[Ed. note - With apologies to Mark, this has been sitting in the hopper for a little while unnoticed by yours truly, so understand that the items within were current when he wrote them.]
Ryan Ludwick has hit second in 29 of the Cardinals 36 games and appeared in all 36 of those games. When Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday (two of the three best fantasy baseball players in the past five years) follow you in that part of the order it usually leads to a lot of run scoring opportunities. Ludwick is currently on pace for 99 runs, but as long as he keeps hitting second I would take the over on 99 runs scored. Pujols has not started trying and Holliday usually is a better second half hitter.
Ludwick did not carry this piece of value last season for the Cards. He did not appear in 12 of the 162 games, and more importantly he only hit second in 9 of the team’s 162 games. More often Ludwick was hitting fourth or fifth which are obvious still good places to hit for RBI, but he doesn’t have the benefit of pitchers going out of their ways not to walk him. This year pitchers are going to take their chances against somebody else, so it is surprising that Ludwick’s walk rate has actually increased about 2% over last year. Of course when the pitchers aren’t walking him he sees fat pitches most recently like the one Aaron Harang gave him.
In terms of the other numbers from Ludwick, there isn’t as much to be optimistic about, but he won’t hurt you either. He’s hovering right around .300 as he did in his brilliant 2008 season. The .364 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is inflating that average a little right now as his line drive rates have remained almost identical to where they were last season when his BABIP was under .300. The happy medium between those two seasons would give Ludwick an average around .280. He’s also on pace for 23 home runs, but given how streaky he can be this number can fluctuate. So long as he continues hitting second, he will go over 23. Finally the RBI production for Ludwick won’t be as great as it has been in years past. He’s on pace for something in the upper 60s, but Skip Schumaker’s performance has not helped any. Add a couple RBI to his final line.
Here’s where Ludwick will be assuming good health by the end of 2010:
104 Runs 25 Home Runs 70 RBI .279 AVG
Mark Schruender is a part-time contributor to Pitchers Hit Eighth. You can read more of what Mark has to say at Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove.