THE REDBIRD REVIEW

One of the best aspects of the 2022 Cardinals is the appealing mix of talent. I don’t know if it’s unique, but it sure seems different, and it’s definitely appealing. And this is a roster that has something for every generation.

Let’s start with the manager, Oli Marmol. He’s a rookie, age 35. He has new ideas. He’s smart and unafraid of doing things that go against the traditional. He doesn’t fry relievers. He’s worked his relievers on back-to-back days only 14 times this season, the fourth-lowest total in the majors. He dislikes bunts and intentional walks. He’s advanced this team’s baserunning philosophy and performance, and the Cardinals lead the majors with 37 steals. They’ve been caught only five times and have succeeded on 88% of their steal attempts.

Marmol frequently uses multiple players at multiple positions, and is only becoming more aggressive in this area as new players arrive. Oli plugs in rookies right away and puts them in important lineup spots instead of placing them in some stupid old-school incubator. He doesn’t baby them. He plays them. Marmol benches veterans who aren’t getting it done, and he signed off on the demotion of Paul DeJong to them minors. The accountability standard has been raised under Marmol.

The Cardinals have a roster mix of old guys, young dudes, icons, rookies, award winners, future Hall of Famers, and two high-impact newcomers that have fewer than 80 plate appearances in their blossoming big-league careers.

If rookie catcher Ivan Herrera gets into the action after his temporary promotion from Class AAA Memphis, he’ll be the eighth St. Louis player to make his major-league debut this season. That puts the Cardinals with Oakland for the most MLB debuts this season.

Albert Pujols is 42, a three-time MVP and has a set of profound career numbers that make him one of the short-list greatest hitters to swing a bat. Hall of Famer as soon as he’s eligible. Yadier Molina, soon to be 40, is among the most acclaimed catchers of all time. And with nine Gold Gloves, Yadi is in the conversation for the best defensive catcher of all time. Adam Wainwright, 41 later this year, has 189 career wins and is the second-greatest pitcher in franchise history. Molina and Wainwright hold the MLB record for most games won by a starter-catcher battery, and they’re closing in on the record for most games started by a pitcher-catcher combination. Wainwright, Molina and Pujols have a combined 68 major league seasons to their names. Pujols and Molina have a combined 5,162 MLB games, 5,450 hits, and 3,168 RBI.

The young dudes are led by Juan Yepez and Brendan Donovan, who rolled into the majors as if they’d already been there for five years. They’ve played major roles in sparking a quiet offense. Donovan has started games at six positions – seven if you include the DH spot. Yepez has started games at first base, left field and right field. They’ve been joined by power prospect Nolan Gorman, and promising outfielder Lars Nootbaar is back after getting some at-bats in Memphis. Marmol doesn’t hesitate to give the ball to rookie or otherwise inexperienced pitchers, and that is creating depth on a pitching staff that needs it. Top pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore has a chance to crack the Cards rotation; he second MLB start is scheduled for Saturday against Milwaukee.

Going into Tuesday’s game against Toronto, Donovan’s 1.004 OPS is tops among MLB rookies that have at least 60 plate appearances. Yepez is second at .898.

Donovan leads MLB rookies in OPS, batting average (.304), onbase percentage (.484) and walk rate. And he’s second to Yepez in rookie slugging.

And then there are the early 30s veterans that already have excelled in the majors but have plenty of years left. You know who they are, right? When we combine offense and defense, the Cardinals have the best set of corner infielders in the majors: first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado. They have a combined 13 Gold Gloves, 12 All-Star honors, and eight Silver Sluggers. This season Goldy and Nado have combined to produce 16 homers, 29 doubles and 55 RBI for the Cardinals.

Defense? Sure. On some days the Cardinals can start a lineup of players that have won a combined 30 Gold Gloves during their major-league careers … including five Gold Gloves in 2021. (Tyler O’Neill, Goldy, Arenado, Harrison Bader and Tommy Edman.).

