NOTES ON MY SCORECARD

Dylan Carlson, New Era: Two things, at least, should have him pumped up right now: (A) Cardinals management is 100 percent committed to him and proved that by erasing his name from every stupid trade rumor. (B) By trading Harrison Bader to the Yankees, the front office made it clear that Carlson, 23, is their center fielder of the present and the future. (C) “DC” had a perfectly timed restart Tuesday by drilling a two-run homer and making a diving catch in the win over the Chicago Cubs.

I’m interested in seeing how the Cardinals’ strong and public belief in Carlson will impact his confidence and ease any stress that he’s been fielding. Carlson has 4 defensive runs saved in center field, which ties him for 8th at the position in MLB. But the four defensive runs saved are especially impressive because Carlson has played only 280 innings in CF. All center fielders ahead of him on the runs-saved leaderboard have played more innings than Carlson. Several of the leading center fielders have logged 800+ innings. One more note: Harrison Bader was minus 2 in defensive runs saved for St. Louis this season.

Aug 2, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Dylan Carlson (3) is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two run home run against the Chicago Cubs during the fifth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Wainwright, Young At Heart: What stellar work in Tuesday’s 6-0 victory over the Cubs. In his last two starts, against the Blue Jays and Cubs, Wainwright has been dinged for only one earned run, has struck out 12, and hasn’t walked a soul. He earned career win No. 192 last night. One step closer to 200. He’ll turn 41 years old on Aug. 30 but other numbers mean more: His 130 innings pitched this season, sixth-most in the majors, and a 3.11 ERA that puts him 24th among 65 qualifying MLB starting pitchers.

Yadier Molina, Still Matters: He came back for Tuesday’s game after being on the IL since June 17 and nothing really changed. Yadi threw out a runner trying to steal a base. He teamed with his buddy Waino to create another shutout. He hooked up with Waino for their 317th start as a pitcher-catcher battery – now No. 2 in MLB history and only seven from tying Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan (Detroit) and their 324 starts as a tandem.

In MLB history, only Yogi Berra has been part of more shutouts than Molina (153.) St. Louis pitchers have a 3.35 ERA when throwing to Molina this season. That’s the fourth best catcher ERA in the majors among catchers that have been behind the plate for at least 1,000 plate appearances by the opposing team. Yadi still makes a difference when he has the catcher armor on.

Lars Nootbaar Is Emerging: The young outfielder couldn’t get much going earlier in the season and looked jumpy at the plate. That isn’t surprising considering his big-league inexperience. But in 54 plate appearances since July 1, Nootbaar is batting .364 with a .463 onbase percentage and .636 slugging pct. His turnaround over that time includes three doubles, three homers, 10 RBI, 10 runs, and nine walks.

Corey Dickerson, Revisited: In 43 plate appearances since returning from the IL on July 9, Dickerson is batting .308 with a .887 OPS. He’s hit three doubles, homered twice, and driven in eight runs. Dickerson has a .365 average and 1.008 OPS in his last 10 games. This is an important development. Bader was injured, now he’s gone. Tyler O’Neill’s season has been derailed by injuries. Some guys have to step up and join Carlson in a regular outfield role, and Nootbaar and Dickerson are doing their best in handling an expanded opportunity.

Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado: Both homered against the Cubs on Tuesday and combined to drive in four runs (three by Goldy.) According to FanGraphs, Arenado ranks second in the majors with 5.2 WAR, and Goldschmidt is third with 5.1 WAR. The Yankees’ Aaron Judge – who will play at Busch Stadium this weekend – has a healthy lead with a MLB-best 6.7 WAR.

Nolan Gorman, Power Cycle Back On: After a pretty awful stretch the rookie slugger has rebounded with a .389 average, .450 onbase percentage and .778 slug in his last five games. The warming trend includes a double and two homers. All in all, Gorman is more than holding his own this season. He has a 116 OPS+ which means he’s 16 percent above league average offensively. He has 11 homers and seven doubles and a good slugging percentage (.446.) Gorman has homered every 17.5 at-bats in his first 214 plate appearances in the bigs.

Accounting Department: The Cardinals (55-48) have won four of their last five games and are 10-16 in their last 16 … the Cards cut first-place Milwaukee’s lead to 2 games in the NL Central and are tied with Philadelphia (55-48) for the third wild-card spot … the Phillies upgraded at the deadline by acquiring starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard, closer David Robertson, and center fielder Brandon Marsh … the Phillies also have 11 games remaining this season against the stripped-down Nationals. That’s an advantage in any wild-card rumble.

Why Did The Yankees Trade Starting Pitcher Jordan Montgomery for Harrison Bader? Great question, because the trade confused a lot of folks out there. Here’s an assessment from Baseball Prospectus:

The Yankees don’t really need Harrison Bader. (Which is for the best; he’s still in a walking boot recovering from plantar fasciitis, and probably won’t join the team for another month.) They don’t need him in the short-term anyway, what with the 109 wins, but also in terms of framework. They obtained Andrew Benintendi to replace Joey Gallo in left, Judge starts in center, and Stanton can split time with awakened demigod Matt Carpenter, who still has a 246 OPS+ in pinstripes. Backing them all up is old reliable friend Aaron Hicks, back for his 18th turn of fourth-outfielder duty, who looked like toast in May but has come back to hit .253/.374/.407 since June 1.

A lot of teams would look at that outfield and move on to the team’s more pressing issues. Like, say, the rotation, where Luis Severino is on the 60-day IL with a lat strain, and replacement Domingo Germán is not winning fans back with 23 baserunners allowed in 12-⅔ innings. The Yankees filled that hole with Frankie Montas, but especially compared to the offense, the pitching staff is not exactly an area of surplus.

But that’s not how (GM) Brian Cashman operates. Many teams (and writers, and fans) are guilty of the snapshot method of analysis: they look at the team on paper, how it interconnects like a puzzle. There’s an aesthetic value in this, seeing how neatly the pieces fit together, balanced and aligned. The Yankees don’t work this way. They saw in Bader a chance to improve, taking a certain value out of one area of the team and replacing it with a greater one in another. It’s also an exercise in necessary redundancy: many of the team’s offensive stars are in their 30s, and their run of good fortune could end at any time. Josh Donaldson has struggled of late; if he’s hurt, DJ LeMahieu moves over, opening more time for Stanton to DH, exposing Carpenter as a 36-year-old who got cut by the Cardinals. Yankees fans, of all people, should appreciate the importance of depth. Especially when their system has proven the ability to regenerate pitching the way a starfish regrows limbs.

So it may seem like a strange trade for the Yankees, it really isn’t. Meanwhile, it doesn’t seem like a strange trade at all for the Cardinals, who desperately needed more starting pitching, even after the acquisition of José Quintana.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

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.