Welcome to the Redbird Review…
And good luck to the Blues in Game 2 at Colorado.
Onto the baseball.
You’ll find the Nolan Arenado section in here.
And yes, my headline over today’s Review was an attempt at cheap sarcasm that fooled absolutely no one. The author (me) was just trying to amuse himself if no one else.
Send your complaints to Danny “Scoops” Mac.
Aaarrrrgggghhhh! The Cardinals were mean to the Pittsburgh Pirates again, winning 5-2 Wednesday at Busch Stadium. The Cards are 4-0 against the Yinzers this season, with a +17 run differential (27-10.) STL pitchers have dominated MLB’s lowest-scoring offense, posting a 2.50 ERA without allowing a homer to 144 batters faced. The Pirates are hitting .192 with a .240 slugging percentage vs. the Cards. Against all foes this season the Buccos are 30th in runs per game (3.41) slugging (.344), and homers (26.) They’ve scored three runs or fewer in 25 games, going 4-21 in those conflicts.
What Does It Mean? Well, after ending their vacation break in their San Diego getaway from good baseball, the Cardinals got back to work and put an end to the three-game winning streak. With Wednesday’s happiness the Cards improved to 7-0 this season in games against the NL’s two worst teams, Pittsburgh and Colorado. (I guess that makes the boys 17-18 against the other teams.) The 24-18 Cardinals lead the warming second-place Cubs (21-20) by 2 and ½ in the NL Central. Milwaukee remains only three games back despite losing 11 of its last 14.
Pirates, If You Want To Walk, Then Head To Forest Park: The Cardinals calmed their mound anxieties by walking only two of the 35 Pittsburgh hitters that stepped into the box. Starting pitcher John Gant walked one Pirate in his 5 and ⅓ innings. When you’re staring at a team that is hitting a home run every 133 at-bats this season, there is nothing to fear. When you are pondering your approach against a team that is having its poorest slugging season since 1968, it’s best to throw a bunch of dang strikes.
Manager Mike Shildt was understandably pleased by the determined effort to find a more accurate aim with their pitches. When the Cardinals walk three or fewer hitters in a game this season, their record is 12-4. When they free-pass four or more hitters in a game, the record is 12-14. I flunked math but I do believe the math is speaking to us here.
It Was Tough To Trade Austin Gomber. But I Suppose This Nolan Arenado Fellow Is OK: Good gracious — what a player this man is. In cracking a two-run shot in the first inning, third baseman Nolan Arenado went deep for the fourth consecutive game and has 10 bombs on the season. With 24 extra-base hits Nado is second in the majors to Shohei Ohtani (26.) His .583 slugging percentage ranks 12th among qualifying MLB hitters and 5th in the NL. Arenado already is up to 2.1 WAR this season; that ties him for fourth overall in the majors.
More Fun Facts On Arenado: I wanted to break up my stats-clogging to some Nado numbers into little pieces.
- He’s leading the majors in slugging percentage (.803) and OPS (1.251) during the month of May.
- Busch Stadium is a fine new home for Nado. In 85 plate appearances at Busch this season he’s batting .289 with a .365 OBP and .566 slug.
- Then again, Arenado has always enjoyed hitting at Busch Stadium. As a Rockie. As a Redbird. Doesn’t matter. In 45 career games and 183 career plate appearances at Busch, he’s batting .283 with a .350 OBP and .536 slug for a .886 OPS. He’s homered every 16.6 at-bats ay Busch.
- There is a symmetry to Arenado’s offense; his home-run and RBI counts are exactly the same at home as they are on the road. That would be 5 homers and 15 RBIs. A matching set. Adds up to 10 and 30. Nice.
- You definitely want these gentlemen to get plenty of swings in the first inning of games. Among MLB hitters with at least 35 first-inning plate appearances this season Arenado leads in batting average (.394) and is third in OPS (1.126) behind Mike Trout and Ohtani. Arenado’s eight first-inning RBIs are second in MLB to Manny Machado’s nine.
- Arenado leads the Cardinals in batting average with runners in scoring position (.333) going 13 for 39.
- Five of Arenado’s 10 homers came in a tied-game situation and gave the Cardinals the lead. And he hit a three-run homer against the Mets that wiped out a 5-2 Mets lead.
- Arenado is batting .342 with men on base. His RBI count with men on (27) is nine more than the next Cardinal on the list — Paul Goldschmidt, who has 18.
- Arenado has 15 two-out RBI this season; no other Cardinal has more than eight.
The Onbase Blahs: The Cardinals rank 22nd in the majors with a .307 onbase percentage. I’m surprised by this; the Cards have been a relatively solid OBP team in recent seasons. From 2016 through 2020 the Cardinals ranked 11th among the 30 MLB teams with a .325 OBP and were never lower than .321 in a season.
And this year? Well, put it this way: this .307 OBP would be the poorest by a Cardinals offense in a season during the Bill DeWitt Jr. Era, which began in 1996. That’s 26 seasons of baseball. For context consider that the overall MLB onbase percentage is .313 so far this season.
No, the Cardinals aren’t that far off. But the OBP is down, and that’s a concern. More runners on base, more run-scoring opportunities. This season the Cards rank 23rd in MLB for plate appearances with men on base. But with the bases empty, they have the eighth-highest number of plate appearances.
What gives? Several items for your consideration:
1–The Cards have dropped in walk rate this season; right now their 8.8% is tied for sixth-lowest in the majors.
2–Their team batting average is .234, which would be the second-lowest in a St. Louis season since 1996. But this is more of a reflection on the state of baseball in 2021; the overall MLB batting average is .236. That would be the worst in a season since the .237 average in 1968. But in the Cards’ case, that .236 is a contributing factor to their lower OBP.
3–Bad luck is a factor too. Their current batting average on balls in play is .272. That ranks 24th in the majors and is 16 points below the overall MLB average of .288.
4–According to Statcast the Cardinals should have a .251 batting average based on the quality of contact. That’s 17 points higher than the actual batting average — and another reason for the low OBP.
Tracking Paul Goldschmidt: He’s having a good May, batting .293 with a .859 OPS. In April Goldy batted .214 with a .597 OPS.
Just A Quick And Friendly Reminder: Edmundo Sosa is a better hitter than people think. As a 23-year-old at Triple A Memphis in 2019, he batted .291 with 18 doubles, 17 homers, and a .801 OPS. He plays very good defense at shortstop. He needs more opportunities to play. And if Paul DeJong gets more rest I think he’ll hit better.
Next On The Sked: The Cardinals and Pirates do it again at Busch tonight at 6:45 p.m. It’s Jack Flaherty for the Cards and RHP Trevor Cahill for Bucs.
A couple of quick notes on Cahill: first, he has a 5.97 ERA this season but has allowed only three earned runs in 10 and ⅓ innings over his last two starts. Second, LH batters have ripped Cahill for a .350 average and .974 OPS this season.
As for Flaherty: he’s 7-0 this season. Since a tough opening-day start, Jack has a 1.47 ERA in seven starts and 43 innings, with opponents batting .174 against him. He’s walked 11 while striking out 44 over the seven-start stretch, with only one HR allowed.
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.