Welcome to the Redbird Review

In another down-bound week, the Cardinals lost four of six games to the Brewers and Pirates at Busch Stadium. Hey, at least the ballpark was filled to capacity with fired-up Cards fans, right? No, sorry, that didn’t happen. 

In case you haven’t noticed the Cardinals rank seventh in the majors in average home attendance this season at 23,692. Nolan Arenado’s former team, the Colorado Rockies, rank sixth with an average of 24,147 at home. My goodness. 

We’ve seen this act before: the Cardinals get rolling, start yapping about making a late charge — only to slow down, pull over and fix a flat tire. This time around, after winning six straight and eight of nine, the Cardinals set up on the home turf to make a stand against the first-place Brewers, then collect two or three easy wins from the Pirates. 

Warning lights on the dashboard. 

Low tire pressure.

Again.

At least Adam Wainwright delighted the fans in attendance and pulled his teammates up by shutting out the Pirates on two hits over eight innings. On a steamy day at Busch Stadium, Wainwright was a welcome sight, doing everything except serve the fans jugs of ice-cold lemonade. He struck out nine and walked none. He picked up a bat and doubled and walked.

The Georgia Bulldog did it again. 

If only all of his teammates had his purpose, focus, energy and effervescent love for the game. If only more of them could rise to the importance of the moment, lust like Waino does. Sadly, that isn’t the case. 

The Cardinals are 11-8 in August. And while this is something the manager would point to with pride, 11-8 isn’t good enough. Two reasons: (1) the Cards have lost ground to Cincinnati, which now leads in the race for the NL’s second wild-card spot; and (2) the Cards haven’t taken full advantage of San Diego’s startling slide or increased the gap between themselves and Philadelphia. 

The St. Louis 11-8 record (.579) ranks seventh in the NL for the month. At the end of July, the Cardinals were 52-52 and had a better record than Atlanta (52-53) which was splashing around with the others in the NL wild-card pool. 

But since Aug 1: 

— The Braves are 16-3, have improved to 12 games over .500 for the season (68-56) and have a comfortable five-game lead in the NL East.

— The Reds are 14-7 and have jumped over the collapsing Padres, taking a one-game lead for the No. 2 wild card. Closer to home, the Reds’ lead over the Cardinals has increased from 2 and ½ games at the end of July to 4 and ½ games now. That’s a two-game drop for the Cardinals. 

— The Padres are 8-11 this month. Not good — but the Cardinals are only three games better than that in August. The Padres are 3 and ½ games above St. Louis. Sure, it’s a positive for the Cardinals to cut into San Diego’s lead. But if Cards’ were 4-2 on the current homestand instead of the actual 2-4, they’d be a closer 1 and ½ games within the Padres. 

— The Phillies are 12-8. And while the Cardinals are a half-game ahead of Philly in the wild-card tussle, that lead could (and should) be larger. It’s not that the Phillies are playing great this month, but they have done slightly better than the Cards. 

— The Mets are 6-15 this month and have tumbled to seven games out in the No. 2 wild card standings. Despite the Mets’ huge mess of problems, they’re still only 2 and ½ games behind the Cardinals. 

— Milwaukee is 14-6 this month and have expanded their lead over the third-place Cardinals in the NL Central. At the close of July the Brewers were 10 and ½ games ahead of the Cards; that margin is now 12. 

At the All-Star break the Padres were 53-40 and comfortable in the lead position for the second wild card, with the 44-46 Cardinals loitering at 7.5 games behind. The distance between the teams is 3.5 games now. 

That’s a gain, for sure. But let’s be honest here; that’s more about San Diego’s misery than St. Louis brilliance. That’s about another team falling down, more than the Cardinals standing up to seize an opportunity. 

Besides, the Reds are leading the No. 2 wild card race on this Monday morning. Not San Diego. At the All-Star break the Cardinals were four games behind the Reds. Now they’re a little worse off, at 4.5 games to the rear of the Reds. 

There are consequences for losing two out of three at home to the Pirates. This doesn’t mean the Cardinals are burnt pie; they are not. Their remaining opportunities include six more games against the Reds. 

The Cards can still make a late dash. But if you want to see what making a charge really looks like, the Atlanta Braves are showing how it’s done. 

Going 16-3 in August is a charge. 

Going 11-8 in August for the NL’s seventh-best record this month is a slow walk.

The Cards may be going forward, but they’re dawdling and wandering. And with only 39 games remaining on the schedule, the Cardinals must quicken their stride and stop wasting time. This is a team that never seems to be in a hurry to get to where they say they want to go. 

BIRD BYTES: 

1) Adam Wainwright has a 2.45 ERA in his last 15 starts. That’s the third-best ERA among NL starters since June 3; only Walker Buehler (1.57) and Corbin Burnes (2.05) have been stingier. 

