What the Pujols Injury Means for the Cardinals

Steve O Speak

The St. Louis Cardinals got horrible news today as they found out that their megastar 1B Albert Pujols will be out 4-6 weeks with a fractured left wrist. The injury occurred yesterday as Pujols tried to take a wide throw and tag the runner going to first, unfortunately the runner hit him in a way that broke his wrist. Now the question is, what does this mean for the Cardinals playoff hopes.

Now overall it really isn’t the end of the world. The Cardinals have a deep bench overall, but they are already a bit short-handed. Back-up 1B/OF Allan Craig is on the D.L. for a fractured knee cap and he will probably miss 6 weeks as well. Starting 3B David Freese is still not back yet from his broken hand injury, and while he could be back in 1-2 weeks, he might not be 100% when he is back since he hasn’t been able to swing a bat. This means that the Cards will have a short bench and probably won’t have a fully healthy lineup (not counting Pujols) for a good month.

As for replacing Pujols the Cards will move Lance Berkman in to 1B and play John Jay every day in the OF. Defensively that makes the Cards a better team, but offensively they will take a hit. Jay is a good young OF, who could probably start on at least 10 teams in this league, but he is an offensive downgrade by a wide margin to Pujols (in fairness the majority of the league would fall in that category). Jay (who is LH) will now have to face lefties on a more regular basis. And while he isn’t awful against them, the Cards have been wise to platoon him, something they can no longer afford to do. The Cards also now have zero pinch hitting ability or depth on their roster (especially with Freese and Nick Punto still out). While this doesn’t seem like a major issue, that is a lot of late inning AB’s where you are basically going to sub a pitcher for a minor leaguer (and not a very good one). In terms of depth it is important as well because now you can’t give a veteran like Lance Berkman an occasional off day, or a guy who is slumping a chance to rest. Also, it means that any other injuries (Matt Holliday has dealt with his share) would be absolutely devastating.

Now the biggest issue for the Cardinals chances is still their pitching staff, but with a significantly weaker lineup, their pitching problem is even more dire. Up until now the Cards could rely on one of the leagues best offenses to pull them through enough games, but that isn’t the case any longer. I think the Cardinals need to go out sooner rather than later and add at least one starting pitcher and one bullpen arm if they hope to stay into contention for when Pujols comes back. Now I definitely don’t think they need to overreact and trade for a starting bat, but they should look for any bargains of bench and role players to give them solid depth now, and great depth when all their injured guys come back. If St. Louis doesn’t make these moves in the next week or so then I think this injury could make them the 3rd horse for the Central race.


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