Archive for the ‘Hitters’ Category

Jim Edmonds rates among an elite class of outfielders who fielded with consistent excellence and hit with astonishing power.

jim_edmonds3Whether that combination is enough to earn Edmonds election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2016 is uncertain, but he at least should be given thoughtful consideration.

Edmonds, who played center field for the Cardinals from 2000-2007, won eight Gold Glove awards and had a career slugging percentage of .527 in 17 big-league seasons.

Only one outfielder in the Hall of Fame, Willie Mays, has more Gold Gloves (12) and a higher career slugging percentage (.557) than Edmonds.

The only other Hall of Fame outfielders with more Gold Gloves than Edmonds are Roberto Clemente (12) and Al Kaline (10), but both have lower career slugging percentages than Edmonds. Kaline had a .480 slugging percentage and Clemente was at .425, more than 100 points lower than Edmonds’ total.

Bases add up

Slugging percentage defines a batter who hits for power. It is calculated as total bases divided by at-bats.

Edmonds had 3,615 total bases in 6,858 at-bats.

His slugging percentage in eight seasons with the Cardinals was .555, almost 30 points higher than his career percentage. Edmonds had 2,012 total bases in 3,628 at-bats with the Cardinals.

Many Hall of Famers with reputations as power hitters have career slugging percentages lower than Edmonds’ career mark of .527.

Among the most prominent: Willie McCovey (.515), Eddie Mathews (.509), Harmon Killebrew (.509), Joe Medwick (.505), Jim Rice (.502), Ernie Banks (.500), Orlando Cepeda (.499), Reggie Jackson (.490), Andre Dawson (.482), Eddie Murray (.476), Johnny Bench (.476) and Dave Winfield (.475).

Edmonds has the same career slugging percentage as Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt.

Matched with Griffey

Of his eight Gold Gloves, Edmonds won six in a row with the Cardinals from 2000-2005.

The Gold Glove Award first was presented in 1957, so many Hall of Fame outfielders never had a chance to earn one. Still, Edmonds’ total is outstanding and a testament to his talent.

Another center fielder who will join Edmonds in being eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2016 is Ken Griffey Jr.

When Griffey is elected _ and he’s a lock to get the necessary 75 percent of the votes from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America _ he will join Mays as Hall of Famers with more Gold Gloves and a higher career slugging percentage than Edmonds. Griffey, who played primarily with the Mariners, won 10 Gold Gloves and had a .538 slugging percentage (only 11 points better than Edmonds) in a 22-year career in the major leagues.

Whether Griffey’s presence on the ballot will overshadow Edmonds, or enhance his status by highlighting his comparable numbers, will be one of the intriguing aspects of that year’s Hall of Fame voting.

Edmonds likely will be hampered by a .284 career batting average and by falling short of 2,000 hits. He had 1,949 career hits, with 437 doubles, 393 home runs and 1,199 RBI.

Previously: How Jim Edmonds got Tony La Russa an April champagne toast

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In 2000, Edgar Renteria established the Cardinals single-season record for most home runs hit by a shortstop. In 2014, Jhonny Peralta is likely to top that mark.

edgar_renteria5Peralta, in his first season as the Cardinals’ shortstop, entered the 2014 All-Star Game break with 14 home runs.

Renteria, in his second season as the Cardinals’ shortstop, hit 16 homers in 2000. Those are the most home runs hit by a Cardinals shortstop in a season since Solly Hemus slugged a career-best 15 in 1952.

During spring training in 2000, Renteria told Marlins manager John Boles he intended to hit 20 home runs for the Cardinals. Tony La Russa, the Cardinals’ manager, flinched when he heard Renteria’s remark, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. La Russa wanted Renteria focused on hitting for average, not power.

Renteria did both. He led the 2000 Cardinals in hits (156), doubles (32) and stolen bases (21). He batted .278 and was second on the club in RBI (76), behind only Jim Edmonds (108). Renteria was named to the National League Silver Slugger team, the first Cardinals shortstop to have done so since Ozzie Smith in 1987.

