THE REDBIRD REVIEW
It’s Thursday, May 12. We have day ball this afternoon inside the birdhouse known as Busch Stadium, where the Orioles and Cardinals put the wrapper on their three-game series. The teams split the first two games, so the aviary bragging rights are on the line today.
Let’s go …
What Happened Wednesday? The Cardinals did the Cardinal thing by suddenly erupting for 10 runs to break a three-game losing streak. After scoring three runs or fewer in 10 of their previous 16 games, the Redbirds romped to an easy 10-1 victory over the O’s.
Starting pitcher Miles Mikolas was brilliant, and we’ll get to him in a minute. But the offense deserves special mention – simply because there was a show of offense worth talking about.
In the blitz of Baltimore eight STL batters had at least one hit, eight players scored at least one run, six drove in at least one run, and six gentlemen did damage with extra-base hits. There were two doubles by Brendan Donovan, a double apiece by Dylan Carlson, Corey Dickerson, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado – plus a two-run homer by emerging star Juan Yepez.
The Cardinals have scored exactly 10 runs in four different games this season; that represents just under 30 percent of their run total for the season. In their other 26 competitions they’ve scored 94 runs for an average of 3.6 runs per game.
Other than all but ensuring a win, how much does a 10-run outbreak do for a team? After this wired Wednesday, the St. Louis offense jumped into a tie for eighth among the 30 teams with an average of 4.47 runs per game. That’s misleading of course. But batting coach Jeff Albert will take it.
The Dark Arts of Miles Miles Mikolas: The clever righthander is healthy and sharp and reminding everybody that he rates among the best starters in baseball when his right arm is free of pain.
Remember 2018? Mikolas started 32 games, crafted 200.2 innings, walked a league-low 1.3 hitters per nine innings, and flummoxed opponents for a 2.83 ERA. The Cardinals won 24 of his 32 starts and he had an individual record of 18-4. He wasn’t 100 percent physically in 2019 but still pitched respectably. Because of an ongoing problem with his right forearm, Mikolas didn’t pitch at all in 2020 and made only nine starts in 2021.
Well, he’s back … all the way back. And it’s a joy to watch him use an orchestra of pitches to put hitters to sleep. Mikolas has been charged with no more than two runs in each of his seven starts. He has a 1.49 ERA overall, which ranks fourth in MLB among qualifying starters. So far this season Mikolas has a better ERA than Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Corbin Burnes, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Kevin Gausman, Sandy Alcantara and Gerrit Cole.
Wednesday night Mikolas bedeviled the Orioles over seven innings (one earned run) with a refined mix of sinkers (29), sliders (36), curves (19), four-seamers (12) and changeups (2).
This season opponents are batting .174 against the Mikolas slider, .200 against his sinker, .200 against his changeup, .240 against his curve, and .250 against his four-seam fastball.
Said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde: “He’s got multiple pitches he can attack you with. Incredibly unpredictable.”
Mikolas has held RH batters to a .203 average and .510 OPS. But there’s no platoon-split advantage here; LH batters are hitting .211 vs. Mikolas with a .550 OPS.
In his last six starts Mikolas has a 1.16 ERA with 30 strikeouts and only six walks – and has limited opponents to a .187 average and .483 OPS.
Quick Check on The Brewers and The Standings: The first-place Brewers continue to offer an invitation to the Cardinals: come on, move to the top of the division. You can do it. The Crew has dropped four of its last five games including Wednesday afternoon’s 14-11 jaw-slap by Cincinnati.
The Reds (7-24) wrestled two out of three games from Milwaukee to claim their first series win of the campaign. The Brewer bullpen imploded during the visit to Great American Small Park, getting bammed for 14 earned runs in 11 innings.
Other problems: Milwaukee is 2-4 in games started by 2021 Cy Young recipient Corbin Burnes despite his glossy 1.86 ERA, and co-ace Brandon Woodruff has been blowtorched for a 5.97 ERA in six starts.
If the Brewers have a reason to smile, it’s this: Christian Yelich hit for the cycle Wednesday and has pumped his slugging percentage to .482. Last season Yelich created anxiety in the Brewhouse by slugging only .373. If Yelich can get closer to replicating his 2018-2019 dominance, Milwaukee fans won’t have to cry in their beer.
The Brewers (20-12) hold a two-game lead over the Cardinals (17-13.) With Milwaukee recovering on a day off Thursday, the Cardinals can cut the lead to 1.5 games with a win over the Orioles.
Juan Yepez, Albert Pujols and Fun With Numbers: I submit this for entertaining purposes only, and it’s kinda cool to see what the rookie Yepez has done in his first seven major-league games. And what better way to put it in perspective than comparing the first seven games of the Yepez career to the first seven MLB games of Pujols’ career?
Pujols: first seven, 2001 … three doubles, two homers, 10 RBI, .346 average, .393 onbase percentage, .692 slugging percentage, 1.085 OPS.
Yepez: first seven, 2022 … three doubles, two homers, four RBI, .444 average, .483 onbase percentage, .778 slug, 1.261 OPS.
