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Cardinals may soon have first-ever five 20-home run hitters

With each home run, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina extends his second consecutive career-best season. The 29-year-old cranked number 19 on Friday night in Los Angeles.

In doing so, Molina joined teammate David Freese on the very edge of joining the 20-home run club for the first time in their respective major league careers.

That kind of power balance has is unprecedented in team history. If/when the next time Molina and Freese go deep, it will mark the Cardinals first-ever season of five players with at least 20 home runs.

The others include Allen Craig, who already launched his first-ever 20th homer as a major leaguer almost three weeks ago, on August 26, but remains stuck there. Earlier, veterans Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday blew past 20 on their way to their current home run totals of 29 and 27, respectively.

There won’t be a sixth as this group is most secure at the top of the team’s home run leader board this season. No other Cardinals hitter has even a double-digit total. In fact, Matt Carpenter, who like Molina went deep in Dodger Stadium on Friday night, is next with just six.

As individuals, the 2012 Cardinals lack the home run propensity of Albert Pujols, who was often among the league leaders. Still, as a team, this year’s Cards rank a respectable seventh in the National League with 146 long balls. In overall runs scored, St. Louis is just three off the league lead, currently held by the surging Brewers.

I asked researcher Tom Orf to pull the top home-run hitting groups in team history.

Four past Cardinals clubs had four 20-homer players, while the current team sits alongside the 2006 World Champions with five at 19 or more. That season, Jim Edmonds ended with 19 as they just fell short of the record that is now so close to being achieved in the final 18 games of the 2012 season.

St. Louis Cardinals, most 20-home run hitters in a season, team history

Year #
2008 4 Rick Ankiel 25 Troy Glaus 27 Ryan Ludwick 37 Albert Pujols 37
2004 4 Jim Edmonds 42 Albert Pujols 46 Scott Rolen 34 Reggie Sanders 22
2001 4 J.D. Drew 27 Jim Edmonds 30 Mark McGwire 29 Albert Pujols 37
1998 4 Ron Gant 26 Brian Jordan 25 Ray Lankford 31 Mark McGwire 70

St. Louis Cardinals, most 19- home run hitters in a season, team history

Year #
2012 5 Carlos Beltran 29 Allen Craig 20 David Freese 19 Matt Holliday 27 Yadier Molina 19
2006 5 Chris Duncan 22 Jim Edmonds 19 Juan Encarnacion 19 Albert Pujols 49 Scott Rolen 22

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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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27 Responses to “Cardinals may soon have first-ever five 20-home run hitters”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    When Molina entered the Majors, he was a mediocre hitter. He made contact, but did not accomplish a lot with the stick. He was defense first and rushed up through the minors, so inexperienced as a hitter. Albert said Yadier just needed to learn to hit, as if this was simple.
    Yadier has proved Albert right, by becoming a terrific hitter. Since Molina is slow, he is not going to be out a lot of infield hits. His average is terrific, for a slow right swinger.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    This year some of the reliance on post-peak vets has not turned out well. Carpenter, $10MM, has not been able to pitch. Matheny relied way too much on Furcal, $7MM, though Raffy unsurprisingly stopped hitting during June. Lance Berkman, $12MM, was injury riddled. Beltran, $13.5MM, has had a solid year, but seems no longer an everyday player. For next season, the Cards need to plan around limiting him to 110 games.
    And we might think about cutting our losses and releasing Raffy, if he does not look ready during spring training 2013. One criterion for SS is durability, given a physically demanding position. Furcal has had at least 3 injury marred seasons recently. He is no longer able to serve as a regular.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I don’t get that at all. If Furcal isn’t healthy enough to be a starter, instead of making him a reserve, you would cut him and eat his entire salary? Not going to happen, period, nor should it. Bad idea.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Yes, I would look hard at cutting the injury riddled Furcal next season, to liberate playing time for younger middle infielders. The Cards need to transition toward a post-TLR atmosphere and give inexperienced players playing time. I would rather go with healthy Descalso, Kozma, and Jackson, than injury vulnerable Furcal. Behind this trio are Garcia and Wong. I would rather go with five healthy middle infielders than impede them by providing playing time to Furcal. They are the future, while Furcal is yesterday’s hero.
        Its too bad to give Furcal $7MM to leave, but this was a risk involved in giving him a two year deal. Given fine progress this year by Jackson, Greg Garcia, and Wong, we can now afford to say good bye to Raffy.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          I suppose we could also look at trading Furcal this offseason and eating most of his salary. Maybe another team would shoulder $1MM of his salary, so as to have a SS reserve.

        • crdswmn says:

          Ryan Jackson doesn’t exist. He’s a mirage.

        • Brian Walton says:

          I completely disagree. Kozma and Jackson haven’t proven they are major league ready. Garcia and Wong are a year away.

          Unless the Cards acquire a starting shortstop (because they don’t have one in their system), Furcal is the best starter. And if they acquired someone, he would be the best reserve.

          We can talk about 2014 later.

          • crdswmn says:

            One way for Jackson to prove whether or not he is major league ready is to allow him to actually play in the major leagues. What a concept.

            Matheny? Hello?

