1) Ladies and gentlemen, Jack Flaherty: the once and future ace is healed and hot to go for his comeback start on Friday night in Kansas City. He’ll be throwing his first pitch for the Cardinals in 74 days. The 74 days challenged STL’s pitching depth, stability, viability and patience.
2) It wasn’t easy without Jack: The Cardinals have played 60 games since Flaherty was forced to leave his May 31 start at Dodger Stadium with a torn oblique.Their record during Jack’s absence: 28-32. Including Flaherty’s start on the final day of May, the Cardinals were 30-24 before his placement on the Injured List. And unless Adam Wainwright was starting a game, the Cards had a record of 18-29 over that time.
3) No Jack? Good luck: The rotation spun out of control. Before his injury the St. Louis starters had combined for a 3.76 ERA, tied for 11th in the majors and seventh in the NL. With Flaherty missing, the STL rotation was tied for 17th overall and 10th in the NL with a 4.55 ERA. During Flaherty’s healing time — and other pitching injuries disrupting the rotation — the Cardinal ranked 10th in the NL for innings pitched by a starter.
4) The Jack Flaherty reset: Before the oblique tear, Flaherty had a 2.90 ERA in 11 starts and averaged 5.6 innings per outing. But if we toss out the cold-weather game in Cincinnati on opening day, Flaherty had a 2.18 ERA and averaged 5.76 innings over his next 10 starts through May 31. The performance included a 27% strikeout rate and holding opponents to a .184 batting average, .290 slug and .533 OPS. While not at the same level of dominance, this evoked memories of Flaherty’s brilliance over his final 16 starts of the 2019 season: 106 and ⅓ innings, 0.93 ERA, .139 opponent batting average, .419 opponent OPS, and 33.3% strikeout rate.
5) Flaherty’s bottom-line impact: the Cardinals were 9-2 in Jack’s 11 pre-injury starts. It’s important to note that he received generous run support over the 11 starts; 7.86 runs per 27 outs. But in eight of Flaherty’s 11 starts, he recorded an above-average game score and pitched well enough to deserve a win. Jack had a 1.65 ERA in the eight individual-pitcher wins credited to him this season.
6) Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and true impact: when they’ve started a game this season the Cardinals are 23-11 for a winning percentage of .676. In the 80 games started by other pitchers, the Cardinals are 35-45 for a .437 winning percentage. Goodness.
7) Pauly DeJong, very much improved: It’s very true. And more improved than you would think. In his last 35 games covering 128 plate appearances, the veteran shortstop is batting .272 with a .358 onbase percentage, .518 slug, and .869 OPS. This includes four doubles, eight homers, 20 RBI and a .348 average and .966 OPS when batting with runners in scoring position.
8) DeJong’s DeRankings: Since June 26 DeJong leads the Cardinals in slugging percentage, is tied for first in homers, ranks second in OPS. And Pauly’s 20 runs batted in are third in RBI behind Paul Goldschmidt (25) and Nolan Arenado (21.) And even though he had an 0 for 18 stretch in there, these are healthy numbers for DeJong. He’s 36 percent above league average offensively in park-and-league adjusted runs created since June 26. That ranks seventh among MLB shortstops (minimum 100 plate appearances) since June 26.
9) Dylan Carlson, nervous time: Concerned over his sore wrist, the rookie outfielder left Thursday’s game at Pittsburgh in the fourth inning. As I write this there has been no update from the Cardinals on Carlson’s status for the weekend series at Kansas City. But after getting a needed rest during the All-Star break, Carlson has done very well since July 17. In 103 plate appearances he has a .350 OBP, .538 slug, eight doubles, five homers, 15 runs, and 15 RBI. Carlson’s second-wind surge has helped lift the STL lineup to more runs and overall improvement.
10) If Carlson misses time, the Cardinals certainly would miss his impact from the top spot of the lineup. He’s 11 percent above the league average in adjusted OPS, leads qualifying MLB rookies in hits (109) and doubles (24), is tied for first with three triples, and ranks third in OBP (.341.) The Cardinals don’t have an established and productive fourth outfielder. It’s been a problem all season; the front office has inexplicably neglected an obvious void.
And there has been a cost to the roster mismanagement. Because of injuries, center fielder Harrison Bader has started only 48 percent of the team’s 114 games. And injuries have limited left fielder Tyler O’Neill to starting 75 percent of the team’s games. Put that together, Bader and O’Neill have started 62 percent of a possible 228 combined games.
11) Carlson has been very durable, starting 110 of the first 114 games. But what if DC has to stay out for a while? Even if Carlson makes a speedy return, will Bader and O’Neill stay healthy? The Cardinals aren’t the same when Bader, O’Neill (and now Carlson) are out of the lineup. No disrespect, but the replacement outfielders are decidedly unimposing.
12) Contrast this to Atlanta, which traded for Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall after losing outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Ronald Acuna Jr. In 48 games collectively, Pederson, Soler and Duval have combined for nine homers, 29 RBI, six doubles, 24 runs, a .486 slugging percentage and .864 OPS.
13) Maybe rookie outfielder Lars Nootbaar can get something going for the Cards if they need to lean on him. And Jose Rondon, who can play corner outfield, has six hits and a walk in his last 11 plate appearances.
14) The Royals are 49-64 overall this season. But they’re a better team at home, with a record of 29-27.
15) The Cardinals will need a starting pitcher. (Don’t they always?) Assuming that Wade LeBlanc (elbow) will be out of the mix for a while, that leaves Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, J.A. Happ and Jon Lester as healthy rotation pieces. