I usually have no problem coming up with a plethora of words, but the Cardinals are slowing me down.
I just don’t know what to say at this point.
The only word I can think of is walk.
I could type out the word 240 times to match the MLB-worst 240 walks chucked by their incomprehensibly wild pitching staff. I could even toss in the 40 hit batters and make it an even 280.
I’ll pass. For now. By now there isn’t much to add. As pitchers, the Cardinals are out of control. As humans, the Cardinals seem incapable of solving a critical problem that already has been the leading factor in their recent downturn.
If the manager and the pitching coach can’t solve this, and the pitchers can’t solve this, then the responsibility rests with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and GM Michael Girsch.
Yes, it’s easy for a rascal like me to grump along and urge action. Make trades. Make changes. Make certain relievers go away.
But here’s the deal with that:
1) I didn’t put the roster together, I don’t manage it, I don’t coach it. And I’m not the guy walking hitters. Hell, I don’t even have a dog to walk.
2) I sincerely would like to see the Cardinals win many games, win the division, go deep into the postseason, and match up with the best dang teams in the majors. When the Cardinals are up to that level, the fans are happy, the town is in a good mood, and October is the greatest month of the year.
Alas, I cannot make this happen.
For the record, I wish for a positive turn that leads to an increased number of positive outcomes. I wish for strikes. I wish for quick ground-ball outs. I wish for fewer walks and hit batsmen.
I wish for games that didn’t require an average of 3 hours and 8 minutes to play because, in part, individual MLB teams are using an average of 4.3 pitchers per nine innings.
The Cardinals have played 54 games this season. And 34 of the 54 have lasted longer than the overall MLB time of 3:08. And 27 have trudged along at 3:10 or longer. And 21 have snoozed past 3:20 or more.
In their last nine games, the Cardinals have played only one contest that required less than 3 hours and 14 minutes of our time.
Cardinals pitchers, I implore you:
PLEASE THROW STRIKES.
Welcome To The Redbird Review for Tuesday, June 1.
HOW DID THE CARDINALS LOSE? The Cardinals on Monday opened a three-game series against the Dodgers’ superior collection of talent. And the first result was predictable: Dodgers win, 9-4.
Jack Flaherty gave up two runs on solo homers in his five innings until leaving with left-side tightness (uh-oh). And then came the predictable part.
Tendered with a 3-2 lead, the St. Louis bullpen took it from there, getting belted for eight hits, three walks, and seven earned runs in three innings. None of the names have been concealed to protect the innocent: Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Daniel Ponce de Leon and Seth Elledge served pitches to the Dodgers. Dodgers hit them. And in Cabrera’s case, the Dodgers waited him out and drew three walks. Including a bases-loaded walk to tie the game at 3-3. The one hit against Cabby was a bases-clearing, three-run double by Chris Taylor. He conquered Cabrera on the 14th pitch of their conflict.
Hey, these things happen. I can’t dog Cabrera, who was pitching for the fourth time in six days to cover for low-inning totals by the starters and hideous, untrusted relief by many of his bullpen colleagues. Cabrera is having a good season, and I join you in hoping that he can reduce the walks
Anyway, Mary Hart and all Dodger-loving fans were pleased with the Taylor-made double.
“That was an epic at-bat against a guy with really good stuff who is having a really good year,” Dodgers starting pitcher Trevor Bauer said via postgame Zoom. “In a big spot, he put together a crazy at-bat. It was a big moment for us after going down 3-2 that inning, to come back and put four on the board. It was a big moment for the team.”
THE OVERVIEW: Monday’s setback dropped the Cardinals (30-24) into second place in the NL Central, a half-game behind the Cubs. The Brewers (29-25) have won five in a row and eight out of 10. The Crew is only a game behind the Cardinals and 1.5 in arrears to the Cubs.
After going 14-12 in April the Cardinals went 16-12 in May. They appeared to be heading for a more robust showing in May until losing 10 of their final 18 to close the month.
THE CARDS BULLPEN PART I: Eight games into the 10-game road trip, the STL bullpen has a 4.91 ERA in 28.1 innings. The relievers have walked 17 batters, hit three batters, and gogtten rocked for 13 extra-base hits. With the walks, hits and hit batters, opponents have a .281 average, .385 OBP, and .421 slugging percentage against the Cards bullpen in the eight games.
