THE REDBIRD REVIEW

The Cardinals took it on the noggin from the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night. The final score was 7-1. The verdict: the Cardinals stink, and the court adamantly rejects any appeal of our ruling.

Offensively the Cardinals are Bob Uecker, a .200 career hitter in the majors. But that isn’t a fair comparison because Uecker is 90 years old and he’s calling Brewers games from upstairs in his radio booth at American Family Field. That said, the beloved “Mr. Baseball” couldn’t hit any worse than Dylan Carlson.

The Cardinals desperately needed another dominant performance from ace starting pitcher Sonny Gray. But it wasn’t his night. He wasn’t right. The Brewers muscled three home runs off Sonny G, who got punched for six runs in five innings. But I’m giving a mulligan to Gray for his only clunker start of the season.

Gray was hurt in the first inning on a strange defensive miscue by third baseman Nolan Arenado. Even with a pitcher as talented as Gray is, starts will get blown up from time to time during a long season.

And it didn’t matter anyway. Not when Gray’s bat-toting teammates scored one run, went 6 for 33 (.182), struck out 12 times, failed to land a hit in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners on base.

The apex of this ludicrous futility occurred in the fifth inning. Technically, the Cardinals were still in the hunt despite losing 5-1. That’s because they loaded the bases with no out and had their No. 2-3-4 hitters lined up.

Lars Nootbaar tapped into a force out at home. Arenado fouled out on a pop up. Alec Burleson flew out to right.

The Cardinals did nothing with the opportunity. They scored nothing. It was just another gasp by a nothing offense on a nothing night from Our Town’s nothing-much baseball team.

The boys packed it in after that bases-loaded dud.

“We’re not getting the big hit,” manager Oli Marmol told reporters after the rout. You can’t win ballgames scoring one run.”

The Cardinals scored three or fewer runs for the 23rd time in their 37 games. Their record when it happens is 6-17. They have now choked up a .196 batting average with runners in position to score. They are the lowest-scoring team in the National League.

As Cardinal teams go, this offense is historically impotent. Since 1920, here are the five lowest-scoring Cardinals teams through the first 37 games of a season:

1969  Cardinals, 120 runs
2007  Cardinals, 125
1986  Cardinals, 127
2024  Cardinals, 127
1972  Cardinals, 131

With Thursday’s malfunction in the books, the Cardinals have lost five straight games, seven of their last eight and are 2-8 in their last 10. After evening their record to 9-9 on April 16, the Cardinals have lolled their way to a 6-13 mark.

Their 15-22 record Cards computes to a .405 winning percentage that ranks 25th overall and 13th in the National League. This franchise is 27 games under .500 (86-113) since the start of last season, making the Redbirds the second-worst team in the National League over that time. Arenado’s new team in St. Louis is almost as bad as his old team in Colorado.

In the hours before Thursday’s game, I wrote something about how the Cardinals needed to put up a fight and show they still cared about competing after a gloomy start and a serious injury to teammate Willson Contreras.

We wanted the Cardinals to prove they could summon an admirable response and rise above their destitution.

“You get punched in the face, punch back,” Marmol said.

Well, so much for that. The Cardinals trailed 3-0 after the first inning and the Brewers turned them into a smashburger. So much for fighting back.

THE BREWERS BAT-FLIP THE CARDINALS AGAIN: You’d think the entire St. Louis organization – from ownership on down – would be embarrassed by this, angered by this, and filled with a maniacal determination to change it. But no.

Here’s what top-down failure looks like: since the start of the 2023 season the Cardinals are 5-12 against the Brewers and have lost six straight games to the Brewers. They are 1-9 in their last 10 games with their tormentors from Wisconsin. Give the Cardinals a few bodyguards, or something.

After Thursday’s baseball-bratwurst-n-beer fest, the Brewers are 4-0 against the Cardinals in 2024. It could get worse. There are three more games to go in this long-weekend series.

In head to head matchups between the teams over the last two seasons, the Cardinals have batted only .218 against Milwaukee with a .311 slugging percentage.

Brewers pitchers have spun a 2.80 ERA against St. Louis hitters. The Brewers make it look easy. That’s because it really is easy to quash the Cardinals.

“Hitting is hard, but at some point, the lineup just has to come together,” Marmol said. “There’s a group that’s not there yet. It’s frustrating for everybody. At some point, frustration has to turn into a little bit of anger. We have to get it done. Today we did not.”

CARDINALS LEAD BREWERS IN ONE THING: PAYROLL SIZE. 

Over the last two seasons the Brewers rank 7th in the majors with a .573 winning percentage. And the Cardinals are 26th with a .432 winning percentage.

And the kicker? The St. Louis front office has outspent the Milwaukee front office by $124.4 million in payroll since the beginning of 2023.

Last offseason the Brewers traded starting-pitching ace Corbin Burnes to Baltimore and invested $77 million on free agents. The Cardinals signed an ace (Gray) and spent $108 million on free agents.

The Cardinals trail the Brewers by seven games in the NL Central. That’s despite having dynamic closer Devin Williams and four starting pitchers on the IL.

This season Milwaukee players have missed 303 games due to injuries. St. Louis players have missed 255 games.

