As the Cardinals post-Brandon Phillips skid continued in D.C., it’s become apparent to me that the biggest contributor to the Redbirds’ mediocrity in the second half of the season is debilitating injuries
This season, projected stalwarts Colby Rasmus, Ryan Ludwick, David Freese, Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse, plus key contributors such as Felipe Lopez, Dennys Reyes and Jason Motte have all been shelved by injury. There’s little a team can do about it, but it’s the reason the Cardinals aren’t…and won’t be…competetive for a division title. The injuries have left the Cardinals scurrying like a hamster on a wheel, trying to make up for the losses.
Let’s break it down.
When Penny and Lohse went down on May 21 and 22, respectively, Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan turned to in-house options Blake Hawksworth, Adam Ottavino and P.J. Walters. The expectation was the Penny and Lohse would give a quality start…six innings and three or fewer runs…each time out. The three replacements combined to go 4-6 in 13 starts, allowing 85 hits and 46 earned runs in 65 innings, for an ERA of 6.37. It’s also notable that the three AVERAGED just five innings per start.
Jeff Suppan and Jake Westbrook were imported, but Suppan was more bad than good, and Westbrook may have been a case of too little, too late.
Ludwick missed a month, June 25th-July 24th, with a strained calf. While John Jay came up and hit well in his stead, Jay’s power will never be confused with what Ludwick can provide. Especially for a team counting on home runs to provide their offense, Ludwick’s injury and subsequent trade to get Westbrook was devastating.
Freese suffered an ankle injury on June 27 against the Royals and didn’t return. The Cardinals were counting on his offense to replace what was lost in the Ludwick trade, but two days after the trade, Freese was lost for the season to a devastating ankle injury.
While the Cardinals did add Westbrook to Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, they lost their offensive mojo. They weren’t set up to manufacture runs, so they wasted their starting pitching.
Freese may have been able to take more time off had Lopez been available for the whole year, but Lopez injured an elbow in an early 20 inning loss to the Mets, causing LaRussa to have to play Freese, along with the struggling Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker, more than he would have liked.
Motte and Reyes were key contributors to what was one of the league’s best bullpens. When they went down, pitchers that aren’t equipped to do what they do were pressed into action. Motte was the only real strikeout pitcher in the ‘pen. All of a sudden, the Cards weren’t in a position to get out of a runner at third, less than two out situation. Reyes had dominated lefthanded hitters. Trever Miller became the only lefty in the bullpen when he went down, and became exposed. Rasmus missed eleven games with the dreaded calf strain, and the Cardinals lost their all-important third impact hitter…leaving only Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday to provide power on offense.
Injuries forced this team to scurry for pitching, and to count on players that never came back. It’s those injuries that have rendered the Cardinals mediocre. It’s not the Manager, or the Pitching Coach, or the General Manager. Unfortunately, bad luck conspired to doom this year’s Cardinals.