Response to Phil Rogers: The 2014 St. Louis Cardinals are NOT ‘Most Damaged’

Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

On December 31, 2013, MLB.com columnist, Phil Rogers, wrote one of the sloppiest sports articles I have ever read in my 23 years of life. In the post, Rogers took the time to review 15 teams’ offseasons–five as “Most improved,” five as “Most damaged,” and five as “Incomplete.” The link to his full MLB.com post can be found here if you are interested in checking it out yourself.

If you don’t have the time to read his full post or you simply don’t care to, then here is what he had to say about the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals–the fourth team he listed under “Most damaged” this offseason:

4. The Cardinals. Year in and year out, these guys are best judged over 12 months, not just the offseason. But Beltran leaves a hole in the middle of the order that the addition of Peter Bourjos won’t offset, and Peralta arrives with questions about whether he’ll be the same guy after his Biogenesis suspension. Chris Carpenter‘s innings can be easily replaced by the stable of young arms — Carlos Martinez for a full season in the rotation, yes! — but his presence will be missed in the way that the Rays’ pitching staff missed James Shields last season.”

Mr. Rogers, what does your first sentence even mean? Isn’t every team “best judged over 12 months, not just the offseason?” Last time I checked, the commissioner’s office doesn’t hand out World Series trophies in the winter. I would argue this opening statement more, but I honestly have no clue where to go from there.

Sure, Carlos Beltran has moved onto the New York Yankees, and his bat and leadership will definitely be missed. However, the purpose of the Bourjos trade was not to replace the hole left by Beltran. Bourjos was acquired to provide better range in center field and better speed on the base paths. Given his wrist returns to full health (and all signs from the organization point to this being the case), the Cardinals’ scouting department believe his bat will be just fine and hopefully provide more pop from the position–especially with regular plate appearances–something he did not receive while on the Angels.

Now that we have discussed Bourjos’ true role on the team, let’s revisit that “hole in the middle of the order” you speak about. If Beltran had re-signed with the Cardinals, you’re assuming Beltran would be hitting in the middle of the order? Well, 62% of his plate appearances in 2013 occurred from the 2-hole in the lineup–not the middle of the order. As long as Matt Carpenter remained the team’s lead-off hitter, this would have likely been the same in 2014.

Even if Beltran would have moved to middle of the order in 2014, how much better is the Allen Craig-Beltran combination than Craig-Matt Adams? At this point in Beltran’s career (37 years old next season) and his relative inability to replicate first-half stats after the All-Star break, I would tend to believe there is not much difference at all. Let’s take a look at Dan Szymborski2014 ZiPS projections just to make sure:

Cardinals ZiPS

Stats Credit: Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS and some simple math

As you can see by the totals (highlighted in green), there really isn’t that much of a difference between the two combinations if Adams gets 500 plate appearances next season. Single-digit differences in every single category, with the Craig-Adams combination actually having two more doubles. Thus, is the “middle of the lineup” really that much worse going into 2014? Sure, projections are just projections and many things could happen between now and opening day, but it’s the best we have right now. Frankly, it is irresponsible for an MLB.com writer to write such a comment about a team without at least first checking the data that’s very easily available to him.

Carpenter’s innings can be easily replaced by the stable of young arms.” Really? You’re still talking about this going into 2014. I think Carp’s innings have already been replaced, Mr. Rogers. He pitched ZERO innings in 2013 and was only able to grind his way through a mere 17 injury-ridden innings in 2012. You think Martinez will for sure take over in the starting rotation? I think Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly will have something to say about that. Is Martinez’s future in the rotation? I really do think so, but the start of 2014 may be a stretch. Does he have an opportunity? Of course he does, but he’s far from the shoe-in for the spot that you make him out to be.

