THE REDBIRD REVIEW:
The Cardinals traveled to Philadelphia and Washington for an Amtrak special. At the end of the line the trip was the title of a Springsteen song: “Downbound Train.”
And yes, I kinda feel like I’m a rider on that damn downbound train. I must write about the assortment of ailments that have put the Cardinals’ record in declining health.
It’s not my fault. I would like to see the Cardinals do a lot more more winning and significantly less losing. I would like to see my friends at Bally Midwest have genuine reasons for high spirits, laughter and Happy Talk. It is a toilsome assignment for my Bally peoples right now, comforting the masses by finding the many positives in Matt Carpenter’s .081 batting average. Hey, I’ve been there. I’m the town’s last Carlos Martinez apologist.
Look, Downbound Train is a depressing song. I would prefer the O’Jays and “Love Train” for the Cardinals. But the Redbirds have to give a brother more to work with here. Know what I mean? I can’t be mister bubbly and start inflating balloons when you go 2-4 versus the Phils and Nats … and score four piddling runs in the four cringeworthy setbacks. Y’all can’t be hanging with the Pirates in last place in the NL Central, sitting there with identical 8-10 records.
Here we go …
Shiver. It’s A Cold Start To The Season: In Bill DeWitt Jr.’s 26 years as Cardinals chairman, this is the first team to open a season by losing five of its first six series. The last time it happened was 1988, when Whitey Herzog’s defending NL champions went 5-13 through 18 games and never kicked in, finishing 76-86.
During the DeWitt Era only the 1997 Cards had a poorer record (7-11) through the first 18 games than this ‘21 team (8-10.) The 2001, 2007 and 2017 Cardinals were also 8-10 record at this point of their seasons and Tony La Russa’s ‘01 team ended up with 95 wins and got as far as the NLCS.
The Most Frustrating Part: In each of the five series that they’ve lost so far, the Cardinals split the first two games and were in position to capture the series. But in the five games that determined the series winner, the Cardinals went 0-5 and were outscored 30-4. No typo. Yes, the Redbirds were outscored 30-4. Holy shinola.
St. Louis lost the third and final game of the series with Cincinnati and Milwaukee by a combined 21-4 margin. And in their last three losses with the series on the line, the Cards were shut out and shut down 6-0 by Washington, 2-0 by Philadelphia and 1-0 by the Nationals on Wednesday.
This reminds me of the Alec Baldwin scene in Glengarry Glen Ross:
Coffee’s for closers!
Home-Run Dependency, Updated: When the Cardinals fail to muster a homer in a game, they’re 0-6. When they hit no more than one HR in a game, they’re 3-9. Hey … um …what’s all this stuff about “scratching and clawing” and “manufacturing” runs? Here’s the deal: your 2021 Cardinals manufacture runs by swatting the ol’ orb over the wall at least two times a game. They’re 5-1 when hitting two-plus homers. Smite is might.
Remember Nolan Arenado’s Winning HR In The Home Opener? Seems like a while ago, that mighty clout for a 3-1 victory over the rival Brewers at Busch Stadium. Since Arenado’s wonderful moment in his first home game as a Cardinal, the fellers have gone on to lose eight of the last 11 games.
In the eight defeats the Cards scored 14 total runs, hit only three homers, grounded into seven double plays, struck out 66 times, walked 20 times, batted .143 with runners in scoring position, and stranding 51 on base. Need more of that scratching and clawing and manufacturing.
The Matt Carpenter Watch: In his seven games since homering in the 14-3 shellacking of the Nationals on April 13 at Busch Stadium, Carpenter is 1 for 19 with 10 strikeouts.
Yes, There Are Some Positives And I’m Pleased To Type ‘Em Up:
1–Starting pitchers Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez submitted three quality starts in Washington. In 19 combined innings they handcrafted a 1.89 ERA and a 4.5 strikeout-walk ratio. The Nationals batted .211 with a .260 OBP and .338 slugging percentage against Jack, Waino, and Carlos. The Cardinals should have won all three games but dropped the last two when Washington pitchers filibustered the St. Louis hitters. After a really cruddy couple of weeks, the rotation is making progress.
2–Tommy Edman, Good Defense: He’s made five out-of-zone defensive plays at second base, and nine OOZ plays in right field. According to the Fielding Bible. Edman is ranked 7th among MLB second baseman defensively, and is 14th among right fielders.
3–Tommy Edman, Good Hitter: Edman has a splendidly low strikeout rate (8.5%). He’s among the best contact hitters in the majors so far. He ranks 11th in both overall contact rate (88.4%) and contact rate on pitches in the strike zone (92.6%) As the leadoff hitter Edman is starting to get on base more often; he has a .356 OBP in his last 13 games. Edman’s OBP is .444 when he leads off the game, and .382 when he’s the first batter in an inning. The switch-hitting Edman struggled against RHP last season, coming in at 19 percent below league average in park adjusted runs created. So far this season he’s 14% above average vs. RHP.
4–Tommy Edman, Good Baserunner: According to the all-encompassing base-running metric at FanGraphs, Edman is tied for third in the majors with 1.3 BsR.
5–Here’s rookie outfielder Justin Williams in his last nine games: .321 average, .424 OBP and .536 slug. For the season Williams is 3 for 7 with runners in scoring position. When batting with RISP, Williams has as many runs batted in as Paul Goldschmidt (5) and more than Nolan Arenado (3.)
Thanks 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.
For the last 36 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. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 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.