So far this season, we've seen some definite surprises, most of them positive. Ryan Ludwick, even counting his last few games, has been one of the best hitters in all of baseball. If you saw that coming, you're probably a liar, or should be playing the lottery more often.
There has been one notable exception, though. There has been one surprise on the offensive side that hasn't been at all positive, and that's the lack of power production from the Cards' new third baseman, Troy Glaus.
Glaus came into this season a noted power hitter, having hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last seven seasons, including 20 last year in an injury-shortened season in Toronto with the Blue Jays. Glaus has never been much of a hitter from an average standpoint, always having opted for a bit more of an all-or-nothing approach. This year, though, he's had some doubles, but very little going over the fence.
It appears that may be changing, though. Glaus went deep in both games over the weekend, including a shot on Sunday that probably qualifies as the hardest ball he's hit all season. There's been a litany of reasons offered up this season for his power outage, from the cold weather to the mold count to, (of course) the steroid question. Without delving too very deeply into the last issue, because I have neither the time nor the inclination to rehash the entirety of it, you would have to think that perhaps there really is something to the weather excuse. Hopefully, as we continue on into summer, Glaus's bat goes right along with the temperatures.
Troy Glaus may, in fact, be the key to the rest of the season for the Redbirds, at least from an offensive standpoint. The lineup looks to have begun to stabilize. Pujols is Pujols. Ankiel is going to run hot and cold, much as we all expected. When he's on, he'll be a huge asset. When he's off, Rick is going to occasionally look like your slightly slow cousin trying to play ball at the family reunion. I expect that Ludwick will come down to Earth, but even so, he should continue to offer excellent power. It's not out of the realm of possibility that he'll end up hitting over .300 this season, given the nice start he's had. The middle infielders are what they are. As a group, they do a nice job of preventing runs, but aren't going to add a whole lot to the team's total. Outfielder Skip Schumaker probably isn't the best option leading off, but he's one of the better ones we have, and the only one manager Tony La Russa seems to really like. Catcher Yadier Molina has been a nice surprise this season with the bat, but still isn't much of a plus.
What that all leaves, then, is really just Troy Glaus. The rest of the offense is probably going to perform about like we've seen so far for the rest of the year. Which Troy Glaus we see at the plate is likely the difference between an offense with excellent on-base skills that nonetheless strands an outrageous number of runners and an offense with a powerful, intimidating middle section, ready at any moment to erupt and turn all of those base runners into a crooked number.
The career numbers are on the Cardinals' side. Glaus has always been that guy, always been a constant threat to go deep. We haven't seen much of it this season, but the fate of this offense, and possibly the Cards' entire season, may largely come down to Glaus turning back into the player we all thought we were going to see.
I'm betting he gets there.