The St. Louis Cardinals need to find a way to get more production out of first base.
Matt Adams, who gets the bulk of playing time at a position typically filled by a power hitter, is almost entirely helpless against lefty pitchers. And he isn’t exactly killing righties, either.
So far this season, Adams is hitting .105 against southpaws with one RBI and a 10:1 strikeouts to walks ratio.
Adams has a respectable .291 average against right handed pitchers. But he’s only got a .321 on-base percentage against them and has 11 strikeouts against 4 bases on balls.
Overall, he’s batting .255 with a .288 on-base percentage. And that’s just not good enough for a position counted on to drive in a lot or runs and to provide home run power.
Over the winter the Redbirds signed Mark Reynolds to help give them some protection at first base. But he’s batting only .224 and, as expected, he’s piling up strikeouts in bunches.
Reynolds, a right-handed batter, doesn’t have much more luck against lefty hurlers than Adams, batting .130 against them.
I doubt, with power hitters lacking in the major leagues, that the Cardinals could make a trade for one who could play first base if they had the pieces to give up. Which they don’t.
But maybe there is an internal solution. Here are a few ideas:
▪ Switch Matt Holliday from left field to first base.
Holliday has never played anywhere but in the outfield, but there is a long tradition of moving aging outfielders to first base to save their legs and keep their bat in the middle of the order. Jack Clark and Lance Berkman come to mind.
Holliday, who is off to a fantastic start with a .344 average and 17 RBIs is capable of bringing production typical of a first baseman into the mix. If he moved, the Cardinals could put Randal Grichuk in left field when he returns soon from the disabled list.
In only 33 games against lefties in his young career, Grichuk is only a .231 batter. But that’s a small statistical sample. Plus, he’s hit three homers and three doubles in only 65 at bats. So there are signs of life there. Maybe he’d benefit from more consistent playing time. It seems worth taking the chance.
▪ Grichuk is a gifted outfielder. But if the Cardinals don’t think Holliday could play defense at first base -- or if he doesn’t feel comfortable doing so, they could cut out the middle man and move Grichuk directly to first base.
Also a career outfielder, Grichuk ought to be willing to make the move in order to increase his manager’s options to get him into games.
Cardinals shortstop Johnny Peralta is on the wrong side of 30 and is a bigger guy than typical shortstops. He’d be a natural fit a first base over the remainder of his Cardinals contract. But if he’s moved, the issue becomes trying to find a productive shortstop. That’s the question Peralta was signed to answer. And it’s a tougher task than finding a first baseman.
Of course, Pete Kozma could play better defense than Peralta at short, so we’d see some incremental improvement. But not enough to justify the shake up.
It would be nice if St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak could find another Berkman on the scrap heap. But that doesn’t seem likely at this point.
Adams performed best for the Cardinals when he batted almost exclusively against righty pitchers a couple of years ago. So maybe taking the stress of batting in a situation where he is unlikely to succeed would boost his strengths.
There is nothing to lose by giving these ideas a try.