Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Defenseless.

I hate to be a downer on a day after a win (and Daniel Descalso’s first major league home run, to boot), but I think that the power of the offense is making it easy to overlook–or temporarily ignore–a real problem that the boys are having on the field right now: Fielding.

The 2011 Cardinals have taken the old adage “The best defense is a good offense” and run with it. They currently lead the major leagues in hits (307), runs (161), RBI (154), OBP (.363), and batting average (.293). Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, over a month into the season, are both batting over .400 still and lead the majors with those awesome numbers. Yes, the Cardinals are tearing it up offensively–and they are doing it without Albert, who is batting .231 and leading the team in nothing except grounding into double plays.

Oh right–double plays. There have been a lot of them. 41, to be exact. That’s another thing we are leading the majors in. The Cardinals are spinning that by saying that you are more likely to ground into double plays if you are getting guys on base, which we are doing in abundance. That’s fantastic, but no amount of spin is going to make grounding into 41 double plays over a span of 30 games look good. It looks exactly like what it is–a ridiculous number and a lot of lost opportunities to score even more runs.

But the double plays are not the most alarming thing. The most alarming thing, the thing that has been making me cringe and sweat more than I ever want to during a baseball game, is the defense. Because in baseball, I do not think the best defense is a good offense. I think the best defense is clean fielding and catching routine pop flys and USING BOTH HANDS WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO CATCH THOSE POP FLYS, RYAN THERIOT.

Ryan Theriot drops a fly ball against Atlanta. May 1, 2011. Source: AP Photo/John Amis

Ryan The Riot is batting .306 and, I’ll admit, turning out to be a much better lead-off man than I had hoped. But it’s hard to get excited about a guy when you’re holding your breath every time a ground ball goes his way. He has committed a major-league-leading 8 errors in 30 games, which means he’s responsible for a 1/3 of the errors committed thus far by the Cardinals. 24 errors put the team pretty close to the bottom of the defensive barrel — only Texas, Oakland, and Houston have more.

Perhaps even more astounding is how the Cardinals are spreading the errors out amongst each other. There are currently 16 players without an error, but 10 of them are pitchers, 4 of them are not starters, and Skip is on the DL. Colby Rasmus is the only everyday starter on the roster without an error. And yes, Theriot maybe leading the pack with his 8 errors, but do you know who is in second? Albert Pujols, with 4. If that doesn’t alarm you, I don’t know what will.

I don’t mean this to be a harangue on my favorite men, but I think it’s clear that something needs to change. It’s fairly remarkable that we are able to lead a division (even the woeful NL Central) with these kinds of defensive miscues, no matter how good the offense is. The offense is bound to hit some rough patches and go through some slumps, and when that happens, we are going to need solid pitching and even more solid defense to back them up. There has been a lot of good going on with the Cardinals, and the high-octane offense has certainly been a thrill to watch, but they need to step back and get their fundamentals down. Without them, we won’t be the team we all want to be, and excuse the pun, but there’s no defense for that.

One response to “Defenseless.

  1. Pingback: An Interesting Game « Diamond Diaries

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