Where Are They Now: Ryan Ludwick

Few Cardinals players in recent memory have come along like Ryan Ludwick. He seemed to burst on the scene so quickly that he was on us before we knew it, and many fans didn’t even know who he was! In fact, if you’re reading this, have been a Cards fan for long, and are completely honest with yourself, you originally thought it was Ryan Ludwig. Didn’t you? C’mon, didn’t you? Don’t beat yourself up too badly over it–you were probably the “go to” person in your circle of friends for distinguishing Brian Barton & Brian Barden, weren’t you? Yeah, you were.

What you may not know is that after being invited to the Cardinals spring training camp in 2007, he would start the season in AAA Memphis. In less than a month there, he’d hit .340 with 8 bombs, and when Preston Wilson went on the DL on May 6th, Ludwick made his Cardinals debut. This was not his Major League debut, however, not by a long shot.

Ludwick actually made his debut with the 2002 Texas Rangers. (Yeah, ‘02) Some of his teammates at the time included names like Michael Young, Juan Gonzalez, and Kenny Rogers. There were future Hall of Famers, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, & Alex Rodriguez, as well as never Hall of Famer (“Period!”), Rafael Palmeiro. Other names that dot that roster that you may be familiar with include: Travis Hafner, Todd Van Poppel, John Rocker, Dennys “like the restaurant” Reyes, Randy Flores, along with 22 year-old Colby Lewis.
Things were over for Ludwick almost as quickly as they began, as a fractured hip would pretty much punch his one-way ticket out of Arlington. In 2 years with the Rangers, he played in a paltry 31 games, where, in 118 plate appearances he hit .215, hit 1HR, had 9 RBI, and slugged .308, and was traded to the Indians on July 18th, 2003. Of the 66 games remaining in the season, Ludwick split time between the corner outfield spots & DH in the 39 games in which he played. Those 39 games he played in an Indians uniform in ‘03 would exceed the combined number of games he’d play for them in ‘04 and ‘05.

On October 15th, 2005, he became a free agent, and signed with the Tigers two months later. After spending all of 2006 playing AAA ball for the Toledo Mud Hens, Ludwick would again become a free agent on the 15th of October, just in time to (speculation alert!) spend the next two weeks rooting against the team that just granted him free agency. Little did he know that in doing so, he would be rooting for his next employer, the [2006-World-Champion-because-they-beat-the-Tigers] St. Louis Cardinals.

Upon his arrival in St. Louis, Ryan Ludwick mashed at the plate early & often, earning him a spot on the 2008 NL All-Star team, as well as the 2008 Silver Slugger award. Take a look at these numbers, and recall the ones (above) from his days in Arlington:

2007: (StL) 339 PA .267 AVG 14 HR 52 RBI .479 SLG
2008: (StL) 617 PA .299 AVG 37 HR 113 RBI .591 SLG
2009: (StL) 539 PA .265 AVG 22 HR 97 RBI .447 SLG
2010: (StL) 312 PA .281 AVG 11 HR 43 RBI .484 SLG
2010: (SD) 239 PA .211 AVG 6 HR 26 RBI .330 SLG
This probably felt pretty good, if I had to guess

Notice anything? Average & power both drop off sharply after Luddy heads west!

Those were his numbers last year, when he was batting behind the 2nd-best 1st baseman in the league, Adrian Gonzalez…who is now in Boston. This leaves Ludwick heading into 2011 with very little protection in that lineup, which is reason to believe it will be increasingly difficult to bring some of those numbers back up. Add to that the fact that he’s in the same division as the Giants, and will be facing that rotation on a regular basis all season, and it gets really tough! Oh, and ask 100 pitchers (across AL and NL) what park they’d love to pitch in most…many will name the place where Ludwick will play 81 games…Petco in San Diego.

I have to admit that I was among those who, at the time of the deal, said, “We weren’t going to be able to afford to bring Ludwick back anyway.”. But, I think we bought low & sold high on him–and let’s face it, bringing Westbrook to St. Louis is HUGE now, given recent developments with our starting rotation and injuries. I hate to say it about a fan favorite like Luddy, and we did benefit tremendously from his talent while he was here, but I’d be surprised to see him put up numbers anywhere near what he did while wearing the birds on the bat.

I’m afraid the future may not be too promising for Ludwick as a Padre, at least not at this point. A trade or break out year by Brad Hawpe or someone could change all of that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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