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Setting the 2011 Cardinals batting order

Looking for clues as to the most likely batting order for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals.

A recent Post-Dispatch article touted in detail a number of reasons why new St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman should bat second in manager Tony La Russa’s 2011 order. Perhaps after that article was complete, the skipper mucked up the works by stating his intent to put Berkman in the fifth spot, and as cleanup hitter in the rare occasion that Matt Holliday sits out.

La Russa has repeated the same thoughts in multiple radio interviews since while acknowledging he understands why some think that Berkman’s .400 OBP would also be appealing near the top. Ultimately, he explained his prevailing need is for a hitter behind Holliday to protect him as does Holliday for Albert Pujols.

Though La Russa seems clear about Pujols-Holliday-Berkman at 3-4-5, he hasn’t divulged his entire 2011 order. With the rest being open to speculation, it provides the basis for this article.

One line of thinking is that with the switch-hitting Berkman likely batting from the left side most often, there would be value in following him with a right-handed hitter in the number six spot.

Prior to his untimely injury last season, right-handed hitting David Freese was the regular fifth-place hitter and he also batted sixth and seventh less frequently. If finally healthy and productive, one might see Freese as that right-handed hitting #6 behind Berkman.

If so, where would this leave the man who took over the fifth spot and ended up batting there the most often for the club in 2010, left-handed hitting Colby Rasmus? The centerfielder also appeared in the second and sixth spots at times last season.

During a Tuesday evening KMOX radio interview during which he again explained his preference to hit Berkman fifth, La Russa did not state where Colby will be in his new order, but implied fifth may not be it. The manager said he would have to “see how Colby has progressed,” noting that with the fifth spot comes “a lot of responsibility.”

My bottom third would consist of Yadier Molina, Skip Schumaker and the pitcher, perhaps with the latter two reversed if La Russa feels the need to demonstrate his individuality again this coming season.

That would leave the top two spots for newcomer Ryan Theriot, he of the .348 career on-base mark and the last man standing, Rasmus. Despite Theriot expressing a clear preference to bat second (repeated several times before also mentioning leadoff) during a Tuesday evening KMOX interview, the new shortstop seems the likely first hitter. In the aforementioned interview, Theriot attributed his poor 2010 to being asked to become more of a run producer than a tablesetter, which he said he said he tried, but was neither comfortable nor successful in the role.

As noted in the Post-Dispatch article we started with above and many times over the prior years, La Russa craves “danger” from his number two hitter. My conclusion is the player in that spot will be Rasmus. Can Colby consistently provide that danger in 2011?

In the beauty of symmetry, two right-handed hitters would follow each lefty in this proposed order.

1 Theriot SS RHH
2 Rasmus CF LHH
3 Pujols 1B RHH
4 Holliday RF RHH
5 Berkman LF SH
6 Freese 3B RHH
7 Molina C RHH
8 Schumaker 2B LHH
9 Pitcher P RHH (exc Garcia)

How do you see it?

Poll: Which batting order do you prefer for the 2011 Cardinals?

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