Bird Bytes:

1) Carlos Martinez starts for the Cardinals against Cleveland on Tuesday night. Will he be a problem or a solution? With the STL rotation torn apart by injuries, he may be the most important starter for his potential to give the team a much needed burst of good starting pitching. But the Cardinals can’t afford to have Martinez flop as he did in last week’s hideous start at Dodger Stadium.

And here’s one thing to know about Carlos, and the pattern is predictable: when he retires the first hitter of an inning, he gets rolling. When the first batter of an inning reaches base against Martinez, it’s unsettling. To him. And to us.

This on Martinez from Bill James Online:

First batter in the inning retired: 40 times, 14 runs scored in those 40 innings, which amounts to a 3.15 ERA over nine innings.

First batter in the inning gets on base: 16 times, 23 runs in that inning. That’s a prorated ERA of 12.94.

Martinez just isn’t the same with runners on base. With men on he’s been blasted for a .325 average, .438 OBP and .506 slug. Whew. That’s so bad. Of the 84 runners that have reached base on Martinez, 36 have scored — a percentage of 43%. That must change. Now.

2) Reaffirming the importance of starting pitching: A long time ago the great Bill James devised a game-score accounting of starting pitchers. I’ll spare you of the details — they’re easy to find, just Google it — but the Game Score is graded on a 100-point scale. The average Game Score is 50.

When the Cardinals have gotten a below-average Game Score from a starter this season, their record is 7-19. But on the lower end of the plus side, when a St. Louis starter turns in a Game Score between 50 to 59, the Cardinals are 13-4.

3) Your obligatory Tyler O’Neill update: in his last 32 games, the Cards left fielder is batting .313 with a .344 OBP, .696 slug, and 1.040 OPS. The spree includes 12 homers, eight doubles, and five stolen bases. He’s homered every 10.3 at-bats during the hot streak.

Yeah, I know. Bro came up empty a couple of times Sunday with a chance to knock in runs. Especially in the 9th inning. His pop-up with runners on second and third and no outs was regrettable. It’s also baseball. And O’Neill has been slightly above league average (108 wRC+) with runners in scoring position this season.

4) took an early look at potential All-Star teams and two STL position players made the NL squad … as reserves. Catcher Yadier Molina and third baseman Nolan Arenado.

5) Kevin Goldstein of FanGraphs wrote an entertaining piece in which he imagined each NL team’s June “reach out” calls to initiate trade talks. Here’s what Goldstein wrote while playing the role of John Mozeliak or perhaps Michael Girsch:

“We’re a little stuck in terms of both our roster and payroll, so while we expect to make some moves, they will likely be on the margins unless we can find a clear upgrade to play a corner outfield. Like everyone, we’ll look at some bullpen arms and starter depth, but with our performance over the last week, we’re back in assessment mode, so feel free to check in a little bit later in the month while we figure out where we are going.”

6) According to Fielding Bible, the St. Louis defense is moving up the leaderboard in runs saved. Going into Tuesday’s game, the Cardinals rank 7th in the majors with 20 defensive runs saved. That compares favorably to division rivals Pittsburgh (+15), Milwaukee (+13), Chicago (-1) and Cincinnati (-15.)

7) About Edmundo Sosa: In only 201 innings at shortstop this season, Edmundo Sosa is tied for 2nd among MLB shortstops with 6 defensive runs saved. That’s impressive; the other two shortstops in the top three (Isiah Kiner-Falefa and J.P. Crawford — have played more than 500 innings. And when he has started at shortstop this season (22 games) Sosa is hitting .288 with a .381 OBP and .778 OPS.

8) As Paul DeJong gets set to return from the IL, he’s as important as ever to a Cardinals’ offense that needs a boost after dragging in recent weeks. Obviously DeJong will play most of the time at shortstop, but Sosa has earned playing time.

9) Sosa could see starts at second base with Tommy Edman moved to right field to reinforce the weak overall production at the position. At least until Harrison Bader bounces back from The IL. At that point we’re likely to see the planned outfield of O’Neill in left, Bader in center and Dylan Carlson in right.

10) The Cardinals have used 14 players as pinch-hitters this season. In 42 combined plate appearances Matt Carpenter and Justin Williams have combined for 7 hits, 8 walks, 3 homers and 11 RBIs. In 58 combined plate appearances the other 12 pinch hitters have produced 6 hits, 8 walks, no homers and 2 RBIs.

10a.) More on Matt Carpenter: Among 23 MLB players with at least 15 plate appearances as a pinch hitter, Carpenter ranks 2nd in homers and RBIs and is 9th in slugging percentage. In his last 12 games (six starts) Carpenter is batting .269 with a .367 OBP and .462 slug for an OPS of .862.

Thanks for reading!


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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.