On the outside looking in

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In the first game of a double header against the Blue Jays, the Cardinals played the field the way I want them to play it the rest of the year. The results were mixed.

The positions were as follows: Molina behind the plate, Carpenter at first, Wong at second, Gyorko at third, Diaz at short, Jose Martinez in left, Fowler in center and Piscotty in right.

Through two innings Diaz made a competent play in the hole and Gyorko made a barehanded play up the line. Wong also committed an error on a ball hit up the middle.

Thus far, the Cardinals have committed nearly an error per game. The Cardinals committed 107 errors in 2016, the sixth worst mark in the majors. Atlanta, Cincinnati and Oakland all played better defense.

I believe the reason the Cardinals were so bad last year, and have been even worse on defense this season, is that the team is not playing a regular defensive lineup. As an example, Diaz made a diving stop on two-foot hop about 7 feet from the second base bag in the game on Tuesday. He gets up, hesitates and then throws the ball past the outstretched glove of Martinez. The error goes to Diaz, but Rick Horton commented that Martinez should have gotten off the bag and played the ball, sacrificing an out for security.

Carpenter may have made that play. Matt Adams probably would have made that play. Martinez has never played first in his pro career and he is under the added pressure of trying to prove himself in the big leagues. Diaz is still a young player and he should be throwing to the same guy in nearly every game.

With a set lineup, certain position players will be on the outside looking in. Well, I have an opinion about who those players should be.

Jhonny Peralta

 Jhonny is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his thumb. I think he should be the next victim of the curse of Wally Pipp. Jedd Gyorko is a better player than Peralta in every way.

Last year in 289 at bats, Peralta hit .260 with 8 homers, 29 RBI and 37 runs. His on base was .307 and his slugging was .408.

Gyorko in 400 at bats hit .243 with 30 homers, 59 RBI and 58 runs. His on base was .306 and his slugging was .495. Jedd is off to a hot start this season, hitting .340 with 3 home runs.

You would think that Peralta being a converted short stop he would be a better fielder, but Gyorko has just as much range and more consistent hands.

Randal Grichuk

 There’s a scene in “The Natural” where Pop Fisher is talking to Bump Bailey, trying to convince Bailey that he better shape up because Roy Hobbs is going to take his job. I hope Mike Matheny has already had this conversation with Randal Grichuk.

There is no indication that Jose Martinez is going to stop hitting. He’s currently batting .375, more than 100 points better than Grichuk. Martinez deserves Grichuk’s job in left field.

Unlike Gyorko and Peralta, Grichuk is a much better defensive player than Martinez. While a good athlete at 6-foot-5, Martinez has looked very stiff in the outfield. Grichuk could play major league center field.

But, Martinez is much better in left than at first. The Cardinals were willing to put up with an occasional brain fart from Matt Holliday. I am willing to bet that Martinez defensive play will smooth out with regular playing time.

Matt Adams

 I feel bad for Matt Adams because the guy has worked really hard. He lost a ton of weight in the offseason and he looked sharp in spring training. However, Matt Carpenter has to play somewhere and the best option is at first base.

Adams, 28, has had plenty of opportunities over the past three seasons to win the first base job and he has failed to hit consistently. Teams need their first baseman to hit and hit both lefties and righties.

On the other hand …

 In the first game of the double header on Thursday, Kolten Wong committed an error and made a bonehead, base-running mistake by the sixth inning. Wong hit a double and then got picked off by Russell Martin at second.

Kolten Wong is the guy I want to step up. It was my feeling that the constant platooning over the past couple of seasons hurt him more than any other player. His talent at the plate and in the field is undeniable.

Of any of the Cardinals that can play second base, he has the most range. The team can’t wait forever and there may be a point where playing Greg Garcia every day may be the better options. Garcia’s ceiling is much, much lower, but he does not make these types of mistakes.

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The All Underrated Team

This is my opinion but I feel like all of these guys aren’t talked about enough. This is current players, and I’m going to avoid Cardinals.

1. Pitcher — Johnny Cueto

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This season Cueto is 12-6 with a 2.05 ERA, leads the National League in innings pitched at 162.2, 166 strikeouts (9.2 per nine), and .916 WHIP. He’s receiving no attention though because he’s playing for a fourth place team and there’s Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright in the same league. Since 2011, he’s had an ERA under 3 every year.

2. Catcher — Russell Martin

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He’s streaky at the plate from year to year but having a nice season in 2014: .281 average and .409 on base. He got some credit last year but I believe a lot the Pirates improvements with their pitching staff, defense and hitting can be attributed to Martin’s steady influence.

3. First Base — Paul Goldschmidt

Spring Training

He was monstrous in 2013 — 36 home runs, 125 RBI, .302 average, .401 on base and .551 slugging. Until he was recently placed on the DL, he was following that up with 19 home runs, .300 average, .396 on base and .542 slugging. The guy is a beast but he plays for a bad team on the west coast, always a recipe for being ignored.

4. Second Base — Jose Altuve

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Did you know Altuve leads the American league in hits (155), steals (43) and batting average (.339)? If you did, you should get a cookie. I had no idea until I looked this up. He’s the best player on what is becoming a frisky Astros team (just swept the Blue Jays) but being the best player on an AL bottom feeder won’t get you much love.

5. Third Base — Ryan Zimmerman

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He struggles to stay healthy, including this season, but when he’s right he gives you a .286 average, .352 on base, .476 slugging, 150 hits, 25 homers and 96 RBI. He’s also very good with the glove, except for that inexplicable stretch last season.

6. Short Stop — Alexei Ramirez

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Will I take a short stop who hits .288 with 73 RBI and 77 runs each year? Yes, yes I will, especially if he picks it as well as Alexei. He does commit quite a few errors though.

7. Left Field — Brett Gardner

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This off-season the Yanks basically tried to push Gardner out of the starting lineup. He responded by doing what he always does — hit about .280, steal some bases (18) and score a bunch of runs (70). I guess they don’t like him because he actually came up through their crappy system.

8. Center Field — Adam Jones

Adam Jones

He doesn’t put up crazy stats like Trout or McCutchen and he’s not as flashy as Carlos Gomez but he’s very consistent. This year he’s hitting .284 with 21 homers, 128 hits and 68 RBI. Last year, he hit, .285 with 33 dingers, 108 RBI and 100 runs. The year before, he hit .287 with 32 long balls, 82 RBI and 103 runs. And he’s pretty good with the leather, too.

9. Right Field — Ichiro Suzuki

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It seems crazy that I have two Yankees on this list. Ichiro has been pretty good this year, hitting .271, but this is a legacy selection. I believe Ichiro is the most underrated player of all time. Ichiro had 200 hits and a .300 average for nine consecutive seasons. If he would have started his career in the U.S., he would be the all-time hits leader.

Closer — Kenley Jansen

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Probably the one thing about the Dodgers that is underrated. Ignore his ERA, currently at 3.20; Jansen has developed into a lock down closer. Teams have to do their work in the seventh and eighth because Jansen owns the ninth.