Cheap Seats

The St. Louis Cardinals need to stop relying on the home run if they want to win

Why do the St. Louis Cardinals post a football score one night and get shut out the next?

It’s simple. We play in an all or nothing era of baseball, and the Redbirds are the perfect example of an all or nothing team.

The Cardinals are far too reliant on home runs to account for their scoring. When they don’t come, they’re no good at manufacturing runs because they are too busy striking out to bother with advancing runners around the bases. In the Whitey Herzog era, the Cardinals didn’t need a hit to score. A walk followed by a stolen base and a couple ground balls made it 1-0. Today, forget about stolen bases. This station-to-station team might get a lead-off walk every so often. But more often than not, the ground ball is going to result in a double play.

Specifically, when Matt Carpenter is hot, St. Louis is always a threat to score runs in bunches. Either he hits a home run or else he walks and then Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong or Marcell Ozuna hits one. When Carpenter doesn’t set the tone — as is the case now when he’s struggling to hit .200 and his on-base percentage is barely over .300 — the Birds are going to struggle.

When the Cardinals combined to score in double figures their last two series openers, they got multiple homers with runners on base. When they lost all the other games of those series, they didn’t.

It seemed that St. Louis was intent on diversifying it’s offense over the past couple years. It signed Dexter Fowler to add a more traditional leadoff man and then promoted first Tommy Pham and then Harrison Bader to add a speed element to the plodding sluggers the team employs. But each time, the change didn’t stick and Carpenter ends up at the top of the order.

Manager Mike Shildt said he hasn’t changed the batting order because he “trusts the process.” But is waiting for a three-run homer really a process or hoping you hit the lottery as an alternative to finding a job to pay your bills. A process is executing a plan, not wishful thinking that things will change.

The lack of change makes me wonder, just as I did when Mike Matheny was skipper, who is really in charge. Are the pencil pushers in the front office making the call that certain people have to bat in this spot or when this guy is up, the defense has to play a certain way? If he’s calling his own shots, I don’t know if he’s as good of a manager as we were led to believe. How can an intelligent person keep doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results?

The Cardinals were on top of baseball two weeks ago. Another two weeks of how they are playing now and this season is going to be over in a big hurry.