The Redbird Review
The Cardinals will close their homestand with three games against the Giants this weekend. Before they head out to New York (Mets) and Pittsburgh, the Cardinals might want to make the best of home sweet home.
The fellers have lost six of their last 11 home games. They’re 8-7 at Busch this season for a home winning percentage (.533) that ranks 19th in the majors.
The Cardinals haven’t won a continuous series at Busch since taking two out of three from the Pirates to start the season.
What do I mean by “continuous?” Happy to explain. The Cardinals did win two against the Royals at Busch – but the originally scheduled two-game series was interrupted by bad weather and split into two single games because of a postponement. The first contest was played April 12, and KC returned to St. Louis for the makeup game on May 2.
The Cardinals have lost three-game home series to the Mets and Orioles, and they split a four-game set against the Diamondbacks.
The Cardinals have to get going.
Is there an offense in the house? One that scores on a consistent basis in support of a really fine pitching staff? The Cardinals erupt now and again for 10 runs in a game and that’s fun for the people. It is also a distraction that may cause some to forget that the St. Louis often is frequently inadequate.
The Cardinals go into the weekend as the fifth-best team in the majors at preventing runs – giving up only 3.45 per game. The other seven teams in the top eight in MLB for run prevention have an average record that’s 10 games above .500. Despite being ranked No. 21 by Baseball Reference in strength of schedule, the Cardinals are only three games above .500.
It’s no mystery. It’s the offense. Update of a previous stat: in going 8-10 since April 24 the Cardinals scored three runs or fewer in 11 of 18 games. Their record in the 11 low-output games is 2-9. Such a shame.
Here’s how I look at it … if you can pitch well and limit runs and be dependable in preventing runs, you will have a competitive team … and you would have a chance to be a very good or great team if the offense comes to life. The Cardinals have such a team.
A closer look at Tyler O’Neill: His problems at the plate are mostly about two issues: (1) quality of contact; and (2) difficulty with non-fastballs. Compared to last season, when he bashed 34 homers and slugged .560, O’Neill has the same rate of chasing pitches out of the strike zone, his overall contact rate has improved slightly, and his swinging strike percentage is down.
But O’Neill just isn’t driving the ball with authority. His hard-hit rate has fallen to 35.6 percent this season from 52.2% last year. His barrel rate (18% last year) has decreased to 12.3% so far this season. His average exit velocity is down four miles per hour since last season, 93 mph to 89.
Last season O’Neill did plenty off damage against breaking balls and offspeed pitches. Against the breaking stuff he had a .549 slugging percentage and an expected .582 slug. Against the offspeed offerings, he batted .304 with a .457 slug and an expected slug of .511.
Needless to say, he’s having problems with these pitches in the early stages of 2022. Against the breaking balls O’Neill is batting .122 with a .195 slug and an expected slug of .256. And with the offspeed stuff he’s batting .154 with a .154 slug and an expected slug of .242.
OK, so we’ve identified the specifics of what O’Neill needs to fix. He should be able to solve the problem because he did well against the two pitches in 2021. And if he hit the ball hard last season, there’s no justifiable reason for softer contact in 2022.
In his last 21 games O’Neill is batting .175 with a .244 onbase percentage and .275 slug … plus a 42.1 percent strikeout rate. But his overall strikeout rate for the season is 30 percent, a slight drop from last year’s 31%. So why is O’Neill getting worse? Is he experiencing an attack of DeJongivitis? That’s a condition that leaves a hitter confused, overloaded with information, and talking to himself.
Positive turn for Dylan Carlson: after a terrible start to the campaign the second–year rightfielder is picking up the pace. Yeah, it’s a mini sample but all that matters is Carlson’s progress going forward. In his last 10 games (33 plate appearances) DC is batting .355 with a 1.071 OPS and six extra-base hits including two homers. Carlson’s OPS+ for the season is up to 86 which is 14 percent below league average offensively. But at least he’s moving in the right direction.
