Good afternoon. I hope you have rebounded from a not-so-great sports weekend in St. Louis, with the Blues getting swept by Colorado and the Cardinals losing two of three to the Cubs.
Welcome to The Redbird Review…
THE RESET: After dropping two of three games to the Cubs the Cardinals are 26-20 on the season and lead Chicago by two games, and Milwaukee by three, in the NL Central … the Cards are 6-10 against teams that currently have winning records, and 20-10 against opponents with losing records … the Cardinals are 18-10 since April 23; during that stretch they went 11-0 vs. the Reds, Pirates and Rockies and 7-10 against other opponents. Collectively the Reds, Pirates and Rockies are 26 games under .500 … the Cardinals are 3-5 since winning their recent series at Milwaukee.
OH, WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN: The Cardinals had a chance to take the weekend series but succumbed 2-1 Sunday in 10 frustrating innings. There’s been quite a bit of fussin’ among local medias about the extra-innings “ghost runner” rule installed by MLB’s ruling dunderheads before the start of the 2020 campaign. Fine. Make Rob Manfred cry.
Bases loaded, scoreless game, bottom of the seventh, NO OUTS, and the top of the St. Louis lineup set to blast the lock off a treasure-chest of runs to give the Cardinals a series triumph.
Tommy Edman, ground ball, force out at home.
Paul Goldschmidt, foul out.
Nolan Arenado, strikeout swinging.
I wasn’t bothered as much by the Cubs ghost runner at second to open the 10th. That’s the (gimmicky) rule. Both teams play by them. And before Sunday night the Cardinals had gone 2-0 in extra-inning games; I must have missed the local protests in the aftermath.
I was greatly bothered by the Cardinals neglect in stranding three runners to leave the bases loaded with the game on the line Sunday evening. The left-behind runners were the real ghosts of this bad loss to the Cubs. The Cardinals blew the game. Period. That’s what can happen when you go 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position Sunday.
THE STALLED OFFENSE: The Cardinals are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Over that time they’ve averaged 3.2 runs/game, slugged only .369, hit less than a home run per game, and averaged a homer every 36.7 at-bats (not good.) A big problem is the situational hitting; in the last 10 games the Cardinals are batting .165 with runners in scoring position, .211 with men on, and are 0 for 7 with the bases loaded. Against the Cubs the Cardinals were 0 for 5 with the bases loaded, 6 for 38 with men on (.158), and 4 for 24 with runners in scoring position (.167.)
MORE TOUGH LUCK FOR WAINO: Adam Wainwright was fantastic Sunday night, getting nicked for one hit and a walk in 8 shutout innings. Wainwright got 31 called strikes, allowed only one line drive and struck out seven Cubs. In six starts at Busch Stadium this season Waino has a 2.41 ERA in 41 innings. (In three starts his road ERA is 8.56.)
The famine in run support for Wainwright is glaring and disappointing. There are two ways to account for run support. First, you just count all of the runs scored by his team during a start — even after his departure from the game. The second way to do it is to take the runs scored on a pitcher’s behalf while he’s in the game; this excludes runs scored after he leaves.
Either way, Waino is starved for runs.
—Counting all runs scored in his starts, Wainwright has received an average of 2.7 runs per game. (Jack Flaherty, by contrast, has benefited from 8.9 runs per start. Among 135 MLB starting pitchers, that 2.7 average ranks 129th.
—Counting only the runs scored while Waino is still working, the average is a puny 2.0 runs per 27 outs. That ranks 133rd among 135.
ROTATION ANXIETY: Miles Mikolas didn’t last long on Saturday, allowing one run in four innings before his right forearm tightened up. Yes, the same forearm that required surgical attention last year, causing Miles to miss the short–schedule 2020.
MM’s return was especially timely given the need for enhanced starting-pitching depth. Not only that, but a healthy and effective Mikolas would give manager Mike Shildt and pitching coach Mike Maddux the option of moving a starter to an increasingly vulnerable bullpen. Either way — rotation or bullpen — the staff is in better shape with Mikolas back in place, doing a good job. That’s all up in the air now. There’s no telling how long he’ll be out, and any initial guesswork or estimates doesn’t cut it for me.