The St. Louis roster versatility is augmented by the presence of two young switch hitters, Edman and Dylan Carlson. More left-handed hitters have been added, and this season the Cardinals have had the platoon-split advantage in 44 percent of their plate appearances. That number is rising. The Cardinals are the No. 1 team in the majors at hitting left-handed pitchers, and the offense is becoming more capable against right-handers. Since the LH-swinging Donovan made his big-league debut on April 25, the Cardinals rank sixth in batting average (.256) vs. RH pitchers, are 10th in onbase percentage against RH, and are 12th in slugging and OPS vs. RH.

The legends – Pujols, Molina and Wainwright – love being part of a team that has so many young guys who are early in their big-league journey. This applies to Goldschmidt and Arenado. The youthful enthusiasm and energy is pretty much endless and enlivens the team environment. This team clearly has a lot of fun working together and playing together, and the elders embrace the role of teaching the next generation of Cardinals. All of this can only serve to make the Cardinals more successful in 2022.

May 23, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (46) is congratulated by teammates at home plate after hitting a walk-off grand slam against the Toronto Blue Jays during the tenth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Notes On My Scorecard:

Donovan has started games at five different positions in the field, and he’s gotten at least one hit when playing at each position over the course of time: first base, second base, shortstop, third base and right field. Ironically he’s 0 for 4 as a DH, and 0 for 3 as a pinch hitter. But when he’s playing a defensive position, Donovan is 17 for 42 for a .404 average.

Since DeJong’s demotion the Cardinals have used multiple shortstops and the result is a huge increase in offense from the position. The transition began May 9, and since then St. Louis shortstops are 19 for 50 (.380) and lead the 30 major-league shortstop groups with a 1.015. That .380 batting average is backed by a fantastic .475 onbase percentage and a .540 slug. This is an upgrade, yes?

The Cardinals’ four best hitters against first-tier pitchers this season are Goldschmidt, Yepez, Donovan and Pujols. As defined by Bill James, first-tier pitchers have a 3.50 ERA or better.

Yepez leads with a .983 OPS against the better pitchers. Next are Goldschmidt (.960), Donovan (.935), and Pujols (.762.) Goldschmidt is the best all-around hitter among the Cardinals against pitchers with a 3.50 or less; his performance includes a .311 average, four homers and 16 RBIs. The Cardinals face a first-tier pitcher Tuesday when Kevin Gausman starts for Toronto.

Monday’s dramatic 7-3 victory over the Blues Jays gave the Cardinals their first four-game winning streak of the season. The Cards are 13-9 in May and have won 15 of their last 26. They trail first-place Milwaukee by two games.

Paul Goldschmidt is ridiculous. The most understated and overlooked great player in the game of baseball did it again with Monday’s walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning. Check this out: since April 22 Goldy leads the majors in batting average (.405), OBP (.453), slugging (.707), OPS (1.160), RBI (32), hits (47) and doubles (16). Absolutely ridiculous. What a player.

With their seven runs against the Blue Jays on Monday, the Cardinals moved up to No. 2 in the majors with an average of 4.93 runs scored per game. The Dodgers are first at 5.54 runs per game. In addition the Cards are second in MLB in batting average, tied for third in OBP, fourth in OPS+, fifth in OPS, eighth in slugging, and have the lowest strikeout rate (19%.) The Cardinals’ 75.5 percent contact rate is tied for sixth best in the majors.

The St. Louis bullpen is sixth among MLB bullpens in Win Probability Added (+1.35.) And WPA is a good way to measure bullpen quality.

Updated note on the NL Central: the Brewers have played only six games so far against teams with winning records. The Cardinals have played 23 such games. Milwaukee’s first-place status is largely the result of their 36 games against losing teams. The Crew has won 23 of the 36.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

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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Please email your “Ask Bernie” questions to BernScoops@gmail.com

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.

 

 

Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

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.