Jenry Mejia. Wily Peralta. Jon Niese. Bartolo Colon.
Recognize these names? Probably not for the most part, but these are pitchers that have dominated the Cards' punchless offense this week. Not only are the Cardinals failing to score runs, they have one of the worst offenses in the league through the season's first 23 games.
The Birds have racked up 268 total bases. To put in perspective what that means, The Houston Astros-the same Houston Astros that have a sub-$45MM payroll-have accumulated 270 bases. The power is almost non-existant with only Jhonny Peralta (he of the .150 batting average) and Yadier Molina having multiple home runs. The team is averaging a home run about every 64 at bats, second in the majors to the Kansas City Royals lowly offense. After leading the league in hits and doubles last year, leadoff man Matt Carpenter has just two extra-base hits (one double and one home run) in 85 at-bats. Allen Craig has been nearly useless, batting .179 and putting 66% of his balls in play on the ground vs. his career norm of about 45%.
The Cards are still sporting a winning record and the pitching staff has been good enough to weather the storm and pick up some W's. Unfortunately, you can't depend on Adam Wainwright to pitch a shutout every five days and Lance Lynn will only be the Lance Lynn of April for one more start, until he becomes the Lance Lynn of the Rest of the Season on May 1st. It's too early to consider making any significant changes and of the eight players that the Cards are running out there on an every-day basis, seven of them are pretty darn good ballplayers. It's unfortunate that when the offense struggles like this, the axe falls on the unproven guys like Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos who probably need the every-day at bats as bad as anyone but keep getting benched for a day while Mike Matheny shuffles his lineup and tries to get different hitters in the batter's box to try to get something going. Matheny isn't going to bench the Craigs and Hollidays and Peraltas of the world so that Daniel Descalso and Shane Robinson can have at-bats.
That leads us to another point though; if Jon Jay is too streaky, and Peter Bourjos hasn't stepped up to take his job, why not finally give Oscar Taveras his day? Taveras might already be with the team had he not rolled his ankle in a game in Memphis last week. It's not considered a serious injury and Taveras was back in the lineup yesterday for the Redbirds, so if he proves he's healthy and hits like he has been this weekend, it will be very difficult for him to be kept down much longer. Taveras is slashing .299/.351/.479 on the young season and has also gone deep three times. He has proven himself at every level, and despite his questionable conditioning and attitude, has shown the organization everything they need to see to know that he can help this team more than Jay can. Taveras is superior to Jay with every tool and it's making less sense every day to keep throwing at-bats away to a lesser player, especially on a team that is flush with outfield chips with young prospects Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk also off to good starts in Memphis.
Things aren't looking to get much better with three pitchers that have had success against St. Louis toeing the rubber for Pittsburgh this weekend in Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, and Edinson Volquez. Hopefully the lack of offense is just one of those situations that the team has to power through and not start grinding too hard. I don't expect that this will be a theme in 2014, but we can only say "it's still early" for so long before drastic measures will be taken to right this ship.
Stephen Nations is an aspiring sports and Cardinals columnist. He will be contributing his commentary to KSDK.com during the 2014 season. You can follow him on twitter at @Nayshface.