St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Shildt gets it. After Matt Carpenter leads off, who’s next to step into the box?
“I wouldn’t be saying I’m not doing my job if I’m not doing it, but I’m probably not doing it as much as you guys are with the lineups,” Shildt said with a smile. “Which is fine. It’s great. That’s the beautiful part about the Hot Stove and the offseason and even during the season. Thought about it, looked at it. The good news is that we have a lot of different pieces that could potentially hit in that two spot.”
Indeed they do. Harrison Bader, Paul DeJong, Dexter Fowler, Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina, Kolten Wong–and there might be a pitcher or two who would argue they can handle the bat well enough too. Whether it’s trying to go for more table-setters and speed, balance the lefty-righty match ups, or loading up with power, the Cardinals have a variety of ways to craft their lineup in 2019.
“Obviously Goldy could do it,” Shildt outlined. “Pauly has done a nice job historically hitting third. Pauly could hit second. Goldy could hit third. I think we’re pretty established that Carp will lead off. Kolten could edge up there, though we don’t want to put our lefties up close to each other. Yadi had a nice run at it when he was in the two-hole and did a nice job in the Japanese exhibition games. If Dexter comes back to the form that he’s capable of coming back to where he’s an elite guy of getting on base, that’s a pretty good spot for him as well. Can’t be definitive. A lot of what spring training will be about is what that looks like. And then we evaluate as we go. But the good news is we’ve got really options. Jose is another guy who, if he’s in there, could hit near the top of that lineup. If Bader continues to improve, you can’t rule that out at some point. A lot of good options.”
In 2018, the Cardinals used 155 different starting lineups. Molina batted second in 44 of them, second only to Tommy Pham’s 46. Jose Martinez (26) had the third most starts hitting second, followed by Carpenter (15), Bader (8), DeJong (6), Muñoz (6), Greg Garcia (4), Fowler (3), Jedd Gyorko (2), Wong (1), and Tyler O’Neill (1).
In 47 games last season, Goldschmidt hit .349 (67-192) with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs while batting second in the order.
So would Shildt prefer to have a fluid lineup or a more set order for each game.
“You always like for guys to be in some level of consistency,” Shildt answered. “That’s one thing I appreciate about and I’m confident of many things our defense will be shored up is you look up and you know you’re going to run out a pretty consistent lineup. And that’s important for the guys to know that ‘I’m in there’, ‘I’m playing here’ and I’’m not feeling like I’m bouncing all over the place’ and ‘I can work on my offseason and work on my preparation in spring training and into the season to be the best I can in this spot and know I’m kind of set mentally’.
“We know flexibility is going to take place and guys are going to move around a lot and things will change a little bit. But I think it’s important to establish some level of consistency that makes sense based on what we see that day in competition. I don’t want guys in the bullpen flipping coins out there wondering what’s going on. Communicate with them and have them ready and understanding that these are the opportunities for you today and when the phone rings you kind of go, ‘Oh yeah,’ and get the heartbeat going as the game goes as our guys do when their spot is coming up.”
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI, Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports