Going in to tonight’s matchup against Houston the Cardinals sit tied with Pittsburg atop the NL Central at 54-48. Anyone watching last night’s contest say some stellar defense that went a long way towards helping the Cardinals “hold-on” for a 10-5 victory. Ryan Theriot, Yadier Molina, Colby Rasmus and Skip Schumaker all made important defensive stops behind Kyle McClellan and company.
Skip and Colby each made diving catches in the outfield, Molina threw out Hunter Pence attempting to steal second and Theriot came through with a handful of solid if not spectacular plays at short-stop. Each play came at a critical moment in the game and each came with Houston looking to gain momentum.
After McClellan’s went seven strong and the bullpen tried to give it back, the 5-6 plays by the afore mentioned group made the difference. It has been said for years and we have seen it often here in St. Louis. How a team plays up the middle, from Catcher on through to your Center Fielder has as much impact on a season as offense or pitching. Cardinal fans became accustom for many seasons watching the likes of Edmonds, Matheny, Vina, Molina, Eckstein and Renteria shut down opposing teams with their Gold Gloves.
The play of the year’s Cardinals squad up the middle has left a great deal to be desired. Numerous games have been lost or made far too close as a result of the play of Theriot, Schumaker and yes, even Rasmus. Our manger keeps his guys out there. TLR is loyal, often to a fault. We have seen it with Izzy and earlier this season with Franklin. Tony LaRussa sticks with his veterans and defends them at all costs, again often to a fault.
This is not the time for that. The play of Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso and Nick Punto has forced the issue. The reality is this, there are roughly 60 games to go and the Cardinals are in the midst of 2-month long pennant chase. This is not a time for loyalty this is a time to address an issue we can all see holding back the 2011 Cardinals. Plain and simple the up-the-middle-defense in an issue needs TLR’s immediate attention. With David Freese back at third and Punto seemingly healthy it is time for a platoon, a three position platoon.
When Theriot was hitting right at the 300 mark I understood running him out there every day. When Rasmus started off the 2011 campaign on a tear it made sense to firmly pen him in as your every day Center Fielder. And while Descalso lingered around a 235 batting average just using him as a late inning defensive replacement was the right move.
Take another look at the numbers and one can see that is not the case anymore. What was once three is now six as Jay, Descalso and Punto have performed extremely well and need to see significantly more time.
Ryan Theriot .269 BA .315 OBP .956 Fld % -0.8 WAR
Jon Jay .313 BA .364 OBP .993 Fld % 1.0 WAR
Colby Rasmus .245 BA .332 OBP .987 Fld % 1.0 WAR
Skip Schumaker .284 BA .330 OBP .988 Fld % 0.3WAR
Daniel Descalso .263 BA .341 OBP .973 Fld % 1.4 WAR
Nick Punto .275 BA .370 .986 Fld % 1.2 WAR
Tony LaRussa owes it to himself and more importantly the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals to put the best line-up out on a game-by-game basis. Both offensively and DEFENSIVELY. And more often than not, moving forward that line-up should have Descalso, Jay and Punto…penciled in of course.
As usual these are just my thoughts…keep on reading and you’ll get up to speed.
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