Well Matt Holliday missed time with a torn quadricep muscle. Lance Berkman got a cortisone shot to help an ailing wrist. Rasmus missed time with fatigue, Freese is recovering from a broken bone in his hand…
And on and on and on. Guess it was only a matter of time before the injury bug bit Albert Pujols as well.
Losing a player of Pujols’ stature puts a big hole in the lineup. He goes to the DL with a .279/.355/.500 line, but since 1 June he’s been more like his historical self, posting a .317/.419/.778 in those 17 games. But this lineup seems to be the best positioned since 2004 to weather an extended loss of Pujols’ bat. In fact, I’d argue they become a better defensive team without him.
Hear me out.
Losing AP allows the Cardinals to shift Berkman to first base. It also allows them to play Jon Jay in right every day. Jay’s posted a 126 OPS+ so far this season, fifth-best on the team (behind Holliday, Berkman, Allen Craig, and Pujols). Note I did not include Freese (145 OPS+) since he’s still on the DL. Jay’s Plus/Minus is +5 on the Dewan scale, just out of the top 10 among right fielders (Carlos Quentin, Nyjer Morgan, and Scott Cousins sit at +6).
In contrast, Berkman has played RF at a -5 level. So that’s a +10 shift in ability by shifting Berkman to first and placing Jay in RF. Berkman’s also -2 at first in limited playing time; AP this year has been a -3. So overall no appreciable change at first base, and a significant upgrade in right.
Jay is no Pujols at the plate, but he’s no Chone Figgins either. The Cardinals lineup will be a little less fearsome but not so much that Pujols’ loss will derail this offense.
There’s your optimism for today. Now the team needs their pitching staff to recapture its mojo.
Get well soon, Albert.