This month is going to be a wild ride, Cards fans. With Wainwright out, this pitching staff already had a tall order to fill. Now, it seems SOMEONE had to go and order dessert, too. Nice going, dude.
Matt Holliday’s unexpected appendicitis has thrown an unusual amount of pressure on a pitching staff already stretched thin. Now, in addition to dealing with a ‘pen that can’t pitch its way out of a wet paper bag and the loss of an Ace among Aces…they’re being asked to compensate for a lack of run support as well. That’s a lot to throw on any pitching staff.
Of course, you’ll undoubtedly hear some fans complain about this team’s perceived “lack of depth” over the coming weeks (although…when both our bench outfielders are receiving significant trade interest from other teams…does that mean we’re deeper than anticipated…?), and you’ll hear those same fans blame that supposed lack of depth for the winless woes of the April Cardinals. But the reality is, no team loses an All-Star clean-up hitter and continues on without speed bumps, pot holes, and a few wrong turns along the way. The Cardinals are in for a rough stretch of games. You can count on that.
But don’t get discouraged by it.
Teams around the league go through rough patches. What makes ours stand out is two things: 1) It’s at the beginning of the season…and we know how much the opening week of baseball means in St. Louis. 2) Tony LaRussa Cardinal teams are notorious for getting off to hot starts in April and May. This is new territory for us. We don’t know what to do with it. Tony is usually so good at getting his team ready for the season in Spring. That didn’t happen this year. Our team broke camp with question marks and concerns, not the least of which was a leaky bullpen. As fans, we’re not accustomed to that. It freaks us out. It makes us run for mama.
But get a grip. We’re not Cubs fans. The sky in St. Louis is not falling.
Sure, the offense is not producing much…but it is generating opportunities. Normally, I would be the first one to say, “How can we succeed with so many men left on base?!?!?!” But in this case, three items must be remembered:
1) Albert Pujols is not going to hit .125 for much longer. He just won’t. You know this, your brother knows this, your mama knows this…hell…even your creepy uncle with the lazy eye knows this. So calm down. Albert will be Albert. But until he is Albert, you must remember that this lineup is built around him. If he isn’t clicking, you can’t expect the offense to capatilize on all those baserunners.
2) Our All-Star clean-up hitter and Albert Pujols Enforcer is on the sidelines recovering from surgery. Albert not hitting is bad enough…but losing Holliday, too? Wow. Come on. How can you expect this offense to produce much at all when both those guys are non-factors? It’s bad enough with Holliday’s bat out of the lineup…but without him protecting Albert, too? That just makes it that much harder for Albert to climb out of a slump and ramp it up. But…Matt will be back…and in April, too. So it’s bad…but not disasterous.
3) We all knew it was going to take a bit of time for Lance Berkman’s power to develop this season. He’s getting key hits and playing hard right now, sure…but when he’s 100%, he’ll be hitting many more doubles and such and fewer singles. This is not something unexpected. We knew this was going to happen. Just give it time.
Look…the bottom line is this: This is a bad stretch, but we knew there would be bad stretches this year. This one just came a lot earlier than expected. At least this one is explainable. The core of our order is either not hitting, not hitting like he will be, or just NOT there at all. All of that will self-correct (ZING! my 2011 phrase) sooner rather than later.
So just hold on, hang in there, and try to keep your blood pressure down. Hey…look on the bright side…at least we don’t have Joe Thurston.