Carp was one of the pitching staff and team leaders, arguably even more so than Shields was for the Rays, but what about Adam Wainwright? What about Yadier Molina? Did you watch any Cardinal games last year? Molina almost single-handedly guided a pitching staff full of rookies all the way to the World Series. Ask Shelby Miller his opinion of Molina. I promise you will hear nothing but utmost praise for the catcher. Wainwright watched many pitchers’ (especially the rookies) bullpen sessions and gave advice where he deemed necessary. Will they miss Carpenter’s presence? Of course they will, but last time I checked, they have fully capable leaders who have already taken over during the transition process.

Finally, let’s address your final point. To be honest, I really don’t care how far Peralta falls in production post-Biogenesis suspension–if he falls at all. Pete Kozma was one of the most frustrating hitters to watch last season, and I can assure you, PED-aided or not, Peralta can hit a baseball at a much more successful rate than ole Petey. Kozma had a .275 on-base percentage and hit one home run in 2013, and it occurred in the second game of the entire season. In Peralta’s 10-year career (a more than adequate sample size in my opinion), his lowest on-base percentage was .295, and this occurred in just 77 games during his rookie season. He averages just over 14 home runs a season–an amount that I doubt Kozma reaches in his career.

Let’s take a look at a point you did not look at as well–the improved defense compared to 2013. With Carpenter moving back to his natural position at third, Kolten Wong or Mark Ellis playing second, and Peralta making all the standard plays, the infield defense is much better than it was last season. A quick look at the UZR’s of these players at these positions makes this quite clear. What about the outfield? Holliday and Craig may be average to below-average defenders in the corners, but this is where Bourjos’ range in center helps immensely. I would provide concrete numbers to back up these defensive points, but this post is already much longer than I had expected.

Cardinal fans, instead of Phil Rogers, let’s see what Dan Szymborski, an informed (but quirky) baseball writer over at ESPN, had to say about the 2014 Cardinals in a previous interview with stlCupofJoe:

stlCupofJoe: In YOUR opinion, compare this year’s Cardinals (I realize some more deals may be made) going into the season to last year’s team. Which one is in a better position, projection-wise?
Dan Szymborski: I think they’re a better team, as frightening as that may be to the rest of the NL. Remember, they only got 9 starts from Michael Wacha during the regular season and a whole lot of starts from the Great Kozmandias (Look on his bat, ye Mighty, and despair). And they’re not even a million years old, there’s enough youth to cancel out possible age-related decline from Matt Holliday or a little regression from Yadi Molina.

In conclusion, I fully respect Phil Rogers for what he has done for the MLB. He has covered the game since before I was even born. However, if he is going to write a post about the Cardinals being “most damaged” after one of the most productive offseasons in recent memory, he better at least have numbers to back up his opinions.

You can find Phil Rogers on Twitter: @philgrogers

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page

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The 2014 Cardinals and Beyond Need Allen Craig at First Base

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The 2014 St. Louis Cardinals and beyond need Allen Craig at first base. Before I lose readers, let me make this clear: this post is not meant to be a knock on the ability of Matt Adams or Craig’s defensive ability in the outfield. Will I take a look at their defensive numbers? Of course I will, but as you are reading, keep in mind that this is not the main point of the article.

With four years and $28.25 million (not counting a $13 million team option in 2018) left on his current contract, it is in the team’s best interest to have the 29-year-old Craig on the field as much as possible. Sure, the team warded off the Pittsburgh Pirates for National League Central crown with Adams at first base, but if the World Series is any indication, Craig was sorely missed.

As we all know by now, the 2014 projected lineup consists of Craig taking over Carlos Beltran‘s spot in right-field and Adams stepping in at first-base on a full-time basis. Craig’s UZR/150 in right-field last season? -24.3. To put this in perspective, Beltran’s was -18.7, and we all had some very strong opinions on his declining defense over the past two seasons.

