Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Could the Cardinals offense be improved in 2016?

The St. Louis Cardinals offense suffered a big loss when Jason Heyward took less money to sign with the rival Cubs.  Given that the Cards finished 11th in the NL in runs scored, Heyward and his 3.8 oWAR (offensive Wins Against Replacement) will be missed.

With the inability to resign Heyward and the apparent unwillingness to sign another big bat, most fans have given up hope for the Cardinals offense.

But fear not fans, despite the loss of Heyward, its still possible that the team's offense can improve.

Here's how....

Stay Healthy

The Cardinals lost two very important offensive pieces in Matt Holliday and Matt Adams for significant portions of the 2015 season.  Holliday only played in 73 games, while Adams only played in 60.

Prior to 2015, Holliday average a 3.3 oWAR from 2012-2014, while Adams posted a 1.5 and 1.4 oWAR in his first two seasons in the majors.

If the Cardinals can get 130 to 140 games from both of those two guys, it will go a long way to replacing Heyward's production.

More Piscotty

The main benefactor from the Heyward departure appears to be Cards youngster Stephen Piscotty.

Piscotty burst onto the scene in 2015, hitting .305/.359/.494, good for a 1.4 oWAR in just 63 games.  He should get the majority of the playing time in right field and could double that oWAR in 2016.

While his defense will not make anyone forget Heyward, his offense should not be much of a drop off.

Better Bench

One thing John Mozeliak did do this offseason was improve the team's bench.

Gone are the light hitting Pete Kozma (-0.7 oWAR), Jon Jay (-0.6 oWAR), Tony Cruz (-0.5 oWAR), Peter Bourjos (-0.3 oWAR) and Mark Reynolds (-0.3 oWAR).

Replacing them are Jed Gyorko (1.2 oWAR), Brayan Pena (0.6 oWAR), a full season of Tommy Pham (1.1 oWAR in 52 games) and late 2015 acquisition Brandon Moss (0.1 oWAR in 51 games).

Overall the Cardinals offense can improve, but there are some questions.  Can Holliday stay healthy for a full season?  Will Piscotty continue to produce or will he suffer a sophomore slump?  Can the bench be relied on to give the starters (especially aging veterans Yadier Molina and Holliday) some rest?

The answers to those questions will determine the fate of the Cardinals offense.