three Cardinals runners are either being stranded or erased via the double play.
My take is that Glaus and Duncan are the keys. If they can each locate their lost 150 points of slugging – not too much to ask for them just to get back to their prior career averages - the Cardinals should begin to score runs more in proportion to their preponderance of getting on base. If the pitching holds constant, additional wins should follow.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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