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

Colby Rasmus’ transformation continues

St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Colby Rasmus brought increased attention to his new-look game when he drew five walks in six plate appearances during Sunday’s win over the Kansas City Royals.

The five-walk day was only the fourth such occurrence by a Cardinal since at least 1920 and first since 1974, when it was accomplished twice within a one-month span.

Five or more walks in one game, St. Louis Cardinals player, 1920-current

Player Date Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB Pos
Colby Rasmus 5/22/2011 KC W 9-8 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 5 CF
Reggie Smith 9/13/1974 PHI W 7-3 9 3 0 1 0 0 0 1 5 RF
Ted Sizemore 8/12/1974 SDP W 6-5 7 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 5 2B
Solly Hemus 9/15/1951 BSN W 10-1 5 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 5 SS

Solly Hemus, in 1951, was the only player to do it in his only five plate appearances of the game. (Thanks to researcher Tom Orf for the above table.)

On Sunday, Rasmus wasn’t alone. The Cardinals drew a total of 13 bases on balls, including the final two in the tenth inning that provided the winning edge in the rubber match of the Show-Me State weekend series.

For the season, St. Louis hitters have taken a National League-best 190 walks, 12 more than the second-place New York Mets.

With 29 free passes, Rasmus is second in the NL, behind Cincinnati’s Joey Votto who has 37, five of which were intentional. Rasmus’ teammate Lance Berkman has 28.

There is much more going on with Rasmus’ game than just the increase in walks.

The bigger picture

Over the winter, much was written here about changes in Rasmus’ game targeted for 2011. Long before it officially occurred, there were signals that Rasmus would be tried in the second spot in the batting order this season.

As such, making more consistent contact and cutting down on strikeouts seemed part of the desired plan for the third-year player with the intent to reach base at a higher rate ahead of the Cardinals’ big hitters of Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Berkman. A corresponding and significant reduction in power was also predicted.

Some, unable to look past how the message was initially presented, discredited the entire idea, calling it a “hoax.” Yet the numbers through the Cardinals’ first 48 games indicate not only is this change occurring, but Rasmus seems to be delivering the desired results.

2011 thru 5/22 0.287 0.391 197 29 14.7% 33 16.8% 41 20.8% 3 1.5% 0.437 0.828
2010 0.276 0.361 534 63 11.8% 85 15.9% 148 27.7% 23 4.3% 0.498 0.859
2009 0.251 0.307 520 36 6.9% 72 13.8% 95 18.3% 16 3.1% 0.407 0.714

Rasmus has started 33 games in the number two spot in the lineup, while cutting his strikeouts overall by one-fourth compared to 2011. His on-base mark is up 30 points over last season, in a large part due to his improved walk rate. The left-handed hitter has also added 11 points to his batting average. The end result is positive, as Rasmus is scoring runs at a career-high rate.

On the other side of the coin, his home run rate is down by over 60 percent compared to last year and is just under half the pace during his rookie season of 2009.

In terms of raw numbers, Rasmus is on track for 10 long balls this season after hitting 23 last year. Overall, his slugging percentage is down 61 points from 2010, which translates to a 31 point drop in OPS.

Call it what you want, but Rasmus appears to be becoming more the hitter the Cardinals want him to be.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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