BERNIE BITS

Let’s get started with some C-Notes: 

1. In the short-track 2020 season the Cardinals batted .235 against right-handed pitching, with an abysmal .366 slugging percentage that ranked 27th in the majors. Their .690 OPS, 25th, wasn’t much better. So to restate the obvious, the Cards need a left-side bat or a switch-hitter who can pummel RH pitching. 

2. A number of free-agent outfielders can do that including Joc Pederson, Kyle Schwarber, Eddie Rosario and Michael Brantley. Pederson plays center field; the others are corner outfielders. And they can DH if the National League installs the DH role for 2021 and beyond. I will take a closer look at these gentlemen later this week. 

3. The next outfield-DH tier would include Brian Goodwin, Josh Reddick, Robbie Grossman, Matt Joyce and Nomar Mazana. My friend Craig Edwards of FanGraphs suggests adding Brett Gardner to the list.  Justin Smoak would warrant a look as a LH hitting DH. But let the buyer beware; Reddick, Mazana and Smoak have experienced declines against RH pitching in recent times. That’s especially true of Reddick, almost 34. He hasn’t had an above league-average showing against RHP since 2017. Joyce, 36, is still pounding RH pitching. For his career, Joyce is 21 percent above league average against righthanders. And he hasn’t tailed off much.

4. Multiple infielders could provide upgrades versus RHP and I’m only listing candidates that have a positive hitting profile in those matchups. The best are Tommy La Stella, Didi Gregorious and Brad Miller. (Craig Edwards would add add switch-hitter Jurickson Profar to this list.) Gregarious is a shortstop (and not a utility type.) And he’s likely to be too expensive for the Cardinals’ comfort level. La Stella is a popular pick among Cardinals fans. I’ll get back to Brad Miller in a while. And I’m probably overlooking someone; if so, let me know. Thanks.

5. One LH bat came off the market over the weekend when former Colorado Rockie David Dahl signed a one-year $3 million contract with Texas. I was a bit perplexed by media campaigning for Dahl in our town. To me, he was an easy pass. Dahl regularly breaks down, is 17 runs below average for his career in defensive runs saved, and has fooled media types by putting up monster numbers at Coors Field, and scrawny numbers away from Coors. 

6. But wait, Bernie! Wasn’t Dahl a 2019 All-Star! Yeah. OK. At the All-Star break in ‘19, Dahl had a .371 batting average and 1.039 OPS at Coors and a .245 average and .721 OPS on the road.  So even when Dahl was an All-Star, it happened because of the Coors Effect and an extreme batting average of .386 on balls in play. 

7. In his MLB career Dahl has a .556 slug and .918 OPS at Coors. But at all other MLB venues he has a .420 slug and .722 OPS. Friends, I hate to tell you this but that’s Harrison Bader (career .721 OPS) without the speed or defense. Dahl has a lower walk rate than Bader and strikes out nearly as often as Bader.  

8. Here’s Brad Miller vs. RHP in 508 plate appearances over the last three seasons: .339 onbase percentage, 11 percent walk rate, .487 slug and .825 OPS. Last season for the Cardinals, when Miller faced RHP, he had a .364 OBP, 15 percent walk rate. 464 slug, and .828 OPS. (And he led the Cardinals with seven homers.) He’s on the market. 

READING TIME 5 MINUTES: 

What a classic in Cleveland last night, with the Baltimore Ravens outlasting the Browns 47-42 in a frenzied MNF game. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson came running out the locker room to save the night, and had the viewing audience whether his “cramps” (as he said) or actually something else … as in a panicky bathroom emergency. Either way, the toilet humor was very sharp on Twitter last night. The bottom line, and I mean the BOTTOM line: Jackson was a football hero, and his fellow Louisville football alum John Unitas would have been proud. Trailing by three, the Browns lateraled themselves into final-play safety that left Browns bettors fuming. This is known as a bad beat. With the safety the Ravens covered as 3-point road favorites. This was one of the most fantastic final-minutes stretches I’ve ever seen. 

