This will be a quick one…but a thought occurred to me while I pondered our recent offensive struggles. The Cardinals’ lineup is built around Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday…except Matt Holliday is out and Pujols is…well…he’s not being Pujols (not yet, anyway). At first I thought we could plug Allen Craig in occasionally and let him pick up the Holliday slack. But he’s just not Matt Holliday…and even if he was, Albert is still struggling to find his swing.
So…I figure the answer is to stop pretending we’re the same team while Albert struggles and Matt sits out. Let’s change things up a bit. A radical lineup is below (what I would like to see in San Francisco against a RHP).
1. Colby Rasmus: His OBP and new found consistency more than justifies a bump from two to one. I would keep him at two if he was getting enough RBI opportunities there, but right now…he’s not. Why not use his OBP and speed at number one? At two spots removed from Albert, he’ll get the green light a lot more for the steal attempt. And let’s face it…we need a spark plug to jolt this offense.
2. Allen Craig: He’s hitting…he’s got the “damage in the two hole” potential…and, hell…he’s even stealing bases.
3. Lance Berkman: He’s one of our more clutch hitters right now, and I love the idea of him doing his “work the count” thing in the three hole. The way he’s swinging, why not put him in a prime RBI spot with Albert protecting him? And…you notice the LH/RH/LH staggering we got goin’?
4. Albert Pujols: Albert may be struggling but he’s been tagging the ball lately. His swings and hit balls looked much better Wednesday. Unfortunately, with Holliday out, Albert may be most valuable forcing pitchers to throw strikes to Raz/Craig/Berkman ahead of him…not to mention it puts Raz and Berkman’s OBP ahead of Albert.
5. David Freese: Freese hasn’t been hitting lately…but I think the size of San Francisco’s outfield is just what he needs to get his opposite field stroke going. Look for more RBI hits to land in the spacious Right Field. And with Matt out…who else is going to hit fifth? He may not protect Albert much…but no one will…might as well put someone capable of picking up spare RBIs in the fifth spot.
6. Skip Schumaker: I like his line drive, lefty bat behind the two RBI righties and ahead of Yadi’s clutch bat. He won’t provide any protection – other than the RH/LH staggering – but it may not matter if he can just put the bat on the ball.
7. Yadier Molina: Yadi should not bat higher than 7th. I just don’t like relying on his bat too much for an entire game in the six hole. Plug him in the seven spot and let him pick up some leftovers and drive Skippy around the bases.
8. Pitcher: Yep…I did it…I put the pitcher 8th. When we’re struggling…and we have no real bottom order RBI threat looming…I like the idea of stacking another “lead off” hitter in the nine hole…especially in front of Colby in the number one spot.
9. Ryan Theriot: Preserve the RH/LH staggering in the lineup by hitting Theriot in front of Rasmus once the lineup turns over. Also, Rasmus is a legitimate RBI threat…why not give him someone other than the pitcher to drive in?
Sure, this lineup is not likely to happen. For one, Tony won’t move Albert from the three hole…and he is WAY too in love with Theriot hitting lead off…but I like the LH/RH/LH/RH/RH/LH/P/RH staggering throughout. Yeah, Yadi in front of the pitcher makes sacrifice bunts pretty difficult…but given the trade off, I’m okay with it.
It’s time to stop pretending we’re the same team without Matt Holliday and a slugging Pujols. We are not…it’s time to start acting like it before we dig ourselves a deeper hole in the division.