Fantastic work by the STL baseball executives.

And some of you good people out there want the Cardinals to spend more money?

ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: During the expansion era, which began in 1961, the Cardinals’ current .405 winning percentage is tied for sixth worst in franchise history through the first 37 games of a season … during 29 seasons of Bill DeWitt Jr. ownership, the only team worse than this ‘24 bunch through the first 37 games were the 2023 Cardinals at 13-24, .351.

MAYDAY! The Cardinals are off to a wretched 1-6 record in May. They’ve averaged a puny 2.71 runs and hit .203 in the seven games.

Three related notes:

Nolan Arenado, Willson Contreras, Michael Siani, Ivan Herrera and Jose Fermin have combined for a .371 batting average in May; the other nine St. Louis hitters are 18 for 154 for a .117 average.

This month Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson have a combined 48 at-bats … without a hit. Yep: the three gents are 0 for 48.

This month Arenado and Herrera are a combined 5 for 10 with runners in scoring position; all other Cardinals are 2 for 37 (.054) with RISP. Lawdy.

HOME-RUN CARNAGE: The Brewers hit three homers that provided four of their seven runs in the game. The Cardinals had a solo homer from Lars Nootbaar. This season the Cardinals have been outhomered 45 to 26. And in runs produced by home runs, the Cardinals have been outscored 74 to 42. That’s a deficit of minus 32 runs on homers.

DREADFUL RUN DIFFERENTIAL: Through 37 games the Cardinals have a minus 41 run differential which ranks 25th in the majors. How bad is that? Well, the horrible 2023 Cardinals had a run differential of minus 15 through the first 37.

THREE CHEERS FOR MICHAEL SIANI: And no, I’m not being sarcastic. I appreciate his recent performance at the plate. The dude comes to play every time, and we can’t say that about many Cardinals in 2024. Siani had two hits Thursday to stretch his hitting streak to six games. Since April 30 the polished outfielder has gone 8 for 16 to lead the Cardinals with a .500 batting average.

ANEMIC OBP IS KILLING THE CARDINALS: Onbase percentage gets overlooked because we all spend so much time talking about home runs and overall runs scored. But their .296 OBP is 27th overall and 13th in the National League. That .296 onbase rate is pretty devastating. OBP is the fuel line for every offense. How bad is this? Since you asked, I did the research for you.

The current .296 onbase percentage is the lowest OBP by St. Louis (so far) during the expansion era, which began in 1961. That’s 64 seasons. This .296 OBP would be the 5th worst by a Cardinal team during the modern era (1900-present).

As the baseball analyst Joe Sheehan commented: “I’m on record as saying the engine of baseball breaks down below a .330 OBP, and under .320 you pretty much are reduced to calling Triple A.”

CARDINALS VS. STARTING PITCHERS: MLB starters have a 3.35 ERA against the Cardinals this season. Among NL teams only Cincinnati (3.29) and Colorado (3.20) have put up less resistance than St. Louis.

“There are games where you just have to do a much better job against a starter,” Marmol said Thursday night. “You have to create more opportunities against that guy. You got to be able to cash in.”

The Cardinals are tied with the White Sox for the fewest runs scored (68) in the first five innings of a game. In the first five innings St. Louis is 29th in batting average (.213) and 30th in onbase percentage (.276).

BASES LOADED, HITTERS EMPTY: This season the Cardinals are 3 for 28 with the bases loaded (.107), slugged .179 and have struck out 12 times. They’ve gotten five runs home on sacrifice flies. Also …

With the bases loaded and no out, the Cardinals are 1 for 5 with four sac flies.

With the bases loaded and one out, the Cardinals are 2 for 10 with one sac fly and four strikeouts.

With the go-ahead run on base in a bases-loaded situation this season, the Cardinals are 0 for 12 with seven strikeouts.

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR SLUMPING CARDINALS: “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm,” said the iconic Winston Churchill.

Yeah, well, maybe so. But Churchill never had to manage the 2024 Cardinals.

JUST THE FACTS

* After his first 33 games last season, Nolan Gorman was batting .255 with a .518 slugging percentage, eight homers, 24 RBIs and a 26 percent strikeout rate.

* After his first 33 games this season, Gorman is hitting .172 with a .319 slugging percentage, four homers, 12 RBIs and a 33.4% strikeout rate.

* The Cardinals had their first batter in an inning reach base five times Thursday and none scored.

* The Cardinals have been called out on strikes 85 times this season, tied for the ninth most in the majors. The most frequent offenders: Paul Goldschmidt (11), Brendan Donovan (11), Nolan Arenado (8), Willson Contreras (8), Lars Nootbaar (7) and Masyn Winn (7).

* Cardinal hitters have barreled only 58 pitches this season, third fewest in the majors.

* The Cardinals have made “solid” contact only 48 times, which ranks 27th.

* When hitting against fastballs zipped at 95+ miles per hour this season, the Cardinals have batted .188 with a .253 slug and a 33.3 percent strikeout rate.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a fabulous weekend…

–Bernie

A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. Friday. Stream it live or access the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via 590thefan.com or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

Stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions, Spotrac and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.

 

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

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.