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A plan for getting Oscar Taveras playing time

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According to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from yesterday the St. Louis Cardinals have decided to recall outfielder Oscar Taveras from Memphis. The move is an attempt to invigorate the anemic Cardinals offense which now ranks 28th in MLB with just 3.70 runs per game. However, as noted by Derrick Goold in the Post-Dispatch, the team might struggle to find playing time for Craig given the Matt Adams/Allen Craig combination in first base and right field. Here is a plan that could get Taveras ample playing time while also keeping the veterans involved.

The Problem

Taveras is a young talent who needs to play at least 70 percent of the time (7 out of 10 games). But the team still has Allen Craig playing right field. One could move Craig to first base, but that takes the team's best hitter, Matt Adams, out of the lineup. In left field is Matt Holliday and centerfield is currently occupied by the Jon Jay/Peter Bourjos combination with Jay getting most of the starts as a left-handed hitter.

The Solution

While Adams has been excellent he has really struggled against left-handed pitchers batting just .190 with only two home runs (granted that is still more than most of the rest of the team). So on some days where the teams faces a lefthander Adams can be put on the bench and Craig moved to first base to open up a spot for Taveras. Taveras has not struggled against left-handed pitchers in his minor league career.

On days when a right-hander is pitching Allen Craig and Matt Holliday should be the ones eligible for bench time. Craig is simply not getting out of his now season-long slump, and is now sporting a miserable .305 OBP and even more miserable .368 SLUG at first base. Even worst, Craig is in his own head. The confidence is gone and it is not coming back as pitchers blast fastballs past Craig on the inside corner and then get him to chase breaking balls away.

Holliday's OBP is much better (.369) but his slugging percentage is also sorely lacking (.385). Finally, Holliday has tended to struggle at the end of the season in past years as injuries take there toll on the aging outfielder who is built like a linebacker. This makes Holliday eligible for a day off once every five days.

Then there is Jon Jay, who has a very strange reverse split this year. Jay is killing left-handed pitchers to the tune of .368 average this year. However, strangely the left-handed batter is not hitting righthanders as well with a .711 OPS. Peter Bourjos is just horrible against right-handed pitching with a .656 OPS, and he is striking out 24.8% of the time.

Meanwhile, Oscar Taveras kills right-handed pitchers. This year Taveras has a .349 OBP with a .538 SLUG against righthanders including seven of his nine home runs in the minors. Taveras defense may just be adequate in center field but his bat should make up for the difference. Taveras should play at least half the games against righthanders in center.

What it Looks Like

Implementing this plan the Cardinals position would something like this over 5 games.

Game 1 - RH Opposing Starter

  • Taveras RF
  • Jay 0.5 /Bourjos 0.5 - CF (Jay starts half these games and Bourjas starts the other half)
  • Holliday - LF
  • Adams - 1B
  • Craig, Bourjos 0.5, Jay 0.5 - Bench

Game 2 - RH Opposing Starter

  • Craig - RF
  • Taveras 0.5 /Bourjos 0.5 - CF
  • Holliday 0.5 /Taveras 0.5 - LF
  • Adams 1B
  • Jay 0.25, Holliday 0.25, Bourjos- Bench

Game 3 - LH Opposing Starter

  • Taveras - RF
  • Jay - CF
  • Holliday - LF
  • Craig - 1B
  • Bourjos, Adams - Bench

Game 4 - LH Opposing Starter

  • Craig 0.5 /Taveras 0.5 - RF
  • Jay - CF
  • Holliday - LF
  • Adams - 1B
  • Bench Taveras 0.5/Bourjos

Game 5 - RH Opposing Starter

  • Craig - RF
  • Bourjos 0.5 /Taveras 0.5 - CF
  • Holliday 0.5 /Jay 0.5 - LF
  • Adams - 1B
  • Jay/Taveras/Bourjos - Bench

With such a plan Taveras gets 4 starts in 5 games (80%), Adams gets 4 starts, Holliday gets 4 starts, Craig gets 3.5 starts (70%), Jay gets 3 starts (60%), and Bourjos gets 1 start (20%). The one player who loses out is Bourjos, but Bourjos is already playing sparingly as it is and he is useful speed weapon/defensive replacement off the bench. In the end, someone has to lose some time in this scenario and ends up being a little bit of everyone.

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