THE REDBIRD REVIEW
Here’s your daily reminder: The St. Louis starting pitching stinks.
That would be John Mozeliak’s starting pitching.
The Cardinals had a chance to sweep the Cubs on Wednesday but couldn’t get it done. An early 2-0 lead was blown into smithereens in a 10-4 victory by Team Wrigleyville.
The forensics on this latest loss were simple: Cards starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery was off form and got brass-knuckled for three doubles, two homers and six earned runs in five innings pitched. The Cubs led 6-2 when Montgomery completed his work.
I’m not picking on Montgomery. He’s pitched well this season but faced the Cubs on a night when his sinker and changeup were inoperative. It happens.
The Cardinals’ unstable starting pitching continued to break down in the usual way: not enough innings provided and too many runs allowed.
The Cardinals (13-25) failed to get at least six innings from the starting pitcher for the 29th time in 38 games. Their record in the 29 short-innings starts is 10-19.
This season, when MLB teams have received six-plus innings in a game from a starter, their collective winning percentage is .644. So when your starter goes six or more frames, it gives your team an advantage.
But the Cardinals are afflicted by short starts, and it’s difficult to imagine how they can put the necessary winning streaks together with their frequency of stalled starts.
This season only five teams have had fewer than 10 starts of 6+ innings: Oakland (7), Mets (7), Red Sox (9), Marlins (9) and Cardinals (9.)
Why are the Cardinals seated in last place in the NL Central? There are multiple reasons, but the length of starts is high on the list. The Pirates and Cubs each have 19 starts of 6+ innings, followed by the Brewers (16), Reds (10) and Cardinals (9.)
These short-start duds can put immense pressure on the Cardinals bullpen. St. Louis pitchers have a 5.73 ERA in the first four innings of a game this season, and the early-innings deficits make it more difficult to win.
— The Cardinals will go into Boston with a 5.40 starting-pitching ERA that ranks 13th in the NL.
— Their quality-start percentage (18%) is the second worst in the NL.
— The STL rotation ranks 13th among NL teams in strikeout rate (20.3%) and is 14th in swinging-strike percentage.
— When opponents swing at a pitch in the strike zone they make contact 85% of the time, which is the highest against any NL starting-pitching group.
— In the Wins Above Average metric, Cardinals’ starters are 29th in the majors and worst in the NL.
— The Cardinals have only one start of at least six IP over their last 10 games.
Katie Woo wrote this in The Athletic: “To be fair, the rotation is performing at a more consistent rate than what they posted in April. But it’s still far from where it needs to be should the Cardinals want to gain meaningful traction in the standings.”
First of all, the starting pitchers had a 4.94 ERA in March-April.
And so far in May, the starting-pitching ERA is 7.01.
But manager Oli Marmol is in agreement with this preposterous notion of an improving rotation.
“I think we’ve seen a decent amount of progress,” he told reporters Wednesday at Wrigley Field.
President of baseball ops Mozeliak and Marmol seem delusional when assessing the performance of the team’s starters … which is why they went as far as scapegoating catcher Willson Contreras in the embarrassing move that’s made them a laughing stock around the majors.
This starting pitching is a mess. Unless the Cardinals can clean up and pitch more efficiently and effectively, we can forget about a division title or a wild-card spot.
ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: Despite winning two of three from the Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Cardinals have the second-worst record in the majors since April 17th, going 6-16 for a .273 winning percentage. The only team more horrible than St. Louis over that time is Oakland 5-17, (.227.) The A’s rank 30th in spending this season with a 40-player payroll of $77.8 million according to Cot’s Contracts. The Cardinals rank 15th with their 40-man payroll of $195.9 million.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES: With 23.4 percent of their regular season filed away, the Cardinals rank 26th in the majors in average runs scored per game (4.45) and are 23rd in run prevention with an average of 5.0 runs allowed per game.
The stats are notable because they show how far the Cardinals have slipped so far in 2023. Last season, the Redbirds were tied for fifth in the majors in runs per game (4.77) and ranked ninth in MLB in run prevention, giving up 3.93 per contest.
CHASING HISTORY: Or maybe it’s history chasing the Cardinals. At 13-25, the Cards are tied for the third-worst record in franchise history through the first 38 games of the season. Here’s the list:
- 1903 Cardinals, 10-28, .263
- 1907 Cardinals, 10-28, .263
- 1925 Cardinals, 13-25, .342
- 2023 Cardinals, 13-25, .342
ALEC BURLESON? He’s started only two of the team’s last nine games and you have to wonder how long it will be before he’s optioned to Triple A Memphis. Since peaking with a .973 OPS on April 10, Burly is batting .177 with a .534 OPS in his last 68 plate appearances.
HOME-RUN DERBY: The Cardinals have hit 45 homers this season, which is the same amount that opponents have hit against them. Combining the prior two seasons, St. Louis out-homered opponents 395 to 298 – a difference of 97 home runs.
HORRENDOUS WON-LOST RECORD: This season Cardinal starting pitchers have been credited with six wins and 16 losses. The only group of starters worse than that is Oakland, at 2-20. No Cardinal starter has posted an individual win since April 27.
GOOD HITTING AT WRIGLEY: Among the Cardinal hitters, three hitters stood out: Paul DeJong was 5 for 11 (.455) with a double, homer and two RBI … Lars Nootbaar drew four walks in his 13 plate appearances, had a .462 onbase percentage, and slugged .556 on the strength of his double and homer in the series … and Willson Contreras led the Cardinals with three RBI at Chicago, knocking all three runs when going 2 for 3 with runners in scoring position.
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: The Cardinals stranded 20 runners on base during the three-game series against Cubs pitchers. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Andrew Knizner, Tommy Edman, Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman were a combined 3 for 22 (.136) with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals have left 227 men on base this season, the second-highest total in the majors.
COULDN’T STOP DANSBY SWANSON: In the three games against the Cardinals the Cubs’ $177 million shortstop went 6 for 13 with a homer, five doubles and six RBIs. Swanson went 3 for 3 and knocked in five runs when batting with runners in scoring position.
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.