Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cardinals' Offense Re-Awakes, But Will it Last?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 7:58 AM

click to enlarge Bats. Get it?
  • Bats. Get it?
Beautiful win over the Phillies last night, just beautiful. Philadelphia has struggled badly at times this season, much the same way the Cardinals have. Still, the fact remains the Phillies are the two-time defending NL champs and one of the more talented teams you're likely to find. 

Even better than beating the Phillies was knocking Kyle Kendrick around the old ballyard; Kendrick came into the game last night looking for all the world like Bud Norris lite. Against pretty much everyone in the National League, Kendrick is an inconsistent sixth starter type. A guy who can give you some innings now and again but just never seems to put it together for a long enough period of time to be productive at the big league level. Against the Cardinals, though, Kendrick is nails, coming into last night's game with a career ERA against the redbirds well under 2.00. Bashing him was almost impossibly satisfying.

Congrats to Allen Craig on his first major league homer, as well. I would be willing to bet we'll see a whole lot more of those before he hangs his spikes up. We may still not be exactly sure where he plays in the field, but the man sure can hit.

The Cardinals' hot start to the back half of the season has largely been based on the suddenly resurgent offense. For much of the first half, we all watched as the offense sputtered along and wondered just exactly what the hell was wrong. Despite high-budget players and talent at most every position on the field, the Cards' offense was, as they say, consistently inconsistent. 

Now, though, the Cardinals seem to be hitting on, if not all cylinders, then at least on most of them. It may be just a hot streak, or we may be seeing what this offense has been capable of all along, Only time will tell, of course, but the recent returns are encouraging, to put it lightly. 

Since the beginning of July, the Cardinals have scored 79 runs in 15 games, an average of 5.26 runs per game. That includes a one-run outing at the hands of Randy Wolf on the first day of the month; without that game their runs per game jumps up even more. That's compared to an average of right at 4 and a half runs per game on the season. 

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Matt Holliday has been a huge part of the offense's increased potency; his early-season struggles with men on base were a constant source of angst for the fanbase. He's turned that around in a big way, with 15 RBI in 14 July games. His OPS in July is a cool 1.123. He's walked 14 times against just 8 strikeouts. In short, Holliday is looking more and more not just like the guy the Cards thought they were getting when they signed him up for the next seven years, but he's actually playing up to the ridiculous level we saw last summer after the Cards traded for him in the first place. 

Albert Pujols has been good, maybe even great, but not quite Pujolsian this month; his OPS for July is .950, which is pretty consistent with his performance for most of the rest of the season. 

Colby Rasmus has struggled mightily in July; his OPS for the month is just .729 and he's walked only twice, compared to 12 punchouts. 

Jon Jay has been arguably the Cards' best hitter this month; he's posting an OPS of 1.264 in July. Unfortunately, that's being fueled by a BABIP of .462, which is literally the definition of unsustainable. He is showing solid plate discipline, though, walking five times against just four strikeouts. If he can keep that up, his fall when the hits stop falling in should at least be softened a bit. (He's also slugging .750. Doesn't really mean much of anything, it's just a fun number to throw out there.) 

Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan have both been awful, with OPS's of .476 and .165(!) for the month, while Tyler Greene has been very productive, posting a nice .889. 

Overall, seeing this offense perform the way we mostly expected it to perform all along has been intensely gratifying; if this continues even the presence of both Jeff Suppan and Blake Hawksworth in the rotation just might be tolerable. Of course, the year's Cardinals team has a way of kicking you just when you think things are going well, so I'm not betting my savings on them scoring better than five runs a game from here on out. 

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