(BaseballStL) -- Hitting comes and goes but injuries linger. And the relentless overuse of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright may become a much bigger factor than the inconsistent offense the St. Louis Cardinals have displayed so far.
A look at the numbers show just how heavily the Cards have leaned on what is arguably their best two players.
Manager Mike Matheny has moved Wainwright up in the rotation at every opportunity, taking advantage of rainouts and off days to get his ace an additional start. True, he is not pitching on short rest, but an occasional additional day off is important over the course of a long season for a 32-year-old pitcher who has a surgically repaired elbow.
So far this year, Wainwright has thrown 100 innings. That is 14 more or nearly two more games than the next closest starter, Michael Wacha. He has faced 386 batters (346 for Wacha) and has already thrown 1,427 pitches, on a pace to throw more than 3,000 this year.
The next closest starter to that workload is Lance Lynn with 1,355, nearly a whole game’s worth fewer.
It is not just the high number of pitches Wainwright has thrown, but also the cumulative effect of this year on top of every other year. In his major league career thus far, Wainwright has thrown 1,415 innings and faced 5,797 batters. And that doesn’t count time in the minors.
Giving your ace and the backbone of the pitching staff an extra day off now and again will become crucial if the Redbirds are to make a typical late season run.
Perhaps even more urgent is regular rest for the rapidly declining Molina. Yadi has played in 59 of the team’s 67 games and logged 510 innings behind the plate. Only Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Johnny Peralta and Matt Carpenter have logged more innings, and only by a handful.
Tony Cruz, Molina’s backup, has appeared in only 15 games and played just 96 innings, batting just 39 times. But in those 39 at bats, he has 7 RBIs - half as many as John Jay – and his .256 average exceeds those of Mark Ellis, Randall Grichuk and Daniel Descalso. Clearly, Cruz is a very dependable alternative.
Just how bad has Molina crashed?
He hit .344 in April, .266 in May and .171 in June. His slugging percentage fell from .510 in April to .171 in June, because he has no extra base hits this month.
He had 33 hits in April, 25 in May and just 6 this month. In fact, so far in June, he has just two RBIs after knocking in 14 in April. This is not just a flat tire. This is a tired 31-year-old whose constant overwork has beaten him down.
A major league baseball manager has a lot to balance, including wildly different personalities and egos. Molina’s desire to play every day and Wainwright’s resilience and durability are well known.
But managers are paid to make decisions that put their teams in the best position to succeed over the course of a long season. Wainwright’s elbow soreness and Molina’s startling lack of productivity cannot be ignored.
The Cards have a deep pitching staff and an excellent back up catcher. It’s time Mike Matheny used them.