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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Three Cardinals on pace for 100 RBI

Three St. Louis Cardinals hitters have at least 24 RBI through the team’s first 39 games and are on pace for 100 RBI seasons.

David Freese (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)As the St. Louis Cardinals returned home Monday night to face the Washington Nationals, they badly needed to wash from their mouths the bitter tastes of a series defeat in Cincinnati, a two-week stretch of losing baseball and the forfeiture of first place.

The much-publicized switch in the batting order between Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday received the lion’s share of the ink, but when the game began, it was rookie third baseman David Freese (pictured) who really stepped up early on.

Batting sixth for the eighth time this season after a total of 13 starts in the number five spot, Freese’s two-run triple capped a four-run first inning. The Cardinals never looked back in defeating the Nats by a 6-2 score at Busch Stadium.

In an interesting but odd sidelight, Freese has picked up 19 of his 24 RBI this year in his first plate appearance in a game. The 27-year-old right-handed hitter is second in the National League behind Milwaukee’s Casey McGehee, who has 26.

With his pair of Monday RBI, Freese joined Yadier Molina at second place on the Cardinals with 24. The pair sit five behind team leader Albert Pujols, who has over twice as many RBI as Matt Holliday (14), but that is a story for a different day.

With the first 39 games of the 2010 season in the books, researcher Tom Orf went back to look at top Cardinals RBI producers in the early going, selecting 40 games as the mark.

In the last 50 years, 2010 is only the ninth time that at least three Cardinals have as many as 24 RBI in the team’s first 40 games. St. Louis also did it in 2009, with Ryan Ludwick and Chris Duncan joining Pujols then.

In both 2004 and 2001, four Cardinals hitters had at least 24 RBI through 40 games. The 2004 group included all three members of the “MV3″, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and Pujols. Not surprisingly, Pujols remains the constant through the years as the other two now play for Cardinals NL Central rivals Cincinnati and Milwaukee, respectively.

At the other end of the spectrum, ten times in 50 years, not a single Cardinal had as many as 24 RBI through 40 games. That happened most recently in Tony La Russa’s second St. Louis campaign, 1997.

This season, with Colby Rasmus currently fourth with 17 RBI and Ludwick fifth on the team with 15, it is most unlikely the top three will be having company join them based on Tuesday night’s 40th game of the 2010 season.

To put 24 RBI in 39 games into perspective, if that pace could be maintained through 162 games, the player would finish the season with exactly 100 RBI. Most any non-Pujols Cardinal would be satisfied with that.

Cardinals with 24 or more RBI in the team’s first 40 games, 1960-2010

Year Player RBI Player RBI Player RBI Player RBI
2010 Albert Pujols 29 David Freese 24 Yadier Molina 24
2009 Albert Pujols 37 Ryan Ludwick 26 Chris Duncan 24
2008 Albert Pujols 25 Ryan Ludwick 24
2007 Albert Pujols 23
2006 Albert Pujols 48 Jim Edmonds 27
2005 Albert Pujols 35 Jim Edmonds 24
2004 Scott Rolen 39 Jim Edmonds 29 Reggie Sanders 25 Albert Pujols 24
2003 Edgar Renteria 31 Scott Rolen 30 Albert Pujols 28
2002 Jim Edmonds 28
2001 Albert Pujols 44 J.D. Drew 33 Jim Edmonds 28 Ray Lankford 24
2000 Mark McGwire 36 Jim Edmonds 34 Fernando Tatis 28
1999 Fernando Tatis 38 Mark McGwire 29
1998 Mark McGwire 45
1997
1996 Ray Lankford 29 Ron Gant 26
1995 Bernard Gilkey 27 Brian Jordan 25
1994
1993
1992
1991 Pedro Guerrero 27
1990 Pedro Guerrero 27
1989 Pedro Guerrero 29 Tom Brunansky 25
1988 Tom Brunansky 25
1987 Jack Clark 43 Willie McGee 29 Terry Pendleton 26
1986
1985 Jack Clark 35 Tom Herr 33 Terry Pendleton 25
1984
1983 George Hendrick 32
1982 Keith Hernandez 26 George Hendrick 25
1981 George Hendrick 27 Tom Herr 26
1980 George Hendrick 31
1980 Ted Simmons 26 Keith Hernandez 25 Ken Reitz 24
1979 Keith Hernandez 27
1978 Ken Reitz 24
1977 Keith Hernandez 29 Ted Simmons 29
1976
1975 Ted Simmons 28
1974 Reggie Smith 32 Ted Simmons 24
1973
1972 Joe Torre 25 Ted Simmons 24
1971 Joe Torre 30 Jose Cardenal 29
1970 Dick Allen 37
1969 Joe Torre 24
1968
1967 Lou Brock 31 Orlando Cepeda 27
1966 Curt Flood 30
1965 Ken Boyer 24
1964 Ken Boyer 33
1963 Ken Boyer 30 Bill White 27
1962 Bill White 32 Ken Boyer 31
1961
1960 Bill White 29 Ken Boyer 25

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