THE REDBIRD REVIEW
The Cardinals are playing auto-repeat baseball. Every game looks the same, feels the same, and ends the same. It’s like listening to the R.E.M song “Everybody Hurts” over and over again.
Oh, the Cardinals win a ballgame every now and then just to let us know they have a pulse, but the zombie procession continues.
Tuesday night the Giants put a 11-3 whomping on the downtrodden Cardinals, and for a few moments here and there I actually felt sorry for the home team. Which reminds me of another song, “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” a Creedence Clearwater Revival elegy about unremitting malaise.
The Cardinals sold 40,917 tickets to last night’s game, but I don’t know how many fans actually attended. With the Cardinals pulling so many no-shows as competitors, a percentage of fans are deciding to watch at home instead of bothering to show up at Busch Stadium.
The sound of booing could be heard last night. The customer frustration was understandable; if the irritated and immature Jack Flaherty can vent by woofing at Giants’ hitter Lamonte Wade Jr., the fans can do some barking of their own. Bring it on.
This is the 28th season of the Bill DeWitt Jr. Era as owner. And through 2022 the Cardinals had only two losing records at home in the first 27 years.
The 1999 Cardinals had a .475 winning percentage at the previous Busch Stadium in 1999.
The 2016 Cardinals dragged to a .469 winning percentage at the newer Busch.
And the 2023 Cardinals may establish a new low standard for homefield failure.
Tuesday’s defeat shoved them to a 13-20 record at Busch Stadium this season. Their .394 home winning percentage through Tuesday second-worst among National League teams and 27th overall.
Since the latest model of Busch Stadium opened for business in 2006, the Cardinals had the third-ranked home winning percentage (.589) in the majors through the 2022 season. And over a five-season period from 2011 through 2015, DeWitt’s franchise led MLB with a luminous home winning percentage of .630.
But in a season gone horribly wrong, the Cardinals have lost their traditional home field advantage in 2023. They’ve won only three of 11 home series, losing six and splitting two others.
Reliably loyal Cardinals fans continue to outperform their middle-market classification. Since the start of 2013 – and not counting the two Covid-disrupted years, 2020 and ‘21 – the Cardinals have ranked No. 2 to the Dodgers in average MLB home attendance eight times and were No. 3 to the Dodgers and Yankees in 2018.
The fans are doing their part again this season, only to see the Cardinals get slapped around at Busch Stadium. The Redbirds have lost four straight home games and are 2-5 at Busch since May 29.
There hasn’t been much to cheer about, and this is a depressing comedown from the incredible, emotional, uplifting, extraordinary 2022 Season of Pujols.
I hope your ballpark hot dogs still taste good.
1. The only two things that mattered about Flaherty’s tantrum directed at LaMonte Wade Jr.? (A) The Cardinals didn’t respond with any display of tenacity or determination, scoring only one run after the second inning. They just flat-out disengaged. And (B) the Giants punched the rattled Flaherty out for three runs in the top of the fifth, knocking him out of the arena only minutes after he’d cursed Wade.
1a. The Cardinals were down 3-2 going into the fifth, but by the time the unhinged Flaherty was pulled, the Giants were up 6-2. And the Cards trailed 9-2 when Walker doubled home a run in the eighth for the home team’s only response to the nonsense stirred up by Flaherty.
1b. This really says something about the Cardinals, eh? Where is the fight, the mental toughness, the competitiveness?
2. Giants manager Gabe Kapler: “I think Flaherty may have taken some exception to LaMonte moving around the bases, which is totally within the norm. Not unusual at all. I thought LaMonte was justified in his frustration.”
3. At 27-41, the Cardinals are off to their worst start through 68 games since the 1978 team went 24-44.
4. At 14 games below .500, the Cardinals matched their low point of the season by losing Tuesday. They were 10-24 on May 6. But after stirring to go 11-3 in their next 14 games to get to 21-27, the Cardinals have relapsed to a 6-14 mark in their last 20.
5. Going into Wednesday’s matinee, the Cardinals have lost four in a row, nine of their last 11, and are 4-12 in their last 16.
6. St. Louis has a 14-30 record this season against opponents that have records above .500.
7. The Cardinals trail the first-place Pirates by 8.5 games and are 7.5 games behind the second place Brewers. But all of a sudden the Cardinals trail the third-place Reds by six games, and the fourth-place Cubs by three games.