The Cardinals’ 4-4 record on the trek may actually be a minor miracle. The St. Louis starters have been less than fabulous over eight games, averaging only 4.9 innings per start with a 4.76 ERA. Cards starters have either walked or hit 13% of the batters faced on this roadie.
ABOUT THE BENCHES: The Dodgers can hurt you with a good number of appealing choices to bring off the bench. The Dodgers are getting healthy, and there’s danger in every corner of the dugout — including Albert Pujols, who will start Tuesday night’s game (according to LA manager Dave Roberts.)
Meanwhile, you have Cards manager Mike Shildt trying to get an edge in a late-inning matchup against Roberts.
It was kinda sad, and that isn’t a shot at Shildt.
Shildt sent Matt Carpenter up to pinch-hit. Roberts countered with a lefty reliever. Shildt made his second move, recalling Carpenter and dispatching RH batter Lane Thomas to the plate to take on the lefty reliever.
Thomas struck out. Easily.
Man, oh man. Shildt went with a .152 hitter to pinch-hit (Carpenter), then pulled him to send a .114 hitter (Thomas) into the competition.
That, my friends, is your Cardinals’ bench.
I have no words.
(Actually I have plenty of words, but I digress.)
THE CARDS BULLPEN, PART II: The relief regiment has a season walk rate of 14.6 percent. If the current trend holds, this would be the worst walk rate by a major-league bullpen since 1956. Good grief.
THE CARDS BULLPEN, PART III: The Dodgers ripped into the Cards’ relievers for four runs in Monday’s sixth inning. It fit a pattern. Through 54 games the Cards’ two worst pitching performances by inning have come in the 6th and 7th. Just to make this easier to understand, if you took the runs they gave up in each frame and averaged it out over nine innings, it would come out like this: a 9-inning average of 7.33 runs allowed in the 6th, and 5.17 runs allowed in the seventh.
In the 6th and 7th innings this season relievers named Giovanny Gallegos, Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes have a 1.98 ERA in 31.2 innings. (Reyes worked only one of those innings.)
But in the 6th and 7th innings the other STL relievers have been roughed up for 44 earned runs in 48.2 innings — a horrendous ERA of 8.18. The same applies to the 8th inning: a 2.70 ERA for Gallegos, Cabrera and Reyes. And a 7.87 ERA for the other relievers.
Overall, Cards relievers have the third-worst ERA in the majors, 5.55, for the 6th, 7th and 8th innings combined. This is why the Cardinals have fared poorly when taking tie games into the middle-late innings.
JACK FLAHERTY WATCH: Hope for the best. It’s difficult to imagine the rotation with Flaherty absent for more than a start or two. And even then, the Cardinals would be short of a starter — unless you’re counting on Johan Oviedo. Or maybe a designated bullpen start with guys like Oviedo, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Jake Woodford splitting a start. That would not help the bullpen’s quest for stability. Also, there’s this: a trade? Unless I missed it, there isn’t a federal law that prohibits a front office making a significant trade before late July.
CONFUSED BY RYAN HELSLEY: In Thursday’s tense 8-6 win at Arizona, the young RHP made a tremendous rescue by getting the Cardinals out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam. You can’t ask a reliever to do more, or better, than that. But in his next two appearances (including Monday) Helsley pitched a total of one inning and was smacked around for five hits and four earned runs.
After taking some early-season knocks, Helsley was outstanding in a 14-appearance stretch that ran from April 8 through May 11. Working 13.2 innings he allowed one earned run for an 0.66 ERA. But in seven appearances since May 12, Helsley has been strafed for 10 hits, 10 earned runs and five walks in just five innings for an 18.00 ERA. He has a 6.75 ERA on the season.
THE BRO’NEILL WATCH: Another day, another bambino for left fielder Tyler O’Neill, who has four homers in his last five games and 12 for the season.
In 2019 and 2020 combined, O’Neill homered 12 times in 280 at-bats, hitting a long one every 23.3 ABs. But this season he has 12 home runs in 122 at-bats, going deep every 10.1 at-bats.
Among MLB hitters with at least 129 plate appearances this season O’Neill ranks 6th in slugging percentage (.623) and 18th in OPS (.925.) His slugging percentage of .723 since April 23 ranks 2nd in the majors among hitters with a minimum 100 PA.
