Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs was rather embarrassing for the St. Louis Cardinals, as they picked up just seven hits and failed to score a run against a Chicago Cubs pitching staff that is widely regarded as one of the worst in the league. Perhaps the most disappointment came from center fielder Jon Jay, who went 0-for-3 and grounded into a ninth inning double play that killed a potential Cardinals rally.
At this point, it’s a mystery as to why Jay continues to get so much playing time. While he is a decent defender and arguably provides the best baserunning ability of any player on the Cardinals’ active roster, he’s consistently struggled to keep it together at the plate. Statistically, he has regressed as a contact hitter, lost power, and become less disciplined at the plate and less effective as a base stealer. Perhaps worst of all, Jay has shown time and time again that he does not have what it takes to be an impact player in the postseason. Over 48 career playoff games, Jay is hitting .188 with a .219 slugging percentage. He was particularly disappointing in last year’s World Series.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals have top prospect Oscar Taveras sitting in Triple-A, who in the past has received comparisons to Albert Pujols and Vladimir Guerrero but now is 272 at-bats into his two-season stop at the minors’ highest level. If simply the hype wasn’t enough to justify calling up Taveras, his performance has been fantastic as well; he’s hitting .313 with an .886 OPS, five homers and 19 RBI on the year. It appears that the organization may not be totally sold on the idea of Taveras playing center—he’s only played four games there in Memphis this year, as opposed to 13 in left and eight in right—but we’re talking about the same management that signed off on Tony La Russa playing Allen Craig in center a few years back in an attempt to boost the offense. If Taveras is really that great as a hitter, it should be worth the defensive risk to put him in center for seven innings and then replace him with Jay, Peter Bourjos, or Randal Grichuk.
It appears that the Cardinals’ offense is at a stalling point, and it probably is not going to get much better unless some more changes are made. With a player at their disposal who has as much potential at the plate as Taveras does, it makes perfect sense for the team to stop relying on the inconsistent Jay and give Taveras a real opportunity.