Could the influence of St. Louis Cardinals pitching guru Dave Duncan be getting out of control to the point the club’s offense has adopted his ground ball out strategy as well?
One might suggest the team’s hitters are taking it to the extreme, following the old baseball axiom, “Two outs are better than one.”
Cardinals’ hitters grounded into five double plays on Wednesday night at Houston, a new season high.
In the process, St. Louis’ Major League Baseball-leading season GIDP total grew to 34.
To help put that into current context, it is double the National League average of 17, excluding St. Louis.
No NL team is even close, with perennial NL Central doormat Pittsburgh having the next-most GIDPs at 23.
12 of the Cardinals’ 34 occurred at arguably the most damaging time – with one or more runners in scoring position.
The team rate is one GIDP per each 24.7 at-bats.
Despite the five road GIDPs Wednesday, the Cardinals have been much more likely to do so at home with one per every 20.2 total at-bats at Busch Stadium versus one per every 30.5 at-bats while on the road this season.
Left-handed pitchers are best at inducing ground ball double plays against Cardinals hitters with a success rate of one per 19.5 total at-bats. Righty opponents have been collecting GIDPs at a rate of one per each 27.2 at-bats.
Albert Pujols leads the National League and is tied for tops in MLB in ground into double plays this season with nine. No other NL player has more than six.
In terms of GIDP rate among all Cardinals, Pujols (one per 10.2 at-bats) does not lead the team. Albeit in just 19 and 20 at-bats each, respectively, Nick Punto (9.5) and Gerald Laird (10), are grounding into double plays at a higher rate than Albert. Jon Jay at one GIDP in every 14 at-bats (two GIDP in 28 at-bats) would be fourth.
A player not known for his wheels, Lance Berkman, has been the most difficult Cardinal to double up with just one GIDP in his first 78 official at-bats with the club. Matt Holliday is next-toughest with one in his first 63 at-bats this season.
Player career factoids
The always slow-footed catcher Molina had a career rate of one GIDP per 23.5 at-bats heading into this season. His 2011 rate is one per 18.3 ABs.
Over his first decade prior to 2011, Pujols had ground into double plays at a rate of one per every 28.2 at-bats. His 10.2 rate this season is 176 percent higher.
Pujols is on pace to ground into 61 double plays this season. That is over double the Cardinals team record of 29, set by Ted Simmons in 1973.
The all-time NL single-season high of 32 was set by Miguel Tejada in 2008 while the MLB record of 36 was attained by Jim Rice in 1984.
Team career factoids
Last season, the Cardinals finished with the fifth-most GIDP’s in the NL with 124.
Their 2010 rate of one per 44.7 at-bats is in stark comparison to their 24.7 rate this season – 81 percent higher.
The Cardinals are on pace to ground into 230 double plays this season. It would obliterate the MLB record of 174, set by the 1990 Boston Red Sox. The 1958 Cardinals, with 166 GIDPs in just 154 games, had the most in NL history.
Setting the league ground into double play record does not indicate team success or failure.
The 1990 Red Sox still won 88 games and finished in first place, but were swept by Tony La Russa’s Oakland A’s in the ALCS. On the other hand, the 1958 Cardinals went home at the end of the regular season, having won just 72 games and ending in fifth place.
Of course, reality after 162 games may vary substantially from rate stats through 24 games, but where will the 2011 Cardinals finish?