I understand that one season is a pretty small sample size so I dug a little deeper. In 627 right-field innings in his career, Craig’s UZR/150 sits at -5.6–making him “below average” at the position. At first base, Craig had a 3.3 UZR/150 in 2013 and is at 0.3 in just under 1,600 innings played at the position in his career. As Corey Noles noted back in July, Adams vastly improved his defense in 2013, but even at his best, he is an inferior defender compared to Craig. For those wondering, Adams’ career UZR/150 at first base (792.1 innings) is -1.9. To his credit, though, he was much improved in 2013 at -0.5 compared to -4.1 his rookie season.

As you can see, the Cardinals’ defense is much better with Craig at first than in right-field. Obviously, as long as Oscar Taveras‘ health remains a huge question mark and until he proves he can perform at the big league level, they have no choice but use Craig in right. This was made apparent when Beltran left on a three year deal with the Yankees.

However, despite these numbers and like I said in the first paragraph, my reasoning behind the Cardinals needing Craig at first has very little to do with Craig’s or Adams’ defense ability.

Craig, a fan favorite for both his performance and his effort, plays the game 110%. Two of his major injuries are a perfect example of this. He fractured his knee cap crashing into the side wall at Minute Maid Park back in 2011. Last season, he injured his foot rounding first base trying to extend the play on an overthrow (to this day, I blame the umpire for being in his way). Were both injuries fluky? Yep, but if he is called upon to play 140+ games in the outfield in 2014, there is a pretty good chance he will get injured again.

Craig was an All-Star last season, had one RBI every five at-bats, and hit .454 with runners in scoring position. His foot injury left him out of live action for almost two months, yet he came back and did what he does best in the World Series–hit. In 16 at-bats, he had six hits. That’s incredible. He is the “Amazing Whacker Guy” after all.

Adams is due for a breakout season. He will have more experience, he will get more at-bats, and he will be fully healthy. Corey Rudd of stlsportsminute.com wrote a detailed piece for the Yahoo! Contributor Network breaking down this belief. However, despite this, I don’t think I will have many people disagreeing with my following statement.

A fully healthy Allen Craig is more important for the success of the Cardinals than a fully healthy Matt Adams.

Could Adams prove me wrong in this statement? He sure could, but at this point in both their careers, it is hard to argue with the Craig’s resume.

Could Craig still get hurt at first base? Yep, but there’s a much lower risk there than in the spacious outfield of Busch Stadium.

Could the addition of Peter Bourjos lead to less range needed to be covered by Craig in the outfield? Absolutely! Bourjos has some of the best range in baseball, but the outfield walls will still be there, and I am fairly certain Craig will run into one or two throughout the course of the season. Sure, he could ease up on 50-50 balls, but that’s not the way Allen Thomas Craig plays baseball. The Cardinals gave him the five year extension because he not only plays the game at a high level, but he also plays it the right way–the Cardinal Way.

In conclusion, do I want Adams’ bat in the lineup every day for a full season? You bet I do. However, I do not want it at the expense of Craig’s health. With Beltran gone, the Cardinals will ask even more from Craig next season. They need 550+ plate appearances from him. Can he get that while playing right-field all season? Yes, he could, but I like his chances of reaching that number much more if he played most of his games at first.

Obviously, if set-backs occur with Taveras or he doesn’t perform the way the organization would like early in the season, this post won’t mean much. Yet, I still figured it was exploring because if he does perform the way many scouts believe he can, he will be an ideal fit in right-field for the long-term.

I leave you with this. The 2014 ZiPS projections for Craig, Adams, and Taveras from ESPN’s Dan Szymborski. These only include offensive statistics, which wasn’t really the main point of this article, but I still figured they were worthy of being included in the post.

2014ZiPS

I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Feel free to include them in the comments section below.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page.

Carlos Beltran Making His Case for 2014 and Beyond

Photo Credit: USATSI

Photo Credit: USATSI

At the end of the 2013 season, Carlos Beltran will officially become a free agent again. Since the departure of Albert Pujols, he has been one of the most consistent power bats in the St. Louis lineup. Yet, with Oscar Taveras looming and Allen Craig fully capable of playing the outfield (and Matt Adams taking over at first base), do the Cardinals even need to re-sign Beltran? After all, he is 36 years old and will command a contract somewhere around the $15 million per year range.

