On Thursday night, Arizona took game one of their four-game road series at the St. Louis Cardinals. The home club was most hospitable, rapping out just three hits and grounding into two double plays en route to a 4-1 defeat.
The double-play culprits were the big bats in the middle of St. Louis’ lineup, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols. Despite a 15-day disabled list stint with a non-displaced wrist fracture, Pujols still leads the National League with 19 double plays grounded into this season. His teammate Yadier Molina is third in the NL with 13 GIDP.
As a team, the Cardinals have amassed a whopping 97 GIDP in their first 89 games. To help put that into context, at second place is the NL is Pittsburgh with 72. NL Central combatants Milwaukee and Cincinnati have 55 and 53, respectively. The Cards’ current opponent, the Diamondbacks, have grounded into just 44 double plays despite entering the series with an identical 47-41 record to St. Louis.
I last looked at this subject in detail just one month into the season, back on April 28. At that time, the small sample size argument could be used. With well over half the 2011 schedule now complete, that card can no longer be played.
While the Cardinals’ GIDP pace has eased a bit since the first month, it still sticks out like a sore thumb for a team has simply been treading water. The lack of timely scoring has certainly been a factor in St. Louis’ pedestrian 33-33 record since April 28.
The Cardinals are currently on pace to ground into 177 double plays this season. It would set a new MLB record, surpassing the current high-water mark of 174, set by the 1990 Boston Red Sox.
The NL record is also in serious jeopardy. The 1958 Cardinals, with 166 GIDPs in just 154 games, had the most in NL history to date.
All is not lost. You first need to have runners on base before you can eliminate them.
Though they are nowhere near a record-setting pace in run scoring, the Cardinals are currently second in the NL in runs. They are in the middle of the pack in ERA, seventh, and are just 12th in fielding.
In fairness, they constructed their 2011 club that way – to be heavy on offense. Still, it would seem a lot easier to outscore the opposition if they weren’t erasing a historically high number of runners on the bases.
A return to the Pujols of old could be the most important single factor in the 2011 NL Central race. Finishing the season as the league leader in grounding into double plays on the club with the most GIDPs in MLB history does not seem the optimal route to get there.