(BaseballStL) – Matt Adams has a powerful bat. Mike Matheny has said it, the stats have said it and Adams’ continued presence on the Cardinal roster confirms it.
But it wasn’t his bat that made the difference Monday. Twice the big first baseman made plays that stopped potential big innings late in the game.
Following the Cardinal rally in the seventh to take the lead, Adams made a diving stop on the first base line to snag Cozart’s scalding grounder and end the eighth. It kept the tying run from coming to the plate, and added even more energy to the park as the Cardinals crept toward a win.
Staying focused when you're not an everyday fielder can be a tough task. Rhythms get interrupted, good habits are harder to form, and each moment has a higher intensity since it could be your last on the field for five games. None of it seems to shake Adams.
"I make sure I come to the ballpark every day ready to work on something, whether it's footwork drills, picking or throwing to second base," he said in the club house Tuesday. He also credited coach Jose Oquendo with keeping his skills sharp. "Jose has something planned every day. I trust in what he's doing. He's a great coach and has great knowledge of defense."
Adams' footwork got a test in the ninth when he made a smooth grab and flip on Shin-Soo Choo’s grounder, a deceptively tough play that could have allowed the speedy Choo to reach base if mishandled even for a second.
While first instinct tells most observers Adams is a DH stuck in the NL, it would be a mistake to dismiss his glove.
He hasn’t had a ton of work in the field, playing only 390.2 innings this season. In that time, he’s managed one run above average in runs saved, and extrapolated out over a full season he’s three runs better than average.
While he has an average zone rating at -1.8, he’s made 12 plays out of his zone and has a fielding percentage of .998.
"This year I feel even. Last year I'd say I definitely felt more comfortable at the plate, but this past offseason I put a lot of work into my footwork drills… and basically focused on getting better defensively, because that's what wins ball games."
He’s not a gold glover, but at 24 he certainly has the makings of an everyday first baseman and not just a big stick.