It’s time for Ryan Ludwick to get his shot to start full-time.
Luddy just completed a 9-13 trip through Denver, tallying 3 home runs and 6 RBI in the process. That’s good for a .693 batting average and an OPS of 2.282. And yet he only started 3 of the 4 games out there.
For the month of May, Ludwick’s numbers are just as impressive. A .522 average, 3 HR, 7 RBI.
Finally, for the season, that puts Ludwick’s stats at a lofty .363 average, with 7 HR, 21 RBI, and an OPS of 1.185. He is slugging .758, which would be best in the Major Leagues right now, if not for one small technicality.
He doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify. I’ll say that again. He doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify.
Why, you might ask? Because he’s only started in *19* of the Cardinals’ 36 games this season, and only actually played in 30. So we’ve got a guy who would currently be the best slugger (statistically) in all of MLB, but he’s only playing once every two days. The reason? Chris Duncan. That’s right – Duncan, who is carrying a .247 average and hasn’t had a hit in his last 11 AB.
Duncan has been getting the starts in LF versus right-handed starting pitchers, the assumption being that since he is a left-handed hitter, he will succeed more than Ludwick. The problems with that assumption are many: #1 – Duncan hasn’t been hitting much of anything at all, #2 – Ludwick has clearly been hotter than Duncan at the plate (obviously, but apparently some aren’t seeing that), #3 – Ludwick is far-and-away a plus outfielder defensively when compared to Duncan, and #4 – and perhaps the most important – Ludwick has historically hit RHP better than LHP anyway.
Take into account, for his career, that Ludwick has hit .220 in 295 career at-bats versus left-handed pitchers. Versus right-handed pitchers, Ludwick is a career .296 hitter in 433 at-bats. Now clearly, that’s not nearly enough at-bats to determine that Ludwick is a sure thing as a starter. But what has Duncan done to merit his permanent place in the lineup? One step further, look at this season’s stats. Ludwick is hitting .282 in 39 at-bats against lefties – his side of the platoon. He is hitting .423 (!) against righties in 52 AB (many of those in a pinch-hitting role, as evidenced by only 26 games vs RHP).
Why, Tony, does Duncan continue to start against right-handed pitching? I think if I see Dunc back in the lineup tonight in Milwaukee I’m going to scream. Ludwick obviously hasn’t done enough throughout his career to merit a full-time starting job, but neither had Skip Schumaker prior to this season, and that has turned out well. Luddy is tearing the cover off the ball. Keep him in the lineup until he cools off.