If you haven’t checked out The Chris Hrabe Show here on “Scoops,” then you should give it a listen. Hrabe had another strong guest Monday, interviewing longtime ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, who started for Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. I transcribed a few highlights:

–Bilas on St. Louis U: “I think St. Louis is really good. Jordan Goodwin is one of the best rebounders in the country … Javonte Perkins. They’re legit. They’re really really good. And Travis Ford’s terrific. I’m really happy for them. I actually played in the old Kiel Center back in the day, when Duke came to St. Louis to play. That was 1985. They had the San Diego Chicken (mascot) there, the place was sold out, we were ranked in the top five, and I loved playing that game. It was really fun.”

–Bilas on Illinois and Mizzou: “Illinois is a championship caliber team. They’re Final Four good, and they could win it. They’re going to get substantially better as they go forward. I was really impressed with Missouri. Cuonzo (Martin), you knew he was going to do a great job there. He’s done well everywhere he’s been. And I think they’re going to be a factor this year in the SEC and nationally. And they’re going to be really competitive. That’s sort of the thing you most noticed about them, the fight that they have, individually and collectively. And that’s a reflection of what Cuonzo brings. But now he’s got some talent in addition to that competitiveness.”

–Bilas on playing college basketball during the Covis 19 pandemic: “I think the narrative at the beginning of all this, that we need sports as a respite from the difficulties of the pandemic, was nonsense. We don’t need it, and the ratings reflect that. Ratings for every sport are down. Is it nice to have it? Yes. Do I like watching? Of course I do. Do I want to work? Yes. But we also have to look at it in the broader context. In college sports we have to ask ourselves ‘Should we play?’ It’s not ‘Can we?’ Because clearly we can. But should we, and under what circumstances? The Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said recently that they’re looking at a bubble for conference play and trying to work that out. And if it gets bad enough they’re willing to put basketball on pause. But my question was, ‘What does bad enough mean?’ Like, what’s the definition of bad enough? And I don’t think that anybody has even talked about that to hash it out. What does ‘bad enough mean?’ Cause if it’s not bad enough now, I don’t know what. I’m not advocating that we pause or keep playing or shut down. I’m not advocating any of those positions. What I’m saying is, we have not had a national conversation on how this should be handled. 

“And everything we’ve said college sports is about, we have thrown out the window to continue to play, because we want the money. And then when all of these schools are saying ‘Oh, boy the revenue hit we’re taking,’ And ‘Oh, we don’t have any money,’ and ‘Oh, how difficult this is.’ It’s not stopping anybody from firing coaches left and right. (Football coach) Guz Malzhan at Auburn just got fired and they owe him (more than) $20 million dollars. And they’re going to hire somebody new. And they’re going to have to get rid of his whole staff, and that’s going to cost them an extra $10 million. It’s funny how everybody has the money when they want to do that. It’s really an interesting test case in NCAA rhetoric being thrown out the window.”

There is no homefield advantage in the NFL this season; the road teams have won 103 games and list 103. (This excludes one neutral-site contest.) And from a wagering standpoint, road teams are 106-99-2 against the spread … the league’s best ATS team (home or away) is Miami at 10-3. 

When St. Louisan Jayson Tatum reported to the Boston Celtics training camp and went through the basic physical exam, the medical staff measured his height, and noticed a difference: Tatum was 6 feet 10 inches tall … after standing 6-8 in the same checkup a year ago. Wait, what? Did Tatum really grow two inches? Maybe so. Tatum, after all, is still only 22. But his growth spurt led to some teasing on Twitter; Utah’s Donovan Mitchell asked: “Bruh why are we lying like this.”  Tatum’s response: “Bro this my 4th year being “19” I’m still growing.”  And Tatum’s teammate Jaylen Brown joked “My bro really 6’11.” … if Tatum really is 6-10, look out. Last season — Tatum’s third in the NBA — he put up career-high averages in scoring (23.4 points), rebounds (7.1) and assists (3.0.) Tatum made the All-Star team for the first time and was also a third-team All-NBA selection. He won’t be 23 until March 3. 

Experience is a vital factor in Mizzou’s 5-0 start to the season. Using the KenPom experience breakdown, Missouri’s roster averages 2.49 years. Only eight D-1 teams have more experience. More on point, only one Power 5 team (Georgia Tech) has more experience than MU. And this explains a lot about Mizzou’s impressive wins over Oregon and Illinois. Inexperience was a problem for Mizzou in each of the past two seasons; the Tigers ranked No. 259 in the most-experienced category nationally in 2019-20 and 283rd in 2018-19 … according to KenPom, St. Louis U. is the highest rated team in the Atlantic 10 Conference at No. 37, well above Richmond (57th) and VCU (59th.) 