I know that there have already been numerous articles written on this topic, but I figured I would give you my take anyways. In my opinion, I do think the Cardinals should re-sign Beltran for two more seasons, especially with Taveras’ health being in question. An All-Star two years in a row for around $15 million per year is a steal in today’s market.

One of the knocks on Beltran from last season was that he had a dismal performance after the All-Star Break. Numbers don’t lie, he did indeed struggle mightily in the second half–hitting just .236. Yet, in 2013, he has had 110 at-bats since the All-Star Break and has collected 33 hits–good for a .300 batting average. Thus, was his poor second half in 2012 just an anomaly?

We have a couple more weeks to find this out for sure, but he looks fine thus far. If you want to break it down further, Beltran is hitting .357 with two home runs and four RBI in his last seven days–including this moonshot against the Brewers.

After hitting 32 home runs last season, Beltran is on pace for 28 (22 thus far) this season. He had 97 runs batted in last season and is projected to have 86 this year. He still gets on base at pretty solid rate–.342–good enough for 29th in the National League.

Lastly, Beltran is statistically one of the best playoff hitters of all time. In 2012 for the Cardinals, he hit .357 with three home runs and six RBI in the playoffs. For his career, Beltran is hitting .363 with 14 home runs and 25 RBI in just three playoff years. If the Cardinals plan on making the playoffs the next couple years, wouldn’t it be nice to have a bat like this in the lineup?

Bold Statements:

I admit, I will be playing “Fantasy Land General Manager” here, so please bear with me.

I am not alone in saying that I believe the Cardinals should re-sign Beltran. However, I am one of the few that also believes that the Cardinals should trade Adams while his value is still high. One of the biggest holes in the Cardinals’ lineup this season has been at shortstop. I admire Pete Kozma, but he just is not an everyday big league shortstop.

Can Adams play shortstop? No, he cannot, but he just may provide the value (along with some minor league pitchers) needed to land a much-needed upgrade at the shortstop position. Adams started out on fire for the Cardinals, but his production has dropped off a bit in July and August–hitting just .239 in July and .267 thus far in August.

Adams is a good hitter, but as long as he is in the National League, he is limited to one position. Thus, his value increases in the American League with the designated hitter being an option for him as well. So, who has something that can help the Cardinals at shortstop?

In my opinion, the Baltimore Orioles. According to ESPN’s depth chart, the Orioles current designated hitter is Steve Pearce. He is hitting just .245 with three home runs and nine RBI. Adams is hitting .282 with nine home runs and 36 RBI this season. Based on the numbers, Adams would be a substantial upgrade for team at DH.

So, who do they have that would make trading Adams worthwhile for the Cardinals?

Jonathan Schoop. He is a top prospect for the Orioles who is currently playing at their Triple-A affiliate. He is fully capable of playing shortstop, second base, and third base. Schoop has played 58 games in Triple-A, and he is hitting .252 with eight home runs and 31 RBI.

Is Schoop even available? Maybe not, but it would not hurt the Cardinals to put together a package involving Adams and some pitching and give it a shot. Schoop was asked for in trades involving both Jake Peavy and Matt Garza so it will take a lot to pry him away from Baltimore, but as a mere blogger, it does not hurt to aim high sometimes.

Regardless of whether or not Schoop would even be available, the Cardinals would be better off in 2014 if they re-signed Beltran and traded Adams for an upgrade at the shortstop position, in my humble opinion.

Thus, let’s take a look at the my 2014 lineup projection:

1. Carpenter (3B)
2. Beltran (RF)
3. Holliday (LF)
4. Craig (1B)
5. Molina (C)
6. Wong (2B)
7. Jay/Taveras (CF)
8. Schoop/Other Upgrade (SS)

That would be a pretty potent lineup. I like Adams. I like him a lot. However, long-term, he is limited to one position in the National League, and that scares me. Craig can play in the outfield, but he has had injury trouble in the past. His bat has proven to be an integral part of the Cardinals lineup, so I feel more comfortable with him manning first base.

