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Mailbag: Who are the top 3 Cardinals leadoff hitters

Posted Friday, February 3, 2012, at 9:25 AM

Q: The Cardinals have had some good lead off hitters. They certainly had to make a move to get Furcal for that role. Who do you feel are the top 3 lead off hitters in Cardinal history?

Michael C.

Bloomfield, Mo.

A: I've said for several years now that this has been one of the Cardinals weakest spots. Since Fernando Vina left I don't feel that we've had a true, this is obviously his spot, lead off man. First, for my rankings.

1. Lou Brock - This one is self-explanatory and needs little explanation. With 3,093 career hits and overall batting average of .293, this is where Brock belongs in the lineup. Brock served up 1,610 hits. That means there was a 50 percent chance he would score if he got a hit and that's not too shabby. What Brock is best known for, however, is something the Cardinals of recent years have been well known for not doing: stealing bases. In 19 seasons, Brock posted 938 stolen bases and that has a lot to do with his high runs scored total. He ledthe league in times caught stealing seven times, but base stealers can't be afraid of getting thrown out sometimes.

2. Vince Coleman - In his 13 season career, Coleman filled his lead off role well. While he only played six years for the Cardinals, he led the league in stolen bases for all of those years with 110 in his rookie season being his highest. In those six season, Coleman stole 549 bases and was only caught stealing 114, or roughly 20 percent of the time. While his .265 Cardinals batting average isn't amazing, he posted 937 hits in that period and drew 628 walks. That means that Coleman got on base for the Cardinals 1,565 times. When fans look back on the past, I think Coleman is often overlooked. I struggled with whether he should be in the tho or three spot, but I really think this is where he belongs.

3. Curt Flood - Flood was a different kind of leadoff hitter. He wasn't a big base stealer and was known to pop an occasional homerun into the stands. With a career 1,853 hits over 12 Cardinals seasons, he managed to string together an impressive career by excelling in hits, doubles and walks. Flood was also a defensive gem and put together seven consecutive Golden Gloves in his last seven years in St. Louis and was a 3-time All-Star.

One guy I really wanted to include in this list was Fernando Vina, but his Cardinals career was only four years and I decided Flood obviously took precedent. Vina though, took was a singles and doubles machine who with his goofy stance loved to lean his shoulder out over the plate and take one for the team. That is what makes a good lead off hitter. A team needs a guy not afraid to get plunked once in a while if that's what it takes to get on base.

I look forward to seeing what Rafael Furcal can do in the spot over the course of a season instead of a month or two. I think he'll be fine if he can stay healthy. That's going to be the biggest question mark for 2012: can they all stay healthy? It's vital to the team's success because there are so many factors that need to work out just right for things to fall into place. Can they carry some of that 2011 luck into 2012? In just a few short weeks we'll be finding these things out.


I also wanted to point out that my Roy Oswalt prediction earlier this week was clearly wrong. I think it's still a possibility, but I read a story yesterday stating that he was very disappointed in the Cardinals' offer. Frankly, Oswalt wouldn't be in that predicament if he hadn't made his wishes so clear. When he told three other teams he wasn't interested he put himself in this situation. While I wouldn't give him the $10 million he is reportedly wanting, I would definitely go to $7.5 million. Hopefully in the near future we will have some closure to this.

With Edwin Jackson signing a deal Thursday with the Washington Nationals, I think that an Oswalt signing by someone should be coming soon. However, I've said that before...

Thanks for reading-CN

To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

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I stopped reading after this:

"Since Fernando Vina left I don't feel that we've had a true, this is obviously his spot, lead off man."

Yeah your right. David Eckstein was an awful lead off hitter. C'Mon Man! Eck pretty much put up the same numbers as Vina did in a years less time. Oh yeah, he also won that meaningless award, World Series MVP.

-- Posted by I.P. Freely on Fri, Feb 3, 2012, at 10:04 AM
Corey Noles
To be frank, I intended to mention Eckstein's stint with the Cardinals when I mentioned Vina and forgot. He was a very good lead-off man, but was only here for 3 seasons. I don't think he deserves top 3 status, but he did deserve an honorable mention. I miss them both defensively as much as anything. I really felt like the Cardinals should have picked Eck up about 2 years ago when he played for $1 million. He might not have been able to play up to his former level, but he still would have been a nice asset in my opinion.

What the team needs is another long term, reliable lead off man...preferably a second baseman. Furcal is certainly capable, but I don't know how many years he will have left in him. After we see how his knees do this year we'll know more. I think the team would like that person to be Tyler Greene, but the jury's still out on that one. I think he has potential, but he's going to have to prove that he can make the transition from Memphis to St. Louis and bring his minor league numbers with him.

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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