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

Diaz Not Moved Up in Cardinals Lineup until 2nd Quarter

With the St. Louis Cardinals season ending prior to the playoffs for the first time in the Mike Matheny era, plenty of “what if?” articles have been written. Some look at specific tactical and roster decisions made or not made. Others considered key swing games in the standings.

All have their place, but for me, one particular item that remains stuck in my craw was brought to the forefront by discussion this past weekend at The Cardinal Nation’s message board. A poster expressed reservations about the manager not moving struggling Matt Holliday out of the third place in the lineup.

That reminded me of another lineup-related non-decision that I also think hurt the 2016 Cardinals.

The operative date is May 19.

One-quarter of the 2016 season was already complete. The Cardinals were stumbling along with a 21-19 record. Far worse, both the Cubs and Pirates were off to better starts, leaving St. Louis in third place, 8 1/2 games behind Chicago.

matheny-diaz-usa-200May 19 also marks the very first time rookie Aledmys Diaz batted second in Matheny’s lineup. To that point, the 26-year-old was buried, primarily in the eighth spot in the batting order.

From the start, the manager’s public comments indicated he wanted to ease pressure on the rookie, who was thrust into the lineup when Jhonny Peralta was injured this spring.

That seemed understandable for a few weeks, but as the wins and losses essentially alternated for the Cardinals, the bottom line is that 40 games of Diaz’ red-hot play had passed before he received a chance to make a greater contribution to the sputtering offense.

To that point, here were Diaz’ numbers:

  • .376 batting average: #1 on the Cardinals by 53 points
  • .403 on-base percentage: #1 by 13 points
  • .648 slugging: #1 by 53 points
  • 1.051 OPS: #1 by 115 points

With this example, I have to agree with those who assert that Matheny was very slow to react.

One is left to wonder forever if the Cardinals could have won a few more of those early-season contests had the hot-hitting Diaz had been batting above eighth sooner.

With a team that painfully ended its season just one win short of the playoffs, the questions are only natural – even if there are no answers.

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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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15 Responses to “Diaz Not Moved Up in Cardinals Lineup until 2nd Quarter”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    I agree Mike was a bit slow to move Diaz up in the lineup, but I can’t fault him for it. It’s one of those, if it’s not broke, don’t change it situations. Diaz was enjoying initial success in the 8th slot, so let him continue there and keep enjoying his introduction to the majors.
    Consider conversely how Molina grew progressively more effective as a hitter as the season wore on, despite catching too many games. A fantastic individual performance. The more yadier got overused, the better the results. Very strange. Mike ride Yadier too hard, but it worked out for the best anyway.
    It was a funny season of superb performances in the face of adversities. Bo regrets here, save the longstanding one about overuse of select relief pitchers.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    So how smart is joe madden to be sticking with Jason Heyward against a southpaw in game 4????

  3. blingboy says:

    I wonder how long Oh will hold up. He is not a spring chicken and has lots of mileage.

    • Brian Walton says:

      That is one argument in favor of adding bullpen help that I have not often seen others mention. I wrote about Oh’s heavy usage here: “Cardinals Closer Oh in Uncharted Waters”.

      • blingboy says:

        Normally, depth wouldn’t really affect a closer. But there is the Mad Mike factor and the 1+ inning closes. I think Mo has to have in the back of his mind, that just because he acquires more late inning help doesn’t mean diddly if Mike goes right on calling for Oh. It is quite impossible to anticipate what MM will do. That makes Mo’s job impossible. So far, the one and only thing I am looking forward to next season is seeing how much playing time Kelly gets. Well, that and seeing Lance on the mound.

        • Brian Walton says:

          They need some good old trades to get your interest level back up!

          • blingboy says:

            There is zero chance BDII commits to doing what it would take to compete with the Cubs. That is the reality Cards fans face. Playing for a WC slot adds some interest in September, but what is the draw the first 5 months?

            An interesting over/under proposition would be 17.5 games out again. What do you think?

            • Brian Walton says:

              I agree that it is an interesting question. Can’t answer until I see moves to be made.

              I am really interested in whether season ticket renewals will show any weakness and if a Cubs Series win would be a factor.

              As I have written before, I feel ownership needs to provide fans renewed hope or the bottom line could suffer.

              • crdswmn says:

                The one sure fire way of giving fans renewed hope won’t be done. However, signing some overpriced veteran like Bautista or Encarnacion will perk up many fans who mistakenly think that will be the savior, I don’t happen to be one of them.

                I too wait to see what moves are made.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Mike is feeling lucky in the real estate business again.

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