Welcome To The Redbird Review.
Let’s go straight to the toteboard!
The Cardinals are:
⇒ 36-39 this season with a minus 48 run differential.
⇒ Six games behind the first-place Cubs and Brewers and two games behind the third-place Reds in the NL Central.
⇒ 66-67 since the start of last season with a minus 37 run differential.
⇒ 13-24 since May 14, and have been outscored by 75 runs.
⇒ 6-17 since May 30 and have been outscored by 60 runs.
⇒ 4-6 in their stretch of 20 consecutive games against teams that have losing records. The poor Redbirds have been outscored 37-6 in the six losses to the Braves, Tigers and Pirates. Mercy me. (Things aren’t what they used to be.)
⇒ 11-21 since owning their biggest lead in the NL Central (3.5 games) on May 19.
In a related note, here are the records of NL Central teams since the Cardinals led by 3.5 games:
- Brewers, 21-11
- Cubs, 20-12
- Reds, 18-13
- Cardinals, 11-21
- Pirates, 9-21
OK. NOW FOR THE BIGLY LINEUP CHANGE …
A good thing: Tommy Edman’s .270 onbase percentage since May 9 is no longer in the leadoff spot. The switch-hitting Edman had a .339 OBP vs. RH pitchers as a rookie in 2019. That dropped to .317 last year, and was .290 this season.
Probably a good thing: Dylan Carlson’s onbase potential, with a couple of caveats. While the rookie’s .352 OBP on the season is fine, it’s been only .309 since May 24. And while DC has a decent .339 OBP vs. RHP for the season, that OBP against the righties is only .294 in his last 85 plate appearances against them. We’ll have to monitor that. But Carlson will draw more walks than Edman. He’ll be persistent in working counts and is capable of getting the pitcher to show multiple kinds of pitches. That gives the next two hitters, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, a chance to get a good look at what’s working (and isn’t) for the pitcher. And if Carlson can wear the pitcher down, that’s helpful to Goldy and Nado.
A bad thing: Yadier Molina batting 5th. Since returning from the IL on May 8, Yadi is batting .210 with a .573 OPS in 135 plate appearances. And his slugging percentage over this time is .306. The trend continues to track downward. In 64 PA since May 31, Molina is batting .125 with no extra-base hits and four RBI.
An idea thing: Give Lars Nootbaar a chance to bat second and then slide the next three guys back by one spot: Goldy returns to No. 3, Arenado locks in at No. 4., and Tyler O’Neill drops to 5th. If Nootbaar can get on base at a healthy rate and hit his share of line drives, the Cardinals can deepen the lineup. I do realize that Nootbaar just arrived in the majors, and he’s 2 for 10 with no walks. But he does have two RBIs, and isn’t scared.
I’m just saying this could be worth trying at some point. And some point soon depending on how he’s doing. And how the new-look lineup is faring. But center fielder Harrison Bader is getting closer to returning from the IL, and that will likely limit Nootbaar’s opportunities.
The obvious thing: The Cardinals don’t have enough good hitters and there is a shortage of appealing options. I would endorse playing Edmundo Sosa over Paul DeJong at shortstop with the hope of Sosa perking the offense. But Sosa is 4 for 27 (.148) with a .207 OBP in his last 11 games and is slugging only .310 for the season. Then again, what the heck am I talking about? In 46 plate appearances since returning from the IL on June 11, DeJong is batting .095 with one extra-base hit and a strikeout rate of 32.6 percent.
Like I said: not enough good dudes.
THE JEFF ALBERT OFFENSE: I know, I know … what offense, right? Including Thursday’s abysmal loss to the Pirates, the Cardinals have scored two or fewer runs in 10 of their last 12 games. But this has been going on for a while now; the Cards have been held to two runs or less in 14 of their last 23 games, and in 13 of their last 19 games. Unreal. But real.
Since Albert took over as hitting coach before the start of the 2019 season, the Cardinals have scored two or fewer runs 98 times — which is 33.2 percent of their regular-season games played over that time.
That’s the fifth-highest total in the majors since 2019 for having the most games of scoring two or fewer runs; only the Marlins, Tigers, Pirates and Orioles have done worse than the Cardinals. Embarrassing.
As I mentioned earlier this week, and I’ll go ahead and update it now, but with Albert as batting coach over the last two-plus seasons the Cardinals rank 25th among the 30 teams in runs per game, 25th in OPS (.712) 26th in homers, 27th in slugging, 28th in batting average, 29th in total bases and 30th in doubles.
THE OFFENSE, MONTH BY MONTH: Let’s take a look at how the Cardinals offense has degenerated since the start of the season:
April: 4.5 runs per game, 1.3 homers per game.
