Some of the faces have changed. But two things about the St. Louis Cardinals seem to always remain the same:
1) They can't hit even the most mediocre of left-handed pitching.
2) They seem to be perfectly content to mail it for game three when they've won the first two games of a series.
After beating the Cincinnati Reds on Monday and Tuesday, the Redbirds made Mike Leake look like the son of Cy Young with a three-hit performance and some pretty shoddy fielding. With the chance to move safely over the .500 mark and get on a roll, the Birds seemed to be looking forward to their Thursday off day.
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The Cardinals sleep walked through at bats and were bat on defense before fans knew what hit them. Meanwhile the sports clip shows gushed about the amazing speed of Cincinnati centerfielder Billy Hamilton.
While Hamilton may be fast, I could have stole second base when he glided in without a throw while Shelby Miller was pitching. And I am timed these days with a sun dial. Miller simply didn't check on the runner -- which is a pretty egregious mistake when you have a speedster on the base paths -- and Hamilton was half way to second base before Miller delivered the ball.
Then there is the issue of Hamilton tagging up on a ball hit maybe 200 feet that Jon Jay caught at what could better be described as deep second base than short right field. I don't care if Hamilton was on a motorcycle. There is no excuse for letting a baserunner score on that shallow of a fly ball. It's less of a testament to how fast Hamilton is than it is an indication of how bad Jay's arm is.
If I was the skipper, I'd be tempted to use Jay in center and Peter Bourjos in right on days that Allen Craig gets a day off simply because, while Bourjos is a supposedly better centerfielder, there is no doubt that he has the better arm of the two players. And right field requires a strong arm more than center.
The Cardinals don't seem to do anything besides play vanilla baseball. If they have hit and run so far this year I missed it. They were all excited about adding team speed in Bourjos and Kolten Wong. Yet we're nine games into the season and they have a grand total of one stolen base to their credit. They don't have a tremendous amount of power that justifies waiting for a three-run homer. Yet they stand around on the bases and manage to hit into a ton of double plays.
The only player of the starting eight who has really stood out so far is Matt Carpenter who has been fantastic with the glove after a position move to third base. Sure, he played third base earlier in his career. But it's obvious he's worked on his fielding quite a bit since he originally appeared in the big leagues. He's much quicker in his reaction times and much more sure-handed with the leather.
I also tip my cap to Matt Adams who has made a big effort to be more than just a pull hitter. Adams has more hits to the opposite field so far this season that he has to his pull field or up the middle, combined.
That's fine if he keeps his head and is ready to turn on pitches if hurlers mix things up and start trying to bust him inside. But the drastic change in his approach worries me that Adams has surrendered his power in order to become a high average hitter. I'm not saying that Adams should hack as hard as he can three times, no matter where the ball is pitched. But it seems that he's looking for an away pitch that he can bloop to left field as opposed to looking to a pitch he can drive. Going to the opposite field should be Plan B, not vice versa.
The Cardinals just aren't putting their talent to its most effective use at this point. I don't know if they didn't properly prepare in spring training or if the team has a bad game plan to this point. But it seems like they need to be more aggressive and force the other team to make mistakes instead of letting the other teams force them to make mistakes.