The St. Louis Cardinals have been a disappointment to many in 2014 to date, lugging an 18-19 record into the final game of a losing road trip on Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
The Cardinals’ pitching does not seem to be the problem, ranked third in the National League in ERA and strikeouts.
On the other hand, the offense is middle of the pack at best – eighth in batting average and 11th in runs scored. A key reason could be an inability to produce with runners in scoring position. In 319 such at-bats this season, the Cardinals are hitting a collective .229. That compares to their .254 team average in all other situations.
Last season, the team’s mark with runners in scoring position was wildly skewed – an amazing, record-setting .330. Cards batters averaged 1.30 RBI per hit with RISP.
101 points of change from year to year is bound to have an impact on the bottom line.
Had that unreasonable success from last season continued at the same pace, the 2014 team would have another 32 hits with runners in scoring position. That would have been worth an additional 42 runs – in just 37 games.
No one can answer how many games might that have swung. Yet, with a one-run defeat Saturday night, we do know that St. Louis dropped to 6-8 in one-run contests and is 0-3 in extra innings this season.
Again, no one expected the 2013 success to continue, but there are three members of the Cardinals batting order whose performance in these situations stand out as a major concern in 2014.
Among the worst with RISP this season are some of those most expected to drive in runs. Matt Adams is at .118, with four hits in 34 at-bats, Allen Craig is at .214, six hits in 28 ABs and Jhonny Peralta is at .103, just three hits in 29 at-bats.
For Adams and Peralta without runners in scoring position, their results are strikingly different, at .375 and .280, respectively. On the other hand, Craig’s problem is bigger than RISP. The first baseman is consistently off in all aspects, batting .213 with no runners in scoring position.
Bottom line, these three really need to pick up their production with runners in scoring position to enable the Cardinals offense to really get clicking.