I still wish the St. Louis Cardinals would have spent a few more bucks to land David Price or spent the money they saved when he signed with the Red Sox on a cleanup hitter.
But I firmly believe its the way the Redbirds personnel are deployed -- not a lack of talent -- that is causing a team that won 100 contests last year to struggle to play .500 baseball in 2016.
The Birds simply aren’t going to win more consistently until they catch the ball more consistently. Frankly, the currently infield arrangement is atrocious.
Matt Carpenter is playing his third-best position. He was a pretty good second baseman and a better first sacker earlier in his career. But the long throw from across the diamond seems to bother him.
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Sometimes he makes a bad throw. Far more often, as was the case last night when he booted as easy of a double play chance as he’s ever going to get, he seems to mess up something before he even gets to the almost in anticipation that he’s going to mess it up. In this case, it was the exchange of the ball from the glove to his bare hand. Carpenter seemed rushed and botched the most elementary part of the play.
At shortstop we have Aledmys Diaz. He’s easily been the Cardinals most productive hitter of the season. Diaz needs to be in the lineup. But does he need to play shortstop?
Diaz has a good arm. But he’s lousy when he has to range for the ball. The result is nine errors in 122 chances and a dismal .922 fielding percentage.
At second, Kolton Wong is maddening with the way he makes enough spectacular plays to keep up the idea that he’s a plus fielder. But then he lets balls hit right at him go between his legs. The long-term contract the Redbirds gave Wong before the season was supposed to make him settle down. But I worry that he’s the sort of guy who would benefit from being pushed to battle for his place in the starting lineup.
First base has been manned by Matt Adams, Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss. Holliday is passable with the glove. He’s not going to make anyone forget about Keith Hernandez. But he’s going to make most of the plays. Holliday is early in the learning stages of trying to play a position radically different than the one he’s used to. Brandon Moss needs to be a designated hitter.
Diaz is stuck at shortstop until Jhonny Peralta comes back from injury -- and the latter could potentially go on a rehab assignment as soon as this weekend.
When that happens, I’d like to see the steady -- if unspectacular -- Peralta back at short, Diaz bumped over to third base and Carpenter at first or second. Adams could play some first base and Wong could fight for playing time at second.
Carpenter would benefit from settling in at a spot where he is more comfortable and Diaz would benefit playing a spot where he wouldn’t be expected to take several steps to his left or right before he gets to the ball.
The Cardinals don’t typically like to have what they consider to be too many players for one position. So it might be a hard sell to get the front office to cool Wong’s heels on the bench. But I don’t see this defense getting magically better without a push. And it’s much easier to move pieces around the board than it is to make a roster overhaul in the middle of May.
Maybe the pieces will settle back where they started. But I think it’s worth it to at least try to do something to improve the defense instead of running out the same lineup day after day and expecting different results.