By Andrew Riak, from Cardsblog.com
Cardinals baseball is almost here. Pitchers and catchers report in one week. Hopefully, an exciting season awaits, and hopefully, the Cardinals make it back to the playoffs. Let’s take a quick look at one of the impact players for the Cardinals in 2018.
Tommy Pham is poised for a huge season. It’s possible that he will be the first Cardinals player ever to record a 30/30 season. He has said that “I believe that I could be a really special player,” and there’s no doubt that the Cardinals will be having a great season if he can accomplish the feat.
Half of the battle is the stolen base component. Pham is an electric player because he actually can steal bases. In recent years, the Cardinals have been both hesitant to steal and bad at it when they do try.
Last year, Pham was able to swipe 25 bases in only 128 games. Given the playing time, there is no reason why he won’t continue to be great on the base paths. In general, runners in scoring position generate runs, so there is no reason for Cardinals manager Mike Matheny to deter him from trying.
Pham is ready to show that he more than deserves the roster spot in 2018, after having trouble making the Opening Day roster in years past. While 2016 got off to a successful start, he was placed on the Disabled List just two games into the season.
His teammates say he has been working on speed this offseason, and he hopes to start the year off with a bang. Luke Weaver even compared him to Yadier Molina, saying “Yadi is the godfather, but Pham is going to closely follow that down the road.”
It helps that he will get to hit in front of new offseason acquisition Marcell Ozuna. More focus on the batter leaves the pitcher less time to worry about baserunners. Furthermore, getting to second base is more beneficial when you have guys behind you to get hits, and drive you in.
The other component of the 30/30 club is, of course, the long ball. Pham looks to be hitting second behind Matt Carpenter to start the season. He hit 26 home runs in the 128 games last season, so with a healthy season, he should be able to get to thirty.
Hitting behind Carpenter is key as well, as Carpenter is one of the best hitters in the MLB at drawing walks and getting on base. If Pham does indeed launch 30 home runs or more, it’s pretty likely that Carpenter will be on first base in front of him for at least a few of those long balls.
It might be harder to hit home runs in Busch given that it is a slight pitcher’s park according to ESPN. The only stat favorable to hitters is that strikeouts are slightly lower than league average, although that does not really affect Pham’s home run ability. The three games in well known Coors Field, which tends to turn baseball bats into trampolines, could possibly make the slight advantage to pitchers at Busch a moot point.
One of the main obstacles for Pham has been his inability to stay healthy. He’s been injured in Spring Training, and right at the beginning of the season. He continually makes solid progress only to wind up back on the Disabled List. While it is not something that is 100 percent controllable, Pham seems ready to put his body in a position to thrive and stay healthy this season.