THE REDBIRD REVIEW
The Cardinals (20-17) and Mets will close their four-game series with a 12:10 p.m. game today at Citi Field. The Mets have won two of the first three games.
Now that we’ve gotten the breaking news out of the way, let’s go …
Cardinals vs. Winning Teams: Wednesday’s 11-4 loss to left the Cards with a 8-9 record this season against opponents over .500. Not good. And the Mets (25-14) are one of the reasons, having won four of six games from the Cardinals. If the Cards lose Thursday’s series finale, they’ll be 2-5 against the Mets this season. This is the final regular-season game between the teams in 2022.
Road Worries: The Cardinals are 4-5 in their last nine games away from Busch Stadium. A loss to the Mets today would leave the Redbirds with a 10-10 road ledger for the season.
Is Jason Hicks A Starting Pitcher? Sorry, but I can’t join those who are purring over his work as a starting pitcher. I know it will take time for Hicks to make a full transition from reliever to starter, and I also understand the need for patience. I’ve even written that we should give Hicks time. OK. But shouldn’t he be getting better?
Hicks wasn’t effective against the Mets in Wednesday’s start, needing 82 pitches to navigate four wild innings that included two hits, two earned runs, three walks, two hit batters and a wild pitch. Hicks couldn’t maintain form; his troublesome mechanics left him all over the place in his delivery and landing. Only 39 of his 82 pitches were strikes.
In six starts this season Hicks has a 4.98 ERA in 21.1 innings. He’s allowed 15 hits and 13 walks. Among MLB starting pitchers that have thrown 21 innings this season, Hicks ranks 134th among 136 with his glaringly high walk rate of 13.8 percent. The lack of control has juiced the onbase percentage against him to .351; that ranks 124th among the 136 starters.
On the plus side Hicks has a high ground-ball rate as a starter (52.7%) and has fought out of jams by limiting hitters to a .200 average with runners in scoring position.
Hicks works at such a slow and achingly boring pace, I’m not sure why he isn’t increasing tempo to get into a rhythm.
T.J. McFarland, A Year Later: It was a wretched Wednesday for the St. Louis bullpen. Rookie Jake Walsh was pelted for four earned runs without retiring a Met. But lefty T.J. McFarland is clearly the biggest problem in the bullpen. With the Cardinals only two runs down (6-4), the Mets put the Cards away by pounding McFarland for five runs in the bottom of the eighth. The disaster left him with a 9.00 ERA on the season, and opponents are batting .373 with a 1.078 OPS against him.
Last season for the Cardinals McFarland allowed 11 earned runs in 38.2 innings for a 2.56 ERA. This season he’s already given up more earned runs (13) but in only 13 innings.
McFarland’s ground-ball rate was 62.3 percent for the Cardinals last year; it’s fallen to 45.7% this season. Compared to last season the hard-hit rate against McFarland’s is up 12 points, to 58 percent.
Just as alarming is McFarland’s performance against LH batters. This should be his strong point, but so far this year left-handed hitters are 10 for 19 against McFarland (.526 average) and have a huge 1.361 OPS. In 2021 LH batters went only 8 for 48 vs. McFarland (.167) and had a .496 OPS.
The velocity on McFarland’s sinker is down this season. Last year LH batters hit only .128 against his sinker; this season they’ve punished the pitch for nine hits in 13 at-bats (.692) including a triple and a homer. Last season McFarland neutralized RH batters with his changeup (.143 average) but this season they’ve banged the change for four hits – including two homers in a double – in nine at-bats.
This past offseason the Cardinals made the decision to sign McFarland to a one-year contract that pays him $2.5 million in 2022. He turns 33 years old next month.
Tracking Albert Pujols: Congrats to The Machine for his two-hit night against Max Scherzer that increased his career total to 3,314 hits. There’s some confusion about where Pujols ranks among the all-time hits leaders … depending on your choice for historical record-keeping, he’s either 12th or 10th. Elias lists him as 10th, so we can go with that. It really doesn’t matter because even if we cite the Baseball Reference list, Pujols needs only six more hits to surpass Eddie Collins and Paul Molitor to move into 10th place in MLB history.
Another milestone to keep an eye on: total bases. Right now Pujols ranks fourth in MLB history with 6063 total bases but needs only 18 more total bases to move past Willie Mays and into third place all time behind Henry Aaron (6,856) and Stan Musial (6,134.)
