THE REDBIRD REVIEW

The Cardinals have something going. Their hitters are more energized and confident. The runs are rolling in. The dugout vibe has come alive; finally you can see a team that’s feeling good and having fun.

After powering for the lead Monday and keeping it safe for a 6-3 win over the excellent Baltimore Orioles, the Cardinals are 6-2 in their last eight games. This cascade is mostly about the rise and flow of an overdue offense. We’ve been waiting … and waiting. The Cardinals are finally delivering.

I don’t know how long this will last, but the answer will come. That’s the challenge of baseball’s long season. A team can’t just get hot for a week or so. The performance must hold up over time. A team’s identity isn’t branded in a few days; for legitimacy the process requires weeks and months. But at this moment of the season, at least the Cardinals are giving their fans a more entertaining show.

In a stretch that began with an important 4-3 win at Milwaukee on May 12, the Redbirds have averaged 6.1 runs, batted .296, reached base on nearly 38 percent of their at-bats and slugged a hardy .454.

A perkier, peppery lineup is drawing a freight of walks, ripping doubles, smashing homers and galloping around the basepaths. And behold – it’s a miracle! – the Cardinals are even cashing in a good amount of runs with runners in scoring position these days.

And here’s what I really like about it.

Offensively, this sudden charge has been led by eight St. Louis hitters that have all played 317 or fewer games in the majors:

Lars Nootbaar, 317
Brendan Donovan, 266
Nolan Gorman, 250
Alec Burleson, 163
Masyn Winn, 79
Ivan Herrera, 57
Michael Siani, 47
Pedro Pages, 8

In the team’s 6-2 upsurge, here’s a breakdown of the damage done by these eight relatively inexperienced hitters in their combined 187 at-bats:

321 average
* .407 onbase percentage
* .513 slugging percentage
* .920 OPS
* 8 homers, 11 doubles.
* 34 RBIs, 34 runs scored.

And these hitters have a shining .305 average and 25 RBIs when batting with runners in scoring position.

Yep, they did all of that. Very nice work there by Nootbaar, Donovan, Winn, Burleson, Gorman, Herrera, Siani, and Pages.

During this 6-2 stretch those eight and least experienced St. Louis hitters were responsible for 71.4% of the hits, 73% percent of the home runs, 76% of the walks, 69% of the runs scored, 83% of the extra-base hits and 78% of the steals.

I also want to mention Dylan Carlson. With 399 career big-league games, he’s more experienced than the others. But Carlson is still only 25 years old. He fits the demographic I’ve referred to in this piece. Carlson has contributed to the 6-2 upswing with three hits, two walks and two runs scored in 10 plate appearances.

This is a healthy and necessary development for the Cardinals.

The timing is ideal.

Catcher Willson Contreras, their best hitter, is on the IL with a broken left forearm.

Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are performing below career standards offensively.

— Tommy Edman is still on the IL and there’s no sure way of knowing when he’ll return, or how he will hit.

— Jordan Walker, the highly anticipated star, was sent to the minors after batting .155 with no homers and a 27 percent strikeout rate in his first 20 games of the season.

These sort-of baby birds can’t stand around and wait for others to get it done. They can’t look to their baseball dads – Goldschmidt and Arenado – to come to the rescue. They have to do it on their own.

It was imperative for this group to take ownership of the lineup and drive the Cardinals. This is their time. They’re ready for this, and their futures are largely in front of them. Many of these guys will be an important part of this lineup in the coming seasons – and they’re trying to save this season.

Unless this nucleus gets it done, the Cardinals will be bogged down by a terribly frustrating offense. We know this because we saw it earlier this season, when many in this band were injured or ineffective. In a stalled offense, they were a substantial part of the problem. And now they have become the solution. They are making a huge difference now. Their impact has the STL offense billowing in the right direction.

ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: The Cardinals are 3-1 in the first four games of a nine-game homestand … in the NL Central the fourth-place Cardinals (21-26), are two games ahead of the last-place Reds and a half-game behind the third-place Pirates. Monday’s win put the Cardinals 4 and ½ games in back of second-place Chicago, and they’re six games in arrears to the division-leading Brewers … the Cardinals are 2 and ½ games out in the early-season jostle for the NL’s third wild card gift card … St. Louis is 9-7 vs. American League teams this season … going back to last season the Cardinals have won four straight against the Orioles, which doesn’t make sense.

BOTTOM’S UP: In Monday’s victory, No. 8 and No. 9 hitters Masyn Winn and Michael Siani went 4 for 8 and drove in all six runs for the Cardinals. Siani singled home a run to give the Cards a 1-0 lead and blasted a three-run homer in the fourth to make it 5-0 … before Siani’s first big-league homer, Winn doubled in two runs to give the home team a 3-0 lead. And Winn added an RBI on an infield hit in the ninth … Siani’s one-homer, four-RBI night was notable for another reason: before Monday, the No. 9 spot in the Cards lineup had no homers and five RBIs this season in 149 at-bats.

