Tony La Russa once said calling someone an underachiever was a very personal thing. It attacks the heart of their competitive nature and is construed as a grave insult.
In the wake of Wednesday's 5-0 loss to the Pirates (the 2nd straight day the Redbirds got blanked) the adjectives are flying left and right to describe the Cardinals' offense in 2012.
Some are warranted. Others, frankly, are not. One that I just cannot - for the life of me - understand is calling them underachieving. An offense that's scored more runs than any team in major league baseball this season not named the Rangers or Red Sox can't be deemed underachieving.
What they can be called, however, is inconsistent.
An offense that's capable of scoring 44 runs in its last 6 wins (more than 7 runs a game) shouldn't score just 2 total in its last 3 losses. If you were wondering, yes, that's exactly what the Redbirds have done in the last week.
An offense that's capable of tagging All Star game starter Matt Cain for 5 runs on 8 hits in less than 6 innings shouldn't get shut down by Alex White and his sensational 6.16 ERA just a few days prior. Yep, that one happened, too.
And most importantly of all, an offense that scores 476 runs in 71 wins -- 6.7 a game -- shouldn't proceed to put up just 156 in 59 losses -- 2.6 a game.
That's more than a 4 run difference between what the Cardinals offense does in its wins versus losses.
So basically, if the Cards score 3 runs a game or more...as Jack Buck would say...that's a winner. You'd think scoring 3 runs in a game shouldn't be too terribly hard to do.
But that's what happens when your offense is based on extra-base hits and comes in bunches. When you score, you get around 7 runs a game. When you don't, it's less than 3.
The biggest issue here is, well, there's no obvious solution. It's not like there's no talent. On the contrary, there's more talent on paper in the Cardinals offense than on just about any other team in this sport.
The problem is just doing it consistently. The problem is finding a way to break the mold when a pitcher seems to be shutting them down. Who's going to be the guy to step up to the plate and get the big hit? Who's going to be the guy to turn what normally would be a slump extender into a slump buster?
If there was an easy solution it would've already been implemented.
But that's what these guys are paid 7-figures to do. Solve problems. And hit.
Until then, it will probably continue to be the same old stuff. Lots of runs one game. Practically nothing the next.