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Albert Pujols To The D.L.: Will The St. Louis Cardinals Falter?

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Derek Gould of the St. Louis Dispatch told Charlie Steiner on his XM Radio show, "Baseball Beat", that Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols will go on the D.L. on Thursday when SP Joel Piniero is activated. 1B/OF Chris Duncan will be recalled tonight to take SP Adam Wainwright's roster spot.

This offers an interesting test of the surprising Cardinals' mettle. With a player of Pujols power and patience, the surrounding hitters will always be the lesser threats. One wonders how the second-tier of Cardinals hitters will react when they become the opposing teams' top worries.

Does Ryan Ludwick's new-found ability to take walks continue? (He has walked 23 times in 192 ABS versus 26 in 303 last season.) Does anyone else (Troy Glaus, Ludwick, Duncan, Skip Schumaker ) become less selective in their new roles of greater offensive responsibility?

What is interesting is the Cards rank 3rd in MLB in team OBP with Pujols. Ex-Pujols, the team OBP drops to .340. More telling is a team SLG that is 11th in MLB drops to 20th without Pujols. My calculations are rough (no HBP & SFs included), but I think those will be offset by the assumption that the figures assume static data and not dynamic ones.

Another interesting story to follow is how manager Tony LaRussa fills 1B? Will he put Chris Duncan there or will he play the hitter who displaced him, Joe Mather? One would think Mather would get the first shot at full-time ABs given he took Duncan's spot, but one can never discount the "veteran" experience - and the presence of a parent on the coaching staff.

Here is what Baseball America had to say about Joe Mather in its 2008 Prospect Handbook . He was ranked 13th in the Cards organization.

Mather reached Class A in 2004, and for three seasons and more than 1,000 ABs, he stayed at that level, wondering each spring if he was making progress or about to be released. Cardinals officials recognized the potential in his swing, and in 2007 he blossomed. He hit 31 HRs as he climbed to Double-A and then Triple-A. Mather used to gobble ice cream and other high-calorie delights to pack weight on his lithe frame. By last year, he had filled out by 15 lbs and his game matured. Scouts saw the same raw ability in Mather, but they wondered if he would ever add the necessary polish. He put it together when he settled into a comfortable stance and approach at the plate, which led to better strike-sone awareness and more consistent power to all fields. He now has the best power in the system this side of Colby Rasmus, and he doesn't strike out excessively for a slugger. Mather is no burner but has stolen 23 bases without being caught over the last three seasons. He may be better at first base, but he runs well enough ans has enough athleticism and arm strength to play a corner outfield position. The versatility that once kept him playing while he struggled with the bat now opens an alternative avenue to the majors, and he's now just a phone call away. Added to the 40-man roster in Novemeber, he'll probably open 2008 in Triple-A.