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Jay proving his worth

July 30, 2010

Lesser known than his namesake from the late 18th and early 19th centuries St. Louis Cardinals’ rookie outfielder Jon Jay is a revolutionary just like the former New York Governor. In a summer where the Cardinals’ lineup has seen their fair share of ups and downs, Jay, along with Matt Holliday, has been the only consistent producer in an injury-ravaged lineup.

Jay saw sporadic playing time throughout the month of May, when he batted .281 and was sent down to AAA on June 5 when the Cardinals signed veteran outfielder Randy Winn. However, when Ryan Ludwick went on the DL on July 3 Jay was recalled and apparently set on fire – he’s been hitting ever since his recall.

During the month of July Jay has nine multi-hit games, a .438 average, an 11:7 BB:K ratio, nine doubles and a 1.216 OPS. Jay’s OPS is higher than any other major leaguers’ in the month of July with a minimum of 60 at-bats. Jay has reached base in every game this month except one – the lone exception being a pinch-hitting appearance.

The University of Miami product, drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2006 draft, has created a quagmire in the outfield. Holliday has been playing extremely well in July, while Ludwick is batting .375 in five games since being activated from the DL. Colby Rasmus is only batting .258 during July and has been the odd man out lately.

Jay seems to have taken the starting job away from Rasmus for the time being – a move by Tony LaRussa that isn’t actually boneheaded. Jay has caught his manager’s eye lately, with the most recent occurence on Thursday when he made a couple outstanding plays in center field, including launching a bullet from center field to nail Carlos Beltran out at home.

“Every day he does something good,” LaRussa said. “He’s a smart player, and he’s showing it. … [He’s] always doing something.”

While most players have some absurd split stats, Jay has posted a .378 average at home and a .386 average on the road, while Rasmus is only hitting .217 at Busch; versus lefties Jay is hitting .474 and .364 against righties.

It’s an interesting situation that the Cardinals and LaRussa face. Play the hot hand, or give Rasmus at-bats to break out of his slump? Over the last seven days Jay has 14 more at-bats than Rasmus does. To me, the answer is simple: continue to play Jay until he shows signs of slowing down, if he ever does. To give Rasmus more batting opportunities, LaRussa should ease Ludwick back into the lineup¬† and let Colby and Luddy split at-bats for the time being.

Another solution – one I’m arguing for – is to trade Ludwick. He just turned 32 years old and will be arbitration-eligible in 2011 – meaning he will be looking for a significant raise. With Pujols’ contract up after next season the Cards will need the most amount of money possible to afford to sign him. There’s no reason to keep Ludwick just to not pay him and let him walk in a year.

The Cardinals need middle infield help and possibly a fourth starter. Trading Ludwick and a minor league prospect or Blake Hawksworth for a middle infielder and a quality starter should be what the Cardinals try to do within the next 24 hours.

Jay is currently my favorite player on the Cards, and he should continue to start until the fire that was set on July 3 is extinguished – if it ever is.

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