PLAYING SOME BURLY BALL: Since April 23, Alec Burleson is batting .342 with a .377 onbase percentage and .603 slug. His production includes four doubles, five homers and 15 RBIs.

Among National League hitters that have at least 75 plate appearances since April 23, Burleson ranks 4th in slugging, 5th in batting average, 7th in OPS (.979), and 15th in OBP. His park-and-league adjusted runs created (wRC+) is 79 percent above league average since April 23 and that’s sixth best among NL batsmen.

For the season Burleson has a slash line of .301/.333/.472. And his OPS+ (130) is 30 percent above the MLB average. Did the Cardinals front office get it right in their assessment of an outfielder? It sure is starting to look that way.

SIANI, SALUTE! Or as the outstanding people would say in The Hill neighborhood, Cin Cin! In his first 44 plate appearances of the season the outfielder batted .118 with no RBIs. In his last 49 plate appearances, Siani is hitting .326 with a .340 onbase percentage and .413 slug and has a double, homer and six RBIs. Gotta be happy for this classy guy. He’s developed into an important player for the Cardinals.

STL BULLPEN, EXTRA-STRENGTH LOCK: In Monday’s winner JoJo Romero, John King, Andrew Kittredge and Ryan Helsley protected Sonny Gray’s 5-3 lead with authority. Over the final 3 and ⅓ innings they retired 10 of 12 Orioles faced, allowing no hits and two walks. Here are some statistical nuggets for you:

+ The Cardinals are 19-1 this season when leading a game through seven innings.

+ The Cards are 19-0 when leading through eight innings. Last season they lost six times when leading through eight.

+ From the 7th inning through the end of the game, St. Louis ranks fifth in the majors and third in the NL with a bullpen ERA of 3.00

+ From the 8th inning through the end of the game, the Cardinals lead the majors with a 1.89 bullpen ERA.

+ STL’s 75 percent save rate ranks third overall and is No.1 in the NL.

+ The valuable Romero ranks ninth among MLB relievers in Win Probability Added.

+ Helsley has sealed a victory in 14 of his 15 save opportunities this season. His 93 percent save rate is the best in the majors among 11 relievers who have at least nine saves.

+ In save situations, Helsley has a 1.20 ERA and a 37.5 percent strikeout rate in 15 innings.

RISP ROARING: during their 6-2 run the Cardinals have batted .270 with runners in scoring position. And in their first four games of the current homestand the Cardinals have hit .405 with a 1.020 OPS with RISP – pushing across 20 runs in 37 at-bat.

LINEUP BALANCE: In winning six of eight, 13 Cardinals have at least one hit, 11 players have driven in at least one run, and 11 have scored a run or more.

WALK THIS WAY: The Cardinals have drawn 37 walks in their last eight games, and their .378 onbase percentage has provided petrol for an improving offense. Because the Cardinals are getting so many runners on base, a team onbase percentage that was .295 through May 11 is up to .310 now.

SONNY GRAY: The Cardinals have a 6-2 record this season when Gray is their starter. That means they’re 15-24 in games started by others.

That’s a little misleading because run support is a factor. Gray has received an average of 5.49 runs per nine innings this season. His run support per nine is well above Kyle Gibson (3.76), Miles Mikolas (3.57) and Lance Lynn (2.58.)

The Cardinals have lost four times this season when given a quality start by Gibson or Mikolas. And the team has lost twice when Lynn went five innings and gave up no more than one earned run.

That said, Gray ranks ninth among NL starters with a 2.87 ERA and is tied for fourth with a 31.2 percent strikeout rate. Gray has held opponents to two earned runs or fewer in six of his eight starts.

MASYN WINNER: Winn’s two errors on back-to-back plays to open the sixth set up Gray for a long inning that caused fatigue and an early departure.

Winn can be forgiven. Fielding Bible credits Winn with six defensive runs saved which is tied for eighth in the majors at all positions. And among shortstops only Bobby Witt Jr. has saved more runs (8) than Winn.

(The Cardinals are tied for seventh in the majors and third in the NL with 15 defensive runs saved.)

Based on the Baseball Reference version of Wins Above Replacement, Winn leads major-league rookies in total WAR (1.8) and defensive WAR (1.0). Among MLB rookies that have at least 150 plate appearances Winn ranks second in batting average, OPS, and OPS+. And he’s tied for second in slugging percentage.

Thanks for reading …

–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.