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Cardinals Defense as Poor as the Numbers Indicate?

The Cardinals defense is ranked the worst in the MLB right now. Will this trend stay up for the duration of the season?

You’ve seen the stats. You’ve heard the TV broadcasters. You’ve seen the tweets. The Cardinals defense has been absolutely atrocious this year, there is simply no way around that fact.

Currently, the Cardinals defense is ranked 30th in the MLB, which is dead last. They have a league-high 29 errors in in 35 games. There simply have not been too many games where the “E” box in the boxscore has been filled with a “0.” For a team who has aspirations of going into the postseason and competing with two of the best teams in baseball in the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cardinals defensive efforts are unacceptable.

So, what is going on? Doesn’t this team have Yadier Molina, one of the best defensive players in the game? Doesn’t this team have a veteran core in Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter?

Well, when you break down who’s making the errors, things might be a little more encouraging. Aledmys Diaz has a team-high 7 errors, Kolten Wong has 4, Jedd Gyorko has 4, and Jeremy Hazelbaker has 2. Combined, those 4 players have 17 of the team’s 29 errors.

Coming into this season, with the exception of Wong, we didn’t really have expectations for any of these players. We knew that Gyorko was going to be a utility infielder, but Hazelbaker and Diaz were nobodies. However, Diaz and Hazelbaker have both performed so well that we can almost forgive them for making the mistakes. Yeah, defense wins you games, but so does the fact that Diaz has the second best batting average in the NL and Hazelbaker has 6 home runs already after making his MLB debut on Opening Day at 28 years old.

As it stands right now, the one observation I will make is that it seems as if Diaz doesn’t have the arm to be a great big league shortstop. The majority of his errors have been on the throw to 1st base, rather than fielding errors. However, the good news is that in as soon as a month, Jhonny Peralta comes back from his injury. Last year Peralta only had 8 errors in 148 games playing shortstop. Once the Cardinals get their guy at short stop back, the team should be much better defensively. Of course that means that Diaz would have to move else where (make him the second basemen of the future, in my opinion), but that’s a controversial topic for another day.

For now, yes the numbers are bad. But, you have to look at those numbers from another perspective. Say, for every error a player makes, he gives away a base. Well, with Diaz batting .382, every base he gives away with an error, he gets it back on offense by getting on base so often.

The common theme of judging any baseball statistic is the classic “It’s too early in the season to judge.” Well, with errors and the Cardinals defense, I would argue that it is especially true. There are young players playing in difficult defensive positions for the Cardinals. Eventually, they will figure it out. I would even hold out judgement until Peralta returns because the team is really missing his presence on the defensive side of the ball.

For now, relax. Yes the numbers are bad, but also realize who is making the errors. Judge this team by the numbers they put up in the middle of summer, not in the first two months of the season. However, I will say this: if the Cardinals keep this high rate of errors up, they can kiss their playoff hopes away because playoff teams are not always good at the plate, but are certain to be on their game defensively.

Photo captured by Jeff Curry- USA Today Sports