THE REDBIRD REVIEW
THINGS YOU MAY ALREADY KNOW: The Cardinals blasted the Brewers 18-1 Monday night in a fireworks show highlighted by four St. Louis homers, 16 hits and Jack Flaherty’s best start since late in the 2019 season. With their fourth straight triumph the forward-moving Cardinals high-stepped to within 6 and ½ games of first-place Milwaukee.
ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: The Cardinals (17-25) have won seven of their last eight games … they’ve two in a row at home but are still only 7-13 at Busch Stadium this season … the Cardinals are 6-5 in NL Central games … Monday’s 17-run winning margin was the largest by a Cardinals team since a 21-3 blowout of the Cubs on April 27, 1977 at Wrigley Field … during the post-expansion era that began for NL teams in 1962, the Cards have scored 18-plus runs in a game only seven times – and Monday’s rout was only the second time it’s been done at home.
FLAHERTY & CONTRERAS: After all of the Contreras-related turmoil and Flaherty’s volatile up and down season, this was cool to watch. Flaherty and Contreras teamed for Jack’s seven shutout innings – and it seemed a lot more important than that. We’ll see. This was in fact an example of the Art of Pitching. This performance showed us how beautiful it can be when a pitcher-catcher combination works as one, operating on the same wavelength. Synchronization. Domination. Flaherty was part of the ugly controversy that led to Contreras being displaced at catcher, and the moody right-hander seemed damned determined to do something about that and make up for it. The warrior mentality was there on both ends of the battery. Flaherty heated up, and the Contreras controversy cooled down. Perfect.
FLAHERTY’S BEST: In seven shutout innings Flaherty allowed only three hits (all singles) and two walks while overpowering the Brewers with 10 strikeouts. After inducing his MLB-leading 13th double-play grounder of the season to dodge bases-loaded trouble in the first inning, Flaherty pitched the Brewers into submission.
From the second inning through the seventh, the Brewers went 2 for 20 against Flaherty (.100) and struck out in 45 percent of their plate appearances. For the game, Flaherty allowed only two hits in 16 two-strike count situations. He had a 40% percent strikeout rate in seven innings, and stymied the Crew with his 54% ground-ball rate.
Flaherty got a strike on 59 percent of his first pitches, had a 12% swinging -strike rate, allowed only five hard-hit balls, didn’t permit the Brewers to barrel a single pitch, and limited the visitors to an average exit velocity of 81.9%. After the first inning Flaherty didn’t allow a single runner to reach scoring position.
How good was Flaherty? He was credited with a 83 Game Score in the Bill James’ grading system. This was Jack’s best game score since he turned in a 92 against the Giants at Busch Stadium on Sept. 3, 2019.
Yes, we saw the 2019 version of Jack Flaherty again on May 15, 2023. Pretty awesome.
EXPLOSIVE, DESTRUCTIVE OFFENSE: The Cardinals offense unloaded for a second consecutive evening of hardball with a blistering attack that included four home runs, a .421 batting average, and a .789 slug. And 52 percent of the St. Louis batters that came to the plate against the Brewers reached base.
After routing the Red Sox 9-1 to complete a series sweep on Sunday, the Cardinals came home to bang at Busch with their 18-run spree.
* During the post-expansion era that began for National League teams in 1962, the Cards have scored 18-plus runs in a game only seven times – and this was only the second time it’s been done at home.
* Including Sunday’s 9-1 win at Boston, the Cardinals scored 27 runs over a two-game span – and that’s been done by the Redbirds only eight times in the post-expansion era. The 2001 and 2008 Cardinals each scored 29 runs in a two-game outburst, and the 1993 team plated 28 runs in a two-game bombardment.
* In their current 7-1 run that began May 7, the Cardinals launched 18 home runs, 16 doubles, two triples, slugged .545 and averaged 8.0 runs per game. And with runners in scoring position over that time, the Cards batted .357 with seven homers, eight doubles, 48 RBIs and a .702 slug in 97 plate appearances.
* In their current four-game win streak, the Cards have bombed 11 home runs and 10 doubles, slugged .611 and averaged 9.8 runs per game.
STARTING TO SEE QUALITY: For the first time this season the Cardinals received quality starts in back-to-back games, with Miles Mikolas and Flaherty combining to hold Boston and Milwaukee to one run and seven hits in 13 innings. In winning seven of their last eight games the Cardinals have a 3.98 starting-pitcher ERA and a team ERA of 3.68.
