The Cardinals could use more offense. That’s fair. There’s a shortage of talent, and the lineup is thin. It’s premature to declare failure for the great outfield experiment, but this is hard to watch.
Dylan Carlson is the exception. He’s 22 years old. He switch hits. He has poise and patience and power at the plate. Set to play right field, Carlson has impressed with his defense in center after replacing the injured Harrison Bader.
In 12 games and 45 plate appearances Carlson is batting .243 with a .356 onbase percentage and .514 slug. His OPS+ is 44 percent above league average offensively. His batting average and OBP are on the rise. He’s ripped three homers and a double with nine RBI. He’s posted a 1.114 OPS vs. lefties and an .810 OPS against righthanders. We can dismiss all of this as a small sample, yes. But I think we can agree that Carlson is a good player who will undoubtedly improve as he gains experience.
Question of the Day:
Why was Carlson sitting in the dugout on Wednesday afternoon, given a rest day with the Cardinals going after a win and a series victory over the Washington Nationals? The Cardinals lost their first home series of the season, dropping two of three to Milwaukee. They split the first two games with the Nats, and could take the series by winning Wednesday.
Carlson wasn’t in the lineup. Manager Mike Shildt chose to give one of his best players a breather. He removed a capable, dangerous bat from a lineup that needs brawn and brio.
And though Carlson pinch-hit late in the seventh, drawing a two-out walk to load the bases, the contribution was wasted when Tommy Edman popped out to end the threat. The Cardinals went on to lose the game (6-0) and the series.
This was a bizarre move by Shildt.
Giving a seat to Carlson to go with Lane Thomas in center?
When I heard about this I assumed there was just cause for Carlson being out of the lineup. Maybe he’d felt a hamstring tug, or jabs of pain in an oblique. If so, I could understand why the Cardinals use caution with their important rookie.
Unless Shildt chose to withhold such information, fear of injury wasn’t the reason behind Carlson’s planned day off.
“Guys have been going pretty hard and we don’t want any fatigue issues,” Shildt said.
Carlson is 22 years old.
Through Tuesday he had played in the team’s first 11 games. We’re not talking about 111 games. No. It’s 11.
And the Cardinals had an off day on the schedule Thursday before the start of a weekend series at Philadelphia.
I don’t know why a healthy 22-year-old player would require a day of rest, period. Not after 11 games.
And certainly not on Wednesday.
Not with the team set for an off day, Thursday, for everybody. That’s sufficient chill time for Carlson.
You play Carlson in Wednesday’s 12:15 p.m. game against Washington. You let him relax on Thursday. You have him relax on Thursday because there is no game on Thursday.
But there was a game on Wednesday, and the Cardinals failed to score a run and lost the series to the Nationals to close a disappointing 2-4 home stand. And Carlson played, anyway, coming out of the dugout for the pinch-hitting appearance.
When the Cardinals jumped on weakened Washington starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg and his low-velo, batting-practice fastballs during Tuesday’s 14-3 romp Tuesday, Carlson had a terrific evening.
Carlson did not look like he needed rest as he collected three hits, a walk, and two runs score in Tuesday’s game. He looked like a dude who was in the zone again; over the last eight games he’s batted .308 with a .977 OPS. He looked like an impact hitter who could play a significant role in the pursuit of a victory and a series triumph on a gorgeous Wednesday.
Instead: Carlson was in the dugout shade, given a day off when he was just about to have a day-and-a-half off as soon as Wednesday’s matinee ended. It’s April. Not August. Wednesday wasn’t the time for a rest stop.
And Shildt put Lane Thomas in center. What happened was so brutally bad, I felt sorry for Thomas. He was a mess in center field, and failing to make a couple of catches, letting a single travel through his legs for extra bases. And Thomas seemed timid at times, not taking charge on balls that usually are within reach of an aggressive center fielder.
Thomas isn’t hitting, and really hasn’t hit since early in the 2019 season. So by giving Carlson a day off that Carlson didn’t need, Shildt weakened his lineup and his outfield defense. He put a strong hitter and fielder out of action and went with the fragile and vulnerable Thomas, who doesn’t look like a major-league player right now. (Update: Thomas was demoted to the Cardinals’ alternate training site in Sauget. LH-hitting outfielder Scott Hurst was promoted to the big club.)
When a team has an inconsistent lineup, and consistently good hitters are in short supply, and the outfield defense is a hazard zone — sheesh, one of the last things a manager should do is relegate Dylan Carlson to the bench. I’m sure the Nationals were happy with Shildt’s decision. They needed a win and got it. As for the Cardinals and their fans, we got Lane Thomas in center instead of Carlson.
And another loss.
Thanks for reading…
Please check out Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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.