THE REDBIRD REVIEW
BRIEF OVERVIEW: What’s up with the Philadelphia Phillies? They have a 6-10 record in their last 16 games, going 3-1 against the Cardinals and 3-9 vs. other opponents. I’m not sure why the Cardinals have become the Phillies’ favorite cheesesteak and preferred soft pretzel, but I digress. Monday’s 2-1 victory by Philadelphia loss bumped the Cardinals (11-11) back to .500. Consistency remains elusive for your favorite baseball team. Fans of other NL Central teams are voicing similar thoughts.
GET GOLDY GOING: In his 21 games first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is batting .230 with a .272 OBP and .333 slugging percentage for a .605 OPS. Since his four-hit game in the season opening win at Cincinnati, Goldy is batting .195 with a .241 OBP, .280 slug and .522 OPS. He has one double and two homers since the opener.
Among the 25 MLB first basemen who have at least 50 plate appearances so far, Goldschmidt ranks 21st in slugging, 22nd in OPS, and 23rd in OBP. With a 72 OPS+ he’s 28 percent below league average offensively. Encouragement can be found at statcast; Goldschmidt’s hard-hit rate (52.3%) ranks 16th in the majors.
THE SAME IS TRUE OF NOLAN ARENADO: In his last 11 games the Cards third baseman is 7 for 43 (.163) for with a .496 OPS. He has a homer and four RBI over that time. To state the obvious: The Cardinals will have a problem scoring runs without their No. 3 and No. 4 hitter clicking.
OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION FROM 1B AND 3B: This is a related note, a follow-through on my items on Goldschmidt and Arenado. I combined the offensive performances of the first base and third base positions and compared them to other corner-infield tandems in the majors. This is what I came up with: the Cards 1B-3B team ranks 25th in OBP (.286), 26th in slugging (.375), and 28th in OPS (.661.) You could say that this is a major factor in the erratic nature of the St. Louis offense.
MEET THE “NO DOUBLES” OFFENSE: You’ve heard of the “no doubles” defensive alignment deployed by managers to protect late and close leads? Well, the Cardinals have a no-doubles offense. Not literally, of course. But so far this season the Cardinals are tied for 26th in the majors with 24 doubles. This is nothing new. They had the fewest doubles by any of the 30 teams last season. They were ranked 28th in doubles in 2019, and 27th in 2018. Since the start of the 2018 season the Cardinals’ doubles total (591) is last in the majors. Thirteen MLB teams have between 709 and 872 doubles over the same time. Why do the Cardinals struggle to hit doubles? It’s been going on for four seasons now, and yes, it’s driving me buggy. Yo! Doubles are good!
WAINO, MALNOURISHED: With the Cardinal hitters being owned by Philly starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, the home team discarded a winning opportunity presented by a dandy nine-inning start from Adam Wainwright. The 39-year-old pitching sage had two problems: (1) peckish run support, and (2) Philly first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who cudgeled two solo homers.
In his last two starts Wainwright has ceded only 11 hits and three earned runs in 16 innings (1.69 ERA). And he walked only two while striking out 18. But Wainwright was forsaken by Cardinals hitters and didn’t collect a deserving win in either game.
In his last four starts of the early campaign the hard-luck Waino has a 2.42 ERA over 26 innings, with 31 strikeouts and only five walks. The Cards are 1-4 in his starts this season.
THE STARTING PITCHING NEEDS YOUR HELP: Is there a way to set up a GoFundMe page for run support? I ask because the STL rotation has a 1.74 ERA over the last eight starts, the second-best ERA in the majors over that time. Despite the crisp pitching, the Cardinals are only 4-4 in the eight games. The Cardinals have scored 4 runs or fewer in 13 of their 22 games so far and are 4-9 in those contests. They’ve scored 3 runs or fewer 11 times and are 2-9 when it happens.
HOME-RUN UPDATE: When the Cardinals are kept in the yard and prohibited from hitting home runs in a game, their team record is 1-7. And it ain’t all that hot (4-3) when the Cards are limited to one homer in a game. The Cardinals have 98 runs this season; 53 percent were delivered by home runs.
BEST WAY TO ANALYZE MATT CARPENTER? Here’s a hint … it isn’t hard-hit rate or barrels or other statcast measures. To repeat: when we make an honest assessment of Carpenter’s hitting profile, the most substantial factor, by far, is his free fall in ability to make contact.
From 2011 through 2019:
–Strikeout rate: 19.7%
–Swing-miss rate: 6.4%
–Contact rate: 82.7%.
Now take a look at 2020-2021:
–Strikeout rate: 30.3%
–Swing-miss rate: 12.6%
–Contact rate: 68%
As for this season only, Carpenter has a 36.7% strikeout rate, 14% swing and miss rate, and 66% contact rate. His contact rate on pitches in the strike zone is 73 percent — easily the worst of his career. For context, Carpenter had a 90% contact rate on pitches in the zone from 2011 through 2019.
The point? Carpenter’s hard-hit rate has little meaning — simply because he doesn’t put the ball in play with enough frequency to make the hard contact matter in a significant way.
I’ll shut up now.
BIRD BYTES: The Cardinals have made a few defensive mistakes but still rank tied for 7th in the majors with seven defensive runs saved … I hope Yadier Molina (minor foot injury) didn’t return too soon … no big deal, but leadoff man Tommy Edman has a .182 average and .250 OBP in his last six games …Monday’s loss gave the Cardinals a 1-3 record in games decided by one run … Paul DeJong has a nice walk rate (12.8%) going for him this month, but the OBP (.302) is on the low side because of a .189 batting average … DeJong is 3 for 21 (.143) with runners in scoring position … four Cardinals have an OPS+ that’s at or above the 100 league average: Molina 177, Dylan Carlson 158 and Arenado 106. And Edman is at league average, 100+ … followed by DeJong (96), Goldschmidt (72), Tyler O’Neill (71), Justin Williams (69) and Carpenter (10.)
NEXT ON THE SKED: The Phillies and Cardinals do it again Tuesday night at 6:45 pm local time. Zach Elfin (1-0, 2.77 ERA) starts for the Phillies. He didn’t have much of a problem against the Cardinals earlier this month, allowing two earned runs in 7 IP in Philly’s 9-2 win April 16. Carlos Martinez was the starter for the Cardinals in that one and is hoping for a successful rematch Tuesday. Martinez is 0-4 with a 6.00 ERA this season but pitched very well last week in Washington, giving up one run in 6 IP … Martinez hasn’t been credited with a win as a starter since July 7, 2018. Since then Martinez has a 7.44 ERA in 12 starts. But he had a 2.70 ERA and 29 saves in 63 appearances as a reliever from late 2018 through 2019.
(All statistics culled from Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Bill James Online unless otherwise noted.)
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.