ATLANTA -- While the Cardinals' search to add offense over the winter mostly led them back to what they already had, there was an insistence that despite standing pat with personnel, the club wasn't content with a repeat in output.
The Cardinals want to fix the power drought that has hampered this organization for the past three seasons. But can potential translate into production?
Matheny did not face this issue in his first season as manager; the 2012 club featured five players with 20-plus home runs. In the past three seasons, however, Cardinals players totaled five 20-plus-homer seasons. Those include campaigns from one player now wearing pinstripes (Carlos Beltran) and another who could miss the first half this year (Jhonny Peralta).
The Cardinals made up for the power outage in 2013 with an uncanny ability to hit with runners in scoring position, but that .330 mark wasn't going to last. The Cardinals' 105 home runs in '14 only ranked ahead of the Royals. Their .369 slugging percentage ranked 23rd in the Majors that season, as did the .394 slugging percentage the Cardinals posted in '15. Last year's club hit 137 homers, 25th most in the Majors.
Of course, the Royals show that there isn't always correlation between power and success. They hit merely 139 home runs last season and rolled to a World Series championship. Kansas City, however, boasts speed and scrappiness lacking in the Cardinals' offense.
Asked if too much has been made about his club's power drought, general manager John Mozeliak acknowledged the reality.
"I don't think it's overstated," he said of that concern. "I do think that this team is capable of putting up more offensive numbers than we did a year ago, and I do think it falls onto the maturity of our young outfielders and allowing them an opportunity to play every day."
Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk combined to hit 24 homers over 556 at-bats as rookies. Both are embarking on what is expected to be their first full seasons as everyday players.
"The guys we have, every single one has that potential," Piscotty said. "I have never been one to try to hit home runs. I try to drive the ball, and if they get out, great. I'm very happy with doubles. I'm going to stay right there, and hopefully produce some power for this team."
Though the MLB season is less than a week old, there are indicators to suggest power is on the rise. Last season, Major League teams hit 4,909 home runs, the most since 2012. Over the first four days of this young season, teams are averaging a home run every 29.87 at-bats; that would be lowest since 2000, when there was one homer for every 29.39 at-bats.
The Cardinals, however, fall well short of that trend. Since 2012, the club has averaged one home run per every 44.90 at-bats. Through this season's first three games, the team has two, both hit by players -- Jedd Gyorko and Jeremy Hazelbaker --who don't have obvious everyday positions.
Matheny doesn't buy the small sample size.
"I'm confident that regardless what anybody else thinks, regardless what the numbers say, this team is going to put up some offense," the manager said. "Driving the ball, I don't think is going to be an issue. This is a team that should put up plenty of power numbers."
But they didn't in spring, when Hazelbaker led the club with three home runs.
If that's to change, the Cardinals aren't only going to need their young players to make strides offensively, but they'll need an assist from their proven power hitters. Three-hole hitter Matt Holliday, who had a string of nine straight 20-homer seasons snapped in 2015 due to injury, remains a key presence in the lineup. Brandon Moss and Matt Adams have natural power potential as well.
"This club may not have someone on this team that is going to put up 40 [homers]," Mozeliak said. "But I do think this team has a chance to be more exciting offensively."