Trending: Brendan Donovan. He’s at shortstop again for Friday night’s game against the Giants and their RH starting pitcher Logan Webb. This makes four starts in a row at shortstop for the LH-hitting Donovan. When he’s started a game at any position since being promoted from Triple A Memphis, Donovan is batting .267 with a .421 onbase percentage, .600 slug and 1.021 OPS. It’s only six starts and 19 plate appearances, but what the heck. Enjoy his offense and hope it lasts.
Keep an eye on Tommy Edman: He batted .300 in April with a .395 onbase percentage and .486 slug for a .881 OPS. He had a low 11% strikeout rate. Now, here are his stats so far in May: .256 average, .341 OBP, and a .333 slug for a .674 OPS. His strikeout for the month is 20.4%.
Here’s the most concerning issue: Edman’s trend against right-handed pitchers. That’s always been a tough challenge for him. In April he hit .314 with a .435 OBP against RH pitchers and struck out only 11% of the time. In May, he’s batting .182 with a .250 OBP and 25% strikeout rate against righthanders.
Here’s your obligatory Nolan Gorman update: The lefty-swinging power prospect is trending down. Which, of course, could change as more games are played.
➤ First 17 games: .349 average, 30.1 percent strikeout rate, .833 slugging percentage, 1.231 OPS, a home run every 6.6 at-bats.
➤ Last 12 games through Thursday.196 average, 45 percent strikeout rate, .413 slugging percentage, .688 OPS, a home run every 15.3 at-bats.
➤ Going into the weekend Gorman had a 43 percent strikeout rate and .368 slugging percentage in May.
Eric Longenhagen, who analyzes prospects for FanGraphs, described Gorman’s primary flaws in his preseason report.
First flaw: Gorman chases too many sliders. Is that still a problem? Yes. This week Longenhagen gave an update to his colleague Jay Jaffe. “Gorman is still swinging over sliders below the strike zone, and that he’s developed a new vulnerability by struggling to make contact with pitches in the upper third,” Jaffe wrote. “While he’s pounding pitches on the inner third, big league hurlers probably won’t be afraid to attack him in the areas where he can’t hurt them.”
Second flaw: Gorman’s defense at second base. “He isn’t very good,” Logenhagen wrote before the season. “His range, hands, and actions around the bag are all below average. He can make routine plays, though, and the Cardinals would be justified in running him out there situationally.” In an update relayed to Jaffe this week, Logenhagen described Gorman as “barely playable” at second base.
Logenhagen still is positive about Gorman’s overall potential as a prospect. Gorman has a lot going for him, but the Cardinals have legit reasons for giving him more time to hit sliders and make progress with his second-base defense. If Gorman profiles as a designated hitter, he’d speed up the timetable for his big-league arrival by reducing strikeouts.
But with the burly Juan Yepez already here and walloping extra-base hits – and the Cardinals carrying Corey Dickerson and Albert Pujols – the DH spot is getting crowded. Anyone seen Lars Nootbaar lately?
I have a headache.
BIRD BYTES …
1) The Cardinals are the worst pinch-hitting team in the majors so far. Batting average? Nothing. Their pinch hitters are 0 for 15.
2) The Cardinals rank 7th in the majors in percentage of at-bats that become productive outs (32.6.)
3) The White Sox have moved ahead of the Cardinals in the percentage of successful stolen-base attempts. Tony La Russa’s team has 17 steals in 18 attempts for an MLB-best 94 percent. The Cardinals have 27 steals in 30 tries for a 90% rate that ranks second in the majors.
4) The Cardinals have lost four games this season when given a quality start from their pitchers. No team has taken more losses in a quality start than the Cards so far. The offense again. Sigh.
5) As Edman takes some ground balls at shortstop to in preparation for a potential move from second base, here are a couple of factoids: he’s has played 122 innings of shortstop in the big leagues and has been credited with 3 defensive runs saved. That’s good. There aren’t many innings to go on, but Fielding Bible gave Edman a +3 for his range, and a +1 when moving to his right or left. Edman played 234 games at shortstop in the St. Louis minor-league system.
Thanks for reading and have a swell weekend …
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.