MAKE ROOM FOR NOLAN GORMAN ON THE LEADERBOARD: After bullying Brewer pitchers Monday for three hits, a homer and five RBI, the big fella moved into the National League with 33 RBI.
Among MLB hitters that have at least 140 plate appearances this season Gorman ranks second in slugging percentage (.600) fourth in OPS (.979) and is fifth with a 167 OPS+ that makes him 67 percent above league average offensively. Gorman leads MLB left-handed hitters win slugging, OPS, and OPS+
This season Gorman leads the Cardinals in homers (10), RBI, slugging, OPS, OPS+ and wRC+. And he’s third in batting average (.283), onbase percentage (.379) and fWAR (1.3).
And as we’ve discovered — ask Kenley Jansen — Gorman can come through as an under-pressure pinch-hitter.
MORE GORMAN: Another thing to appreciate about Gorman in his second MLB season is his high walk rate (13%) and a strikeout rate that’s under control at 23.6 percent. It’s a mature hitting approach and his plate discipline is remarkably better than what we saw in his rookie season. He’s reduced his “chase” and swinging-strike rate. The dude just turned 23 years old and shown as important quality of improving and adjusting on the fly. Funny, but I don’t hear from the people out there who strongly advocated trading Gorman last summer and then again this past offseason.
ARENADO GUSTO: On Monday the resurgent third struck a homer for the fourth consecutive game. In his last 11 games Arenado has five homers and 16 RBI and is batting .340 with a 1.096. After a frigid April, Arenado has busted his way out of a huge block of ice and is thriving in May. Needless to say, Arenado has been prominent in the Cardinals turnaround.
LARS NOOTBAAR: He had another terrific game at the plate Monday, going two for four with two walks and four runs scored. Among MLB hitters that have at least 80 plate appearances batting leadoff this season, Noot ranks first in batting average (.357) and onbase percentage (.457), is second in walk rate (16%), and fourth in OPS and wRC+. As a leadoff man Nootbaar has performed 68 percent above league average offensively.
The Brewers are starting lefty Wade Miley against the Cardinals on Tuesday. Manager Oli Marmol usually drops Nootbaar from the leadoff spot when the other side starts a lefthander, and it doesn’t make much sense. Nootbaar, who bats left, is outstanding against lefty pitchers. It doesn’t make much sense. Sure, switch-hitter Tommy Edman has done well against lefties during career – especially with his .510 slugging percentage. But Nootbaar has a higher career batting average and onbase percentage against lefties. And when we compare each player’s career OPS vs. lefties, this is what we come up with: Nootbaar .872, Edman .842.
But Edman had quite a game Monday, going 4 for 5 with a homer, two RBI and four runs scored. So he’ll likely be batting first against Miley tonight. Edman has a .457 slugging percentage overall, and is 14 percent above league average with his 114 OPS+.
KIZ AIN’T KIDDING: Andrew Knizner hit a grand-slam homer off a Milwaukee position player during mop-up time Monday, crushing it during STL’s 10-run eighth inning. But so what? Knizner doesn’t make the pitching decisions for the Brewers. And Kiz can only take swings against the pitcher that stands on the mound — even if it’s a non-pitcher by trade.
And Knizner has provided plenty of offense in May, batting .278 with a .639 slug, .917 OPS, three homers, four doubles and 10 RBI. Though Willson Contreras has been reinstalled at starting catcher, Knizner won’t be starving for at-bats. The plan all along was for Kiz to play more in 2023 than he did with a healthy Yadier Molina at catcher. And his positive hitting results reaffirm the preseason plan.
PAUL DEJONG: He’s hit safely in 11 of 17 games since coming off the IL and has added muscle to the St. Louis offense with his .559 slugging percentage, three homers, four doubles and 10 RBI. He’s still batting .305, and his OBP is a good .359. But instead of being happy, the borderline-wacko DeJong haters are caterwauling about his 33.3 strikeout rate in his last 12 games. DeJong has slowed down during his last 12 games, but he’s still slugging .405 with a .738 OPS over that time. That’s hardly a collapse. So please RELAX.
UPWARD MOVEMENT: Their high-scoring 7-1 run has moved the Cardinals up the list in the MLB offensive rankings. All of a sudden they’re ninth overall in runs per game (4.95), fourth overall in OPS+, and sixth in batting average, onbase percentage and slugging. They’ve also moved up in home runs per game, ranking seventh overall with 1.33 per contest. During the 7-1 streak 50.6 percent of the Cardinals 83 hits have gone for extra bases.
Thanks for reading, and pardon my typos …
Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. 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 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, Bill James Online and Baseball Prospectus.
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.