WELCOME TO THE REDBIRD REVIEW
THE RESET: After winning six in a row, the Cardinals closed the Mets series with two consecutive losses — and dreary losses at that. On the happy-talk side of the street, I’ll point out that the Cardinals have won 10 of their last 14 games. And with the Milwaukee Brewers losing five straight games, the 18-14 Cardinals remain perched atop the NL Central.
WEIRD SCHEDULE: Twenty of the Cardinals’ first 32 games were played against NL East lodgers. In fact the Cardinals so far have played more games in the NL East than any team that actually resides in the NL East. The Cardinals went 10-10 against the Nationals, Mets, Marlins and Phillies. (The Braves must feel excluded.) The Cardinals will not mingle with the Easterners again until the Marlins come to town on June 14 for a three-game set.
THE METS SERIES, THUMBS DOWN: The Cardinals’ four-game series split with the Mets was very disappointing. They won the first two games. They didn’t have to face Mets ace Jacob deGrom. Cards pitchers were taking on a Mets lineup that came into the series with the fewest home-run total in the majors and the lowest scoring average in the NL at 3.2 runs per game.
After winning the first two games the Cardinals were outscored 11-3 in their two straight defeats. In the two losses STL batters struck out 12 times, walked once, and had only two extra-base hits (doubles.) In the final two games, No. 3-4-5 hitters Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Paul DeJong combined to go 4 for 22 and didn’t drive in a run.
THURSDAY: WORST PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON? Yes, I think so. You may disagree. But in either case we can agree that this was a real clunker. St. Louis hitters and pitchers were truly awful in Thursday’s 4-1 loss.
With a shot to win the series three games to one, the Cardinals had three hits, struck out 10 times and flailed their way through an 0 for 21 stretch.
Cards starter John Gant and five relievers labored through 192 pitches and walked 11. Gant walked six of his 25 batters faced. The Mets scored two runs in the fifth without the necessity of a base hit, receiving a gift package of four walks and a throwing error by Arenado.
Every Mets position player who started in this abysmal affair drew at least one walk. STL pitchers Gant, Kodi Whitley and Jake Woodford went on auto-destruct against the NL’s weakest offense by ceding three-bases loaded walks for three easy runs.
Through the first three games of the series the Mets $341 million shortstop Francisco Lindor was batting .276 on the season with a homer and three runs batted in. On Thursday, the Cardinals charitably walked Lindor three times. He scored a run for the first time since April 21.
THE WALKIN’ BLUES: Let’s take a closer look at the increasingly Cardinals’ increasingly irksome habit of walking hitters:
— When the Cardinals walk three hitters or fewer in a game, their record is 10-4. When they walk four or more, the record is 8-10. The Cubs are the only MLB pitching staff with more games of 4+ walks this season.
—Their overall walk rate of 11% is second-worst in the majors.
— The bullpen’s 14.3% walk rate is the worst in the majors.
— Among MLB relievers that have pitched at least nine innings so far, the Cardinals have three of the 10 worst walk rates: Jordan Hicks second-highest at 22.7%, Tyler Webb third-highest at 22.4%, and Alex Reyes is No. 10 at 19 percent.
— Among the 113 MLB pitchers that have thrown at least 25 innings so far, John Gant has the worst walk rate at 17.9%. The STL rotation’s overall walk rate is mediocre (8.8%) but not horrendous.
— When there are no outs in the inning, no staff in the majors has a higher overall walk rate (11.1%) than St. Louis.
— The Cardinals’ entire pitching staff has the lowest first-strike rate in the majors at 54.7%. The bullpen is at the bottom at 51%, and the rotation is 28th at 57.2%.
— As a staff the Cardinals rank 25th in pitches thrown in the strike zone (41%.) The starters and relievers are about the same in strike-zone rate.
— The bullpen has the worst strikeout-walk ratio (1.64) in the majors. The rotation is 25th in the same category.
— Because of the preponderance of walks and general ineptitude in the task of throwing strikes, Cardinals pitchers have faced more hitters (56) than any staff in the majors when the bases are loaded.
— The starting pitchers have encountered 27 hitters with the bases loaded, the most of any rotation. The STL bullpen has pitched to 29 hitters with the bases loaded; that’s third-highest.
