THE REDBIRD REVIEW
The Cardinals were walloped back to reality at Coors Field on Tuesday night, getting demolished 16-5 by the Rockies. After winning seven straight games, the Cards were embarrassed in their most lopsided loss of the season.
Frankly speaking, this team didn’t look ready to play. The pitching was abysmal. The defense was far from sharp. Instead of going on the attack to take advantage of a joke ballpark that inflates scoring, the St. Louis offense slept through the early innings.
The Cardinals were shoved around from the get-go, with the Rockies mercilessly pelting Miles Mikolas for 10 runs in 2 and ⅔ innings pitched. In the first four innings the St. Louis offense went 1 for 13 with a walk against a bad pitcher. The Redbirds were down by a dirty dozen (12-0) before scoring twice in the fifth.
Perhaps the fellers will snap out of their happy-fuzzies and get back to playing hardball tonight. The Cardinals received plenty of praise for their 9-1 blitz that pushed Milwaukee out of first place in the NL Central, but they’ve won nothing yet and must prove they can do more than frolic on the occasional hot streak. After quickly coughing up a 2 and ½ game lead over the Brewers in June, the Cardinals have plenty of credibility checks to get through.
Accounting Department: With Milwaukee’s win at Tampa Bay, the Cards’ lead in the NL Central was halved to one game … the Cardinals are 9-17 in their last 26 road games and 25-29 away from Busch Stadium overall this season … Since the start of the 2021 season the Cardinals are 1-4 at Coors Field. And they are 5-9 at Coors since the beginning of the 2017 campaign … despite Wednesday’s stinker the Cardinals are 10-5 since the All-Star break and 15-7 since July 10.
The Absurdity Of Coors Field: At the world’s largest batting-practice range, pitchers can count on ERA inflation and an unfair fight. This season pitchers that have worked at Coors Field (including the Rockies) have a 5.24 ERA. That’s the highest at any major-league ballpark this season. Same as it ever was.
The Coors Field Fraud Factor is running particularly strong this season. The Rockies are comic-book action figures when hitting at Coors – and comically weak when playing on the road.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Rockies batting average: .289 home, .238 road.
Onbase percentage: .353 home, .207 road.
Slugging percentage: .462 home, .355 road.
OPS: .815 home, .652 road.
Runs per game: 5.77 home, 3.2 road.
The Rockies rank first in the majors in home batting average, OBP, slugging and OPS. But in the road-performance rankings they’re 17th in batting average, 24th in OBP, 27th in slugging and 25th in OPS. And away from Coors they’re 17 percent below the league average offensively in adjusted runs created (wRC+.)
This season no Rockie personifies the Coors Factor more than C.J. Cron. He has a .326 average, 17 homers, a .628 slugging percentage and .993 OPS at Coors. On the road? Cron is hitting .230 with only six homers, a .392 slug and .687 OPS.
The runner-up is former Cardinal Randal Grichuk. He’s batting .325 at home with a .529 slug and .885 OPS. On the road, Grichuk is hitting .203 with a .323 slug and .584 OPS. That’s a 301-point difference in home-road OPS! Others worth mentioning: Charlie Blackmon has a .851 OPS at Coors and a .659 OPS on the road. And Brendan Rodgers has a .521 slug and .905 OPS at Coors, and a .328 slug and .600 OPS on the road.
Fact-Checking Miles Mikolas: After absorbing all of those blows from the Rockies, the Cards starter said this after the game: “How many hits (did I allow), 14 total? I would say four of them were pretty well hit, and I’d say the other 10 were not. Tip your cowboy hat to them putting the ball in play, but a lot of weak contact, jam shots, nubbers that found their way through. Sometimes, you just have to roll with the tumbleweeds and deal with your bad luck. Get right back on that pony again.”
Well, a little of that is true. And I understand the man’s frustration. But c’mon now.
– In this start, Mikolas allowed a season-worst line-drive rate of 45 percent; coming into the game the line-drive rate against him this season was 20.2%.
– Last night the hard-contact rate against Mikolas was 50 percent, which is tied for highest high-contact rate in a start this season. And coming in, the hard-contact rate vs. Mikolas was 28%.
— Coming into the start, the contract rate on strikes against Mikolas was 88.6 percent; last night it was 91.3%. Before this game the overall contact rate on Mikolas was 82 percent; last night it was 89%. And his 5.9 percent swinging-strike rate in this game was down from the 9.1% he had this season before he faced the Rockies.
How Bad Was It? Historically, it was pretty bad. Mikolas became just the third starting pitcher in franchise history to give up 10 earned runs in a start that lasted fewer than 3 innings. The other two were Andy Benes against the Rockies at Coors Field in 2001, and Carlos Martinez at Dodger Stadium last year. Martinez gets the nod for the worst start because he was blasted for 10 earned runs in only two-thirds of an inning.
The Cardinals Offense: The Cardinals put up five runs in the final five innings. But from a competition standpoint, the game was essentially over after four innings. Rox starting pitcher Ryan Feltner shut STL out through four innings. He came into the assignment with a 5.75 ERA, and the Rockies were 1-7 when he worked. And in his last seven games before last night Feltner had been muscled for a 7.36 ERA, .309 batting average, .537 slugging percentage and .897 OPS. As I mentioned earlier, through the first four innings the Cardinals didn’t score and went 1 for 13 with a walk against Feltner. They did get to him in the fifth and sixth, but it was too late.
