In the middle of the fourth week of the season, the Cardinals are leading all of MLB in RBI (120), SLG (.504), and OPS (.861) while tied with the Diamondbacks for the most home runs (32). They have the second best batting average at .279, behind Pittsburgh’s .293. Where did this come from?!?!
Injuries to Peralta, and then Tejada, Pham, and Pena opened the door for Jeremy Hazelbaker, Aledmys Diaz, and Eric Fryer to shine. As Jason Benjamin mentions in his Forbes article analyzing this year’s team, “the one quality that makes the Cardinals great is the seemingly unlimited number of minor league prospects that appear to be at team management’s disposal.” Hazelbaker is tied with Brandon Moss for most team home runs (5) and has an OPS of 1.069. Diaz is the first player in the modern era to start his career with a .500 batting average after 50 plate appearances. After last night’s win in Arizona, he is batting a mere .466 with 1.285 OPS. Obviously they can’t keep up this pace, but they are certainly providing a much needed spark to the lineup. There’s going to be a bit of a logjam at shortstop when Peralta comes back. As long as Diaz continues to hit well, they should find a spot for him in the lineup.
The start of the season didn’t look promising with those early injuries and getting swept in Pittsburgh with a combined 37 strikeouts to start the season. They avoided being swept by the Cubs at home last week, but notched another 32 strikeouts in that series. Interestingly, the Cubs and Pirates only have four fewer strikeouts at this point in the season. It’s going to be another fierce battle in the NL Central this summer. Through the first 20 games the Cubs are 15-5, their best start since 1907 when they won the World Series. Pittsburgh only has five home runs so far, but they are leading MLB in average and OPS (.379). Unfortunately the Cardinals also lead the majors in errors with 20. The power surge is fun to watch right now, but it’s also going to take better fundamentals and pitching to keep up with Chicago and Pittsburgh. Carlos Martinez is the ace of the starting rotation currently with a 4-0 record and 1.93 ERA. Wainwright and Leake both have the ability to be dominant, but we have yet to see that from either of them.