Re-signing Beltran and dealing Adams would not only improve at shortstop but would also keep Craig at first base. Also, should Taveras’ ankle be 100% healthy next season, the signing would not necessarily stunt his development either. Because of the injury, I think Taveras will start out in the minors, but he won’t stay there for long. Once called up, there would be plenty of opportunities for Taveras to play in both right and center to give Jay and Beltran rest. If healthy and successful, Taveras could even take over in center field for a few seasons, leaving the Cardinals with a high quality fourth outfielder in Jay.

As always, I am open to whatever criticism you may have.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

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St. Louis Cardinals: Allen Craig, The AC Hammer

Photo Credit: sportsillustrated.com

Photo Credit: sportsillustrated.com

Happy 29th Birthday, Allen Craig. Thank you for making the good-bye to #5 a whole heck of a lot easier to deal with for St. Louis.

As a birthday present to Craig and the rest of Cardinal Nation, I have decided to do a brief analysis on his numbers so that fans can truly appreciate just how valuable he has been since Albert left.

The Numbers Breakdown

Allen Craig:
5 years, $43 million ($8.6 million AAV)

2012: .307 batting average, .354 on-base percentage, 22 home runs, 92 runs batted in, 2.8 WAR

2013: .333 batting average, .378 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, 74 runs batted in, 2.1 WAR

Albert Pujols:
10 years, $240 million ($24 million AAV)

2012: .285 batting average, .343 on-base percentage, 30 home runs, 105 runs batted in, 3.7 WAR

2013: .249 batting average, .324 on-base percentage, 15 home runs, 57 runs batted in, 0.4 WAR

The Comparison

For the 2012 season, Craig hit .400 with runners in scoring position. In 90 at-bats with runners in scoring position this season, he has somehow done even better, collecting 44 hits for an MLB-best .489 batting average.

In 2012, Albert hit .281 with runners in scoring position. In 87 at-bats with runners in scoring position this season, Albert has 26 hits–giving him a decent .299 average, but an average that is nearly .200 below Craig’s.

Sure, Pujols has had a Hall-of-Fame career, but for nearly $16 million less per season, I will take Craig in a heartbeat. As many of you know, I was very upset when I found out that Pujols had signed with the Angels, but that is not the case now. At 29, Craig’s body is not breaking down like Albert’s, and because of this, he is able to play the field on a regular basis.

In 91 games played this season for the Angels, Albert has only been able to play 34 games at first base. He has three errors on the season. Thus, they are paying him an enormous amount of money to basically be a glorified designated hitter. That is incredible to think about.

In 90 games played this season, Craig has started 60 games at first base, 14 games in left field, and 14 games in right field. All three of those positions require vastly different skill sets, yet he is committed just one error. His fielding has vastly improved from last season and will only continue to develop the more comfortable he gets at the position. Either way, regardless of fielding statistics, Craig is at least out there playing while Albert is playing the field just 37% of the time.

Conclusion

At this point in their careers, Craig hits for a higher average than Albert, gets on base more than Albert, and is more productive with runners in scoring position than Albert. Albert may still hit more home runs than Craig, but does that really matter if the AC Hammer is knocking in more runs than him?

Craig is a complete player, able to play three positions effectively while Albert has become more of a designated hitter than a position player due to his body breaking down. Oh, and last time I checked, Craig was in the All-Star Game this season. Pujols has not made the AL All-Star team either season with the Angels.

Help me get the AC Hammer name trending!

Until next time…

Joe (@stlCupOfJoe)

P.S. I know that by not committing salary to Pujols, the Cardinals were able to sign players like Furcal and Beltran, as well as sign long-term deals with Waino and Yadi, but my comparison was meant to be for Craig and Pujols only.