Record rocket

On Aug. 29, 2000, Renteria hit a solo home run off Marlins rookie Chuck Smith. It broke Hemus’ club record and was Renteria’s last home run of the season.

“I think that was the only mistake (Smith) made the whole game,” Renetria told the Post-Dispatch.

Said La Russa: “He’s been the complete shortstop. You can’t ask for any more than he’s done.” Boxscore

Many of Renteria’s home runs in 2000 came in bunches.

He hit a home run in each of three consecutive games from April 9-11. Those blasts came off Valerio de los Santos of the Brewers and the Astros’ Jose Lima and Doug Henry.

Renteria also hit home runs in back-to-back games against the Giants’ Russ Ortiz and Kirk Rueter on May 9-10.

Hungry hitters

Renteria, a right-handed batter, contributed to a homer-happy 2000 Cardinals team that ranked second in the National League in home runs at 235, trailing only the Astros (249). Nine Cardinals in 2000 hit 12 homers or more, led by Edmonds (42) and Mark McGwire (32).

“All these guys are coming to home plate hungry,” Cardinals hitting coach Mike Easler said to the Post-Dispatch. “That’s what I like about it. They’re never satisfied with the at-bat before. The next at-bat is always like their last one. Their intensity at home plate is much higher than last year.”

Renteria, who turned 24 in 2000, hit 12 of his 16 home runs on the road. Eleven of the 16 were struck versus right-handed pitchers. Ten were solo shots.

The 16 home runs in 2000 were Renteria’s single-season high in 16 major-league seasons. He hit 140 homers in the big leagues, 71 in six seasons (1999-2004) with the Cardinals.

Previously: Edgar Renteria had epic season at shortstop for 2003 Cardinals

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Frankie Frisch didn’t try to hit home runs, but he had the ability to produce them in bunches.

frankie_frisch3In 2014, Kolten Wong became the first Cardinals second baseman to hit five home runs over a seven-game span since Frisch achieved the feat in July 1930, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Frisch, a 5-foot-9 switch hitter, slugged only 105 home runs in 2,311 big-league games during a stellar 19-year Hall of Fame career. Yet he was such a dangerous hitter that he batted cleanup for the 1930 Cardinals during his home run tear.

“The secret of hitting is to pick out a good ball and hit it properly,” Frisch said in an interview published by The Sporting News after the 1930 season. “Do not swing too hard. (Jim) Bottomley and (Chick) Hafey, two sweet hitters, do not take a vicious cut at the ball. (Babe) Ruth is the only player I know who takes a real cut. The player who hits the ball squarely will get as much distance as the next fellow. It is just like hitting a golf ball.”

Frisch’s power surge for the 1930 Cardinals occurred during a road trip to his native New York in games against the Giants at the Polo Grounds and against the Dodgers (also known as the Robins) at Ebbets Field. All five of his home runs in that span of seven games in four days were hit against right-handers.

Here is a look at what Frisch did:

July 18, 1930

On a Friday afternoon at the Polo Grounds, Frisch, who played for the Giants before being traded to the Cardinals for Rogers Hornsby after the 1926 season, hit a three-run home run off starter Pete Donohue in the third inning.

In the eighth, Frisch connected for a two-run shot off Joe Heving, giving the Cardinals a 7-3 lead.

The Giants, however, scored five times in the bottom of the ninth against starter Bill Hallahan and Burleigh Grimes and won, 8-7. Frisch was 2-for-4 with 5 RBI and 2 runs scored. Boxscore

July 19, 1930

The Cardinals swept a doubleheader against the Giants, but Frisch went a combined 0-for-9 in the two games.

July 20, 1930

Frisch hit a two-run home run off Sloppy Thurston in the ninth, capping a 15-6 Cardinals triumph over Brooklyn. Frisch, who also doubled, had 6 RBI and 2 runs scored. Boxscore

July 21, 1930

In a Monday afternoon doubleheader, Frisch hit a solo home run off starter Ray Phelps in the sixth inning of Game 1. The Cardinals led, 8-6, until Brooklyn scored three in the ninth to win, 9-8. Frisch was 3-for-5 with a RBI and a run scored. Boxscore

Frisch helped the Cardinals recover in Game 2, hitting a two-run home run off Dolf Luque in the first and launching St. Louis to a 17-10 victory. Frisch was 3-for-6 with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI. Boxscore

Frisch produced 14 RBI in those five games in which he homered. He finished the 1930 season with 10 home runs, 114 RBI, 121 runs scored, 46 doubles, 187 hits and a .346 batting average.

