Good afternoon. I hope all is well in your world.
It’s Thursday, May 27.
Born on this day in 2012: Cardinals Hall of Fame center fielder Terry Moore, a four-time All-Star, exceptional fielder, two-time World Series champion (1942, 1946) and World War II veteran.
Welcome to The Redbird Review
WELL, THAT WAS INTERESTING: With the Chicago White Sox ready to complete a three-game sweep of the slumping Cardinals, the visitors broke the brooms with a 4-0 victory Wednesday afternoon.
And the Cardinals pulled it off as planned, right? Sure. Their dormant offense somehow defeated Carlos Rodon, one of MLB’s top starting pitchers this season. He struck out 10 of the 21 batters faced, and gave up one hit — a homer by leadoff man Tommy Edman.
The Cards scored their runs on two solo homers from Edman and a two-run single by rookie shortstop Edmundo Sosa — hey, just as everyone envisioned, right?
Before Wednesday’s powerball display, Edman had homered twice in 200 at-bats this season. In the series finale at Chicago, Edman homered twice in four at-bats. I like that ratio better.
Sosa had one RBI in 47 MLB at at-bats before Wednesday — and delivered two on his third at-bat of the day to put the White Sox away.
Just what we expected. The Edman-Sosa Attack.
The White Sox reached base on 32 percent of their plate appearances, but none of their runners touched home plate. John Gant, Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes teamed to make the Sox go 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and 2 for 16 with men on.
The Cards emerged with a victory despite managing only five hits, committing two errors and walking five White Sox. They put up four runs on a day when the bottom three hitters in their lineup — Lane Thomas, Max Moroff and Justin Williams — combined to go 0 for 12 with nine strikeouts.
The Cardinals broke a three-game losing streak and got out of town with a needed win. But this victory had a cost: Gallegos left town without his favorite baseball cap.
The trade-off was worth it.
THE OVERVIEW: The Cardinals improved to 27-22 and headed to Arizona for a four-game set against the Diamondbacks. The Cards are grinding through May, staying above .500 for the month (13-10) despite a blast of injuries, a big part of the bullpen burning, and an offense that’s scored more than four runs in only seven of 23 games.
JOHN GANT, FIRE WALK WITH ME: Well, not me. But the dude does a lot of fire walking, and so I grabbed the title of the 1992 psychological-thriller-weirdo film by David Lynch. “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.”
Gant was up to his usual tricks on Wednesday, toiling through trouble for five shutout innings. In facing 24 batters Gant gave up five hits and walked three. The White Sox had many chances to break Grant and make him miserable. But Chicago went 2 for 10 against Gant with men on base, and 0 for 6 against him with runners in scoring position.
By now we shouldn’t be surprised by the frequent and illogical escapes that make it possible for Gant to have the 10th-best starting pitcher ERA (1.81) in MLB through his nine starts this season.
Gant is a master of the dark arts. Gant has the third-worst walk rate (15.4%) by a MLB starting pitcher this season. And among the 91 starting pitchers with at least nine starts, the .362 onbase percentage accrued against Gant is the ninth-highest against any starter.
This does not faze him. In Gant’s last six starts hitters are 2 for 27 against him (.074) with runners in scoring position. They are 0 for 15 with RISP in his last three starts.
This season, when the bases are empty, hitters are batting .292 against Gant with an onbase percentage of .376. Oh, man. That’s high. But then … the dark arts … bewildered opponents are batting .171 against Gant with men on base, .116 against him with runners in scoring position, and do not have a hit in 10 plate appearances with the bases loaded.
Since joining the Cardinals in 2017, Gant has allowed a .208 batting average in facing 268 batters with runners in scoring position.
Shildt had the line of the day on Gant: “He’s the pitching equivalent of Frogger. He plays in a lot of traffic. But he’s really good at it.”
That said … Gant’s strikeout-walk ratio (1.1) is the second worst among MLB starting pitchers. And I don’t know how much longer, realistically, he can continue to get away with this.
THE HAT DANCE: In a word? Stupid. Or at least misguided. And certainly confusing. And just another example of MLB’s absolute ineptitude in …
1) Installing bold and meaningful new rules and overselling the impact of those rules. It’s a lot of noise and posturing with little substance.
2) Having no coherent plan or even a firm idea on how to implement or enforce those rules. No desire to really enforce the rules in a way that would change the competition for the positive.
3) Leaving it up to the umpires to make random checks for banned sticky, goo-ball stuff — when the umps are clearly ambivalent about policing MLB’s latest policy failure.
4) Looking the other way when cheating pitchers ARE blatantly loading up the baseball with gross contraband to enhance their spin rates. The doctoring of baseballs to attain significant results is the equivalent of hitters using steroids. But I guess the fake woke mob isn’t much interested in this issue.
By now you know the story: umpires confiscated Gallegos’ cap as he walked to the mound to replace Cabrera with one out in the seventh.
There was a speck or blemish or a moist spot or hot dog mustard or bird poop or something on his cap. Maybe a little rosin. Maybe a dab of sunscreen. According to crew chief Joe West, Gallegos claimed he had sunscreen.
Pitchers’ use of sunscreen has been rampant for nearly a decade. If this gives them a significant advantage then why not issue an outright ban on sunscreen? Why not check every hat each time a pitcher enters a game — or leaves the dugout to resume pitching?
