Welcome To The Redbird Review.
Let’s begin with a quote from Mike Shildt:
“Toughness, heart, perseverance. . . you can capitalizes all of those–for whatever you want to write or broadcast,” Shildty said.
This was offered after his Cardinals scratched and clawed and twisted and shouted during a long evening of baseball at Busch Stadium. But our proud local nine outlasted the Cubs in 10 innings, winning 3-2.
Yes, sir. This time there was an actual basis for Shildt’s praise. He was proud of his fellers, and rightfully so. The Cardinals did indeed play their keisters off. They may have even left their hindquarters on the field. I’ll have to check on that.
I would just add two things:
1–I wish Shidlt would hit us with a “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose,” meme after one of these happy-outcome games. Coach Taylor would like manager Shildt.
2–And while it’s admirable for a team to compete their buttocks off, and to get after the Cubs with the pride of lions in pursuit of a wildebeest, it also helps to have excellent starting pitching from Adam Wainwright, several sparkling defensive plays by the men with the gloves, a hair-on-fire Harrison Bader, and another straight-cash hit by money man Yadier Molina.
The Cardinals were kinda badass in winning Wednesday’s game. Why? Because Cards pitchers hit Cubs batters five times and walked off with a win. Message from the Cardinals: We will hit you with our sliders and fastballs and changeups, just to give you hope, and then we will walk off the field with a heart-earned victory and leave you crying in the grass.
Or something like that.
But all of my nonsensical musings aside, the Cardinals rebounded from Tuesday’s fiasco to grind out a victory. They barely avoided another piercing loss. But they got it done. This valuable dubya was an example of the survival-mode mindset that the Cardinals must bring into every clash.
Now, one more thingy: if the Cardinals lose to the Cubs in Thursday’s game, wind up with a 2-2 series split, and slip below .500 again,then I don’t want to hear any dad-gum Coach Taylor BS from anybody.
REDBIRD RESET: The Cardinals have 96 games in the books, with 66 to go. Their record is 48-48. The trail first-place Milwaukee by 7.5 games. Which is better than trailing first-place Milwaukee by 10 games. The Cards have won four of their last five, are 5-2 in their last seven, and 11-7 in their last 18. FanGraphs gives St. Louis a 3.6% chance of making the playoffs. Making some progress.
THE MIGHT OF WAINWRIGHT: After his teammates fell during Tuesday’s brutal loss, the Cards’ senescent ace set the tone for a quick recovery by crafting seven innings of six-hit, one-run ball. He did not walk a man. He did hit one man. And he struck out six Chicago men.
In his last 11 starts Wainwright is 5-2 with a 2.88 ERA. He’s averaged close to 7 innings in the 11 starts, with a terrific average Game Score of 61. During this 11-start stretch Wainwright has limited hitters to a .205 average and .600 OPS and has a strikeout rate of 23.3%.
For the season Wainwright ranks sixth among NL starters with 118.2 innings, and is in the top 20 in ERA (3.56) and ground-ball rate. Over the 11-start sequence that began May 23, Wainwright leads all NL starters with 72 innings, and ranks sixth with 1.6 fWAR.
Wainwright, who turns 40 years old in 39 days, has made 19 starts so far in 2021.
Over the last 10 seasons, the only age 39+ pitcher (minimum 19 starts) that has a better ERA than Wainwright’s current 3.56 is Bartolo Colon. At age 39 Colon twirled his way to a 3.43 ERA for the 2012 A’s. At age 40 Colon had a 3.23 ERA for the 2013 A’s. And at age 43 Colon finessed a 3.43 ERA for the 2016 Mets.
ANOTHER STRONG START; ADD IT TO THE LIST: Thanks to Wainwright the Cardinals lowered their rotation ERA to 2.30 since June 28. That’s still No. 1 in the majors over that time. For the season the Cardinals are 39-18 when their starting pitcher posts a Game Score that’s average or better.
The improvement in starting pitching is moving the Cardinals up in the rankings. For the season their rotation ERA is down to 4.05; that ranks 16th overall and 8th in the NL.
The Cardinals have had only one terrible month for starting pitching. Here are their monthly rotation ERAs:
- April: 3.99, team record 14-12
- May: 3.55, team record 16-12
- June: 5.75, team record 10-17
- July: 2.40, team record 8-7
MOLINA DOES IT AGAIN: A painful foot is on fire. He’s probably gritting his teeth through other injuries that none of us know about. He continues to be pounded in the mask by foul tips. Can you imagine what his hands feel like? When he jogs to first base, trainers should be in place to work on him.