7/25 UPDATE on 2013 Statistics:

Craig: .337 batting average, .382 on-base percentage, 10 home runs, 79 runs batted in, 2.2 WAR

Pujols: .254 batting average, .326 on-base percentage, 17 home runs, 60 runs batted in, 0.6 WAR, still has only played 34 games in the field (same amount as when this article was written one week ago)

The Year of Stan Musial: St. Louis Cardinals Get 6 All-Stars

Photo Credit: sportslogos.net

Photo Credit: sportslogos.net

We all know that Stan Musial did incredible things on and off the field during his lifetime, but based on the way this year’s All-Star rosters panned out, it seems as if he is still having an impact on his beloved, St. Louis Cardinals.

When the All-Star rosters were announced, St. Louis had two starters and three bench players. Yadier Molina was voted in as the starting catcher over defending league MVP, Buster Posey. Carlos Beltran collected enough votes to be the starting right fielder for the National League.

Bruce Bochy, the National League manager, chose Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright to round out his roster. Most teams would be thrilled to have such an impressive representation in the All-Star game, but I knew something was just a little off about having five players this year (and no, this is not a stab at Albert Pujols).

2013 has been dedicated to Stan “The Man” Musial. This is shown each and every game by the #6 patches that adorn the sleeves of the Cardinals jerseys. Five players in the All-Star Game was nice, but that was not the right number given the circumstances of this season. The team needed six players this season, and it could be seen as another tribute to The Man.

When manager, Mike Matheny, decided to manipulate the rotation a week before the All-Star break to give Wainwright the opportunity to pitch twice, it set up perfectly for the Cardinals to get their sixth man added to the team. However, there were no guarantees because it was all left up to Bochy to name the All-Star replacements. Would he even be interested in putting another Cardinals player into Wainwright’s open spot?

Well, Wainwright did a really good job at campaigning for Mujica to take his spot. He was very straightforward in saying, “If my spot can go to a guy who’s not on the roster, preferably on this team named Mujica, I would like to see that happen. Of course, I want to pitch in the game. But I don’t want to be a liability in any way. If I have a pitch count of 12 pitches in an inning … I want to see a guy who really deserves to be there go and get a chance to pitch.”

His proposal was accepted by Bochy, and during his outing on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, it was made official that Mujica was named to take his spot–the sixth Cardinal on the National League All-Star roster. Could Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, or even Lance Lynn also made the team? Each one could make their own case, but that just was not going to work this year. The Cardinals had their six, and I am sure that is exactly how Stan would want it.

A Quick Video Tribute to Stan

One will never forget this legendary home run hit by The Man 58 years ago. Just two years ago, this 12th inning walk-off home run by Musial was voted as the top moment in All-Star Game history.

Good luck to the team’s representatives as they take on the American League for the rights to home-field advantage in the World Series. It would only be fitting if Craig (or AC Hammer as I like to call him) or Carpenter could hit a walk-off home run just like Stan did back in 1955.

Photo Credit: Carlos  Beltran's Twitter

Photo Credit: Carlos Beltran‘s Twitter

Above is a picture of the six Cardinals representatives on the plane that took them to New York for the All-Star festivities. Notice that Mujica has started a trend with his hand gesture that he describes as “the Cardinal” based on its shape.

UPDATE: The American League won the game, 3-0. Molina and Carpenter both went 0 for 2 in the game. Beltran went 1 for 2 with a single, and Craig lined out to left off of the great Mariano Rivera.

Thus, the Cardinals’ quest for a 12th World Series title will have to come through an American League stadium. Good thing the Cardinals are 30-20 on the road this season.

Until next time…

Joe (@stlCupOfJoe)

Down Goes DiMaggio’s Streak?

Photo Credit: joedimaggio.com

Photo Credit: joedimaggio.com

What do you get when you add together these four numbers?

18, 17, 12, and 9.

