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Thursday’s Cardinals lineup looks strange, but you can’t blame Matheny

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Real quick, let me show you the Cardinals starting lineup for the team’s Thursday afternoon game against the Marlins at Busch, courtesy of MLB.com’s Jen Langosch:

When I first saw the lineup this morning, I had four immediate takeaways:

  1. This is a lineup.
  2. Jose Martinez is batting third.
  3. Five of the eight position players in this lineup spent time in Class-AAA Memphis since this beginning of 2016. (Garcia, Martinez, Grichuk, Pham, Voit)
  4. Considering the Cardinals active roster, I couldn’t even complain that this was the lineup.

Paul DeJong is absent the lineup after playing 16 straight games in a row, so it’s hard to have any gripe with Greg Garcia at shortstop. Stephen Piscotty sits, and equally difficult to argue with that. In his last five games, Piscotty is 4 for 19 with no walks and seven strikeouts. For the season, his batting line of .244/.357/.390 (98 OPS+) has been disappointing, especially considering the contract extension he received back in April.

Call me crazy, looking at the choices Mike Matheny has for his lineup, it’s fair to contend the group of eight starting in the game is a reasonable one.

Dexter Fowler was acquired to be a significant contributor for the Cardinals. Kolten Wong had a .301/.393/.444 batting line when he hit the DL for the second time in 2017, perhaps throwing a career year off the tracks. Off the top, those two submitted into the lineup would give it a different look, of course.

But injuries happen over the course of a season, and organizational depth to withstand them is what separates some of the top teams from the rest of the league. Another attribute that separates contending clubs is elite impact players; while the Cardinals may boast depth, they certainly don’t enjoy the latter element conducive to success. This sentiment has been echoed by Cardinals GM Michael Girsch and President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak this week on local radio, most recently by Mo on The Hollywood Casino Pressbox with Frank Cusumano.

If you want to complain about the lineup Thursday, don’t point a finger at the manager. It’s not like he’s flush with elite, proven players at his disposal–especially when the injury bugs bites.

The good news? The guy with the ability to change the primary issues with the Cardinals in 2017 is as aware of those issues as anyone. That doesn’t mean a roster makeover will take place overnight, or even before the July 31st trade deadline. Because of a weak NL Central, St. Louis would like to seize the opportunity to contend this season–but they won’t do it at the expense of the near future.

Mozeliak recognizes the positions of need for the Cardinals, and based on his–and Girsch’s–recent public conversations with local media, he plans to do something about it before the 2018 season begins.

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