Brendan Donovan Is a Ballplayer: The rookie do-everything man has made quite an impression. We knew the Cardinals really liked him; I wrote about it this past winter and suggested Donovan could be on a fast track to the big club. And now we’re seeing why John Mozeliak and the baseball people were so up on Donovan.
This intriguing, multi-position LH bat is off to a 5 for 18 start in the big leagues (.278) with a .381 OBP and .556 slug for a .937 OPS. His debut days (12 games) include two doubles, a homer, four RBI and six runs. He’s started games at shortstop (2), third base (1), first base (1) and second base (1) and has seen action in right field and at designated hitter.
Despite his very limited experience as a shortstop in college and the minors, Donovan has played 17.1 innings at short for the Cardinals so far. He hasn’t had a problem, but we’ll have to see a lot more. The question: if Edmundo Sosa struggles, would the Cardinals turn to Donovan to be a semi-regular shortstop? We’ll all be monitoring the situation.
Donovan was a central figure in Wednesday’s 10-1 win. He punched two doubles, walked twice, scored three runs and knocked in two runs.
Edmundo Sosa Hits To All Fields: There was a lot to like about Sosa’s performance in 75 starts at shortstop last season. (I covered that in Wednesday’s column.) But here’s another thing we should appreciate about Sosa: he is not your typical modern hitter. He isn’t pull-crazy in his approach. He’s the opposite of that.
The right-handed swinging Sosa did this last season, and these stats are from Bill James Online:
– 24 hits to left, 35 to center and 18 to right.
– Batted .289 on balls hit to left, .385 on balls hit to center and .360 on balls hit to right.
– Hit 13 line drives to left, 18 line drives to center, and 16 liners to right.
– Hit two homers to left, two to center, and two to right.
– Hit three doubles to left, two to center, and three to right.
– Triples: one to left, one to center, two to right.
Beautiful. But can he do that again?
Tyler O’Neill and Juan Yepez: Manager Oli Marmol already has started Yepez in left field for two games. And if Yepez keeps hitting at a high level, it could create an interesting situation in left field. O’Neill is having an awful season, batting .198 and slugging .317. Of course it’s early and Bro’Neill could go off at anytime. But this arbitration clash with the Cardinals put extraneous clutter in O’Neill’s head. He was admittedly bothered by this salary battle with the front office and you’ve have to be extremely naive to believe that this isn’t a factor in his poor start. The Cardinals won the arbitration case. O’Neill’s pitch for $4.15 million was rejected, and he’ll play for $3.4 million this season.
It’s time for O’Neill to focus 100 percent on his performance. Because if he continues to spiral – and I don’t think he will – it would be easy for the Cardinals to have Yepez start a lot more games in left field and ultimately promote Nolan Gorman from Memphis to get plenty of reps at designated hitter. Yepez isn’t O’Neill’s match defensively (that’s an understatement) but left field isn’t a high-priority area for defense. Left field is a bat-first position.
‘m getting way to deep with this, yes. And I’m an O’Neill fan … but performance matters. And the Cardinals aren’t as good as they should be offensively. And unless that changes, they’ll have a hard time winning the division and getting anything done in the postseason … if they make it.
Nolan Gorman, Check-In: He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts on Wednesday. In his first nine games in May, Gorman is 6 for 34 (.176) with one homer and a .294 slugging percentage. His strikeout rate for the month is 39.4%.
Trade Proposal, Rejected: Writing for The Athletic, former MLB general manager Jim Bowden proposed this trade between the Cardinals and Red Sox:
“Cardinals acquire shortstop Xander Bogaerts from the Red Sox for 2B/3B Nolan Gorman, contingent on St. Louis signing Bogaerts to a long-term contract in the neighborhood of eight years, $216 million.”
Bowden went on and said the Red Sox must trade Bogaerts because he’s highly unlikely to accept a long-term deal to stay in Boston. (He’s already rejected one proposal and can opt out of his contract after the season.) And Bowden says the Cardinals must acquire a shortstop because they don’t have one.
No question that Bogaerts is a very good hitter, with power. But there are a few significant problems with this way-out–there fantasy proposal:
1) The Cardinals would be absolutely insane to give Bogaerts an eight-year deal worth more than $200 million. He turns 30 years old in October and would be 38 in the final year of Bowden’s suggested contract. Good grief.
2) The Cardinals have no desire to trade Gorman and relinquish six years of high-value, low-cost contract control … especially if it means investing $216 million in a shortstop who plays the worst defense in the majors.
3) Yeah, about that Bogaerts defense: According to Fielding Bible, Bogaerts already has cost the Red Sox five runs this season with his terrible defense. Since the start of the 2014 season, 41 shortstops have played at least 2,500 innings at the position. And Bogaerts is at the bottom of that list of 41 shortstops with minus 60 runs saved. He’s an enormous liability defensively. And I’ll repeat this again: the Cardinals’ pitching staff has the highest ground-ball rate in the majors (50.2%.) It would be beyond loony tunes to play Bogarts behind this GB-heavy pitching staff.
Thanks for reading …
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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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.
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.