Cardinals At Coors: I’m not sure why the Cardinals usually fail to put up Coors-type numbers while actually playing games at Coors Field. In going 1-4 at Coors since the start of last season, they’ve averaged four runs per game, and have scored only two runs in three of the five contests. Overall since the start of last season St. Louis has batted .237 with a .393 slug and .706 OPS at Coors.
Since the start of the 2017 season the Cardinals have averaged only 4.2 runs per game at Coors Field. And they’ve scored four runs or fewer in nine of their 14 games played there since ‘17. Very strange.
Paulie Power: Paul DeJong did it again, battering a two-run homer in the fifth inning Tuesday. In his nine games since being promoted from Triple A Memphis, DeJong is batting .250 with a .389 onbase percentage, .786 slug and 1.175 OPS. His damage includes three doubles, four homers, six walks and 12 RBI.
DeJong has hit a homer every seven at-bats since rejoining the Cardinals. Since returning to the STL lineup on July 30, DeJong is tied for the MLB lead in RBI and home runs and is No. 2 in slugging. And since July 30 DeJong is second among MLB shortstops in WAR, and ranks 1st in OPS.
Tracking Tyler O’Neill: The difficulties on offense continued Tuesday night, with O’Neill going 0 for 4 in a hitter’s playground. Since coming off the IL on July 14, O’Neill is hitting .182 with a .309 slug and .606 OPS.
O’Neill has six homers this season; 210 MLB hitters have hit more than that. And among 240 hitters with at least 249 plate appearances, O’Neill ranks No. 202 in slugging percentage at .348. Last season T.O. homered 34 times and ranked 7th in the majors with his .560 slugging percentage.
O’Neill is doing OK against fastballs this season, hitting .268 with a .429 slugging percentage. But he has a .193 average and .301 slug on breaking balls and is hitting only .154 (all singles) on offspeed pitches.
Dylan Carlson + The Leadoff Spot: I’ll keep tracking this until the situation improves or manager Oli Marmol tries something different. Carlson had a walk and two strikeouts and went 0-4 in his five plate appearances in Tuesday’s game. In 15 games since the All-Star break Carlson is batting .175 with a .246 onbase percentage. Since the All-Star break, when batting leadoff, Carlson has a sickly .120 batting average and .440 OPS and has reached base in only 20 percent of his 55 plate appearances.
In 107 plate appearances as the No. 1 hitter this season, Carlson is batting .156 with a .224 onbase percentage and .464 OPS.
Among 43 MLB hitters that have 100+ plate appearances when batting at the top of the lineup in 2022, Carlson has the worst batting average and OPS and is next to last in onbase percentage.
Hey, You’re Doing Good: Lars Nootbaar went 1 for 2 with two walks and two runs against the Rockies and is hitting .333 with a .447 OBP and .472 slug in his last 12 games. He has three extra-base hits, two sac flies, eight runs scored and five RBI in the 12 contests. Nootbaar’s OPS+ has moved above league average on the season – 6% above average to be exact … catcher Andrew Knizner was 2 for 4 with two RBI in the series opener and is batting .364 with a .417 OBP and .826 OPS in 48 plate appearances since July 9 … Tommy Edman had two hits on Tuesday and is batting .333 with a .364 OBP in his first seven games in August.
Prospect Watch, Jordan Walker: In his last six starts, the No. 1 STL prospect has started twice in left field, twice in right field, one time in center field, and once at third base. Third base has been his position in the minors, but the Cardinals obviously want him to get comfortable in the outfield – which is his most likely destination in the majors. The 20-year old had three hits for Double A Springfield on Tuesday night. For the season Walker is batting .302 with a .389 OBP, .500 slug, 25 doubles, 12 homers, 46 RBI and 16 stolen bases.
Prospect Watch, Tink Hence: The 20-year-old RHP struck out six in 3.2 shutout innings for Class A Palm Beach in his most recent start. The Cardinals are being conservative with Hence, limiting his starts to three or four innings. For the season he has a 1.03 ERA in 11 starts, hasn’t allowed a homer, is averaging 15.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and limiting opponents to a .147 batting average.
Prospect Watch, Masyn Winn: Not that he was doing poorly, but it took some time for the dazzling shortstop to adjust to more experienced pitching after being promoted from high Class A Peoria to Double A in late May. But in his last 18 games Winn is batting .325 with a .375 OBP and .513 slug – plus nine extra-base hits, eight steals and 13 RBI.
Prospect Watch, Freddy Pacheco: Since being promoted to Triple A Memphis, the 24-year-old reliever has a 2.60 ERA and 31 percent strikeout rate in 17.1 innings. Pacheco’s strikeout rate was 35% in his 28 innings at Double A Springfield.
Division-Title Probabilities: Going into Wednesday’s games, what are the Cards’ chances of winning the NL Central? According to Baseball Reference, the Cardinals have a 76.3% likelihood of winning the division. But the assessment is more conservative at FanGraphs (52.1%) and Baseball Prospectus (50.9%).
Best Wishes Go Out To … Jose Quintana. The lefty will make his second start for the Cardinals tonight, and will try to conquer Coors Field with many ground balls. This season left-handed starting pitchers have a 5.75 ERA at Coors. Earlier this season, starting for the Pirates, Quintana got a 61 percent ground-ball rate but still gave up six earned runs (and three doubles) in five innings. Quintana has a 5.93 ERA in five career starts at Coors – but a 7.80 ERA in his last three starts there.
Thanks for reading …
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.
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.