May: 4.1 runs per game, 1.1 homers per game.
June: 2.9 runs per game, 0.6 homers per game.
In April the Cardinals were 8th in the majors in runs scored and homers. They were also 15th in slugging (.388) and 17th in OPS (.686.) Not great … but the worst was yet to come.
Since May 1 the Cardinals are 29th in runs (scoring 11 more than Pittsburgh) and 27th in homers and slugging (.365.)
In more recent times — since May 30 — St. Louis ranks last in runs, last in slugging (.327), last in OPS (.607), 29th in batting average (.211), 29th in OBP (.280) and 29th in homers.
THE WEAK ONBASE PERCENTAGE IS A DRAG: We’re seeing how the team’s anemic onbase percentage is impacting the offense. The opportunity to drive in runs is limited. Among the 15 NL teams this season, the Cardinals have the third-lowest number of plate appearances with men on, and also the third-lowest number of PA with runners in scoring position.
The current .298 OBP would be the lowest by a Cardinal offense since the 1968 team’s .298 OBP in the “Year of the Pitcher.”
But I’m sure glad the fellers have finally gotten around to realizing it would make some sense to put in some necessary pregame preparation time to come up with a smarter hitting approach against the opposing starting pitcher. No rush, men.
CARLOS MARTINEZ, EXTREMELY BAD: After five buggy, haywire innings against the Pirates on Thursday, Martinez has a 6.78 ERA through his 14 starts this season. Going back to 1900, among starters that pitched at least 70 innings in a given year, the Martinez 6.78 ERA would be the third worst by a Cardinals starter in a single season. An injured Mark Mulder had a 7.14 ERA in 2006, and Andy Benes had a 6.91 ERA in 2001.
What a bizarre season. Big surprise, right? Well, I was the dolt who really believed Carlos would get his brainpan adjusted for 2021 because he had a lot of money on the line, and had to salvage his career as a starting pitcher.
Martinez had a positive six-start stretch through May 27, crafting a 2.82 ERA with five quality starts, and the Cards went 4-2 in his six outings.
Since then, the unhinged Martinez has been a disaster: five starts, 19.2 innings, 30 earned runs, 13.73 ERA and a 15.8 percent walk rate. And opponents batted .352 against him with a .467 OBP and .557 slug for a 1.024 OPS.
AS THE ROTATION TURNS: That blast-wave of an ERA by Martinez (6.78) is the worst ERA in the majors among 74 starters that have pitched at least 70 innings. The Cardinals are 4-10 in his 14 starts. That is among the reasons why he’s about to be repurposed, pulled from the rotation to (presumably) become another arm for the bullpen.
If Wade LeBlanc is the choice to take El Gallo’s spot, I certainly will wish the lefty all of my best. LeBlanc, 36, has been doing this for a long time and fits the classy-veteran profile. But LeBlanc has an 8.60 ERA in his last 15 MLB starts, allowing a .338 batting average with a .379 OPS and .618 slug. And he’s given up 2.7 homers per 9 innings in those 15 starts.
Since the start of the 2019 season LeBlanc has faced RH batters in 526 plate appearances. They’ve hit .304 with a .534 slug and .877 OPS against him.
This is what can happen when the front office fails to enhance the team’s pitching depth during the offseason when value-price free agents were available. I remember when the Cardinals used to do those things.
WALKIN’ BLUES: An ode to Big Joe Williams. Thirteen of the 33 batters walked by Martinez this season have come around to score. That means 39 percent of his walks have directly led to a run for the opponent.
With Jack Flaherty on the IL, the Cards’ five primary starting pitchers are Adam Wainwright, John Gant, Martinez, Kwang Hyun Kim and Johan Oviedo. The five have walked 145 batters unintentionally this season; 46 have scored. That’s 31.7 percent.
If you add in Flaherty, an opponent has scored 50 runs on 165 walks; that’s a walk-damage rate of 30.3%.
And 15% of the total runs scored against the Cardinals this season have come after the walks by these six starting pitchers.
As for the walks in general ….
Cardinals pitchers (of course) have maintained their MLB-worst walk rate (11.6 percent.) They’re in position to capture some sort of hideous triple crown; their starters (10.2%) and relievers (13.5%) also have the worst walk rates in the majors.
As Big Joe would say: I Done Stopped Hollering.
Stats from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference/Stathead and Bill James Online.
I have another column on the way.
Thanks for reading …
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.
The weekly “Seeing Red” podcast with Bernie and Will Leitch is also available at 590thefan.com.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
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.