By Chris Russell on Ryan Ludwick
The St. Louis Cardinals are just past the first quarter of the 2008 season and I’d be a fool if I didn’t say I was happy to see them sitting in 2nd place, 2 games back of the Chicago Cubs. Sure, the Birds hit a lull recently and the team does have some issues (stranded runners, no closer, inconsistent starting pitching to name a few), but thanks to a hot start and some gutsy comeback wins the team is still 6 games over .500 and within striking distance of the Cubbies. And keep in mind, this team is not built on a staff full of aces or a lineup full of superstars. Besides Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright, no one really expected much out of anyone else on the 25-man roster (outside of St. Louis anyway). The ‘08 Birds have found a way to win with what they have and turned a lost season into potential playoff run. From rebuilding to reborn, here are the first quarter Cardinal All Stars that got them there.
Not only is Luddy a Cardinal All Star, if this guy doesn’t get National League consideration there may be riots in the streets of downtown St. Louis. He’s not on the national radar yet, but if Ludwick keeps up his production he will be. Soon. He’s currently 2nd in the NL in OPS (1.153) and slugging % (.739), tied for 6th in homeruns (11) and 7th in batting average (.336). Those are not ordinary “4th outfielder” numbers. It looks as if Ludwick has earned an everyday spot in the lineup with his hot bat, yet for some reason there are still naysayers. Ryan Ludwick is not Craig Pauquette or So Taguchi. He is not in jeopardy of being overexposed. This guy was a 2nd round pick and a legitimate up and coming talent who suffered a couple unfortunate freak injuries. It’s only now that he’s getting a chance to prove that he’s been able to do it all along. Thank God Tony is on board.
No surprise here. King Albert is having one of his better starts to a season and he hasn’t even seen a decent pitch to hit yet. He leads the universe in walks and on base percentage, and when he does see the occasional pitch near the strike zone he’s hitting .357 with 9 homers and 29 RBI. Incredible numbers considering the amount he is pitched around. Even though Ludwick has superior statistics in a couple offensive categories, Albert is still the backbone of this team and perhaps the best hitter on the planet. Once pitchers start to respect Ludwick’s offensive ability, look for Albert’s numbers to skyrocket.
He’s had a lot of pressure on him this season to step in and fill Chris Carpenter’s shoes, which by the way are bigger than Bozo the Clown’s, and Wainwright has delivered. The wins aren’t really there with only 3, but most of that can be pinned on Jason Isringhausen. (Don’t worry Adam, he’s gone now). He has left the game with the lead 4 times only to see his W slip away. 7-2 sounds a lot better than 3-2 doesn’t it? Even after getting beat up a bit in his last start, Wainwright still has a team leading ERA of 3.25 and WHIP of 1.13, and his strikeout to walk ratio is 41-14. Keep it up buddy. Those wins will sort themselves out as the season progresses.
Yeah Ank is streaky and he doesn’t hit that well on the road, but this kid is just a flat out athlete. He’s one of 2 players ever to win 10 games as a pitcher and hit 10 homeruns as a position player. Maybe you’ve heard of the other guy: he built a house in the Bronx for the Yankees. Rick has good (not great) offensive numbers .285 AVG, .370 OBP, 7 long balls and 21 RBI, but it’s his defense that gets him on this list. You all remember the 2 throws he had in Colorado and the catch over the wall against Pittsburgh, but the guy is getting it done every day. He has incredible range, gets great jumps and takes perfect routes to the ball. No one is really missing new Cub Jim Edmonds, and that’s because of Rick’s gusty play in center.
Remeber me Cubs fans?Todd Wellemeyer
Who knew? The former Cub castoff was left for dead, but Dave Duncan saw potential. After being fairly successful as a swingman in 2007, Wellemeyer trained as a starter in the offseason and looks downright dominant this year. He currently has a 4-1 record with an ERA of 3.27, a WHIP of 1.13 and an opponents batting average of only .216. He also leads the team with 47 strikeouts and has allowed only 19 walks. And quite possibly the biggest feather in his cap, he has lasted at least 6 innings in 7 of his 9 starts. Not bad stamina for a converted reliever. The big blond righty, with a little more seasoning, could be a legitimate 2 or 3 starter in a good rotation.
Honorable Mention: Skip Schumaker
The Cards were desperately searching for a leadoff hitter and it appears they’ve found one. The Skipper has been more than serviceable in the 1-spot, hitting .286 with 2 bombs and 15 RBI. He’s getting on base at a .354 clip, leads the team in runs scored with 30 and has a penchant for coming through with the game on the line (3 walk off hits). Tack on a handful of stolen bases and he’s a pretty good lead off man. He’s young too, so we have every right to think the best is yet to come.