While we all try to eliminate the bad taste left in out mouths by the St. Louis Cardinals lousy conclusion of the first half of the 2015 baseball season, let’s not forget the good things.
After all, the Redbirds have the best record in baseball - although casual observers may not know this because more (over)zealous fans are in full blown panic mode following the loss of three of four games to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cardinals aren’t a team without faults. But they’ve proved they have the mettle to win a whole bunch of baseball games. Here’s what has to happen for things to get back on track:
1) The injured players that have populated the St. Louis disabled list have to return, as expected, and be effective.
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Matt Holliday’s bat in the third spot of the lineup might be missed most of all. Holliday was batting .303 with three homers and 26 runs batted in when he was shelved due to a leg injury. More than anything, the Cardinals need to score more runs and driving in runs is what Holliday gets the big bucks to do.
It will also be a nice boost to get back set-up man Jordan Walden (0.87 ERA, 12 strikeouts, 4 walks, 7 hits allowed in 10 1/3 innings of work, workhorse reliever Matt Belisle (3.00 ERA, 24 strikeouts, 13 walks in 30 innings) and starter Jaime Garcia (3-3, 1.69, 35 hits, 32 strikeouts, 7 walks in 48 innings.)
The good news is that they’re all expected back sooner rather than later.
2) Get Matt Carpenter healthy. Carpenter hasn’t seemed like himself since he missed several games with “extreme fatigue” early this season. He’s batting only .266 and has shown little sign of his trademark doubles power in recent weeks. He’s struck out 71 times in 83 games, the highest rate of his career. Whether he needs more regular rest or to address an underlying medical issue, Carpenter’s typical production would be a big boost to the St. Louis offense.
3) Take care of the healthy pitchers. At some point, the Cardinals are going to have to at least slow down Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. Sure, they’re pitching great. But Wacha is coming off an injury-riddled 2014 campaign and Martinez is in his first full season as a starter in the major leagues. At some point they’re going to hit the proverbial wall. The team needs to find a way to get them both a breather by skipping a start or two. I can’t see either of them being allowed to throw 200 plus innings. But they each have 107 1/3 at the break, tied for second behind John Lackey.
While they’re at it, the Cardinals might want to take it easy with closer Trevor Rosenthal who seemed absolutely gassed at the end of the first half. Hopefully, the return of Walden will give manager Mike Matheny a late inning alternative.
4) Restock their pitching depth. If The Birds could get Marco Gonzales healthy it would go a long way. But the club might be wise to find a reasonably-priced veteran hurler to make sure they don’t have to turn to Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney for big games down the stretch. While I’d love to see the Cardianls acquire a David Price or Cole Hamels type to match against the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner in post-season games, it doesn’t appear the club has the pieces to make such a deal possible.
5) Find a first base bat. Matt Adams wasn’t setting the world on fire when he was healthy. But ever since he went down to a season-ending injury, the Cardinals have struggled to get any offense from the position.
Mark Reynolds is struggling in the .220 range - and without his trademark power. He’s said he isn’t capable of being an every day player anymore and I tend to believe him.
USA Today suggested earlier this month that Milwaukee slugger Adam Lind might be a good fit for the Birds and I agree - if the price is right.
Lind is batting .292 with 15 homers, 19 doubles and 52 runs batted in. He’d be an obvious choice to bat clean-up for St. Louis. He’s also got a reasonable team option for 2016 which makes him more than a short-term rental.
The price? It’s speculated that Class AAA outfielder Stephen Piscotty and a low level pitching prospect could land Lind.
Would the Cardinals be reluctant to trade with a division rival? It didn’t stop them from trading useful young reliever Michael Blazek to the Brew Crew a couple of years ago for John Axford.