The 1930 season was the last of five in which he achieved double figures in home runs. Frisch hit a single-season high of 12 home runs for the 1923 Giants.

Awesome all-star

Frisch played in 50 World Series games and never hit a home run. He did, however, hit homers in each of his two All-Star Game appearances.

In the inaugural 1933 All-Star Game, Frisch hit a solo home run in the sixth off General Crowder of the Senators. Boxscore

Leading off the bottom of the first inning of the 1934 All-Star Game, Frisch hit a homer against the Yankees’ Lefty Gomez.

Joe Medwick, Frisch’s Cardinals teammate, also homered in that game. It’s one of two times that two Cardinals hit home runs in the same All-Star Game. Boxscore The other occurred in 1960 when Ken Boyer and Stan Musial achieved the feat. Boxscore

Previously: Rift with Branch Rickey led Cardinals to oust Frankie Frisch

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Ozzie Smith and Matt Adams, opposites in size, shared at least one common trait: Both were able to drive in key runs for the Cardinals over a stretch of games.

ozzie_smith8Adams in 2014 became the first Cardinals player to deliver game-winning RBI in four consecutive games since Smith did so in 1988, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

A 6-foot-3, 260-pound first baseman, Adams primarily utilized power to produce his game winners in a stretch from June 13-16, 2014.

In three consecutive Cardinals wins over the Nationals at St. Louis from June 13-15, Adams hit a home run for the winning RBI in each game. The home runs were hit off Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister. The Cardinals won, 1-0, on June 13 Boxscore; 4-1 on June 14 Boxscore; and 5-2 on June 15. Boxscore

Adams snapped a 1-1 tie with a RBI-single off Jacob deGrom for the game-winning hit on June 16 in a 6-2 Cardinals victory over the Mets at St. Louis. Boxscore

Twenty-six years earlier, Smith used a very different combination of productive at-bats for his four consecutive game-winning RBI. A 5-foot-11, 150-pound shortstop, Smith had a bunt, but no home runs, among his game winners in a stretch from Sept. 8-11, 1988. Here’s what he did:

Cardinals 1, Phillies 0, at St. Louis, Sept. 8, 1988

The Cardinals had the bases loaded with two outs in the fifth inning when Smith came to bat against Phillies starter Kevin Gross. With the count at 3-and-2, Smith checked his swing and walked, forcing in Tony Pena from third base with the run. The Phillies appealed, saying Smith had swung and missed at strike three, but third-base umpire Steve Rippley upheld the call of home-plate umpire Fred Brocklander.

Phillies manager Lee Elia said Rippley blew the call.

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog conceded to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “A lot of guys would have punched (Smith) out.” Boxscore

Cardinals 6, Cubs 2, at St. Louis, Sept. 9, 1988

With the Cubs ahead, 1-0, the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the sixth. Facing starter Calvin Schiraldi, Smith said he was trying for a sacrifice fly. Instead, he doubled off the right-field wall, driving in Jose Oquendo and Greg Mathews and giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.

Deflecting attention away from himself, Smith credited Pedro Guerrero, whom the Cardinals acquired from the Dodgers on Aug. 16, with boosting the offense. Guerrero had three RBI in the game.

