The Cardinals Don’t Have to Rearrange the Infield. Starting Jedd Gyorko At Third Base Is Fine

Jhonny Peralta has been relocated to the 10-day disabled list because of an upper respiratory infection.

There was no medical update on the health of Peralta’s ailing bat.

The timing is, shall we say, curious — considering that Peralta was batting .120 with no power.

The Cardinals placed Peralta on the 10-day DL Thursday.

This is nothing new. Since the 2015 All-Star break Peralta has a .359 slugging percentage in 608 plate appearances.

Over that stretch of time, among MLB hitters that have at least 600 PA, Peralta’s .359 slug ranks No. 194 on a list of 212.

Yikes.

I don’t think antibiotics will restore Peralta’s power … but perhaps I’m mistaken.

I’m not sure what the Cardinals will do with Peralta when he leaves the DL. We’ll have to wait and see how manager Mike Matheny plays it. Surely Peralta won’t be buried. As long as Peralta is on the active 25-man roster, he’ll have to play … but how often? I don’t know. That isn’t a concern at the moment.

With Peralta off to a cold-flu start, and the Cardinals scrounging for offense, first baseman Matt Carpenter is taking ground balls at third base, to get ready in case Matheny wants to use him there.

And that’s smart.

Carpenter can be a movable piece. Let’s be honest; Carpenter isn’t a defensive standout at any position. He’s played solidly at times, but if you look at his career marks in Defensive Runs Saved, M-Carp is adequate at 1B and slightly below average at other positions.

In 79 career starts at first base, Carpenter is neutral in Defensive Runs Saved.

In 176 starts at second base, Carpenter is a minus 10 DRS, but that’s spread over four seasons … and he’s played average defense at second in 2013, and again in ’15.

In 398 starts at third base, Carpenter is minus 8 overall in DRS; he was slightly above average there last season.

Carpenter has also made three starts in left field and 11 starts in right field. His small-sample DRS numbers are neutral at the corner outfield spots.

Carpenter is a lineup fixture for his offense. If he excelled at one position, you’d be more reluctant to shuttle him around. But no matter where the Cardinals park Carpenter, they’ll pretty much receive a similar caliber of defense.

Matheny would be right to take the “have bat, will travel” approach with Carpenter. And Carpenter has said — recently, and on many occasions — that he likes moving around, and wants to help the team by being versatile.

I don’t think it’s necessary to rearrange the furniture by making Carpenter the regular third baseman, a move that would set up a first-base platoon with Matt Adams (vs. RH pitchers) and Jose Martinez (vs. LH pitching.) It isn’t a bad way to go, as long as Adams-Martinez are producing.

For now — key word “now” — I’m good with Carpenter staying at first base and putting Jedd Gyorko at third base.

It’s nice to have Gyorko as “flex” player that can be deployed at second base, third base, shortstop, and even first base. But with this team thirsty for offense, and hungry for power, it makes sense to give Gyorko a daily spot in the lineup. He’s earned it. His bat demands it.

Gyorko doesn’t draw many walks, and his onbase percentage and batting average will be on the low side. But with three early homers this season, Gyorko has reminded us of what he does best: blast for power.

And that’s an area of need right now with the Cardinals 19th in homers per game (1.0) and ranking 27th with a .353 slugging percentage.

Since being acquired from the Padres before the ’16 season, Gyorko has 477 plate appearances as a Cardinal. He’s used the playing time to jack 33 homers, and put up a .507 slugging percentage.

Here’s a stat that surprised me: Since the start of last season, among MLB hitters with 477 plate appearances, Gyorko ranks No. 2 in home-run ratio.

Gyorko has smashed a homer every 13.15 at-bats. The only slugger that’s done better since the beginning of 2016 is Oakland’s Khris Davis, with one homer every 12.51 at-bats.

You can’t sit that kind of power. Not that we can count on Gyorko to maintain such a bombastic HR pace, but when he’s launching a bomb every 13 at-bats, he needs to be in your lineup.

Sure, there are other ways to do this.  One obvious alignment: Adams-Martinez at first, Carpenter at third, Gyorko at second. That would be worth a go if Kolten Wong remains a liability with his bat and (surprisingly) his glove. And if Adams-Martinez are delivering positive results.

The Cardinals also have Greg Garcia to play second base if desired. If Gyorko plays every day, then Garcia becomes the swing guy, the utility infielder, and he’s good at the role.

Gyorko has provided solid defense at multiple spots; he’s a “plus” defender at third, second and first base in Defensive Runs Saved during his time with the Cardinals. His work at shortstop is slightly below average but not a shipwreck.

And one underrated aspect of Gyorko’s game is his base running; he’s one of few Cardinals with a plus in the Base Running Runs metric.

Don’t worry about platoon splits. Don’t think the RH-swinging Gyorko should start routinely against LH pitchers but used less against RH pitchers. There’s no reason for it.

As a Cardinal, Gyorko has a .739 OPS vs. LH pitching, and an .861 OPS against RHP.

And Gyorko’s home-run rate vs. RH pitchers — a homer every 11.4 at-bats — is tremendous.

Matheny can slide Carpenter to third base when he wants to get some swings for Adams-Martinez. Nothing wrong with that. But no matter how Matheny wants to divvy this up, Gyorko has to be a regular starter… a daily starter. His power warrants it.

Thanks for reading …

Bernie 

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