Cheap Seats

Cardinals hitters need to cut the strikeouts to go deep into post-season

While the excellent performance of starting pitcher Carlos Martinez ought to give St. Louis Cardinals fans hope that members of the starting rotation have scraped off the rust of a long layoff, the hitters don’t seem anywhere close to coming out of their streak of struggling to score runs.

The main reason the Redbirds seem to be challenged in the area of driving in runs is because they constantly swing and miss with runners on base. No one is asking every hitter on the team to hit .325. But they are seemingly incapable of doing the little things like hitting a sacrifice fly or grounding a ball behind a runner to move him up a base.

It doesn’t seem like much in the box score. But, over the course of a 162-game season, that adds up to a lot of runs.

Although they were fortunate to win Tuesday night the Cardinals made it a lot harder than it had to be. They were gifted three walks in an inning and STILL were unable to dent the plate.

They fought off a fourth walk with a wild swing for strike three which cost one run. And they couldn’t hit a fly ball with a runner at third and one out that cost at least one more.

Either of those runs score and the team wouldn’t have gone to extra innings.

The Cardinals have FOUR players who have already cracked the 100 strikeout mark this season. That’s just sad for a team that doesn’t have a serious 30 home run threat in the order.

I can understand the fact that two of them are Mark Reynolds and Randal Grichuk. Reynolds is a well-known strikeout artist who has racked up 115 whiffs being over-exposed thanks to injuries to Matt Adams and Matt Holliday. Grichuk is a young player who is still learning major league pitchers and refining his swing.

But Jhonny Peralta, who has average 103 strikeouts a season over the last five years, is already at 100 this year with three weeks of baseball left to play. Worse, Matt Carpenter has shattered his previous career mark of 111 strikeouts with 135 so far this year.

Kolten Wong (87) will probably reach the century mark is strikeouts this year while Adams and Holliday were likely candidates to make it there without their injuries.

I understand that sluggers are going to sometimes swing and miss. But the Cardinals aren’t a power team. They need to make contact, hit for a decent average and manufacture a solid on-base percentage.

Getting runs one at a time is a lot better than getting none.

It seems the front office knew the Redbirds would be short of home run power this season, so the team asked players who aren’t really power hitters to try to swing for the fences. That tactic has backfired in a big way.

Manager Mike Matheny last year singled out Carpenter as a guy who could hit home runs. Then there is the well-publicized bet between Carpenter and injured ace Adam Wainwright over whether the St. Louis third baseman could crack 20 over the boards this year.

Carpenter won a purple golf cart when he hit his 20th long ball. But at what cost?He was a .293 career hitter before this season and a .318 hitter two years ago.

Now he’s looking up at .260 and he’s got his lowest on-base percentage in a full season.

Watching him swing, Carpenter sure seems to be hacking for the fences. He’s got an upper cut stroke now instead of the level swing that generated a league-leading 55 doubles in 2013.

I’ve heard a lot of fans blame hitting coach John Mabry for the team’s woes at the plate. But Mabry’s approach when he was a player doesn’t reflect the hitters’ shortcomings now.

Mabry never came close to striking out 100 times in a season and he never got power happy, hitting no more than 13 homers in a season.

It seems the St. Louis hitters need to forget trying to hit for power and be who they really are. I’d rather have a balanced lineup that can string together base hits anywhere in the order than an American League type offense where we sit around and wait for a three-run homer that may never come.

When the playoffs get here, runs are going to be tough to come by. The Cardinals need to become much more efficient in their scoring if they’re going to be a serious World Series threat.