Indeed, the limitations of the 25 man roster impose certain constraints on the Cardinals that some teams do not have. The Cardinals legitimately have greater than 25 players who have to varying degrees earned spots on the roster and potentially deserve some playing time. For many teams, that “problem” represents a best-case scenario. For the Cardinals, it represents untimely misfortune for 1 or more players they would like to see thrive or at least survive at the major league level. Here is how the math works…
The Cardinals carry 12 pitchers on the roster – 5 starters and 7 relief pitchers. Based on the way the starters have pitched, there should be no change in the starting rotation of Jake Westbrook, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Kyle Lohse, and Jaime Garcia. Of the 7 relief pitchers, you would be hard-pressed to just point and pick out 1 who has failed to carry his own weight. I say this, because the bullpen has reached a relatively low collectively as of this current month. You can be as unforgiving as you like about mechanical problems, mental breakdowns (aka brain farts), and control/command issues, but you simply cannot say much about fatigue. While the innings pitched may seem reasonable so far, the number of appearances in medium-to-high leverage situation may finally be taking a toll on all of those arms. Maybe the Cardinals have a better option at AAA in someone like Chuckie Fick, but that means incurring a slight delay via the options process, and the 2 most likely candidates for change are probably Fernando Salas and JC Romero. If anything, it seems like they might be better of sticking with the status quo for just a few more days until the Berkman situation gets sorted.
Speaking of Lance Berkman, he still does not appear 100%, and the team seems determined not to bring him back until he has reached that particular status. That likely move may be forestalled by the excellent play of Allen Craig, but it will happen. Considering the need to make space for Berkman coming off of the DL, there remains the selection of the 1 guy who must give way. Unless I’m mistaken (always likely), the only sensible thing to do involves sending Shane Robinson back down to the minors. This does not necessarily reflect poorly on his effort or performance, and the Cardinals likely enjoy the luxury of having a legitimate center fielder to give Jay a break. The problem goes back to one of mathematics and the issue of positional depth.
Whether you like Tyler Greene or not, he quite possibly represents the best utility player option the team has from the right side of the plate. Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter also play multiple positions reasonably well or even exceptionally well, but both hit from the left side. For a team that already has Skip Schumaker at 2B/OF, an extra left-handed bat off the bench may be extraneous at best.
Also, consider carefully how the Cardinals have constructed this roster. When all position players are healthy, the depth chart effectively looks like the following list:
- 1B – Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter
- 2B – Skip Schumaker, Tyler Greene, Daniel Descalso
- SS – Rafael Furcal, Tyler Greene, Daniel Descalso
- 3B – David Freese, Daniel Descalso, Matt Carpenter
- OF – Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, Lance Berkman
In a pinch, Allen Craig and even Tyler Greene could fill in an inning or two at some other positions. While not everyone listed on the aforementioned list can play each position at a high level, the point is that they can play. With a team that boasts of being at least 2-deep at every position and 3-deep at most, players like Shane Robinson and previously Erik Komatsu represent luxuries and little more. Most teams would be anxiously awaiting the return of a guy like Berkman, but the Cardinals are getting a .323/.405/.806/1.212 slash line from his replacement who also has 4 HR and 12 RBI in just 31 at-bats this season. Depth? This team has it, even if it creates a bit of a math problem from time to time. There are far worse problems to have.
TIDBIT: Why exactly was Kyle McClellan left in the game to face Jason Heyward in the top of the 12th inning? For his career, Heyward splits .228/.321/.372/.693 vs LHP and .269/.380/.462/.842 vs RHP. If JC Romero was truly available, then having K-Mac pitch to Heyward seems to make little sense.
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