Opening Day Lineup Revealed!

The Post-Dispatch has posted the Cardinals’ planned Opening Day lineup for tomorrow’s afternoon game against the San Diego Padres. You can catch the game at 3:15 pm Cardinals time (central time zone) on ESPN.

The Cardinals will be facing the Padres’ Tim Stauffer tomorrow. Stauffer, 28, has racked up some service time on the major league roster, but has been unable to stick. However, last season he posted a 1.85 ERA between 25 relief appearances and 7 starts.

As a starter, he’s struggled in his career with an ERA of 4.54 and a record of 11-16 in his 38 starts. But last season he was 3-2 in his 7 starts with a 1.83 ERA. The downside was, that he averaged only around six innings a start, meaning that they will likely have to rely on the bullpen. Which isn’t a totally bad thing for the Padres, who had one of the best bullpens of 2010. But let’s get down to the action.

1. Ryan Theriot, SS
The decision to put Theriot at the top of the lineup surprises me, but signals that Theriot is expected to be the leadoff hitter everyday. I had speculated that Tony LaRussa would use Skip Schumaker to leadoff against RHP, while Theriot took the spot against LHP. The reason? Schumaker hits .307 with a .364 OBP against right handed starters while Theriot hits just .277 with a .338 OBP. Both are relatively good options, but for a manager who likes to play the stats and matchups, it wasn’t what I expected.

2. Colby Rasmus, CF
This move could be a big one for Rasmus. Instead of being in a run producing role deeper in the lineup, as he has usually been, he will be in an on base role. Hitting in front of the best hitter in the game should help him get good pitches to hit. If he can work on the strikeouts and work on hitting to all fields, Rasmus could have a monster year hitting in the #2 spot.

3. Albert Pujols, 1B
Was there really any doubt as to his location in the lineup? Potentially the best player in baseball and a free agent. Pujols’ season could go one of two ways. He’ll obviously be trying to put up big numbers, which should be a boon for the Cardinals offense this year. But there’s always the fear that you try too hard and you fail. Part of me wonders if that’s what’s led to his diminished numbers since Holliday arrived. There’s protection now and no excuse, so he’s trying things he wouldn’t otherwise try because of Holliday behind him. Pujols hits the Padres pretty well. Hitting .353, 18 HR, and 61 RBI in 65 games against them.

4. Matt Holliday, LF
After all the talk of him moving to right field to let Berkman have the easier to play left field, he returns to his customary home. I’ll admit that I heavily underestimated Holliday’s impact to the Cardinals last season, but he proved me wrong. I would love for him to keep proving me wrong. His homer rate at Busch Stadium is almost as good as it was at Coors Field, too. He averages a homer for every 4.5 games at Busch, while it was every 4.2 games at Coors.

5. Lance Berkman, RF
The Lance Berkman experiment begins. After being handled with care through most of spring training, Berkman will make his first outfield start since August 25, 2007. He’s obviously hoping to do better than the 0-for-4 he went in that game against Pittsburgh. But has hit .316 with 56 HR in 252 games as a right fielder, by far his best stats at any position he’s played.

6. David Freese, 3B
The man whose injury exposed the lack of depth in 2010 has returned. Freese will start at third base for the first time since June 27th of last year. The former Padres prospect was having a phenomenal rookie season when he went down, too. The Cardinals are hoping that he can recapture some of that magic and once again give them that RBI machine down in the lineup. Oh, and his glove would be the best third base glove we’ve had since he went down.

7. Yadier Molina, C
Fans will be relieved that Molina is once again hitting down in the order. With the injuries to the Cardinals last year, he had been hitting in the six hole. Right where his ability to ground into double plays with the league leaders would be to stifle many rallies. He gets credit for his difficulty to strike out, but he needs to work on that this year as he posted a career high in strikeouts last season. Of all the teams who he’s played more than 30 games against, he hits San Diego the best. However, he has yet to hit a home run off a Padres pitcher in his 128 plate appearances.

8. Skip Schumaker, 2B
Schumaker will hit eighth on Thursday afternoon, a surprise to many considering the ability to essentially have two leadoff men with Schumaker and Theriot who both hit right handed pitchers well enough to leadoff. Yet another phenomenon. Schumaker hits the Padres better than anyone else with his .338 average against them in 22 games, but still has no homers against them. Yeah, he doesn’t have much power to begin with, but only two other teams who he has played more than 20 games against have no home runs against them, and they’ve got much worse batting averages.

9. Chris Carpenter, P
A much bemoaned move by the guys over at Pitcher’s Hit 8th, Tony LaRussa has said that he plans on batting the pitcher in the ninth position this season. Me, and many other fans, thought this year would be the perfect year for the plan to hit the pitcher 8th, at least against right handed pitchers, because both Theriot and Schumaker have numbers capable of leading off against right handers. With Schumaker in the 9 hole to lead the lineup back around, it was thought to be a great move. It seems that the genius that is Tony LaRussa does not agree.

That is your look at the Cardinals’ Opening Day lineup for tomorrow. You can check me out tonight on the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour tonight at 9:30 pm Cardinals time as I will be hosting. We will be doing a bit of previewing of the Cardinals/Padres series as well as getting in some final notes on Spring Training action, including the final cuts. And if we have some time, we might discuss some of the Cardinals’ Approval Ratings that we should be seeing tomorrow here at Redbird Dugout as well.

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