I will pause and let you dig out a calculator if you need it. Time is up. Those four numbers tally to one of the most legendary numbers in baseball–the untouchable number of 56.

In the spring and summer of 1941, the great “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio had the single greatest hitting performance of all time. He successfully hit in 56 straight games. During that time, he hit an incredible .408 with 15 home runs and 55 RBI. This has to be the greatest individual performance by a single baseball player ever, and it most likely will never be broken.

Or will it?

Entering tonight’s rubber match against the rival Cincinnati Reds, four Cardinals’ bats have officially “gone streakin‘” (and I do not mean the Will Ferrell Old School way here) and are on the verge of eclipsing the Yankee Clipper‘s legendary streak. The current hitting streaks of David Freese (18 games), Matt Carpenter (17 games), Allen Craig (12 games), and Carlos Beltran (9 games) total to exactly 56.

Well, I guess DiMaggio’s streak is safe after all, but I at least got you thinking. The fact that it has taken four players’ active hitting streaks to total DiMaggio’s individual hitting streak just makes you appreciate what he did that much more.

Freese, Carpenter, Craig, and Beltran are all putting together some of the more impressive hitting streaks this season, but none of them even compare to the Hall-of-Famer’s streak. Freese, the closest to 56 with 18, is only 32% of the way there.

Baseball analysts on ESPN and fans all over Twitter are marveling at the active streaks that the Cardinals have right now. This is for good reason because they are key components to a team that is widely considered the best team in baseball right now. However, one needs to look further than their combined hitting streak and respect and honor what the great Yankee center fielder was able to do.

Thus, “Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?” cannot be applied to this baseball writer and the readers of this article. Despite it happening almost 72 years ago, we, if we call ourselves true baseball fans, need to honor and remember what Joe DiMaggio was able to do for this wonderful game. His performance was not only one of the greatest individual performances ever in baseball, but also can be up for consideration as one of the greatest individual performances in all of sports.

In all likelihood, none of the four Cardinals’ hitters (Freese, Carpenter, Craig, Beltran) will come anywhere close to 56 with their current hitting streaks, but I jumped at the opportunity to write about one of baseball’s greatest players when I noticed that their current streaks added up to that number.

In the meantime, the Cardinals will need at least two (but hopefully all four) to continue their hitting streaks tonight against Bronson Arroyo if they want to win the series and extend their lead in the central.

How They’ve Done Against Arroyo:

1. Freese: 1 for 12 (.083 average)

2. Carpenter: 1 for 9 (.111 average)

3. Craig: 1 for 11 (.091 average)

4. Beltran: 10 for 29 (.345 average)

Thus, three of the four have struggled mightily against Arroyo, but they are all seeing the ball so well right now, so not only are they due against the soft-tossing righty, but they are also primed to make solid contact and record some hits.

Here’s to 56

Joe (@stlCupOfJoe)

UPDATE after the game:

Three (Freese, Carpenter, Beltran) of the four hitters were able to keep their hitting streaks alive, largely in part to hits late in the game.

Arroyo kept his hex on Freese, Carpenter, and Craig who all went hitless against the Reds’ righty and now are a combined 3 for 41 against him–a .073 batting average.

Beltran hit a solo home run off Arroyo in the 4th inning to extend his streak to 10 games.

Carpenter got a broken-bat, RBI single in the 7th off reliever, Sam LeCure to get his streak to 18 games.

Freese, in his last chance in the 10th inning, got a single to right to not only start a rally in which the Cardinals score seven runs but to also keep his league-leading hitting streak alive at 19 games.

Craig went 0 for 5 and saw his hitting streak come to and end at 12. However, with his hitting streak ending, the Cardinals’ offense stayed hot and have three more players with hitting streaks of five games or more.

Holliday: 7 game hitting streak

Molina: 6 game hitting streak

Jay: 5 game hitting streak

Thus, if you add up all of the combined hitting streaks right now, the Cardinals sit at 65 games of active hitting streaks–a pretty remarkable number.