1a) By the way, the Cardinals are 11-4 in Waino’s last 15 starts. And oh, by the way again … Wainwright has been dinged for one earned run in his 23 innings vs. the Pirates this season. 

1b) Isn’t Wainwright supposed to be wearing down? He’ll be 40 on Aug. 30. Well, age is irrelevant with this man. He’s the only NL starter to have 100+ innings since June 3. For the season only Zack Wheeler, with 168.2 innings, has thrown more IP than Wainwright’s 162.2. Waino also ranks 9th in the NL this season in starter ERA (3.10) and is 10th in WAR (3.2.) 

1c) If we round off Waino’s age to 40, consider this: the other nine starters on the NL list for most innings pitched this season have an average age of 28.8 years. The other nine on the NL’s top 10 ERA list average 30.5 years. And the other nine starters in the NL top 10 for most WAR average 30.3 years. 

1d) In stoning the Pirates on Sunday, Wainwright had the distinction of being the oldest pitcher in MLB to pitch eight or more shutout innings and notch at least nine strikeouts in an outing since Bartolo Colon in 2015.

2) There is nothing wrong with the St. Louis starting pitching. Quite the opposite. The fellers had a 2.55 ERA in six games last week. The Cardinals rotation ranks No. 3 in the majors with a 3.17 ERA since June 28. The rotation is 6th overall in ERA (3.43) since the All-Star break, and its 3.04 ERA for August in 4th overall. 

3) Cards manager Mike Shildt likes to throw some positive numbers around when praising his offense, and I’ve been happy to cite the improvement in batting average, onbase percentage, two-strike hitting, hard-hit rate, and other areas of progress. But Shildt leaves something out: this is all about scoring runs, and the Cardinals are tied for 9th in the NL with an average of 4.33 runs per game since the All-Star break. That’s better than their average runs per game (4.0) before the All-Star break. But let’s not have a balloon party, OK? Since when is it a cause for self-congratulation when your team ranks 9th in the league in runs per game during the second half of the season? Especially when your team is getting  very good starting pitching and must take advantage of that by piling up the runs? 

3a) The Cardinals averaged 3.16 runs in losing four of six games to the Brewers and Pirates. They slugged only .346, batted .245 overall, and hit .219 with runners in scoring position. 

4) Bottom-line truth: The Cardinals still don’t score enough runs, and aren’t difficult to shut down. They’ve put up a below-average number of runs (four or fewer) in a game 78 times this season; only seven MLB teams have more under-average games on offense this year. The Cardinals are 26-52 when scoring four or fewer runs. 

4a) And just seven MLB teams have scored three or fewer runs in a game more often than the Cardinals (60) this year. The Cards are 16-44 when scoring three or fewer runs. 

5) Yadier Molina’s batting average with runners in scoring position this season has risen to .337. Only one MLB catcher, Yan Gomes, has done better at .356. 

6) Pirates starters Mitch Keller, Dillon Peters and Steven Brault combined for 14 innings and a 1.29 ERA against Cardinal hitters over the weeked. The Cards batted .077 with runners in scoring position against the three PITT starters. 

7) Harrison Bader is having a terrible time at the plate in August, going 12 for 70 (.172) with no extra-base hits, an anemic .428 OPS and a 33.3 percent strikeout rate. Bader has a 35.3% strikeout rate against RH pitchers this month. 

8) Bader had a big July, batting .357 with a 1.021 OPS and 12 extra-base hits. So what’s the difference between July and August? 

  • His “chase rate” on pitches out of the strike zone went from 30 percent in July to 39.4% in August. 
  • In July Bader had an impressive 94% contact rate on strikes; this month that rate is 81%. 
  • There’s a substantial drop in overall contact rate: 85% in July, 73% in August. 
  • His swinging strike rate, only 6.4% in July, is 13.4% this month. 
  • And all of this explains why Bader went from striking out 16 percent of the time in July to 33 percent of the time so far in August. 
  • And when Bader makes contact he isn’t hitting the ball hard. He has a 17 percent hard-contact rate in August. In July, it was 37%. 

Harry has reverted to some bad habits this month and has to get back to the smarter hitting approach. 

9) Paul Goldschmidt gives no indication of a cool-down with his bat. In his last 43 games he’s batting .345 with a .406 OBP and .557 slug. (OPS, .901.) And this burst of offense includes 13 doubles, eight homers, 30 RBI, a 10 percent walk rate and a low (18%) strikeout rate. And Goldschmidt is batting .432 with runners in scoring position over his last 43 games. 

10) Nolan Arenado needs to reset and get ripping. This offense tends to  malfunction when his bat is quiet, and Arenado went 3 for 26 (with 11 strikeouts) vs. the Brewers and Pirates. 

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie 

Check out 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.

The weekly “Seeing Red” podcast with Bernie and Will Leitch is available at 590thefan.com …

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

* All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net 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.