All right, let's put together the Cardinals' lineup for 2014 to reflect the offseason changes to date.
In terms of starting position players, this is where it stands:
Into the starting lineup: center fielder Peter Bourjos, shortstop Jhonny Peralta, second baseman Kolten Wong.
Gone or bounced from the starting lineup: right fielder Carlos Beltran, third baseman David Freese, center fielder Jon Jay, shortstop Pete Kozma.
Relocated in the field: Matt Carpenter to third base; Allen Craig to right field.
The primary reserve: rookie outfielder Oscar Taveras.
So, what would be your choices for constructing a lineup?
Here are my two lineups:
AGAINST RIGHTHANDED STARTERS:
Batting first, 3B Matt Carpenter. There's been some sentiment for moving him down in the lineup to an “RBI” position, then put of more a speedster (Bourjos or Wong) into the No. 1 spot. No thanks. When you have a leadoff hitter that just gave you an outstanding .392 onbase percentage in 717 plate appearances, he stays right where he is. There's a reason why Carpenter led mankind with 126 runs scored. He gets on base, and the Cardinals have plenty of gentlemen who can drive him in. Including the postseason the Cardinas were 70-26 last season when Carpenter scored a run in a game.
Batting second, SS Jhonny Peralta: I subscribe to the model that prefers to have onbase potential and some power in the No. 2 station. Last season Beltran served as the primary No. 2 hitter and gave the Cardinals a .345 onbase percentage and .534 slugging percentage when spotted second. That will be difficult for Peralta (or anyone) to replicate. But Peralta had solid power, with a .431 slugging percentage since becoming a regular starter in 2005. You'd like his OBP of .332 over that time to be higher for the No 2 assignment but it will do for now. I would consider moving either Bourjos or Wong to the No. 2 slot if they're having good years, or are enjoying a hot streak. But Bourjos has a .306 career OBP, and Wong has barely gotten his career underway. Taveras looms as a potential No. 2 at some point.
Batting third, LF Matt Holliday: Since becoming a Cardinal, Holliday has a .389 OBP and a .520 slugging percentage, and that's what you want in the No. 3 spot. Other No. 3 hitters in the majors have done better than that, but Holliday's yearly consistency is desirable for a No. 3 hitter.
Batting fourth, RF Allen Craig: The RBI Machine, the RBI Factory. Nothing else needs to be said really. Sure, you'd like a few more home runs here, but I'm not going to fuss over that. Not with the way Craig drives in runs.
Batting Fifth, catcher Yadier Molina: He's been clockwork over the past three seasons, and you can expect to get an onbase percentage of around .360 and a slugging percentage of .475 whether you bat him fifth or sixth. Molina has been one of the most reliable of hitters when presented with RBI opportunities, and that's a plus. Of course, one thought would be to get some batting-side separation here by putting the lefthanded hitting Matt Adams in the fifth slot and placing Molina at No. 6. That would avoid having a configuration of four consecutive righthanded hitters (Peralta, Holliday, Craig, Molina.) I wouldn't object to his, but really it depends on how Adams is swinging the bat.
Batting sixth, 1B Matt Adams: Last season Big City had 17 homers and a .503 slugging percentage in only 319 plate appearances; that power is why I'd like to have him batting him behind Molina, who gets on base at a good rate. What's the more likely scenario: Adams getting on base followed by a homer from Molina, or Molina reaching base with Adams coming up next to drop a bomb? I'd go with the latter option there. I just think with Adams batting sixth _ with all of those moderately high OBP guys hitting in front of him _ it sets up a greater potential for a big inning.
Batting seventh, center fielder Peter Bourjos. My friend and colleague Derrick Goold believes Bourjos would be best in the No. 8 spot. But I like the idea of Bourjos hitting seventh with Wong eighth. Why? Bourjos has great speed. That gives him a chance to steal bases, but there's more than that, really. Bourjos has one of the highest percentages among MLB base runners in advancing the extra base on a base hit. That's why I don't want a pitcher batting directly behind him. With Wong batting eighth, it sets up all sorts of fun stuff: (1) a straight steal from Bourjos to set up an RBI shot for Wong. (2) It brings the hit and run to life; Wong can really handle the bat, and with the first baseman holding Bourjos close to the bag, it opens up all sorts of space on the right side for the LH-batting Wong to exploit. (3) Wong also roped a lot of doubles and triples in the minors; with Bourjos on first base it would be off to the races. I just think Bourjos-Wong puts more options in play than the other way around.
Batting eighth, 2B Kolten Wong: for reasons that I've just explained. Wong has the least MLB experience, and batting eighth is a natural place to break him in. Ultimately, Wong looms as a No. 1 or No. 2 hitter, but he must get established first. By the way: I like any combination of Bourjos and Wong batting next to each other in the lineup; think double steal, baby.
Batting ninth, the pitcher.
Additional notes: Depending on who needs a rest or who may be slumping, insert Taveras in CF or RF as need be, and you can bat him sixth against RHP.
AGAINST LEFTHANDED STARTERS
Batting first, Carpenter: Just a reminder that he can hit LH pitching. Carpenter had a .294 BA and .353 OBP against them last season.
Batting second, Peralta: Very good career numbers against lefties.
Batting third, Holliday. Obvious reasons.
Batting fourth, Craig. Obvious reasons.
Batting fifth, Molina. Obvious reasons.
Batting sixth, Taveras. Yes, he's in right field vs. LHP, with Craig playing first base and Adams getting the day off. Yes, Taveras bats lefthanded, but that doesn't concern me. In 331 plate appearances vs. lefties in the minors, he batted .302 with a .364 OBP and .473 slugging percentage. The kid will hit LH pitching in the bigs.
Batting seventh, Bourjos. Doesn't have great overall numbers in his career vs. LHP, but he did hammer them in 2011. If Bourjos is really raking, I could see moving him to sixth or even second in the lineup. But for now, seventh is the best hit.
Batting eighth, Wong. Will he hit LH pitchers in the majors? He should. He got it done in the minors, with a .285 BA, .337 OBP and .408 slugging percentage in 356 plate appearances against them
Batting ninth, pitcher.
That's just my take. Please give your own lineup choices in the comments section if you want to.
Thanks for reading ...