With the Cards’ grind about to begin (finally!), here are some numbers that WILL change
ST. LOUIS — I don’t know about you, but I’m about ready for the Cardinals’ season to begin. Really begin.
Granted, the standings say they’ve already played nine games but really, the best thing about this little 5-4 stretch is that it’s over. I have nothing against Opening Day, even if I’m not sure it’s special enough to be capitalized, and the day off that follows always leaves me out of sorts. I can appreciate the pageantry of a home opener at Busch Stadium, except for the price gouging it brings ($50 for parking, seriously?).
Though the days in season when the Cardinals don’t have a game feel a tad empty, I like that they are off on Thursday. Two weeks after they left Florida, they finally have a chance to unpack and unwind.
Then on Friday, they can get to work. With their minds cleared and their bodies rested, let the grind begin!
Starting with this weekend’s series against the Cubs, the Cardinals are scheduled to play 20 games in 20 days. Eventually, in another week, they’ll even see teams from outside the NL Central. By May 1, we should have a far better sense of how summer is shaping up at Busch Stadium. Though the season still will be young, the stats should be starting to fall in line with what we can expect to see in September.
Here are nine noteworthy numbers that you can count on looking much different than they do today.
.097: When Mike Matheny tells the media that Allen Craig is "real close. I know he is," he’s actually sending a message to his cleanup hitter that he still believes in him. He should. As long as Craig’s legs are healthy — as his manager insists — he’ll hit. That is what he does. That he has struck out only six times in 33 plate appearances would support Matheny’s assertion that Craig is close. He’s seeing the ball but has been unable to consistently put the barrel on it.
.069: Jhonny Peralta’s slow start is more concerning because you never know how hitters will adjust to a new league. Peralta might hit closer to .269 than .303 like he did last year, but the Cardinals will take that, especially when you factor in he already has hit more home runs than last year’s shortstop.
.181: No way the Cardinals will hit .330 with runners in scoring position again. Everyone gets that. But you can also be sure they’ll be better than 28th in the majors with RISP. The main reason their RISP is lacking is their overall batting average is only .215, a number that will rise when Craig, Peralta and others start to fall in line with their career hitting.
.182: Let’s just say if Jon Jay hasn’t lifted his batting average by the end of April, we could see the arrival of an outfielder from Memphis. Which one is the question. Oscar Taveras has two homers but is hitting only .192. Stephen Piscotty, meanwhile, is at .375 and hasn’t cooled off since leaving Florida.
7.71: Kevin Siegrist’s bloated ERA is a result of allowing Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to reach base, which was bound to happen. That he faced them a combined 11 times before letting either on was impressive enough. Now repeating his 0.45 ERA from last season? That’s not likely considering the two runs he has been charged with equal what he allowed all last season.
5.25: The bullpen’s ERA is a number to watch. It will fall, but perhaps not as much as the Cardinals might need. You can tell by how Matheny has — or has not — used his relievers that middle relief is a legitimate issue. Anyone thinking Jason Motte’s return will save the day isn’t familiar with returning from Tommy John surgery. Motte’s recovery is progressing as well as the team could expect, but Matheny said he’s not expecting much more than low-90-mph velocity when Motte first returns. How effective Motte can be at that speed is as big an unknown as when he actually will be back. Motte is shooting for mid-May; Matheny isn’t saying. He doesn’t want to add the pressure of a timeline to Motte’s return.
0: The way Kolten Wong has looked, Peter Bourjos might no longer be the best bet to lead the Cardinals in stolen bases. But I’m still pretty sure he will steal one before the end of the month.
0.71: Michael Wacha is good, but not even Bob Gibson at his 1.12 best was that good. A number more worthy of tracking for Wacha is innings pitched. As strong as he has looked since the start of spring training, he could get closer to 200 than any 22-year-old should be expected to.
.556: Don’t be surprised if the Cardinals’ winning percentage is even lower by their next off day. They will have spent most of April on the road, and they also start May with a three-city road trip. Only 12 of their first 38 games, in fact, are scheduled for Busch Stadium. That sounds like quite a grind, which is exactly what the baseball season is and should be.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.