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Leadoff Hitter the Problem for Cardinals?

Wed, 14 May 2014 15:35:01 CDT

Before the 2014 regular season, the Cardinals signed infielder Matt Carpenter to an extension, locking him up for the foreseeable future. Deservedly so; after all, the man had an all-star year at second base in 2013 and was a serious contender for the National League MVP award. He spent most of his time at the top of the batting order in 2013 as the catalyst for one of the best offenses in Major League Baseball. The start of the 2014 season for Carpenter, however, has not been a great one.

Most of us expected Carpenter to regress offensively. I mean, it would be hard to repeat the season he had last year - hence the reason itís called a career year. Not only is Carpenter struggling, but the entire Cardinals lineup is off to a slow start with few exceptions. Is it time to consider moving Carpenter down in the order? It wouldnít be the worst idea.

Matt Carpenter is a career .309 hitter in the leadoff spot with an OPS of .822. Thatís pretty good and would be difficult to replace. That being said, Carpenter is also a career .306 hitter in the second spot with an OPS of .822. Not really much of a difference. Plus, with an extra hitter ahead of him, his opportunities to drive in runs are likely to become more frequent. I think we can all agree that the Cardinals could use more RBI opportunities.
Now, when I say move Carpenter down in the order, Iím talking about dropping him into the second spot. I hardly think itís necessary to make him bat eighth - or ninth if youíre going to bat the pitcher eighth (Thatís a discussion for another day). I think he and the rest of the lineup would benefit from a new leadoff hitter. The ideal candidate: Kolten Wong.

I know what youíre thinking: what has Wong done to merit consideration for being the Cardinals leadoff man? To answer that, I point to his minor league career. Ever since being drafted, Kolten Wong has been the regular leadoff man. The managers at Quad Cities, Springfield, and Memphis all believed he was the best leadoff option available. Thatís three different levels of the minor leagues. Following a demotion to Memphis after a slow April start, Redbird manager Pop Warner put Wong back in the leadoff spot. Wong answered by hitting .344 with five stolen bases so far this season. Why would you continue to bat Wong leadoff in the minors if you have no intention of penciling him in at the top of the order in the majors? It doesnít make much sense.

In his brief big league career, Wong is 0 for 6 as the leadoff hitter. Thatís nowhere near enough at bats to remove him from leadoff consideration. The best evidence I can supply is his production in the second spot: a .319 average with a .756 OPS. And through all of this, I never even mentioned how his speed could play a factor. It kind of makes you wonder why Matheny ever dropped Wong in the order in the first place. The past is behind us. Itís time for Matheny to make the right decision. Itís time for Wong to get a shot at being the leadoff hitter. Itís time for the Cardinals to turn this season around. Thanks for reading!

-David Jenkins


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