Bird Bytes:

1) Mike Shildt’s apparent choice for closer is interesting. Well, that’s one way to put it. I think all of us respect what Giovanny Gallegos has done for the Cardinals over the last few seasons.

But with Alex Reyes being sheltered for a while, until he settles down, is Gallegos the best option for the gig?

You tell me:

  • Gallegos has a 5.06 ERA since the All-Star break.
  • He has a 7.24 ERA since Aug. 1, with opponents slugging .509 against him.
  • Gallegos has blown seven saves this season, tied for third-most among NL relievers.
  • For the season Gallegos has four saves in 11 opportunities for a poor 35 percent success rate.
  • As a Cardinal Gallegos has nine saves in 19 opportunities for a save rate of 47.3%

2) What about Luis Garcia? I can’t sit here and type and declare that he’d be a terrific closer. He served as the closer for the Yankees’ Triple A team this year and went 11 for 11 in save opps before opting out of his contract and signing with the Cardinals. He got roughed up in his first three appearances for the Cardinals but quickly adjusted. Garcia hasn’t allowed a run in his last 18 appearances covering 21.1 innings.

During this stretch opponents have a .147 batting average against Garcia with a .379 OPS. His strikeout rate over this time is 27%, and he’s walked only three of 78 batters faced.

3) How is Garcia doing this? He’s gone heavy with the sinker in his last 18 appearances, throwing it 57.4 percent of the time, and limiting opponents to a .143 average. He mixes in the slider (27.5%) with excellent results that include a .125 batting average, and seven strikeouts in the 16 at-bats that ended with the slider. Garcia’s splitter has increasingly become more effective; opponents are batting .200 against it (but with two doubles.) And he’s struck out five of 10 hitters in at-bats that end with the splitter. LH batters are hitting .154 against Garcia’s sinker during the righthander’s 18-appearance scoreless streak.

4) I’m not sure what Garcia has to do in order to warrant an opportunity to close games for the Cardinals. Just an opportunity; I’m not saying make him the closer for life. And if Garcia cracks and can’t do the job, that doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve a shot at it — especially with Gallegos’ set of bleak numbers as a closer.

I just look at the stats and interpret them the best that I can. But let me say this: Shildt’s capacity for completely ignoring statistics that reflect poorly on one of his preferred pitchers is a straight-up Mike Matheny thing. Sad to say.

5) So, Matt Carpenter started at third base against Max Scherzer on Monday? I guess Shildty went to Carpenter’s career numbers vs. Max as part of his decision-making progress. And yes, Carpenter had a career .304 average (7 for 23) and .755 OPS against Max. But here’s the thing: five of the seven hits occurred before 2018. After going 5-14 (.357) against Scherzer earlier in his career, Carpenter was only 2 for 9 vs. Max with no walks and three strikeouts between 2018 and 2020. So why was that .357 average relevant? Carpenter clearly isn’t the same hitter now, and the more up-to-date pertinent numbers tell us that. They’re easy to find. Anyway, after Monday’s game Carpenter is now 2 for 14 vs. Scherzer with six strikeouts since the start of the 2018 season.

6) Carpenter hadn’t started a game since Aug. 14. Since July 19 he’s gone 4 for 41 (.098) with a 36.5 percent strikeout rate. He’s 0 for his last 22.

7) Nolan Arenado is 2 for 10 with five strikeouts against Scherzer during his career. Maybe Shildt believed Arenado needed a break. (Though the Cardinals were off last Thursday, and didn’t play last Tuesday because of the rain-out in Cincinnati.) Maybe Arenado was banged up. But the 2 for 10 vs. Scherzer should never factor into a lineup decision. It’s a wee sample size. And even when Arenado has a tough time — he batted .212 overall in August — he’s dangerous. Which explains his .382 batting average with runners in scoring position in August. And Arenado is off to a hot start in September, going 5 for 19 (.316) with three homers and a 1.115 OPS. Bottom line: with an appointment against a future Hall of Fame pitcher that entered the game in dominant form, the Cardinals sat an All-Star third baseman who has 32 doubles, 29 homers and 88 RBI this season and started one of the worst hitters in baseball in his place. On Sept. 6. With the team trying to chase a wild-card playoff spot. The Cards are 3 and ½ games out after losing to Scherzer on Monday.

8) Arenado at Busch Stadium: since we’re talking about him, let’s update Arenado’s stats in home games this season: .233 average, .295 OBP, .433 slug and .729 OPS. On the road: .279 average, .329 OBP, .558 slug, .886 OPS. This season Arenado hits a homer every 22 at-bats at Busch Stadium and goes deep every 15 at-bats on the road. The difference between his home slugging percentage and road slugging is especially notable.

9) As Arenado has found out, Busch Stadium suppresses offense. But let’s not overstate the issue, OK? The Cardinals actually have a lower batting average and OBP on the road this season. Granted, their road slugging percentage (.417) is higher than the home slug (.378.) But using the park-and-league adjusted runs created metric (wRC+) the Cardinals are seven percent below league average offensively at home — and also on the road. No difference.

10) Scherzer with 13 strikeouts with a wicked eight-inning performance Monday. Well, I guess it probably didn’t matter how Shildt filled out his lineup card. Mad Max Well always has extra motivation when facing the Cardinals. He wanted to sign on as a free agent before he ultimately ended up in Washington. But the Cardinals passed on Max before the 2015 season. I don’t think he’s forgotten about that. He’s moving up in the Cy Young consideration. Now chasing a fourth Cy. Should have been a Cardinal.

Thanks for reading…


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* All stats used here are 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 36 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. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 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.