The St. Louis Cardinals project to have an Opening Day lineup full of players who will regularly get on base and it also features plenty of power to drive them in. The one thing the team will lack, however, is speed.
The Cardinals stole 91 bases in 2012, which tied them with the Texas Rangers for 24th of 30 teams in Major League Baseball, but players who stole more than a quarter of the Cardinals bases last season are either hurt or no longer with the team.
That leaves the Cardinals with about four regular stolen base threats. Slow-footed but incredibly intelligent catcher Yadier Molina stole 12 bases last year and could very well steal another dozen or so this season. Rightfielder Carlos Beltran had 13 stolen bases last year, but he is 35 years old and has slowed down considerably in recent years after various knee injuries.
The other proven stolen-base threat from last year’s team is centerfielder Jon Jay, who had 19 last season. He will likely lead the team again this season unless outfield prospect Oscar Taveras makes the team, but even he hasn’t stolen more than 10 bases in a season during his four seasons in the minor leagues.
Shortstop Pete Kozma stole just two bases during his brief 26-game stint with the Cardinals at the end of 2012, but he once stole 24 bases in 2008 and had 13 in 2010, all in the minor leagues.
Other than those options, the Cardinals will likely enter the season with a pretty slow team, but that’s not necessarily a terrible fault.
The Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 after stealing just 57 bases, which ranked last in the National League, and only the Detroit Tigers had fewer steals with 49 that season. The Cardinals also made it to within one game of the World Series in 2012 while ranking 24th.
And they aren’t the only team that has found it can win without stealing bases. In fact, just three teams that made the 2012 playoffs ranked in the top half of baseball in stolen bases. The Oakland A’s were ninth, the San Francisco Giants were 10th and the Washington Nationals were 15th.
Otherwise, all of the best teams didn’t steal many bases. The World Series-champion Detroit Tigers actually ranked dead last for the second year in a row, but they had great power and great pitching.
Those two factors are also why the Cardinals shouldn’t be too concerned about the number of bases they steal in 2013.
They have a lineup that should easily rank in the top 10 in all three of the Triple Crown categories, batting average, homeruns and runs batted in, and they have a pitching staff that should be more than solid if not for too many injuries.
Sure, Chris Carpenter is no longer an option at the top of the rotation, but the Cardinals have arguably the most young talent on their pitching staff since the days Tony La Russa decided to come to St. Louis because Matt Morris and Alan Benes were on their way to the big leagues.
The Whitey Herzog disciples will forever yearn for the days when Cardinals players of the 1980s slapped the ball into play and ran like the wind around the bases, but those days have long since passed. And they aren’t coming back anytime soon, at least not as long as the Cardinals furnish a lineup with five batters who can hit 20 or more homeruns.
So while the Cardinals style of play might not be terribly exciting on the basepaths, nearly every other aspect of their play is good enough that they will likely once again be playoff contenders come September.