THE REDBIRD REVIEW
LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL: The Cardinals are getting all peppy and bouncy. They’ve won eight of their last 10 games, pulling it off with firecrackers on offense and fire-extinguisher pitching. The index includes a frothy 6-0 record in sweeps of division nuisances Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. At 16-12, your airborne Redbirds are moving up in the standings, one game behind Milwaukee. The St. Louis run differential of +19 is third-best in the NL and seventh overall.
WANT POWER? GIVE THESE BOYS A ROADMAP: And they’ll take care of the job. In the three weekend wins at Pittsburgh the Cardinals whammed five homers, struck for nine doubles and — just for kicks — pelleted a triple. That’s 15 extra-base hits. This may have been on the extreme end of the power show, but the Cardinals pack some wallop when venturing away from Busch Stadium.
Please permit me present the file:
- In 15 road games the Cardinals have 24 road homers, 2nd in the majors to Arizona (26.)
- Their .424 road slugging percentage is tied for 3rd in MLB.
- They are 11th in road doubles, with 23.
- They have the No. 1 Isolated Power number (ISO) in road games, .200. And according to FanGraphs, a .200 ISO qualifies for the “great” category.
(By the way: ISO is slugging percentage minus batting average. That’s the easy way to calculate it. The number tells us how many extra bases a player or team averages per at bat.)
In contrast to their top-ranked .200 ISO on the road, the Cardinals have a .127 ISO in 13 home games. That ranks 25th in the majors and is considered below average.
There is a huge difference between the Cards’ road slugging percentage (.424) and home slugging (.357.)
On the road, the Cardinals average a homer every 21 at-bats.
At home, they homer every 39 at-bats.
PAUL DeJONG, ROAD WARRIOR: More than anyone, this early-season home/away trend is personified by the STL shortstop.
DeJong on the Road: 6 homers, 13 RBIs, .585 slug, .934 OPS, .358 ISO. Among the 106 major-league hitters that have at least 50 road plate appearances this season DeJong ranks No. 3 in ISO and is 7th in slugging. Add in his healthy walk rate, and Pauly is 13th among the 106 in OPS. DeJong has 12 hits on the road this season; half are homers.
DeJong at Home: No homers, no extra-base hits, three RBIs, .100 slug, .282 OPS, and .000 ISO. DeJong is 4 for 40 at Busch Stadium this season.
HOME-RUN HAPPY FACTS: The Cardinals lead the majors in homers (13) 13 with runners in scoring position and are third with 20 homers with runners on base … Harrison Bader rocked PNC Park on a three-run homer Sunday, giving the Cardinals their seventh three-run homer of the season. They had only three of those big boys in the 58-game season of 2020 … the Cardinals are 6-1 this season when they larrup a three-run homer in a contest … they are 2-7 when they do not homer in a game, 6-3 when homering once, 5-1 when hitting two HRs, and 3-1 with three-plus homers … the Cards have scored 53.7% of their runs via homers this season. That figure is holding steady over the last two weeks or so.
TYLER O’NEILL, MIND OVER MUSCLE: We saw O’Neill’s smart hitting approach in spring training when he made a concerted effort to hit the ball to all fields. And we are watching him do it again since his return from the IL. Making contact is an enormous factor for O’Neill, but circulating the batted ball to all territories is another important key to his success. In his 10 games since coming back from a mild groin strain, O’Neill is 13 for 35 (.371) with four homers. During this time O’Neill has three hits and two homers when hitting the ball to the center of the field; five hits and a homer when he pulls the pitch to left; and five hits with a homer when he goes opposite field. His strikeout rate since returning is 22.2%. Here comes the “yeah, but” question: can he keep this up?
STARTING PITCHING: This may be my favorite stat of the season. It’s about the St. Louis rotation:
- First 14 games: 6.48 ERA, worst in MLB.
- Last 14 games: 1.94 ERA, best in MLB.
In their first 14 games Cards starters provided only 61.1 innings. That count increased to 88 innings over the next 14. The improvement, obviously, is pretty much across the board: strikeout rate, K-BB ratio, WHIP, ground-ball rate, etc.
In the first 14 games opponents batted .282 against St. Louis starters and had a .823 OPS. In the last 14 games opponents have batted .203 against Cards starters with a .585 OPS.
Over the last 14 games the Cardinals’ primary starters — Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, John Gant and Kwang Hyun Kim — have combined for a 1.73 ERA in 83 innings of quality work.
WHICH LEADS US TO CARLOS MARTINEZ: We’re getting a chance to enjoy the experience of watching Martinez pitch to his talent level. As a starting pitcher, it’s been a long time coming. In his last three starts Martinez has allowed only 11 hits and two earned runs (0.84 ERA.) No homers. Twice as many strikeouts (10) as walks (5.) An improving ground-ball rate (47.6%.) He’s limited opponents to a .153 average and .447 OPS. Absolutely ridiculous.
It’s only three starts. But it is also a pleasant reprise of the peak-form Martinez. In three seasons from 2015 through 2017, he ranked 10th among MLB starters in wins, 12th in quality starts, 14th in innings, 12th in strikeouts, 5th in ground-ball rate and 15th in ERA.
Just my opinion here: It’s about confidence. When Martinez is confident, he can dominate. When Martinez isn’t confident, his concentration tends to crack. I’d like to see the Confident Carlos stay on top of it, in charge, for the remainder of the season. Keep throwing that cutter. It’s become a real asset.
NEXT ON THE SKED: The Mets are in town for a four-game set beginning Monday night at 6:45. Then it’s Colorado for three at Busch Stadium. The Mets don’t give up many runs, only 3.77 per game. They don’t score many runs, only 3.23 per game (29th.) But the Cardinals will get to tango with the awesome Jacob deGrom on Tuesday night. He leads a rotation that has the second-best ERA (2.66) in the majors … Adam Wainwright starts for the Cardinals tonight … during the Cardinals 8-2 hot streak their starting pitchers have given up 13 earned runs in 64 innings (1.83 ERA.)
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.