THE REDBIRD REVIEW:
The Cardinals and Brewers opened a four-game engagement at Busch Stadium on Thursday night, with the visitors toting a 4-3 victory back to their hotel. And with the win Milwaukee opened a 4 and ½ game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central standings. And the Brewers kept the Cardinals spinning around in circles, which is something we’ve gotten used to here in St. Louis.
Milwaukee is 29-16, second in the NL with a .644 winning percentage.
St. Louis is 24-20, sixth in the NL with a .545 winning percentage.
Let’s review …
Trending Poorly: The Cardinals continue to lose ground to the Brewers. At the end of the day on April 23, the Cards were 9-4 and led the Crew by one game. But since April 24, Milwaukee has the best record in the NL at 20-10, and the Cardinals are 15-16 for a .484 winning percentage that ranks eighth in the NL over that time.
Struggles Continue Against Good Teams: Thursday’s frustrating setback left the Cards with a 11-14 record this season against opponents that have winning records.
In Need Of Home Improvements: The Cardinals must earn more success at Busch Stadium. Their 11-10 record (.524) at home ranks 14th in MLB and only seventh in the NL. The Cards have lost seven of their last 11 games at Busch.
Wobbly Rotation: In the last seven games, St. Louis starting pitchers have a 5.40 ERA in 35 innings with a 11.4 percent walk. And they’ve allowed a .275 average, .370 onbase percentage and .449 slugging percentage. Cards starting pitchers have a 4.27 ERA in May after crafting a 3.45 ERA in April.
Going into spring training St. Louis had a projected five-man rotation of Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz and Dakota Hudson. Moreover plans were underway to prepare Jordan Hicks for a role as the de facto sixth starter. But Flaherty, Matz and Hicks are on the injured list which leaves only three members of the original rotation in place. For now the Cardinals are filling one open slot with rookie Matthew Liberatore. As for the other vacancy. well, it could be Jake Woodford or an Alternative To Be Named Later. This is what the phrase “state of flux” means.
About Adam Wainwright: Wainwright lasted only five innings against the Brewers and was jabbed for 10 hits, a walk, and three earned runs. The Brewers smartly laid off Wainwright’s curveball, forcing him to throw more pitches. The plan worked; Waino needed 100 pitches to get 15 outs. Wainwright allowed two earned runs in the first, one unearned run in the second and an earned run in the fourth.
Tracking Waino’s Trends: A few things in we should pay attention to:
– Not missing as many bats: He has a swinging-strike rate of 5.9 percent this season. His swinging-strike rate was 8.1% in 2021, and 10.5% in 2020.
– Overall contact rate: 86.4 percent against him so far. Unless there’s a decrease this would be the highest contact rate vs. Waino in his 16 seasons as a starting pitcher. As recently as 2020 the overall contact rate against Wainwright was 10 percentage points less at 76.2%. In 2021 that rate was 81.3 percent.
– Contact in the strike zone: When opponents swing at a Wainwright pitch in the strike zone this season they have a contact rate of 95.5 percent. Until this season he’s never allowed an in-zone contact rate higher than 90.8%.
– Uncle Charlie: Waino had a 26.8 percent whiff rate on his classic curve ball in 2021. So far this year he has a 20.4% whiff rate on the curve.
Missed Opportunity, Part I: Milwaukee’s Eric Lauer wasn’t sharp early on in Thursday’s start. This was unusual because he’s one of the best starters in the majors. The Redbirds are hammering lefties again this season, leading MLB with a .480 slug and .843 OPS against them. But the fellers didn’t come close to taking full advantage of Lauer’s inefficiency in this game, and he settled in after his early turbulence.
In the first two innings the Cardinals reached base on seven of their 13 plate appearances (four hits, three walks) but managed only two runs.This was a significant missed opportunity. In his final three innings Lauer faced only one batter over the minimum, walking one hitter and yielding no hits. Since June 27 of last season Lauer has the second-best ERA (2.24) among MLB starting pitchers that have thrown at least 100 innings over that time.
Missed Opportunity II: The Cardinals didn’t do much against four Milwaukee relievers, scoring one run in four innings on a solo homer by Paul Goldschmidt off Trevor Gott in the 7th. The Cardinals had a terrific chance to tie the game in the 9th. But with two runners on and one out against Milwaukee superman closer Josh Hader, he extinguished the threat by getting Albert Pujols on a foul out, and Juan Yepez on a pop up.
