The Cardinals (65-51) are in their most positive groove of the season, having won 11 of 14 games since the Aug. 2 trade deadline to surge into first place in the NL Central, three games ahead of the Brewers.
It’s taken a while, but Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are getting some help from their friends. The starting pitching is clicking, young hitters are stepping up, and the momentum is rolling.
Let’s highlight some of the good stuff, OK?
Home Is Where The Heart Is. Or something like that. The Redbirds have continued to dominate visitors to Busch Stadium, having won 11 of their last 12 at home. The home-park advantage includes 26 wins in the last 36 games, plus an overall .650 home winning percentage that’s fifth-best in the majors. The Cardinals have a 12:15 p.m. first pitch today, and will go for a three-game sweep of the Rockies. If the Cardinals win it will give them a 5-1 homestand against the Brewers and Rox … and this would follow a 6-0 homestand against the Cubs and Yankees. Adam Wainwright starts today, and he has a 2.30 ERA at Busch this season.
The Kids Are Alright. In Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Rockies, the offense was carried by their four of their youngest players in terms of MLB experience. I’m talking about rookies Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan … and Lars Nootbaar, who hasn’t accrued a full year of major-league service time … plus the old fella of the group, 23-year-old Dylan Carlson, who is in his second full big-league season.
Here’s what the fellas did to the Rockies: they combined to drive in four of the team’s five runs, produce five of the nine hits, provide four of the six walks, and score four of the five runs. The fab four reached base 10 times in 18 plate appearances. What a relentless performance. Kingpins Goldschmidt and Arenado made their contributions in the latest victory but didn’t have to carry the team.
And then there was rookie reliever Andre Pallante, who pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless, spotless relief to protect Montgomery’s lead and the St. Louis win. He has a 1.96 ERA as a reliever this season and did a fine job in his 10 starts while in the rotation.
The Renovated Starting Rotation Is Kicking In: Jordan Montgomery was superb again Wednesday, suppressing the Rockies over 5 and ⅔ innings. He allowed only five hits and one run with eight strikeouts and no walks. In the last seven games Cardinals starting pitchers have spun a 2.01 ERA and have been nicked for two earned runs or fewer in all seven assignments.
The Cardinals are 6-0 in the six games started by the outstanding additions Jose Quintana and Montgomery. They’ve combined for 1.60 ERA and 25.3% strikeout rate in 33 and ⅔ innings.
Fun With Starting-Pitching Numbers: Here are the earned-run averages of traded starting pitchers that have made at least two starts for their new teams since the deadline:
Jordan Montgomery, STL, 0.64
Luis Castillo, Mariners, 2.18
Tyler Mahle, Twins, 2.51
Jose Quintana, STL, 2.65
Mitch White, Blue Jays, 3.86
Noah Syndergaard, Phillies, 4.50
Jake Odorizzi, Braves, 5.93
Tucker Davidson, Angels, 7.20
Frankie Montas, Yankees, 9.00
Since they joined their new teams, here are the total number innings contributed by the acquired starting pitchers:
Blue Jays, 9.1
Here are the team records in games started by pitchers obtained at the trade deadline:
Blue Jays, 1-1
Here’s the total amount of WAR accumulated by each team from starting pitchers acquired at the trade deadline:
Blue Jays, 0.2
Braves, – 0.2
Angels, – 0.2
Call me a homer … but I’m thinking that the Cardinals did OK in the moves that brought Montgomery and Quintana to St. Louis.
The Ageless Albert Pujols: Among the 325 MLB hitters that have at least 40 plate appearances since the All-Star break, Pujols ranks No. 1 with a .395 batting average. And he’s 2nd in slugging (.789), OPS (1.242), wRC+ (.245) and 4th in onbase rate (.452.) This young man seems to know what he’s doing with a bat in his hands.
Ga-Ga Over Nolan Gorman: I’ll be obnoxious and say it again. The rookie power hitter is having a much better season than many people realize. And I’ve been saying that for a while. Gorman’s three-RBI game against the Rockies on Wednesday was just the latest impact game.
— First, some perspective: As our friend Dayn Perry of CBS Sports pointed out, Gorman is the seventh-youngest player in the National League at 22 years and 100 days.
— Among the 42 MLB second basemen that have at least 240 plate appearances this season, Gorman ranks 4th in slugging (.470), 5th in OPS+ (125), 8th in wOBA (.342) and 8th in wRC+ (124), and 8th in home runs (13.)
— In a second-baseman comparison, Gorman has a higher OPS+ than Ozzie Albies, Trevor Story, Gavin Lux, Ketel Marte, Jonathan India, Gleyber Torres, Jorge Polanco, Santiago Espinal, Jake Cronenworth, Marcus Semien, Kolten Wong and Brendan Rodgers. And Gorman’s slugging percentage is higher than the slugs posted by Story, Albies, Semien, India, Max Muncy, Jeff McNeill, Lux, Marte, Torres, Polanco, Wilmer Flores, Luis Rengifo, and Espinal.
— Gorman has taken some turns at DH and hasn’t done much in the role. But when playing second base only he’s batting .273 with a .348 OBP and .500 slug for a .848 OPS. He’s also punched seven doubles and 10 homers when in the lineup at 2B.
— In the post-expansion era only 10 Cardinals rookies with 240 or more plate appearances have finished the season with an OPS+ of 125 or better. If Gorman’s current pace holds up, he’d be on that list of 10. He’s currently tied for ninth with Matt Carpenter who had a 125 OPS+ in 2012.
