Wednesday, September 01, 2004

August Splits

Another month has come and gone in this great Cardinal season. I will likely post a series of articles breaking down various performances in the month of August. However, for now I would like to focus on a couple of players that tend to get lost in the shuffle - Tony Womack and Reggie Sanders.

We all know that the Cards are going to get production from what I have seen referred to as the "Busch Bombers." Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Walker, and to a lessor extent, Renteria. But the bookends to these hitters are Womack and Sanders, who have had ups and downs this season.

Tony Womack

I was driving from Chicago to St. Louis on a Sunday afternoon in March when the news that the Cardinals had made a deal for Tony Womack was announced during a Spring Training game. Being a fan of lead-off hitters that can actually get on base, I was less than thrilled with the prospect. Of course, Marlon Anderson and Bo Hart weren't exactly thrilling me to death either, so I figured it might be worth a gamble. Might being the key word. Look at these OBP numbers for Womack.

2003, 251
2001-2003, 302
Career , 315
Career High, 332 (1999 in Arizona)

When you factor in that the bulk of Womack's at-bats over the few years came at Arizona and Colorado, those numbers were even more depressing. But hey - Vina only had a 309 OBP last year, Hart 317. How much worse could he do?

As it ends up, he has exceeded my expectations....usually. Womack had an incredible cold streak from Mid-July to Early August which scared me, before pulling out of it again nicely. On a month by month basis, his OBP looks like this since April.

May, 258
June, 391
July , 337
August, 368

Early July, in which Womack actually entered the top 10 in the NL in batting, help make those July numbers look not so bad. And now we have another solid month in August for Womack, setting the table for the big boppers. As of today, Womack still has a 352 OBP on the season - 364 before the break, 330 after. Can he keep it up for two more months? History would suggest no, but I most certainly hope the Cards can continue to catch some lightning in a bottle here. (As long as it doesn't translate into a big contract beyond this year.)

Reggie Sanders

Sanders was the opposite of Womack in my book. I loved the signing, and had no doubt that he would contribute to the Cardinals this season. (Even though it's an even year, in which Sanders usually is off - I will probably write an article on that one before next season.) In the 2003 season, Sanders was actually comparable to Sammy Sosa.

Sanders - 130 games, 134 OPS+, 285 average, 345 OBP, 567 SLG
Sosa - 137 games, 135 OPS+, 279 average, 358 OBP, 553 SLG

If the Cardinals had signed Sammy Sosa for $2 million, the Cards would have been picked by more people to win this season. As is, the Sanders signing was largely unheralded.

Sanders started out very hot in April, but with one disturbing aspect - he wasn't drawing any walks. If he wasn't hitting the ball, then he wasn't getting on base. May rolled around, and the problems started - balls weren't falling in for hits, thus Reggie was making more outs.

The last few months, however, have shown an encouraging trend for Sanders.

May .182/.213/.247, 459 OPS
June .234/.280/.442, 722 OPS
July 264/321/514, 835 OPS
August 279/371/574, 945 OPS

His walk totals are still a bit low on a month to month basis as Sanders is on pace to draw 31 walks this season, despite averaging 43 walks per season over the last 3 years. But his overall production is starting to come around quite nicely.

Are pitchers giving Womack better pitches to hit due to the guys hitting behind him? Is Reggie Sanders starting to take advantage of pitchers who are breathing a sigh of relief as they face him as opposed to the other studs in the lineup? I don't know, and I really don't care. What I do know is that if Womack and Sanders can keep it up for a couple of more months, this offense is going to be putting together some post-season scoring displays that haven't been seen in a long time.


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