And why would umpires wait until the Cards’ 49th game of the season to look at Giovanny’s cap? Until Wednesday he’d worn the same cap for every relief appearance, with no visible sign of something unethical going on. And he looked the same yesterday. So why make the move to nab his hat now?
A little rosin mixed with sunscreen can improve a pitcher’s grip. Is that a bad thing? I think most hitters would prefer to have pitchers work with a secure grip on the baseball before releasing 95+ mph fastballs with movement. I assume most hitters would prefer “grip protection” because it can’t be much fun to duck sailing, out-of-control 98 mph heaters that zoom toward their jaws.
Maybe the umpires are being instructed to grab the occasional sunscreen suspected cap for additional testing. Just to find out how much of an edge, if any, a pitcher gains by using it. Maybe this is about a lot more than “grip.” Maybe it’s about using junk to rev up the spin rate to become a more dominating pitcher.
In the meantime, what about cleaning up the real mess instead of messing with Gallegos? If this is a baseball law-and-order thing, doesn’t it make more sense to pursue the real criminals? Apparently they’re easy to spot.
“Let’s go check the guys that are sitting there going into their glove every day with filthy stuff coming out, not some guy before he even steps on the mound with a spot on his hat,” Cards manager Mike Shildt said after the game.
Shildt acknowledged (and minimized) the possibility of Gallegos using sunscreen and rosin.
“Here’s the deal,” Shildt said. “First of all, Gio wears the same hat all year. Hats accrue dirt. Hats accrue substances. Did Gio have some sunscreen at some point in his career to make sure he doesn’t get some kind of melanoma? Possibly. Does he use rosin to help out? Possibly. Are these things that baseball really wants to crack down on? No.”
Well, the sunscreen-rosin blend seems to be a particular interest of the MLB ball-doctoring search party. Maybe this explains the random check on Gallegos. But I don’t see why this would be fair to Gallegos when other MLB pitchers are doing sinister things to baseball to create a spin-rate advantage that improves their stats and increases their contract value.
As The Athletic recently noted, the opinion of a sunscreen-rosin potion being the magic elixir for spin rate wasn’t backed up by unofficial, preliminary tests. In the test pitchers threw with a variety of substances to gauge the effects of each concoction.
The Athletic’s conclusion: “Baseball doesn’t need to do a thing about sunscreen and rosin to arrest this trend, it turns out. Just getting rid of the highly engineered tacky substances might very well be good enough.”
Gallegos entered the game with a 1-0 lead, one out, and two runners on. With a new cap, Gallegos swiftly struck out reigning American League MVP Jose Abreu and the dangerous rookie Yermin Mercedes.
A tip of the cap to GG.
THE BIG THREE RIDES AGAIN: Cabrera, Gallegos and Reyes were outstanding in covering four innings in relief of Gant. They combined to face 16 batters, allowing a hit and two walks and striking out six.
The Big Three has a combined 1.46 ERA this season with a 30% strikeout rate. Opponents are batting .135 against Reyes, .135 against Gallegos, and .167 vs. Cabrera.
Something to keep an eye on: Gallegos ranks 2nd among MLB relievers with 29 innings pitched, Reyes is 9th with 26 innings, and Cabrera is 15 with 24.2 IP.
EDMUNDO SOSA, FUN WITH NUMBERS! OK, kids … who has the highest WAR among Cardinal rookies this season? I would have guessed outfielder Dylan Carlson. Easily. And I would have been wrong. The correct answer: Edmundo Sosa with 0.8 WAR, and that’s been formed in only 24 games and 50 plate appearances.
More cool Sosa Stats:
- Sosa has 0.8 WAR in only 10 starts at shortstop this season. Paul DeJong had 0.6 WAR in 35 starts at shortstop before going on the IL with a rib injury.
- Sosa has a higher WAR than Cards first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (0.5).
- In 34 plate appearances since replacing the injured DeJong, Sosa is hitting .375 with a 1.000 OPS.
- Despite the relatively small number of plate appearances Sosa has been hit by a pitch seven times already — tops in the National League and tied for third most in the majors.
- In May, Sosa leads the Cardinals in batting average (.406), onbase percentage (.513) and OPS (1.075), and his .563 slugging percentage is second to Nolan Arenado.
- Sosa has reached base two or more times in each of his last eight games.
- Sosa’s 1.9 Defensive Rating (FanGraphs) is the second best to Arenado among STL infielders.
ANOTHER SHUTOUT FOR ANDREW KNIZNER: When he gets the chance to play, the young catcher certainly has a way of getting positive results. In Knizner’s 16 starts this season the Cardinals have a record of 13-3. He’s caught five of the team’s seven shutouts. In his 154 total innings behind the plate this season Knziner has a catcher ERA of 2.39. In case you are wondering, Yadier Molina’s catcher ERA is 4.4.
TOMMY EDMAN: With a two-homer game, Edman raised his slugging percentage by 32 points (to .397) and his OPS by 25 points to .723.
NEXT ON THE SKED: The Cardinals are in Arizona for a four-game series that starts tonight and ends Sunday. Carlos Martinez opens the series for the Cardinals and will face RH Matt Peacock (1-1, 4.91 ERA) this evening; first pitch 8:40 pm STL time. The Diamondbacks are 18-32.
Thanks for reading …
Listen to 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 … Follow Bernie on Twitter @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.