It’s been five games – one complete turn of the rotation – since the Cardinals demoted Willson Contreras to designated hitter and installed Andrew Knizner at catcher.
The ridiculous move was made to appease crybaby pitchers that blamed Contreras for their own mediocrity and failures and the apparent unwillingness to adapt after the retirement of future Hall of Fame catcher Yadier Molina.
Surely we’ve seen some improvement since this dirty deed was done, right?
No, actually, that would be wrong.
The starting pitching has done worse – or certainly no better – since the Cardinals metaphorically stripped Contreras of his catching armor.
Before Contreras was moved aside STL starters had a 5.39 ERA. In the last five games Cardinal starters had a 5.47 ERA and didn’t last longer than 5.1 innings in any assignment.
The strikeout rate for the five games was a pathetic 18%. Before the demotion it was 20.3%.
Their walk rate for this stretch was an awful 10 percent; before that it was 8.4%.
In the last five games their walks-hits per inning went up to 1.70, higher than the previous 1.55.
Before the catching change opponents batted .294 with a .837 OPS vs. Cardinal starters; in the last five games the enemies batted .313 with a .913 OPS against them. And that includes a whopping .535 slugging percentage.
In the last five games when Cardinal starters pitched with runners in scoring position the Cubs batted .348 with a .676 slug. Yikes!
What about two-strike counts?
Before the switch at starting catcher: .261 average, .423 slugging percentage.
After the switch at starting catcher: .296 average, .463 slug.
I don’t blame Knizner for this. Not at all. Blaming it on the catcher is senseless because the starting pitching is bad and it’s stupid to rip Knizner and Contreras for how they game plan, call pitches and handle these starters.
Enter Jim Edmonds.
I don’t know if you watched or heard him after Wednesday’s 10-4 loss to the Cubs, but here’s what the Cardinal Hall of Famer had to say on Bally Sports Midwest:
“It’s not Willson Contreras’ fault. ‘Hey Wilson Contreras doesn’t know the pitchers. Hey, Wilson Conteras is putting down the wrong fingers.’ Yes. And if you’re a big-league pitcher, if you don’t have a feel for your curveball, you don’t say ‘OK’ to a curveball.
“I don’t care how much time you have, or how many things are going on, and a (catcher) puts down a sign, if you don’t feel like throwing it, you don’t throw it. And if you throw it, that’s your fault. It’s not his fault. And if you don’t have enough time, you need to regroup.
“Figure out how you’re going to work out signs. If the pitch clock is winding down, you need to figure out how to relay what you want to do before everyone is looking at you. It’s your butt on the line.
“If you’re telling me that because Willson Contreras doesn’t know some of these guys, I get it. You can’t shake off all of the time, and that’s on you as a pitcher. You need to go in there with a game plan. You need to say ‘this is me.’ I need to get my cutter inside, stay on me. I need to get my curveball away, I need to throw my changeup on this count. And if I’m not, tell me.’
“Right? That’s not Willson Contreras’ fault … I don’t care who says it, it’s BS. Maybe it’s the pitch clock, or maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. You know what? If it is, it’s still your fault.
“Because you need to make an adjustment as a pitcher to figure out how you’re going to relay the signs. If you don’t want to shake off if he puts down the slider and you feel like crap with your slider that day, and you throw it, and you throw it down the middle and it gets hit – that’s your damn fault and you need to live with it.
“You’ve got to figure it out. You’ve got to let the guy do his job. And just work it out. There’s no blame game. It is what it is.
“Come on, now. Get off his back.”
Bravo, Jimmy. Thank you for speaking the truth on live rightsholder TV.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. 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.
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All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Bill James Online and Baseball Prospectus.
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.