Could "The Year of the Pitcher" be to blame for the Cardinals' unexpected woes?
The Redbirds were built to be a team that could score runs in bunches. They have two of the best sluggers in baseball -- Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday -- anchoring the middle of the lineup surrounded by a productive supporting case of Ryan Ludwick, Colby Rasmus and Yadier Molina.
But Pujols is hitting 24 points below his career batting average of .332 while striking out at an unusually high rate. Holliday is hitting 16 points below his career average of .316 while hitting much worse with runners in scoring position.
In a vacuum, those numbers seem disappointing. But it relative terms, the Cardinals are holding up pretty well.
With pitching dominating in 2010, only 14 hitters in the National League have managed to hit .300 or better. And the Cardinals sluggers are two of them.
Pujols has been heavily criticized for his drop in slugging percentage -- although he remains near the top of the leaderboard in that category. He's in third place, .013 behind Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto. Only 17 National Leaguers have managed to slug better than .500 and the Cardinals have three of them: Pujols, .576; Colby Rasmus, .545 and Holliday, .529.
Only 13 National Leaguers have on base plus slugging percentages of .900 or better. And three Cardinals are in their ranks: Pujols in second at .992, Rasmus in ninth at .914 and Holliday 13th at .902.
Maybe the Cardinals just look bad at the plate because we're used to a level of offense that's just not there anymore... That being said, the Birds' batsmen need to make adjustments to the new normal. They need to cut down their strokes and put the ball in play instead of swimming upstream and trying to hit for power in a power outage. They need to strategise differently and manufacture runs when they are available instead of waiting around for three-run homers and lengthy rallies.
In the second half, the Cardinals need to make their own luck and be more committed to pecking away than trying to land a haymaker. The homers will come by accident. But not if the Birds don't put the ball in play.
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