But give Molina a bat, give him some runners in scoring position, and give him another RBI. Molina struck again Wednesday, delivering the game-winning RBI hit in the bottom of the 10th. And the beat goes on. Let’s update the crunch-time numbers and some new items:
* Molina has a .313 average with runners in scoring position this season, tops among NL catchers. His 41 RBIs (overall) are fourth among big-league catchers and second in the NL.
* With RISP and two outs Molina is batting .324.
* In high-leverage situations — the most important of all — Molina is batting .333 this season.
* In Late & Close hitting scenarios this season, Molina has a .324 average, .541 slug and .916 OPS.
* Since coming to the Cardinals in 2004, Molina has the third-highest batting average among Cards hitters with at least 250 high-leverage plate appearances over that time. Molina is at .293, behind Albert Pujols (.368) and Matt Holiday (.303.)
* Among MLB hitters that have at least 1,000 plate appearances with runners in scoring position since Molina entered the bigs in 2004, he ranks tied 33rd among 234 players with his .302 average with RISP.
STATING THE OBVIOUS BUT DOING IT QUCIKLY: That Wainwright-Molina combination ain’t bad. Those two kids have a chance to make a mark in this game of baseball.
WILD ABOUT HARRY: In his 15 games since returning from the IL on July 1, Bader is hitting with gusto and playing his usual brand of exceptional defense in center field. He snatched a homer-length drive by Willson Contreras in the first inning Wednesday, rising for a catch at the top of the wall to reject the home-run bid.
Despite having his innings-played total lowered by time lost to injuries this season, Bader ranks among the MLB leaders in center field with four defensive runs saved. By now we are used to that; since the start of 2018 season his 27 defensive runs saved rank fourth among all center fielders with
But Bader’s electric offense is buzzworthy. Since coming back on July 1, he’s batting .352 with a .944 OPS and 10 RBIs in 59 plate appearances.
In his 37 games overall this season Bader has a .276 average, .345 OBP and .465 slug for an .810 OPS. That converts to an adjusted OPS+ of 126 which is 26 percent above league average offensively. The profile includes six doubles, six homers, 19 RBI, 15 runs scored and five stolen bases in seven attempts. Bader has homered every 21 at-bats this season.
This is a continuation of what we saw from him in 2020. In 267 plate appearances since the start of last season Bader has raised his OBP, increased his slugging muscle and is 20 percent above the league average offensively.
Since making his Cardinal and MLB debut in 2017, Bader has never cranked out offense like this.
Three keys stand out:
1) Bader has an impressively low strikeout rate this season. That 15.5% rate is a substantial drop from the 29 percent career rate through 2020.
2) For the first time in his career the RH-hitting Bader is putting up good numbers vs. RH pitchers: .279 average, .357 OBP and .441 slug. Before this season Bader was 17 percent below league average offensively against RH pitching, and he struck out 31 percent of the time. This season? He’s 12 percent above league average offensively vs. RHP — and with a much lower strikeout rate of 16%.
3) Bader’s ability to hit breaking pitches is making a major difference. His performance against curves and sliders has improved dramatically.
By the way the Cardinals are 15-8 this season when they’ve had the planned outfield of Tyler O’Neill, Bader and Dylan Carlson in place as starters.
THE JEFF ALBERT OFFENSE: Still, um, scratching and clawing. The Cardinals have made modest improvement offensively but it hasn’t been enough to give a different look to their season profile. The Cardinals are one of only five MLB teams that average less than four runs per game. And in the 15-team NL St. Louis ranks 12th in runs, 13th in batting average, 11th in slugging, 14th in OBP, and 13th in OPS. Going into Thursday night’s game vs. Chicago the Cardinals had scored three or fewer runs in four of the last six games.
WALK THIS WAY: Let’s update a stat I dug up earlier this season. We know that the Cardinals have walked more hitters (414) unintentionally than any MLB pitching staff. And they have hit the most batters (72) as well.
What’s the damage report?
Well, 27.6 percent of the total runs against the Cards this season were scored by a batter that reached base on an unintentional walk. And if you include those that reached base via the hit batter, 31% of the total runs allowed by the Cardinals were scored by one of the 486 opponents that reached on a walk of HBP. Good grief. That’s horrible.
Thank you for reading…
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All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference/Stathead, Bill James Online, 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.