On this day in St. Louis sports history: in 1974 the St. Louis football Cardinals defeated the NY Giants to clinch the the NFC East title, winning the division and qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since moving to STL in 1960 … In 1970 Blues goaltender Glenn Hall, a living legend, became only the second goaltender in NHL history to attain 400 victories. Hall did it with 38 saves in a 2-1 win over the Minnesota North Stars, joining Terry Sawchuk in the 400 Club… the Cardinals purchased Tito Francona, father of future MLB manager Terry Francona, from Cleveland Indians in 1964 … on this day in 2002 the Cardinals acquired starting pitcher Brett Tomko from San Diego … in 1993, the Cardinals drafted infielder Hector Luna from the Cleveland in the annual Rule 5 draft … 

Also on this day: the Cardinals traded fading pitching prospect Randy Wiles to the Chicago White Sox for infielder Tony La Russa in 1976. Yes, the same TLR. La Russa, 32, played for the Cards Triple A affiliate at New Orleans in 1977 and retired after the season to go into coaching. That summer in New Orleans La Russa was praised for his leadership in mentoring young infielders such as Ken Oberkfell and Jim Riggleman. “He became like a big brother to me,” Riggleman said in a book written about La Russa. “He gave me a lot of advice and you knew there was a lot of respect for him among the players,” … on this day in STL sports history the Cardinals signed free agent outfielder Willie McGee in 1996, bringing back one of the most beloved players in franchise history after he’s logged a few seasons playing with Oakland, San Francisco and Boston. McGee played three more years for the Cardinals and retired after the 1999 season … on this day back in 1999, the Cardinals signed free-agent Mike Matheny, who played an important role as the starting catcher over the next five seasons (2000-2004.) Highly respected by his pitchers, Matheny caught 622 games, helped lead the Cardinals to four postseasons and won three gold gloves. 

Happy Birthday to you: Former Cardinals infielder Aaron Miles is 44. He played for seasons for the Cardinals, from 2006 through 2008 and again in 2010. … Carl “Big Daddy” Hairston is 68. Hairston was a standout defensive end for Dick Vermeil in Philadelphia and was DV’s defensive line coach for four seasons in St. Louis — including the Rams’ 1999 Super Bowl champs … former STL Rams wide receiver and returner J.T. Thomas is 49 … Craig Norwich, a defenseman for the Blues in 1980-81, is 65. He had seven goals and 23 points in 34 games for  a powerhouse team that went 45-18-17 for 107 points. 

AS OTHERS SEE US: 

Great, informative piece over at The Athletic, with the staff diving in for a comprehensive assessment of your St. Louis Blues. And by the way you should really consider subscribing to The Athletic, which serves an enormous daily supply of terrific sportswriting for a low monthly fee.

Here’s an excerpt from Athletic hockey analyst Dom Luszczyszyn:

“St. Louis’ No. 1 priority right now should be re-signing Vince Dunn and finding more ice time for him. Dunn is an impressive puck-mover who consistently has some of the team’s best on-ice numbers at five-on-five. He looks like he can fill a bigger role. 

“I liked that the Blues didn’t hesitate when it looked unlikely that Alex Pietrangelo would re-sign, turning their attention to Torey Krug. He’s an underrated defender who moves the puck really well and should ensure the Blues maintain a top five power play.

“With the team fully in its competitive window and the Blues having strong depth at every position, there isn’t a lot to fix, especially if the hope is Vladimir Tarasenko returns this season. The team was top five in five-on-five goals percentage last season and has been consistently near the top of the league since Craig Berube took over behind the bench.

“The Blues will be good this year, but what comes next? The team’s core is getting older and I’m not all that sure about a succession plan. Without a true elite center and winger (like Ryan O’Reilly and Tarasenko during the Cup-winning season), the Blues’ ceiling is more limited than other contenders and that will only get worse after this year.”

Thanks for reading …

-Bernie 

You can hear The Bernie Show weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. Listen at 590thefan.com.

Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.