The thing everyone notices but few seem to want (or care) to address. (Unfortunately, between embattled closer Jason Isringhausen and Mark Mulder, the Cardinals seem to be asking this question a lot.) Will Chris Duncan ever make it “back”?
The idea is that he’s going down to Memphis to regain his stroke, that he’s not yet fully recovered or gotten comfortable, from his off-season injury struggles with the hernia. I’d love for that to be the case, because I still think that for the Cardinals to truly contend this season, they are going to need more power from the left side of the plate, which Duncan was supposed to provide. But what if pitchers and opposing coaches have just found the holes in his swing? From Bernie’s much-discussed article on Thursday:
Something isn’t right. Since last July 29, in 255 plate appearances before Wednesday, Duncan was batting .219 with a .322 onbase percentage and an anemic .324 slugging percentage. (That’s 46 points less than Aaron Miles’ slugging percentage over the same time.) Elevated to the majors for his considerable power potential, Duncan provided 43 homers in his first 562 major-league at bats but has only five homers in his last 226 ABs.
Those are staggering numbers. His power (read: home runs) have dwindled to a quarter of his start in the majors. More from Bernie:
If Duncan isn’t fully rebounded from surgery, then the Cardinals must deal with that. And if this is all about a malfunction in Duncan’s hitting mechanics, then the Cardinals must have the guts to deal with that, too. Better players than Duncan have been sent back to the minors for a helpful tune-up. Duncan can’t be expected to refine his swing and restore his power when he can’t get a regular turn in the St. Louis lineup.
This is certain: It doesn’t help the 2008 Cardinals to have Duncan taking at-bats from Ludwick. You just don’t give Ludwick a seat in the dugout for two games out of three, as La Russa did recently, in an attempt to get Duncan’s swing cranked up.
I think that boils the situation down to a very clear point. Duncan wasn’t right. His swings looked terrible. Here’s hoping he can get back on track, and Joe Mather develops with the big club in his stead.