Just when it appeared that the Cardinals would wobble to their sixth loss in the last eight games, they opened May by suddenly mobilizing for a 7-5 comeback victory over Arizona on Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium.

This easily could have been a frowning-face outcome for St. Louis. The home team was down 5-3 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Had the Redbirds dropped this one, they would have lost three of the four games in the series against the Diamondbacks.

And a defeat would have made it two consecutive losing series at home. The rally gave the Cardinals a 2-2 split with Arizona and presented a chance for a 4-4 homestand. That will be determined by Monday’s 12:15 p.m. makeup date with visiting Kansas City. But if they lose this one to the Royals, the Cardinals will close their week at Busch with a mark of 3-5.

As the Cardinals begin play Monday, they’re 12-9 for a .571 winning percentage that ties them with Miami for 11th overall in the majors. The Cardinals trail Milwaukee (15-8) by two games in the NL Central.

It’s time for the fellers to stack some victories. The Cardinals have had four different two-game winning streaks this season but haven’t won three in a row. That can happen today – put it’s certainly possible with KC as the opponent over the next three games.

With the 12:15 p.m. start and time running out until first pitch, the best way for me to go is with a mini-version of the Redbird Review …

HARRISON BADER: His winning two-run homer was right on time for the Cardinals. But I liked it for another reason: the big blow reaffirmed Bader’s development into an above-average MLB hitter. I’ve been fascinated by the perception of Bader as an all-defense, weakling-on-offense player. Let Bader go 1 for 11, and the online forums and social media want him benched or traded because “he’ll never be a good hitter” or something like that. I have no idea why people ignore what he’s done offensively over the last two-plus

Since the start of the 2020 season Bader has made exactly 600 plate appearances for the Cardinals.

Over that time Bader has batted .257 – 14 points higher than the MLB average. He has a .328 onbase percentage; that’s 11 points above the MLB rate. He’s slugged .444, which is 35 points higher than the MLB standard. His OPS, .773, is 47 points above the MLB norm.

Since the start of the 2020 season Bader’s 114 OPS+ is 14 percent above league average. He’s homered every 25.6 at-bats, and doubled every 16 ABs. Moreover, Bader has improved his numbers against right-handed pitching. Through 2019, he had a .672 OPS and 30 percent strikeout rate vs. RHP. Since the start of 2020, he has a .755 and 23.8 strikeout rate against them. And since the start of last season Bader has a .781 OPS vs. righthanders, with a much lower 20.4 strikeout rate.

I’m not saying Bader is Mike Trout, or any of the elite hitters that patrol the center field position. But since the beginning of 2020 Bader is 14 percent above the league average offensively, he’s won a Gold Glove, is fourth in defensive runs saved in CF, and uses his speed to be a force on the basepaths.

Through Sunday, Bader led the Cardinals with six stolen bases. And: Bader is rated No. 1 among ALL major-league players this season in BsR, the baserunning metric featured at FanGraphs.

That’s why – when you put offense, defense and baserunning together – Bader ranks ninth in WAR (5.0) among 40 players that have at least 400 plate appearances as center fielders.

So, if I may ask: what’s the problem? Bader is a top 10 center fielder in the majors … again: what’s the problem?

Bader’s slugging percentage is down this season – just as it’s down, significantly, across MLB. We’re into the new Deadball era. But Bader has the fourth-highest OBP on the team (.338), is the best baserunner on the team, and is fourth in OPS+ to Nolan Arenado, Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt.

When you look at the Cards starting outfielders and the offense they’ve supplied so far, here’s what you see. Keep in mind that 100 represents league average for OPS+ …

Bader, 114 OPS+
Tyler O’Neill, 56 OPS+
Dylan Carlson, 41 OPS+

RYAN HELSLEY: Six batters faced in two innings. Four strikeouts. Throwing fastballs at 102 and 103 mph. That was Helsley’s commanding performance over the final two innings of Sunday’s win over Arizona. In 8.1 innings this season Helsley has faced 26 hitters, and only one has reached base (on a single.) And the strikeouts … my goodness.

Through Sunday, here were the top five strikeout rates in the majors among relievers that have pitched a minimum of eight innings:

Ryan Helsley, Cards, 61.5%
Edwin Diaz, Mets, 44.7%
Josh Hader, Brewers, 44.1%
Andres Munoz, Mariners, 44.1%
Jhoan Duran, Twins, 43.9%

ANDREW KNIZNER: With two hits and a walk on Sunday, Knizner is batting .300 with a .382 OBP and .467 slug on the season. He ranks third in OPS (.849) among MLB catchers that have at least 30 plate appearances this year.

NOLAN ARENADO: His first season with the Cardinals was a good one. But Arenado insisted he would do better, as he made adjustments and got more comfortable heading into his second year with St. Louis. Yes. You could say that.

Here’s a breakdown of his first 20 games last season compared to his first 20 games this year. The stats on the left are the first 20 games in 2021; the stats on the right are the first 20 games of 2022:

Average: .266 … .368
Onbase%: .318 … .435
Slugging: .468 … .697
OPS: .786 … 1.133
HR: 4 … 6
RBI: 12 … 18
Doubles: 4 … 7

After having two consecutive games without a hit on April 24-25, Arenado was batting .471 with a 1.315 in his last five games through Sunday.

POWER PROBLEMS, A CLOSER LOOK: The Cardinals are hardly alone in their struggle to generate power.

– In 2021 MLB players homered on 3.3 percent of their total plate appearances. So far this year that’s down to 2.5 percent of all plate appearances.

– In 2021, MLB players homered every 27.2 at-bats. This year that ratio is 36.4 at-bats.

– In 2021, 37 percent of the total hits went for extra bases. This year that’s down three percent, with 34% of all hits going for total bases.

– In 2021, 10 percent of fly balls launched by MLB hitters flew for home runs. This year only 7.5% of fly balls have gone for homers.

This season the Cardinals have homered on only two percent of their plate appearances. They’ve hit a home run every 43.8 at-bats. Only 30% of their hits have gone for extra bases. And only 6.2% of their fly balls have resulted in home runs.

That’s a wrap for now …

Enjoy the game.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical 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 by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

Please email your “Ask Bernie” questions to BernScoops@gmail.com

All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.

 

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.