8. The NL Central is keeping the light on for the struggling Cardinals. The Reds are the only team in the division playing good ball these days; they’ve won four straight, six out of eight, and are 12-6 since May 26. The Pirates have dropped four of their last six, the Brewers have lost four in a row, and the Cubs are 10-18 since May 26.
9. Since May 24, the Cardinals have scored three runs or fewer 14 times in 18 games. During the abysmal stretch St. Louis hitters have scored the fewest runs (52) in the majors, averaging 2.9 runs per game. And they rank 28th in batting average (.213), 26th in OPS (.660) and have gone 15 for 110 (.136) with runners in scoring position.
10. Tuesday’s tedious game lasted 3 hours and 17 minutes, and we can blame the four St. Louis pitchers who collectively threw 205 pitches. Starter Jack Flaherty set up the boredom by needing 101 pitches to get 13 outs in his laborious 4 and ⅓ innings.
11. Cardinals hurlers have thrown 10,427 pitches this season, the highest total in the National League. And their pitchers have had a 3-2 count 408 times, the second-highest total in the NL and third-most in the majors.
12. Genesis Cabrera got smacked around again Tuesday, with the Giants clouting two homers and scoring three runs in his 1 and ⅔ innings. Cabrera has a 9.53 ERA in his last 11 appearances. Worst of all, in his last 11 assignments Cabrera has a terrible 15.5 percent walk rate with a poor 19% strikeout rate. Why is Cabrera still on the big club? Answer: Because there isn’t much legitimate help in the minors, which of course reflects poorly on the St. Louis front office.
13. The front office chose to ignore the opportunity to reinforce the bullpen last offseason, so we shouldn’t be surprised by the increasingly volatile and vulnerable performance of their relievers. Cardinals relievers have a 5.40 ERA since May 18, and a 7.94 ERA in their last five games. For the season the STL relievers are is 27th in the majors in Win Probability Added, and FanGraphs has them with 42 “meltdowns” which is tied for the third-highest count in the majors.
14. One more bullpen stat: This season Cardinals’ have 10 “lost wins,” which is the second-most by a group of starting pitchers in the majors. This means they had the lead at the time they faced their final batter and were in position to get credited for a win – only to have the bullpen give up the lead.
15. Nolan Gorman has played in 11 games this month, and through Tuesday he had struck out 20 times in 39 plate appearances for a 51.2 percent strikeout rate. In his last 19 games.
16. Since May 23 Gorman is batting .149 with a .254 slugging percentage and a 42.4% strikeout rate. He has 31 strikeouts and only five walks over that time. But hey, there’s no need to write or talk about that.
17. Manager Oli Marmol has given Willson Contreras a break from the action; Andrew Knizner is in the lineup at catcher and Contreras has the day off. He needs it. Contreras is 5 for 58 (.069) since May 21. Among the 17 MLB catchers that have at least 150 plate appearances this season, Contreras ranks 15th in slugging (.375), 16th in batting average (.213) and 16th in OPS (.666). This does not include any of the plate appearances made by a catcher at DH.
18. Jordan Walker has been moved up to the No. 5 spot in the lineup for Wednesday’s game. Walker is batting .316 with a .395 onbase percentage and .526 slug – along with two homers and two doubles. If we look at Walker’s hitting at the big-league level this season, he’s hitting .288 with a 118 OPS+ – meaning that he’s 18 percent above league average offensively. Nothing wrong with that.
19. Marmol after last night’s 11-3 loss: “It’s tough, but you continue to love on those guys and let them know they’re good enough, and let them know that they’re worth it when the reality is the rest of the world is telling them that they’re not. They’ll come out of it. It doesn’t look like it at the moment, I’ll tell you that, but they will, and they’ll be better for it. But there are some guys struggling and trying to get out of it. It hasn’t been easy, I’ll tell you that.”
20. Yeah, well, OK. If only the Cardinals would show Marmol that they care about him as much as he cares about them. But the young manager will continue to protect them, defend them. From top to bottom, there is no real accountability in St. Louis Cardinals baseball.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. 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 show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Bill James Online and Baseball Prospectus.
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.