In addition to the slugging, O’Neill is hitting .309 with a fine .340 onbase percentage since April 23 for an OPS of 1.063.
GO TOMMY GO! In his last 13 games (12 starts) Cards second baseman Tommy Edman is batting .314 with a .368 OBP and .529 slug for a .898 OPS. He has five doubles, two homers, four walks, nine RBI, nine runs and three stolen bases during this stretch.
DYLAN CARLSON, PLUGGED IN: Carlson homered for the second consecutive game, raising his season slugging percentage to .418. Carlson has been streaky in the home-run department. He opened the season with 3 homers in his first 23 plate appearances, went 182 PA without a HR, and has now hit two in his last eight PA.
Among MLB rookies with at least 100 PA this season Carlson is tied for 7th with a .774 OPS, same as Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena, the former Cardinal. Ahead of them are former Cardinal Adolis Garcia (.911 for Texas), Yermin Mercedes (.846 for the CWS), Detroit’s Akil Baddoo (.840), Miami’s Jazz Chisholm (.836), and Arizona’s Pavin Smith (.778.)
HOW THE CUBS CLIMBED INTO 1ST PLACE: You mean, other than the Cardinals allowing it to happen? But seriously, the Cubs are rolling. You can dismiss their turnaround if you’d like, but the rise to the division lead was impressive on all fronts.
The Cubs just completed and 19-8 May, and their .704 winning percentage for the month was tops in the NL and second in the majors. Heading into Tuesday, they’ve won 12 of their last 15.
During their 19-8 May the Cubs had:
>> The lowest team ERA in the majors, 2.52
>> A starting pitching ERA (3.15) that ranked 5th among the 30 teams.
>> A wicked bullpen that owned hitters with a 1.59 ERA and 31.4% strikeout rate. Both numbers lead the majors in May.
>> The upsurge by an offense that averaged 4.9 runs in May, ranking among the MLB top 10 in batting average, OBP, slugging and OPS. In going 12-3 in the last 15, the Cubs have slugged .442 and have a .774 OPS. > The Cubs took advantage of the soft places in their May schedule, playing 18 total games against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit and Washington. Those four teams are a combined 35 games under .500. Except for Cincinnati, all are in last place in their respective divisions. The Cubs went 13-5 in the 18 games. And they were fortunate to catch the Dodgers during a bad time for LA, winning a three-game series in early May.
>> The Cubs have won by overcoming injuries, displaying highly capable depth with their pitchers and position players. As of Memorial Day Chicago had 12 players on the Injured List including first baseman Anthony Rizzo; second baseman Nico Hoerner; infielders David Bote and Matt Duffy; outfielders Jason Heyward and Jake Marisnick; and starting pitcher Trevor Williams.
>> They’ve been able to plug in fringe major leaguers such as former Cardinal third baseman Patrick Wisdom, who slammed two homers in the Cubs’ 7-2 victory over the Padres on Monday. In 15 at-bats as a Cub, Wisdom has three homers and is slugging .500.
“I think we knew we had a good team starting the season, and I think when you get to prove your beliefs and have a really good month like we just had, it’s always encouraging,’’ manager David Ross said via video conference after Monday’s win over the Padres.
The June schedule should be more challenging for the Cards’ No. 1 rival. After completing their three-game home series against the Padres, the Cubs will go on the road to San Diego and San Francisco before returning to Wrigley Field to play the Cardinals. The month also puts the Cubs on the road for four-game sets at the NY Mets and the LA Dodgers plus a three-game series at Milwaukee.
“I think we’ll learn a lot about this team over the month of June,” said Jed Hoyer, the Cubs president of baseball ops.
RELATED NOTE: Cards, Cubs And Crew Vs. teams with winning records: St. Louis 7-13, Chicago 12-9, Milwaukee 17-11.
NEXT ON THE SKED: John Gant will take his Fire Walk dance into Tuesday’s encounter. He’ll be opposed by LH David Price (followed by many relievers) at 9:10 p.m. STL time. “Scoops” CEO and president of sports-content operations Dan McLaughlin will have the call for you on Bally Sports Midwest.
That will do it for me.
Thanks for reading…
Please 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.
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