WELCOME TO THE REDBIRD REVIEW
Let’s get to it, shall we?
THE OVERVIEW: Tuesday night’s 6-1 win over the Brewers at American Family Field gave the Cardinals a 22-14 record. With a .611 winning percentage the Cards are tied with the surprising Giants for the best overall record in MLB … The Cardinals are 14-4 since April 23; that’s the best record in baseball over that time. No other team has more than 12 wins over that time … The Brewers (19-17) are 2-7 in their last nine games … During the nine-game skid the Brewers are averaging only 2.9 runs per game with a .214 average and .631 OPS, and their pitchers have a 4.67 ERA … For the season Milwaukee’s offense ranks 26th in the majors with an average of 3.75 runs per game, 28th in batting average (.215), 27th in slugging and 27th in OPS.
CARDS-CARRYING PITCHERS: The 14-4 gallop has been led by the Cardinals pitching staff. Don’t get me wrong, the offense has been fine, and there are some encouraging developments there. That said, there isn’t much difference in the bottom-line offensive performance during the hot streak. In their first 18 games the Cardinals (8-10) averaged 4.7 runs per game and had a .702 OPS. Over the last 18 games (14-4), the Cards have averaged 4.6 runs with a .710 OPS.
Now let’s look at the pitching.
During this 14-4 elevation, the Cardinals have allowed an average of 2.9 runs per game. Their team ERA is 2.80, which ranks third in the majors since April 23. Their 2.51 rotation ERA ranks second. Their bullpen ERA (3.38) is 12th. And the staff has given up no more than three runs in 12 of the 18 games.
THE EVASIVE AND DELIGHTFUL MR. KIM: Cards starter Kwang Hyun Kim has got to be one of the most interesting pitchers in the majors. Now in his second season with St. Louis, Kim has a 1.92 ERA in 12 starts.
Hey, that’s worth noting. Among starting pitchers that have thrown at least 60 innings since the start of last season, only two have an ERA superior to Kim: Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes (1.65) and NY Met Jacob deGrom (1.75.) How many people out there would have guessed correctly on that? Not me. I had to look it up just to see how Kim’s ERA measured up.
Kim doesn’t go particularly deep into games, averaging 5.08 innings per start. This partially explains why he has only four official decisions in his 12 starts, but he’s undefeated (4-0.)
Adding to that, the Cardinals are 10-2 when Kim starts a game. He’s pitched very well, allowing opponents to bat a low .219 with a weak .275 OBP and soft .338 slug. Kim does not strike out many hitters (19%), so the ball is often in play.
This could be viewed as a perilous formula, but Kim is a difficult man to pin down. His strand rate of 87.5 percent is the fifth-best by a major league starter since the outset of 2020.
Finally, here’s a number that make me smile. In his 12 starts as a Cardinal, when encountering a predicament, Kim has allowed a .111 batting average and .340 OPS with runners in scoring position. That’s nuts. This is why you often see opposing hitters looking at the mound, shaking their heads, after Kim wins the parry, dodges the danger, and sends their confused brains back to their shelter.
MAY I COMPLIMENT MATT CARPENTER? THANKS: He’s establishing value as a pinch-hitter. And no, I don’t want to hear about how much they are paying him too much for all of these overtime minutes on the bench.
That $18.5 million salary is guaranteed. It doesn’t go away if they release him. They can’t take 50 percent of 75 percent of Carpenter’s salary and give it to another player. The team cannot ask him to hand the dollars back. There are no rebates to the team for a poor batting average.
When an expensive veteran is relegated to a backup role, the only thing that counts is this: can he help the team? Can he evolve into a meaningful role player?
Please hold your faux outrage, but Carpenter is enhancing his value in his limited-opportunity role. In 11 pinch-hitting plate appearances during the Cardinals’ 14-4 run, Carpenter is batting .222 with a .364 OBP and .889 slugging percentage. He has two homers and six RBIs. He has more walks (3) than strikeouts (2.)
In Tuesday’s 6-1 win at Milwaukee, Carpenter’s pinch-hit walk gave the Cardinals runners at first and second. The walk put that runner at second, Harrison Bader, in a position to get to third and then score the tying run.
Carpenter didn’t have much to show for his earlier pinch-hitting shots this season but seems to be more confident in the role. Among the 15 MLB pinch-hitters that have at least 12 plate appearances in the role this season, Carpenter ranks 2nd in homers, 2nd in RBIs, 4th in slugging, 4th in OPS and 5th in park-adjusted runs created.
And again, he’s getting better at the job — as evidenced by his 1.253 OPS as a pinch-hitter since April 23. If you’re gonna be an $18.5 million pinch-hitter, then by all means be a good one.
THE RISING HOME-RUN HYSTERIA: These guys are deep into it. During this 14-4 stretch the Cards have out-homered the enemy 21-8. With runners in scoring position, have a huge 10-3 advantage in homers. With men on base, the home run count is 12-3, Cardinals.
For the season the Cardinals are tied for 8th in the majors with 46 homers and their pitchers have allowed the second-fewest number of homers (24.) That’s a big gap.
The Cardinals are tied for the MLB in three-run homers (9), lead the majors in homers (26) with men on base, and have the most HRs with runners in scoring position (18.)
In addition, they are No. 1 in the majors in slugging percentage (.494) and OPS (.829) with runners in scoring position.
NEXT ON THE SKED: John Gant vs. Brandon Woodruff at 6:40 pm Wednesday in Milwaukee. A difficult assignment. But with a win the Cardinals will open a four-game lead on the Brewers in the NL 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.