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St. Louis Cardinals: Angels Series Gives Matheny Options

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With the Designated Hitter position available for a few games, Mike Matheny has a few ways that he can mix and match the Cardinals lineup.

Following Sunday’s loss to the Pirates, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was asked about how the upcoming series in Anaheim could impact his lineups with the designated hitter spot now in play. In response to that question, Matheny said, “We’ll see. We haven’t completely made up our minds. Everybody shows up when we get out, out west, but I think it will give us a good opportunity to get some of our more seasoned players a little less time on their feet defensively.” (Mike Matheny Post Game Press Conference, May 8)

With the Cardinals heading out to Anaheim, it is imperative that Matheny finds a way to maximize the output of a lineup that includes an extra position player replacing the pitcher. It seems that Matheny’s main options at DH would include Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday. So, let’s take a look at how these possible lineups could look with each different player slotted in at DH.

With Molina at Designated Hitter

  1. Matt Carpenter, 3B
  2. Stephen Piscotty, RF
  3. Matt Holliday, LF
  4. Brandon Moss, 1B
  5. Yadier Molina, DH
  6. Randal Grichuk, CF
  7. Aledmys Diaz, SS
  8. Kolten Wong,,2B
  9. Eric Fryer, C

The situation is less complicated when placing Molina at designated hitter. Matheny is able to keep one of his best hitters in Molina in the lineup while simply substituting Eric Fryer at catcher. Fryer has been excellent in his limited at bats this season, posting a .583 batting average (7 for 12) with three RBIs, two doubles, and only one strikeout. It is important to point out, however, that Fryer is currently hitting way above his career averages.

While Fryer may not bring in the most productive bat, he certainly provides value in giving Molina a break behind the plate. Yadi has been excellent this year, but people are questioning his durability. Due to the injury of Brayan Pena, Molina has been forced to play every day for the Cardinals in April and early May. This certainly was not the original plan for Mike Matheny, so perhaps he could use this series to give Molina some much needed time off.

With Holliday at Designated Hitter

  1. Matt Carpenter, 3B
  2. Jeremy Hazelbaker, LF
  3. Stephen Piscotty, RF
  4. Matt Holliday, DH
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. Matt Adams, 1B
  7. Randal Grichuk, CF
  8. Aledmys Diaz, SS
  9. Kolten Wong, 2B

This lineup requires a little bit more moving and shaking, as Molina stays at catcher and Holliday takes over as designated hitter. Moving Holliday to designated hitter gives the Cardinals improved range and speed in the outfield. Also, it moves Grichuk down in the lineup a bit, maybe taking some pressure off a young player who is off to a tough start.

I also believe that moving Holliday to the clean up spot would be a wise move due to his ability to drive in runs. While Holliday has struggled in 2016, he has been a good run producer throughout his long career. I would be interested to see how Piscotty handles hitting third, as his success at the plate has definitely warranted the move.

All in all, the 16-16 Cardinals need a spark on this west coast road trip. It will be very interesting to see how Mike Matheny uses the designated hitter spot to make sure that the offense continues to produce at the plate. If the offense continues its torrid pace, then it will be on the bullpen and pitching staff to shut down Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and co.

Photo captured by Jake Roth- USA Today Sports

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