Sour Notes: Over nine innings Cards were 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position. After scoring two runs in the first, they scored only one run over the final eight innings … from the time Goldschmidt singled in the second inning until his HR in the seventh, the Cardinals went 0 for 14 with three walks … the Cardinals popped up a bunch of times in this game, and that’s one of the worst aspects of this offense. The Cards infield pop-up rate (14.8%) is the highest (as in worst) in the majors … the St. Louis pitching staff has a 4.58 ERA over the last 13 games … The Cards are 8-10 since May 7.
Josh Hader Is Unfair: Returning to the Brewers after missing three games because of a family medical emergency, Hader was a bit rusty in his ninth-inning closeout, needing 23 pitches to notch his 16th save of the season. Going back to last season Hader has a streak of 37 consecutive scoreless appearances (covering 35 innings) and has secured his last 30 save opportunities.
Hader hasn’t allowed an earned run since July 28, 2001. Over that time he’s faced 132 batters who have only 10 hits, two doubles, no homers, 16 walks, one hit by pitch, an .087 batting average, and a 44.7 percent strikeout rate. And in 27 plate appearances with runners in scoring position opponents have hit .042 against Hader since last July 28.
Since the start of the 2021 season the Cardinals have batted a sickly .087 against Hader (2 for 23) with three walks, a hit batter and 11 strikeouts.
Goldschmidt Gone Wild: He’s now reached base in 31 consecutive games, and that includes his current hitting streak of 17 games. Thursday he went 2 for 4 against the Brewers with a homer and a walk. During the 31-game stretch that began April 22, Goldy has pummeled pitchers for a .415 batting average, .467 onbase percentage, .724 slugging percentage and 1.191 OPS. This feast includes eight homers, 14 doubles, 33 RBI, 13 walks, 20 runs, five golden rings, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.
Don’t Forget About Tommy: Edman blistered the Brewers for three hits and a run scored. His OPS+ for the season is 40 percent above league average offensively. He leads the majors with 11 stolen bases. He has a dandy .373 onbase percentage overall, 15 extra base hits, and a .448 slug. Among 20 MLB leadoff hitters that have at least 100 plate appearances in the No. 1 spot, Edman ranks fourth with a .369 OBP.
Quality Starts Matter: The Cardinals are 20-8 this season when benefiting from the Bill James evolved version of the quality start. Without a quality start, the Cardinals are 4-12.
Fun Statistic: Using the Baseball Reference version of WAR, the Cardinals have three players ranked among the top five in the National League in wins above replacement.
The top five:
Manny Machado, 3.3
Tommy Edman, 2.9
Nolan Arenado, 2.6
Mookie Betts, 2.5
P. Goldschmidt, 2.3
Nolan Gorman: Since his strong MLB debut weekend in Pittsburgh, the rookie is 0 for 9 with six strikeouts.
Pauly DeJong: In his last seven games at Triple A Memphis, the Cardinals’ erstwhile shortstop is batting .333 with a .925 OPS.
Edmundo Sosa: In 13 games and 51 plate appearances as a starter this season the young middle infielder has a .314 OBP and .277 slug for a .590 OPS. But Sosa has saved three runs defensively in 91 innings at shortstop.
Brendan Donovan: Among NL players that have at least 70 plate appearances, the Cards rookie ranks first in onbase percentage (.444.) And his walk rate of 16.7 percent ranks fourth in the NL behind Max Muncy (20.2%), Austin Slater (18.8%), and Juan Soto (18.3%.)
Juan Yepez: He had an RBI against the Brewers but is batting .167 with a .558 OPS in his last nine games. But Yepez is still getting things done; he has two homers and four RBI within those last nine.
Nolan Arenado: 11 for 61 (.180) with a .591 OPS in his last 17 games.
Update On STL’s Starting Shortstop Of The Future: In two games since being promoted to Double A Springfield, the exciting baseball prodigy Masyn Winn is 3 for 10 with a walk, double and four RBI. Combining his stats from high Class A Peoria and Springfield, Winn is batting .350 with a .584 slugging percentage 21 extra base hits, 15 steals in 15 attempts and a .988 OPS. I can’t wait to see Winn’s rocket arm throwing out stunned Cardinal opponents at first base on balls hit deep in the hole.
Thanks for reading…
Enjoy the action-packed Friday night of sports in downtown St. Louis featuring the Brewers-Cardinals and Avalanche-Blues in downtown St. Louis.
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical 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 “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.
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.