— Since July 27 Gorman is hitting .341 with a .396 OBP and .705 for a 1.100 OPS – and a lower strikeout rate of 25 percent. In his 48 plate appearances over that time Gorman has four doubles and four homers.
— Gorman is turning into one of the team’s best hitters when stepping up with runners in scoring position, batting .278 with a .391 OBP, .463 slug and a .833 OPS. He’s even better with RISP and two out, hitting .290 with a .970 OPS.
— Since the All-Star break Gorman is slugging .544 with a .855 OPS.
Checking In On Jeff Albert’s Offense: The Cardinals rank 5th in the majors with an average of 4.71 runs per game, and they’re 4th in the bigs with a 114 OPS+. (That’s second-best in the NL, behind the Dodgers.)
The Cards rank 5th in the majors in home OPS, and 5th in road OPS. And in park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) they’re tied for 6th overall – and 2nd at home, and 4th on the road.
The Cardinals rank 4th in the majors with a .788 OPS with runners in scoring position. And they have the fifth-lowest strikeout rate in the majors at 20.3 percent.
This is the best the Cardinals can do for a hitting coach?
The Cards have the fifth-best offense among the 30 MLB teams?
And that’s acceptable? Really?
Bill DeWitt Jr. and John Mozeliak have no shame.
(Um, pardon my sarcasm. I’m just trying to fit in with the hopelessly angry and bizarre Albert fetishists on social media. It could be a fun hobby.)
NOTES ON MY SCORECARD
Paulie DeJong: In his last six games the starting shortstop is 3 for 22 with 11 strikeouts – and no extra-base hits, walks and RBI. In his first 10 games back from the minors, DeJong batted .333 with a 1.288 OPS and had six walks, five doubles, four home runs and 13 RBI.
Manager Oli Marmol hasn’t played Nolan Gorman as much since DeJong returned. Unless Paulie heats up, it will be interesting to see how Marmol handles the situation. And will the front office pressure Marmol to stick with DeJong at shortstop and keep Tommy Edman at second? I’m getting ahead of myself but we can’t help but wonder how this will play out if DeJong continues to fade. I’m hoping that he’ll start hitting again.
Accounting Department: Cardinals starting pitchers rank 5th in the majors with a 3.10 ERA at home and have allowed only 0.8 homers per nine innings at Busch Stadium … The Cards’ 11-3 record since the trade deadline is second-best in the majors; the Dodgers are 12-2. And the Brewers, at 5-9, rank tied for 20th in the majors in winning percentage since the trade deadline … the Cardinals are 20-9 since July 10, and that’s the third-best record in the NL over that time, with only the Dodgers and Mets doing better … the Cardinals already have clinched a series win against the Rockies. That gives them an 8-2-1 record in the last 11 series played at Busch Stadium, going back to May 30 … the Rockies have lost 11 in a row at Busch Stadium and are 6–34 in games played at St. Louis since the start of the 2010 season.
Tracking The Crew: Milwaukee lost a tough one on Wednesday night, falling to the Dodgers 2-1 at American Family Field. The Brewers still can salvage a split in the four-game set against the Dodgers, and the Crew will have Corbin Burnes starting this afternoon.
Since expanding their division lead to four games over the Cardinals on July 30, Milwaukee has lost 10 of its last 15 games – and scored three or fewer runs in seven of the 10 defeats. And the Brewers have wasted a starting pitching ERA of 3.31 during the 5-10 slide. Milwaukee has scored just 18 runs in regulation innings over its last nine games.
And now they’re three games behind St. Louis. That’s a dramatic swing of seven games in the standings between STL and MIL in a little more than two weeks.
“You just have to keep going,” left fielder Christian Yelich said after Wednesday’s setback. “We’re still in it. We still have a chance. You just have to keep battling. We’ve had a tough go but baseball is a game of resilience and you have to keep going no matter how tough it’s been on you.”
After completing the home series with the Dodgers, the Brewers will play three at Wrigley Field and three at Dodger Stadium. They’ll have a day off after that – their only remaining day off this month. And then Milwaukee will play 18 games in 17 days.
“I think if we stick to it, things will start going better for us,” Yelich said. “We haven’t played terrible. We just haven’t done enough to win some of these games. There’s a fine line between winning and losing in Major League Baseball sometimes.”
After pitching well – but losing – on Wednesday, lefty Eric Lauer summed up the state of the team: “It’s one of those things where you wish it would sync up. It’s hard to put together a win streak when one side is all doing well and the other side is struggling, and vice versa. It’s not the way a good team should be playing. It’s not the way we want it to go, obviously. We have to grind through these times. It’s going to happen. You have to pick each other up, you have to be there for each other. It’s just a time where you pick your guys up a little bit more.”
Dylan Carlson: In his last three games the center fielder is 4 for 11 (.364) with a .462 onbase rate and 1.098 OPS. The mini-streak has raised Carlson’s season OPS+ to 104, so he’s four percent above the league average offensively. At least he’s moving up again.
Corey Dickerson: He went 1 for 4 on Wednesday (a double.) In eight starts and six other appearances since the All-Star break the veteran outfielder is batting .344 with a .353 OBP and .531 slug for an impressive .884 OPS.
Jordan Walker: STL’s top prospect is batting .419 with a .581 slug and 1.035 OPS in his last seven games at Double A Springfield. His slash line for the season is .308 / .392 / .506 for a .898 OPS.
Thanks for reading … enjoy the day ball.
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated 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 by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.
“Seeing Red,” my weekly podcast on the Cardinals with Will Leitch, is available on multiple platforms including Apple and Spotify. Please subscribe.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
Please email your “Ask Bernie” questions to BernScoops@gmail.com
All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.
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.