          • JumboShrimp says:

            The Furcal situation is like the end game with Jim Edmonds. Jim was hurt for some of 2006, but after we won it all, was rewarded with a two year deal, just like Furcal last winter. Jim had a poor 2007. One of Mo’s better moves after taking over the reins during fall 2007 was to trade Edmonds (for Freese). (This helped get GM Kevin Towers canned by the Padres.) Its hard to imagine we could land a future Freese for Furcal, but we still gain by subtraction. Furcal has been injured for the past three years. We should celebrate what he gave us at the end of 2011 and move on.
            I have to concur with Crdswmn over Brian. If we play guys like Jackson and Kozma, they will have a chance to establish themselves at the major league level.
            Jackson has had one full season of AAA ball. He did fine. He is the future and we should turn to him, sooner than later. Furcal has a chronic back problem and now a bum elbow. He should be moved to make room for Jackson.

            • crdswmn says:

              I didn’t say I disagreed with Brian. I agree he hasn’t proven himself—-because he doesn’t get to play. And frankly I don’t see him getting to, unless Kozma or Descalso get hurt.

            • Brian Walton says:

              In addition to nearing the end of the line, Edmonds was moved because Ankiel was ready and Rasmus was close. Plus, Jim balked about the prospect of being a reserve. All three hit left-handed.

              In contrast, there is no one ready to take over for Furcal. Again, I am not saying they should not try to improve the position over the winter, but paying another team to take Furcal isn’t going to happen.

              If Jackson is the future at short, then someone forgot to send the memo to Matheny. Jackson has been a major leaguer for over a month and has yet to play even one inning at shortstop despite Furcal being unavailable. Based on that, I’d give Jackson’s chance of being the starting shortstop at the start of next season at about one percent.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                Agreed, Edmonds was proud and did not want to play reserve, so Mo shipped him off before the end of a two year deal given an older player.
                We have not one, but three guys ready to step up: Jackson, Kozma, and Descalso. Jackson has a full season at Memphis under his belt, all Descalso got. If Furcal were healthy and able to defy the Grim Reaper, the Cards would like to see Jackson get a second season at AAA. But since Raffy seems to be falling apart, a second season at AAA for Jackson may be a luxury we can’t afford.
                Right now, the Cards have not been playing Jackson, because they want to give preference to Kozma and Descalso, because they see the open role as a backup to Furcal. Pete has been two years at Memphis already and played 2B, so is better suited for a utility role in the majors next year, while Jackson repeats AAA at SS.
                However, this situation can change before spring training. If Furcal requires an elbow operation, he may be on the DL next year. In that case, we can make the future now and go with Jackson as the starter, with Kozma backup at middle infield.
                After Cesar Izturis, Nutso Khalil, no hit Ryan, no field Theriot, and injury prone Furcal, its been a long parade of stop gap vets. They make Jackson, Kozma, and Descalso look pretty good.

              • blingboy says:

                Furcal is due $7M next year, which is behind only Holliday, Beltran, Yadi, Carp and Wainy. So he will be the everyday shortstop. His defensive ability has slipped, but he looks OK when what else you are seeing is Descalso. He might not look so good if we were seeing Jackson. That would make things awkward next year.

                • JumboShrimp says:

                  We need to prevent a repetition of what has happened during 2012, when Matheny relied way too much on Furcal. Raffy got worn down and was terrible at the plate. Matheny should have given others part of Furcal’s workload, to preserve him. Matheny gives Beltran off-days, Furcal needed just as many, if not more.

                  • blingboy says:

                    The money guy will play as much as he can, and the guy he shares time with will be somebody who does not look better than him out there. Bad news for Jackson. Bad news for ground ball pitchers.

                • blingboy says:

                  My Jackson conspiracy theory hasn’t been very well recieved on the ‘Cards Talk’ message board at the P-D. I’ve been putting up a vigorous defense, though. ‘Tin foil hat’ has been mentioned, and someone asked if I was ‘Guitar Hero’, which I believe is a screen name Westy used over there. I may be making a bit of progress, can’t really tell. Here is a link if anyone is interested.


            • Brian Walton says:

              I went back and read a handful of articles about Towers’ firing in October 2009. Not a one mentions the Edmonds trade. At that point, Freese had only a handful of MLB at-bats as a September call up and at the time of the trade had been viewed as the #3 3B prospect in their system.

              Most articles focused on new ownership in San Diego wanting their own man after a couple of losing years. Towers had been forced to slash their payroll from $73 MM in 2008 to $40 MM in 2009. One of his moves was to unload Khalil Greene and his entire salary on the Cardinals for Luke Gregerson and Mark Worrell.

              I am guessing that trade did not contribute to his firing, either.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                The 2008 Padres were one of the worst teams in the league. Edmonds was one of those blamed and released after only circa 100 at bats.
                As I recall, the owner of the Padres got a divorce and needed to offload salaries and then to sell the team. Mo learned the fallacy of preferring proven vet Khalil Greene to untested Luke Gregerson. This supports my point. Furcal may be sane, unlike poor Khalil, but cannot be a full time starter any longer. Furcal is injury prone. Fortunately, the Cards can play someone healthier, like Pete Kozma.

  3. jabbott21 says:

    That 1998 group was one of my favorites to watch. Lankford was always one of my favorites, as was Brian Jordan.

    • blingboy says:

      I wonder how some of those guys dealt with being totally overshadowed by McGwire. I remember the media practically acting like it was a one man team. (And most fans, too).

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Mission accomplished!! Beltran, Holliday, Craig, Freese, Molina. Wow.

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