In one respect, there’s no reason for a panic here. The rotation is doing fine despite having only one abbreviated start by Mikolas — posting a 3.60 ERA that ranks 9th in the majors through Sunday. And in the last 31 starts that predated his debut, the Cards rotation ranked fourth in MLB with a 2.87 ERA. After his short start Saturday and Wainwright’s brilliant start Sunday, the STL rotation is second in the majors with a 2.73 ERA since April 17.
THE ROTATION, PART TWO: The positive ERA figures aside, the depth is a concern. The Cardinals can continue to go with five or six starters depending on the heaviness of the schedule: Flaherty, John Gant, Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Kwang Hyun Kim and Johan Oviedo. But Oviedo has averaged only 3.6 innings over three starts, with an ERA of 8.18. This Ovie has considerable talent and upside but is still developing and doesn’t offer secure protection. Another injury two could have significant consequences. This team needs some bullpen help. In a bad way. Time to go to work on that problem.
THE ROTATION, PART III: With that in mind, for fantasy-trade GMs out there, here’s a list of starters that can become free agents after the season. Because they’re in the walk year, their teams figure to be more inclined to move them before the July 30 MLB trade deadline. It’s a little early for major trades, but here are the names, anyway. The Max Scherzer obsession is understandable, but I can’t fixate on him when I don’t know (A) where the Nationals will be in the standings in July; (B) their willingness to trade Scherzer; (C) their asking price for the future Hall of Famer and native St. Louisan.
The list is courtesy Cots Contracts — it’s which available at Baseball Prospectus. The asterisk indicates that the player’s team can exercise an option to retain him for 2022. But here’s the link if you’d like to look it over.
THE ST. LOUIS BULLPEN, UGH: In the last 10 games Cards relievers have a 6.27 ERA in 37.1 innings. The walk rate over that time (17%) is horrendous. With the carnage the STL bullpen has fallen to 20th in MLB in ERA at 4.30. Worse is the 15% walk rate for the season. How bad is that? If the 15 percent holds, it would be the worst bullpen walk rate by a team since relievers for the 1951 Milwaukee Braves walked 15.1 percent of batters faced.
Since May 12 the trio of Gio Gallegos, Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes have allowed one earned run in 20.1 innings. The other relievers have been plundered for 25 earned runs in 17.1 innings for a burning heap ERA of 12.98.
WHAT DID THE CUBS TAKE FROM THIS SERIES? You mean, other than Friday’s 12-3 rout and a Sunday’s one-run victory and a better position in the standings?
They’ve won six out of eight and are 13-7 in May.
In their 30 games since April 17 the Cubs are averaging 5.3 runs and rank 3rd in the majors in batting average (.262), 2nd in OBP (.340) and 4th in slugging (.435). That adds up to the best OPS in the majors (.776) over that time. They’ve also lowered their strikeout rate and are among the best performers with runners in scoring position since April 17, batting .276 with a .475 slug. And speed is part of what the Cubs do; they’re fourth in the majors with 29 stolen bases.
In May the Cubs rotation ranks 9th with a 3.55 ERA and the bullpen is No. 2 with a 1.89 ERA. And over the last eight games the bullpen has worked 25.2 scoreless innings and has a strikeout rate of 34%.
The Cubs were happy travelers as they left St. Louis on Sunday night.
“We started off not being ourselves and we were able to not fall too far back,” manager Davis Ross said via postgame Zoom. “We’ve started playing good baseball and we’ve climbed up into somewhere close to the top. We’re going to try to continue to do that and be the best version of ourselves.”
NEXT ON THE SKED: The Cardinals are on Chicago’s South Side for a three-game set against the White Sox and ol’ friend Tony La Russa. The CWS can play better, sure. But after an 0-3 weekend at Yankee Stadium their 26-19 record leads the AL Central.
Thanks for reading …
Please check out Bernie’s 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 live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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.