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24 April 2011

Should Cardinals Let The Grass Grow?

The St. Louis Cardinals are a ground-ball machine.  And no, I am not referring to the pitching staff.  I mean the hitters.  The Cards are currently leading the entire Major Leagues with 28 Grounded Into Double Plays (GIDP's), with a healthy lead in the NL (the Pittsburgh Pirates come up short yet again with only 20 GIDP's).

The Redbirds have an astounding 18 GIDP's at home in Busch Stadium in only 11 games.  Compare that to a (still) healthy ten in the team's ten road games.  Granted, in the first home-stand of the season many GIDP's were caused by a scuffling lineup rolling over on pitches and managing only weak grounders to the opposing middle infielders, while in the last five games at home it's been sharply hit balls that account for many of the double plays the team has endured.

Perhaps it's time to let the grass grow at Busch III.

That may seem like a joke, but maybe we should take a moment to consider it.  In the last five games at Busch, Colby Rasmus has three GIDP's.  Tyler Greene and Nick Punto have one each.  On the current home-stand, the entire team has a total of eight.  The three players listed represent a large portion of the team's speed.

If the infield grass was let to grow a tad higher, perhaps those grounders turn into productive outs - moving the runner up.  At worst, they may have only been force outs.  And this is important, as 11 of this season's home GIDP's  came with at least one runner on base with no outs with no runs scored in the inning - true rally killers.  Additionally, four GIDP's at home have been super rally killers, transforming two on, no out opportunities into wasted innings.  Missing that many wonderful chances to post runs has left the team vulnerable to the bullpen implosions suffered in 2011.

Of course this all supposition.  If the grass was longer, and the ground balls slower, the Redbirds could have even more  GIDP's (perish the thought).  Or well struck grounders for hits instead could become standard ground outs for Cardinal batsmen.  I know of no way to quantify this, not being a stat freak (gimme some help?)

But here's something to keep in mind.  Pitching coach Dave Duncan has pruned and preened his staff to be worm-murders - preaching the sinker and his pitch-to-contact philosophy.  With an infield defense focused on offense, would higher grass and slower ground balls mollify the middle infield's lack of range?  I know only one way to prove my theory - practice it.  Have the grass mown long.  There are proven eye-ball analysts sitting (or standing) in the Cardinals dugout every day their in Busch III.  It wouldn't take long for them to get a feel for the way it's working.  And if the experiment raises the hackles of TLR, Dunc, and the Ol' Redhead it's an easy fix to return to the way it was.

I'll admit, this all sounds like a joke.  But with the double-play hindering St. Louis' run differential, raising the issue for debate isn't really such a ridiculous a thought.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Cards also TURN a lot of DPs. Even without Brendan there at short to turn them, the Cards still base a huge amount of their run prevention on two-outers. Getting rid of that would severely damage the pitching.

It's kind of like if the 80s Cardinals muddied the basepaths to slow down a fast team.

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