After much spring tinkering, Mike Matheny on Friday unveiled a lineup that tells us much about his evolving perceptions about the 2012 Cardinals. The starting lineup looked like this:

  1. Rafael Furcal SS
  2. Carlos Beltran RF
  3. Matt Holliday LF
  4. David Freese 3B
  5. Lance Berkman 1B
  6. Yadier Molina C
  7. Jon Jay CF
  8. Tyler Greene 2B
  9. Jake Westbrook P

It’s strange to see Holliday’s name in the third spot, isn’t it? Besides that, this lineup reveals certain aspects of Matheny’s offensive attack, and also creates a few potential problems. Let’s look at some of these: 

TOP OF THE ORDER - Matheny’s hands are somewhat tied thus far by the poor performances of both Furcal and Greene this spring. I think that, more than any other factor, explains why Beltran is hitting second instead of Greene in this lineup. Ideally, you’d like to have two fast, pesky tablesetters in front of the big bats.

LEADOFF - If Matheny prefers to have Beltran batting second, then who really is the better leadoff hitter on this team? The prevailing opinion supports Furcal as leadoff based on experience. Still, Furcal has ONE extra base hit this spring (a home run) and NO stolen bases while batting .176. Meanwhile Greene (even with a lower average of .136) has two doubles among his three hits and also has three stolen bases (out of four attempts).

Greene is frustrating because he gives you the mouth-watering blend of power and speed that any manager would love to have at the top of their lineup. Unfortunately, his batting average borders on imaginary numbers and his mind wanders like Jaime Garcia after a tequila bender. If Greene could manage to replicate Vince Coleman’s Cardinal average (a not-great .260), he would be one of the most dangerous leadoff hitters the Cardinals have had in a decade. If Mark McGwire has any magic in his bag of tricks (no steroid jokes, Peanut Gallery), now is the time to wave his wand and make it happen.

CLEANUP - As I’ve said, I’m not a fan of Beltran in the second spot. I’d love to see Beltran moved to fourth to enforce Holliday rather than Freese. Beltran is a clutch hitter (in his prime, at least) who rises to big-game situations. While Freese memorably showed some of that potential last fall, he’s not a power hitter that strikes fear in the oppostion like Beltran would. We need Holliday to see strikes this year, not intentional passes.

THE BERKMAN ADVANTAGE - One of the best aspects about having Lance Berkman on the team is his versatility. He’s a switch hitter who can literally hit anywhere in the lineup. I really prefer the idea of having Berkman supporting Beltran (rather than Holliday) because Beltran and Berkman are both power-hitting switch hitters. This creates a danger zone for opposing managers, who cannot easily change pitchers through their spots in the lineup.

RESPECT - I’m not a huge fan of Jon Jay, but I must admit that he’s been fairly impressive in his first two big league seasons. I have no idea how he has a near-.300 career average, but that means nothing: I’m still unable to explain how Willie McGee ever hit a baseball. Some things just ARE. That’s why I’m surprised by Matheny batting Jay seventh. A .300 hitter with decent speed and solid focus seems like a pretty good top-of-the-lineup choice. Perhaps this might be changed by opening day.

IDEAL LINEUP - If Greene was even passable offensively, I’d have him leadoff with Jon Jay in the second spot. This would give you two run-scoring possibilities (rather than one) ahead of the big bats. My lineup might look like this:

  1. Tyler Greene 2B
  2. Jon Jay CF
  3. Matt Holliday LF
  4. Carlos Beltran RF
  5. Lance Berkman 1B
  6. David Freese 3B
  7. Yadier Molina C
  8. Rafael Furcal SS
  9. Pitcher

 

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About The Author

Lifelong Cardinal fan and general loudmouth.

  • Greatdealsonchevys

    You finally agree with me at having Jay hit number two. I knew the day would come. You have written many great articles but this is now your masterpiece.

  • Greatdealsonchevys

    You finally agree with me at having Jay hit number two. I knew the day would come. You have written many great articles but this is now your masterpiece.

    • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

      I only agree based on the parts given to me. Many people would say that Furcal should hit higher, but I have no evidence to support that idea. 

      Hell, it might just be Furcal and Jay at the top of the lineup while Tyler Greene starts a job at Jiffy Lube if Greene keeps up his sad production.

  • Dannyclaunch

    Garcia a tequilla bender? What next? Adron Chambers a watermelon chewer? These stereotypical comments have no place for a Cardinal website!

    • http://www.stlcardinalbaseball.com/ Ray DeRousse

      Actually, I didn’t even think about that. I wrote it after a particularly bad tequila episode of my own.