Jordan Montgomery gave the scouts another impressive performance to take back to their bosses in advance of the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
Monty was nicked for one run in six innings, and his stinginess made it possible for the Cardinals to persevere for a 6-4 win over Miami in 10 innings.
Do you want consistency? Montgomery delivers. He’s allowed no more than a single run in seven of his last eight starts and hasn’t been touched for more than three earned runs in an assignment since May 22. His 11 quality starts are tied for fifth in the National League.
In nine starts since May 28, Monty’s 1.68 ERA ranks second in the majors to San Diego’s Blake Snell. During this pitching clinic Montgomery has limited opponents to a .216 average, .264 OBP and .340 slugging percentage.
This is an effective trade-deadline marketing pitch. With each start, Monty increases his value in the trade mart. He also raises more questions as to why the Cardinals would trade him – or stand by and shrug as he enters free agency.
In a recent interview, KSDK sports director Frank Cusumano asked Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog about Montgomery.
What would Whitey do?
“I’d sign him,” Herzog said. “Or I’d get an agreement with him – whatever he’s offered we’ll match it or better.”
Montgomery ranks seventh among NL pitchers in ERA (3.14) and is eighth in WAR (2.5.) This season Monty has provided more WAR value than NL starters than Aaron Nola, Clayton Kershaw, Snell, Corbin Burnes, Sandy Alcantara, Alex Cobb and Max Scherzer and Merrill Kelly.
If the Cardinals (as expected) decide to trade Montgomery, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak will be under intense pressure to cash in for a big return. I’m curious to see what Mozeliak will come up with by trading his team’s best starting pitcher. Until then it’s wise to withhold judgment.
WILLSON CONTRERAS, BOOSTING THE OFFENSE AT CATCHER: In 2021 and 2022 combined, the Cardinal catchers were last among the 30 MLB teams with a minus 0.6 WAR. Their catchers also ranked 26th over the two seasons in wRC+, producing offense at a rate that was 32 percent below league average offensively. They were also 30th in homers, with 21. And 20th in Isolated Power. And 25th in RBI. Abysmal.
This is why the Cardinals signed free-agent catcher Willson Contreras. After a confusing start complicated by the team’s pathetic attempt to scapegoat him for the ineptitude of their starting pitchers, Contreras has settled in to put up the numbers. And as planned, the Cardinals are getting a lot more offense from the catcher position.
Going into Wednesday the Cardinals ranked 13th in catcher WAR (1.3), 6th in catcher Isolated Power, 7th in catcher wRC+, 7th in catcher RBI, 8th in catcher slugging, 8th in catcher OPS, 9th in catcher home runs, and 9th in onbase percentage.
Contreras has had one bad month offensively – May – and that coincided with the team’s kooky decision to pull him from the catcher spot and move him to DH. But Contreras responded well after being reinstalled at catcher on May 15.
Since the beginning of June, Contreras is batting .286 with a .391 OBP and .551 slug for a .942 OPS. And his wRC+ figure is a robust 60 percent above league average offensively over that time.
And since the start of June, the St. Louis catchers rank 3rd in the majors in OPS and wRC+ and are fourth in onbase percentage and slugging.
Contreras is doing what the Cardinals are paying him to do: upgrade the offense at catcher after two seasons of anemic offense at the spot. In less than a season Contreras is primarily responsible for taking MLB’s worst offense among catchers to one of the best offenses at the catcher position.
This apparently doesn’t matter to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, who took another vague shot at Contreras earlier this week.
By the way, when Cusumano asked Whitey Herzog about the criticism of Contreras’ work behind the plate, Whitey had no use for it.
“I think it’s a bad knock,” Herzog said. “Whatever you put down (as a sign) that pitcher has a right to shake it off. The pitcher calls the game. And if you throw it where you’re supposed to, you’re going to get (the hitter) out.”
Herzog, 91, is still the smartest baseball man in town.
BRENDAN DONOVAN, PART I: Since the start of June, Brendan Donovan ranks 3rd among major-league leadoff hitters with a wRC+ that’s 66 percent above league average offensively. The only No. 1 hitters that have outperformed Donovan over this time are Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuna Jr. Pretty good company, eh? Donovan’s numbers as the leadoff man over this stretch include a .339 average, .408 OBP and .554 slug.
BRENDAN DONOVAN, PART II: Donovan had five homers in 391 at-bats as a rookie last season. This year he’s homered 11 times in 291 at-bats. After averaging a homer every 78 at-bats last year, Donovan is homering every 28 bats in 2023. His slugging percentage, .379 as a rookie, has improved by 54 points this season, up to .433.
BRENDAN DONOVAN, PART III: How important is Donovan to the St. Louis offense? Very. I’ll give you an example. This season when he’s led off an inning – any inning – he’s reached base 43 times and the Cardinals have scored 39 runs, averaging 0.91 runs per inning. When Donovan leads off an inning and doesn’t reach base, the Cardinals have scored 18 runs for an average of 0.26 per inning. That’s a massive difference, by friends.
BRENDAN DONOVAN, PART IV: The left-side hitter continues to hit the ball to all fields which makes him more difficult to defend. This season 21 hits have gone to the opposite field, 24 have gone to center, and 34 have been pulled into right field.
BRENDAN DONOVAN, PART V: The Cardinals would be loony to trade the cost-controlled Donovan. The only negative – this season – is his performance against lefty pitching. Per wRC+ it’s 27 percent below league average offensively. Last season he was 29% above average vs. lefties.
TIP O’ THE CAP TO JOJO ROMERO: The lively lefty has been outstanding since being recalled to the big club on July 4. Five of his six appearances have been scoreless, including the last four. He has a 2.08 ERA, 1.80 FIP and a strikeout rate of 32.3 percent. Hitters have batted only .133 with a .379 OPS against him. Tuesday night Romero worked the top of the 10th and retired the Marlins without incident, striking out two and getting a ground-out to strand the automatic runner on second base.
NOLAN ARENADO VS. BUSCH STADIUM: He was admittedly perplexed by his new home ballpark after joining the Cardinals in 2021. Arenado wasn’t awful, or anything – but he was five percent below average offensively at Busch in 2021 (per wRC+) and slugged .435. Well, since then Arenado has been winning the battle vs. Busch. Over the last two seasons Arenado is 49% above average offensively at Busch with a slash line of .298/.358/.523.
Including his time with the Rockies, Arenado has 42 career home runs at Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006. That ranks 6th to Albert Pujols (122), Matt Holliday (88), Paul Goldschmidt (70), Yadier Molina (68) and Matt Carpenter (68.)
Thanks for reading …
Bernie hosts a weekday sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible, Baseball Prospectus or Bill James Online.
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.