— The Cardinals have faced sixth-highest number of hitters with runners on base, and sixth-highest amount of hitters with runners in scoring position. The rotation has pitched to 73 batters with RISP; only the Red Sox starters (190) have done that more often.
ABOUT THAT 1ST-STRIKE PERCENTAGE: Here’s why it matters so much. When Cardinals get hitters down at 0-1 in the count, those hitters bat .180 with a .522 OPS. When the hitters are ahead 1-0 in the count against the Cardinals, they bat .258 with a .783 OPS. Big difference.
CHECKING THE OFFENSE: After sputtering in the final two games of the Mets series, the Cardinals have now scored three runs or fewer in 15 of their 30 games this season and are 3-12 when it happens … In the NL only the Padres, Pirates and Nationals have scored 3 or fewer runs in more games than the Cardinals … the Cards are 2-9 when they fail to homer in a game … in their 15 road games the Cardinals have averaged 5.3 runs and 3.8 runs at home, compared to an average of 3.8 runs in their 17 games at Busch Stadium.
TRACKING PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT: Unless Goldy gets cranking, the offense will have a more difficult time of generating a good supply of runs on a consistent basis.
Among the 147 MLB hitters that have at least 100 plate appearances this year, Goldschmidt ranks 114th with his 88 OPS+. (The league average is 100.) He’s 94th in batting average (.240), 121st in onbase percentage (.287), and 101st in slugging (.380.)
That slug ranks 18th among the 19 primary first basemen who have at least 100 PA this season. And his 88 OPS+ is at the bottom of the list of 19. Coming into this season Goldy had a career 142 OPS+. And that includes a 123 OPS+ in his first two seasons as a Cardinal.
Another early-season issue: a career-low walk rate of 6.2% combined with a career-high 26.4% strikeout rate. Before this season Goldschmidt had a 13.7% career walk rate and a 22.6% K rate. The shortage of walks means fewer RBI opportunities for No. 4 hitter Arenado. And in theory it means fewer RBI opps for No. 5 hitter Paul DeJong. I say “in theory” for a reason. Arenado has been good with runners in scoring position, batting .333. But DeJong is 5 for 34 with runners in scoring position (.127) and is hitting .125 with men on base.
When Goldschmidt scores at least one run in a game the Cardinals are 10-2. But that’s a problem because he hasn’t scored a run in 18 of his 30 games.
And when Goldschmidt drives in at least one run in a game this season the Cardinals are 9-1. That’s good. It’s also a problem; he’s knocked in a run in only 10 of his 30 games this season.
THE CATCHERS: Yadier Molina will return soon, perhaps by the end of the weekend. Good timing. I like the work that Andrew Knizner is doing behind the plate, but as a hitter he’s 0 for his last 19. The slump has dropped his season average to .200, and his OPS is down to .533.
NEXT ON THE SKED: The Cardinals and the 12-19 Colorado Rockies start their three-game series Friday night … the Rockies are 2-11 on the road and have the worst road ERA (6.31) in the majors … Rockies hitters are averaging 3.3 runs per road game compared to 5.9 runs at home … the Rox bullpen has the worst overall ERA (5.16) in the majors … former Cardinal first baseman Matt Adams was recently signed by the Rox and is hitting .200 in only 10 at-bats … former Cards lefty Austin Gomber (2-3, 5.90) faces Jack Flaherty tonight (7:15) … Saturday’s 1:15 pm matchup features Chi Chi Gonzales (1-0, 4.38) vs. Carlos Martinez … Sunday at 1:15 it’s German Marquez (1-3, 6.21) against Adam Wainwright.
REPLACING ARENADO: After trading Arenado to The Lou, the Rockies have used Josh Fuentes and Ryan McMahon at third base this season. McMahon is the superior hitter, but he’s also playing a lot at second base … Fuentes and McMahon have combined for a .254 OPS and .718 at the third base position … but on the road, Rox third basemen have a combined .558 OPS, low .280 slug and have not homered … you will see other stats on McMahon, but again, he has actually played more games at second base (18) than he has at third (14.) I’m only using his offensive numbers as a 3B because it’s relevant when looking at the position, post-Arenado.
Enjoy the weekend and thank you 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.