Pujols made his 15th start of the season at Citi Field last night. And in the 15 starts Pujols has batted .283 with a .400 onbase percentage, .457 slug, .857 OPS, two doubles, two homers and eight RBI.
This season Pujols is 4 for 31 against RH pitching (.129) but has drawn seven walks. He had been in a 1-for-20 drought vs. RH until lofting two singles against Scherzer. The first single drove home two runs to put the Cardinals in a 2-2 tie. And after the second single Pujols stole a base for the first time this season and has 117 steals for his career. The younger Pujols had three seasons of 14+ stolen bases: 16 steals in 2005 and 2009, and 14 steals in 2010.
Dylan Carlson, Climbing Out: While Carlson’s overall numbers for the season are disappointing (.649 OPS), it’s best to take notice of his current trend. Carlson had three hits including a double against the Mets on Wednesday. For the month of May he’s batting .305 with a .858 OPS. And in his last 13 games Carlson is batting .327, getting on base at a rate of 35.3% and slugging .551. That adds up to a .904 OPS in his last 51 plate appearances.
The St. Louis outfield has some catching up to do offensively. Going into Thursday’s game Cardinal outfielders have combined for a .229 average, .286 OBP and .348 slug. Among outfield groups, their collective .634 OPS ranks 11th in the NL and 21st in the majors. That’s no surprise considering Tyler O’Neill’s .552 OPS and Harrison Bader’s .625 OPS.
Nolan Arenado: The third baseman gave the Cardinals a shot at a comeback win by hitting a two-run homer to cut the NYM lead to 6-4. Among National League hitters Arenado ranks second in RBI (31), is tied for second with nine home runs, is second in WAR (2.3), is fourth in slugging (.597) and fifth in OPS (.962.)
Cooling Down? Rookie Juan Yepez is 0 for 8 in the New York series so far. In his last six games Yepez is 3 for 22 (.136) with a .375 OPS. But he’s walked three times and struck out three times during this mini stretch. Yepez is in Thursday’s starting lineup, playing left field.
Corey Dickerson, Still Struggling: The LH-swinging designated hitter and outfielder went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts on Wednesday – and is 1 for 7 with four strikeouts in the current series. He’s hitting .185 for the season with a .455 OPS. Among MLB hitters with at least 70 plate appearances this year, Dickerson’s anemic slugging percentage (.215) ranks 274th among 278. He’s 5 for 31 (.161) since April 29, has barreled only one pitch all season, and has a low hard-hit rate of 22.6 percent.
The Phenom That Is Jordan Walker: Young Walker turns 20 years old in three days, and he’s celebrating early by putting on a power show for Class A Springfield. In his last nine games Walker is batting .333 with a .722 slug, 1.118 OPS, five doubles, three homers, five walks and 10 RBI. I have no idea why he’s playing third base when he could be getting experience as a left fielder. For the season Walker is batting .312 with a .415 OBP and .500 slugging percentage. And he’s done all of this at age 19 in a league where the average age of position players in 24.3 years.
Obligatory Nolan Gorman Update: He had three hits for Triple A Memphis last night and is batting .400 and slugging .800 with three homers and a 29.6% strikeout rate in his last six games … In his last 12 games Nolan is batting .319 with a .617 slug, four homers, and 1.002 OPS with a 30.7% strikeout rate. The strikeout rate continues to drop, and the power remains formidable. Gorman has homered every 8.8 at-bats through 34 games at Memphis.
Minors Matters: Paul DeJong went 0 for 4 for Memphis on Wednesday and is 2 for 21 (.095) since his demotion by the big club. DeJong has gone hitless in four of his five games for Memphis … Outfielder Lars Nootbaar returned to action for Memphis last night after missing time with an injury. He went 1 for 3 with a walk and double against Gwinnett. Nootbar had been out since May 6 … Future St. Louis starting shortstop Masyn Winn, 20, is batting .333 with a .402 OBP, .559 slug and 13 steals in 29 games for High Class A Peoria.
And Finally: Pujols is back in the lineup today, playing first base for the Cardinals against Mets RHP Chris Bassitt. Paul Goldschmidt gets a downshift start at DH, and Brendan Donovan is starting at shortstop. Bassitt has a 2.34 ERA in seven starts this season including a 1.85 ERA in his last four starts. The Mets are 5-2 when Bassitt starts this season. Dakota Hudson, who starts for the Cardinals, has a 3.06 ERA in seven starts but comes in with a too-high 11.4% walk rate. The Cards are 4-3 in Dak’s starts.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the game …
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.