COMMENTARY | Through the first few weeks of the 2013 season, the St. Louis Cardinals have found a way to win despite a lack of production from key players. They will need production from those players going forward and David Freese will need to step up and show his ability to lead the team forward.
The ability of the team to win early on this season has been refreshing to most fans. A team that has long been known to rely on the big hit, this edition of Redbird Baseball seems to be geared to putting the ball in play then it is putting the ball over the fence. The results have been good to this point, but have left many wondering when Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran, and David Freese will come around. All three are a big concern, but Freese may just be the key to the lineup.
Freese is not a middle-of-the-order hitter. He projects to hit sixth or seventh in a strong lineup, providing some pop to the bottom half of a potent starting eight. However, in order for the Cardinals to continue turning to the St. Louis native to play third base, he has to start producing and stay healthy. A minor injury to begin this season has already left many questioning the later of those two concerns. An extremely slow start since returning has left everyone worried just as much about the former.
The first eight games of Freese's season have been lackluster, producing two extra base hits, both doubles, and one run batted in. His average has hovered just above the .200 mark and he is striking out twice as much as he is walking.
The "eye test" has not been any better than the statistical evaluation. He looks over-matched at the plate, flailing at pitches out of the strike zone. His timing on pitches that are in the strike zone is drastically off, resulting in mediocre fastballs looking like smoke-producing heaters.
He has been hurt. He is struggling with timing. He is pressing at the plate and it is more than apparent. The fact remains that the Cardinals need production from third base and they are currently experimenting with a third baseman, Matt Carpenter, at second base.
This season will continue to develop and general manager John Mozeliak will look for ways to improve the ball club if they continue to find themselves in contention. Options will arrive both internally and via trade as the season grows older. If Freese cannot find his stroke and show that he is a major part of this team that can continue to be relied on, he might just find himself wearing a different uniform before the season comes to a close.
Freese has shown time and time again that he is a more than capable hitter at the major-league level. If the Cardinals expect to win and he expects to be a part of it, he needs to return to form.
Bill Ivie can be found writing about the Cardinals at i70baseball as well as here on Yahoo! Sports. You can find him talking baseball on Twitter regularly.
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