A Tale of Two First Basemen: Matt Adams, Luke Voit and Reverse ‘Devil Magic’

It is true: Life has many turns and surprises, happiness and regret — and intriguing plot developments for which there is no script.

The Cardinals know all about that.

So do Matt Adams and Luke Voit.

The Cardinals drafted and developed Adams and Voit, two power-hitting first basemen who made their MLB debut while wearing the Birds on the Bat.

Voit was a hometown boy, a popular local, surrounded by family, friends, loved ones. Busch Stadium became the unofficial second home, with a new backyard, for the Voits.

Matt Adams is a Pennsylvania native, but in many ways he grew up in St. Louis. Even after the Cardinals traded him to Atlanta in May 2017 — and he’d go on to play with Washington for the first four-plus months this season — Adams and his wife maintained their residence in St. Louis.

On Aug. 21 the Cardinals claimed Adams off waivers to add some left-handed wallop to their bench. And maybe he would end up starting a lot of games at first base, at least when the Cards faced a RH starting pitcher. Because we all know that Big City has always crushed RH pitching.

It would be incorrect to surmise that the Cardinals brought Adams back to fill a void created by a move for bullpen help. On July 28 the Cardinals dealt Voit and a chunk of international signing pool money to the Yankees for lefty reliever Chasen Shreve and RH reliever Giovanny Gallegos.

The deal made sense at the time. Shreve has helped the Cardinals, appearing in 12 games with a 2.79 ERA and 25.6% strikeout rate. Shreve walks too many batters — but isn’t that true of all Cardinals’ relievers? It’s an epidemic. And Gallegos may get a call from St. Louis;  he has an 0.54 ERA in 13 appearances and 16.2 innings at Triple A Memphis.

Voit bats right-handed, and the Cardinals are stacked with RH bats. The Cards were looking to balance things out a bit by adding a left-handed hitter for the stretch drive, and Adams became available after Voit was traded.

Voit plays first base, and was blocked in St. Louis. He was pretty much lodged at Triple A Memphis and would likely stay there except for the occasional call-up to fill a roster spot caused by injury. I wish that wasn’t the case — but it was. And Voit was acquired by the Yankees because they lost RH power kingpin Aaron Judge to a broken hand, and sought a RH bat that could serve as a designated hitter. Voit was a sensible reinforcement for the Yankees.

It’s funny — or not so funny, depending on your rooting interest — the way things are turning out.

Let’s have a look:


After breaking an index finger in early June, and coming off the DL in  early July, the big man has displayed little power. In 131 combined plate appearances for the Nationals (and later the Cardinals) after leaving the disabled list on July 5, Adams is batting .210 with a weak .353 slugging percentage. Adams has five homers over this time, but his overall offense since July 5 is 32 percent below the league average in park adjusted runs created.

⇒  In 85 plate appearances since July 22, Adams is hitting .143 with two homers and a .234 slug. He’s 82 percent below the league average offensively in park adjusted runs created.

⇒  Since Aug. 1, Adams is batting .089  (5 for 56) with one homer and a 27% strikeout rate.

⇒  Since rejoining the Cardinals, Adams has three hits in 25 plate appearances — all singles. He’s batting .130, has a .200 OBP and is slugging .130. His strikeout rate is a jacked-up 32 percent.

The Cardinals obviously expected more. Bringing Adams back to his Big City by the Mississippi didn’t cost the Cardinals any prospects; they were only responsible for paying off the estimated $750,000 remaining on his one-year contract with Washington. And who knows? Adams can’t be feeling much confidence these days, but that can change with one mighty swing of the bat. And maybe he’ll jolt the Cardinals to a crucial win or two before it’s all over.

Admittedly, I didn’t think that the Cardinals did anything wrong, or stupid, by trading Voit.

I don’t think the Cardinals expected Voit to be carrying the Yankees … but he’s all but carrying the Yankees since joining the Bombers on Aug. 2.

And I don’t think the Yankees expected this, either.

In 65 plate appearances for the Yankees, Voit has seven homers, 12 RBIs, is slugging .678 and has an OPS of 1.063. As a Yankee Voit is 85 percent above league average offensively. Voit has pretty much shoved Greg Bird — the young and highly touted first baseman — into the dugout. Voit has started six consecutive games and nine of the last 10 at first base.