“We’re a different team now,” Smith said. “We’re doing a lot more things with our pitching and a lot more with our offense. The addition of one person (Guerrero) has stabilized our offense.” Boxscore

Cardinals 9, Cubs 3, at St. Louis, Sept. 10, 1988

With the score tied at 2-2, Tom Pagnozzi at second and two outs, Smith doubled to center off starter Rick Sutcliffe, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

“What you’re seeing now is something that didn’t happen in spring training,” Smith said. “We never jelled offensively. We’re settling in now.” Boxscore

Cardinals 3, Cubs 2, at St. Louis, Sept. 11, 1988

In the seventh inning, with the score tied at 2-2, Curt Ford was on third with one out. With Smith at the plate, Herzog called for the squeeze play. Smith executed, dropping a bunt to the right side of the infield. Ford dashed home with the go-ahead run. The only play for pitcher Mike Harkey, who fielded the ball, was to toss to second baseman Ryne Sandberg, covering first, to retire Smith.

“You just hope you get a decent pitch and you can put it in play,” Smith said of the bunt.

Asked about the four consecutive game-winning RBI, Smith told the Post-Dispatch, “It’s good to be in a position to say you got the record game-winning RBI, but the important thing is we won the game.” Boxscore

Smith finished the 1988 season with 51 RBI and was tied with Pena for third on the team, behind Tom Brunansky (79) and Terry Pendleton (53). The Cardinals ranked 11th in the 12-team National League in both RBI (536) and runs (578).

Previously: Intimidation: Ozzie Smith, Will Clark and the Battle at Busch

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After losing the first two games of the 1985 National League Championship Series, the Cardinals could have been fazed by the prospect of facing Dodgers pitcher Bob Welch in Game 3. Welch had produced two complete-game wins against St. Louis in the regular season. A loss to him in the third game of the postseason series would push the Cardinals to the brink of elimination.

bob_welchInstead, it was Welch who was shaky.

Speedsters Vince Coleman and Willie McGee distracted a jumpy Welch and the Cardinals beat him, sparking a streak of four consecutive wins that propelled them into the World Series.

Welch, who died June 9, 2014, at 57, was a premier pitcher for 17 years in the big leagues with the Dodgers and Athletics. He posted a career record of 211-146. In 1990, he was 27-6 with a 2.95 ERA and earned the American League Cy Young Award while pitching for the pennant-winning Athletics team of manager Tony La Russa and coach Dave Duncan.

In 1985, Welch was 14-4 with a 2.31 ERA in 23 starts for the Dodgers. He averaged less than two walks per nine innings.

The Cardinals, though, jolted Welch out of his comfort zone in the National League Championship Series.

Give the ump a mitt

In the first inning, Coleman lined a single over the head of third baseman Bill Madlock. With the count 1-and-0 on the next batter, McGee, the Dodgers pitched out, but Coleman swiped second anyway. Distracted by Coleman dancing off second, Welch walked McGee.

Tommy Herr came up next and worked the count full. Welch then whirled and attempted a pickoff of Coleman. The throw came closer to hitting umpire Paul Runge than it did to reaching the glove of shortstop Dave Anderson, covering second, and the ball sailed into center field. Coleman scored and McGee raced to third.

“I’m supposed to be able to make this play,” Welch said to the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif. “But for some reason I threw the ball to Runge. Too bad he didn’t have a mitt. He could have made the tag.”

Said Coleman to the Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register: “I was surprised he threw. The count was 3-and-2 and I wasn’t going to run until he threw to the plate.”

After walks to Herr and Andy Van Slyke, McGee scored on Terry Pendleton’s grounder to second, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

Sitting on the fastball

In the second inning, the Cardinals continued to apply pressure on Welch. With one out, Coleman singled. Catcher Mike Scioscia tried to pick off Coleman, but the throw eluded first baseman Greg Brock. Coleman advanced to third and scored on McGee’s single. After McGee was nailed attempting to swipe second, Herr smacked a Welch fastball over the right-field wall for a home run, putting the Cardinals ahead, 4-0.

“Welch kept throwing me fastballs,” Herr said to the Daily Breeze. “I fouled three of them off and I was sitting on the fastball when he threw the home run pitch.”

Said Welch: “I never got in a situation where I could use my curve ball. I never got in a situation where I was pitching, period. I just threw it up there.”

(Including the postseason, Herr batted .300 against Welch in his career, with 12 hits in 40 at-bats. Eleven of those hits were singles.)

Herr told the San Diego Union that the reason Welch beat the Cardinals twice during the 1985 regular season was because “he kept Coleman and McGee off base and was able to throw his breaking ball a lot. Today, he had to throw more fastballs with Vince and Willie on base.”

Welch was lifted after 2.2 innings. His line: 6 walks, 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 earned. Harried by the Cardinals, he’d made 20 pickoff throws.

“We weren’t trying to screw Welch up, even though that’s what happened,” said McGee.

Given the 4-0 lead, Cardinals starter Danny Cox and relievers Ricky Horton, Todd Worrell and Ken Dayley held the Dodgers to two runs. St. Louis won, 4-2. Boxscore

The Dodgers never recovered, losing the next three games, including Game 5 on the Ozzie Smith “Go crazy, folks” walkoff home run and Game 6 on Jack Clark’s ninth-inning three-run homer.

Welch finished his career with a 7-8 record and 3.99 ERA against the Cardinals in 18 regular-season appearances, including 15 starts.

Previously: How Bing Devine tried coaxing Kirk Gibson to Cardinals

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(Updated June 23, 2014)

In his last official at-bat with the Cardinals, Keith Hernandez tripled, a fitting hit for a first baseman who excelled at spraying line drives to all fields and smartly knew how to run the bases.

keith_hernandez3Hernandez hit 50 triples in 10 seasons with St. Louis.

Like Hernandez, Matt Adams, the Cardinals’ 2014 first baseman, is a left-handed batter.

Unlike Hernandez, Adams is a hulk at 6 feet 3, 260 pounds. In a Cardinals career from 1974-83, Hernandez was 6 feet, 185 pounds.

Still, Adams is showing potential to hit triples like his former Cardinals counterpart.

Triple threats

Adams in 2014 is the first Cardinals first baseman to hit three triples in a season since Matt Carpenter hit five in 2012, Cardinals researcher Tom Orf noted.

(The Cardinals record for most triples in a season for a first baseman is 20 by Jim Bottomley in 1928. Stan Musial had 20 triples for the 1946 Cardinals _ 17 as a first baseman and three as a left fielder.)

In 1979, when he shared the National League Most Valuable Player Award with the Pirates’ Willie Stargell, Hernandez hit a career-best 11 triples for the Cardinals. That’s the most triples in a season for a Cardinals first baseman in more than a half-century.

(Bill White hit 11 triples as a Cardinals first baseman in 1961.)

In 11 years with the Cardinals, Albert Pujols never hit more than two triples in a season as a first baseman. His single-season career best, four triples, came in 2001, his rookie season. He hit two of those triples as a left fielder and one each as a third baseman and right fielder.

Two three-baggers

On May 12, 1979, against the Braves at St. Louis, Hernandez hit two triples in a game for the only time in his big-league career. Four triples were hit that Saturday night _ two by Hernandez and one each by the Braves’ Gary Matthews and Dale Murphy.

In the seventh inning, Hernandez tripled off starter Mickey Mahler, driving in Jerry Mumphrey from first and giving St. Louis a 4-1 lead.

The Braves rallied, though, and led, 6-5, entering the bottom of the ninth.

Facing closer Gene Garber, Mumphrey singled. Hernandez tripled, scoring Mumphrey with the tying run. A single by Ken Reitz drove in Hernandez with the game-winner in a 7-6 St. Louis victory. Boxscore

Hernandez was one of three Cardinals to reach double figures in triples in 1979. Shortstop Garry Templeton had a league-high 19 and center fielder Tony Scott produced 10. No other Cardinals team has done that since.

In addition to ranking fifth in the National League in triples in 1979, Hernandez led the league in batting average (.344), doubles (48) and runs (116). He credited a talk with his teammate, Lou Brock, playing his final year, with enabling him to have a breakout season.

“He’s the greatest, in my mind,” Hernandez said to The Sporting News of Brock. “He’s shown me how to handle the peaks and valleys. How some days they’re going to get you and some days you’re going to get them.”

Previously: Why Cardinals dealt Keith Hernandez in 1983

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