Tonight, as the Cardinals take on the Giants, Ryan Ludwicktakes on the challenge of protecting Albert Pujols as well as protecting his team. While Ludwick has been on the DL, the Cardinals have seen a high poweredoffense slow down to a struggling one. Prior to Ludwick’s injury, the Cardinals averaged over 5 runs a game. Since Ludwick landed on the DL the Cardinals are down to a little over 3 a game.
Ludwick’s injury caused many more changes as well. It changed the way pitchers throw to the Cardinals, the production from the clean up spot, and the success of Albert Pujols.
Opposing pitchers have had a gameplan every time they have faced the Cards’ with Ludwick on the DL that headlined with “Don’t Pitch To #5.” Why would they? Nobody else in the lineup could hurt them with the big man not there to score and drive in runs. With Ludwick back in the lineup, pitchers may have to think twice before issuing 4 in a row to Albert.
Production from the 4 hole has dramatically decreased in Ludwick’s absence. A key reason the opposing pitchers felt they could just pitch around Pujols with ease. The commity of clean up hitters didn’t have near the numbers that Ludwick put up before his injury.
Ludwick … .293 BA/ .561 SLG / 82 AB /12 runs/6 HR / 22 RBI
Others … .183 BA/ .290 SLG / 93 AB / 8 runs / 2 HR / 11 RBI
Albert Pujols, as good as he is, has also suffered from Ludwick’s injury. The few times he hasn’t been walked he has rarely been the Pujols that we know. Trying to carry the whole team on his shoulders, Pujols has hardly hit like he’s known to do.
So, as Ludwick makes his way back to the lineup tonight, let’s hope that some (if not all) of the problems during Ludwick’s absence are solved.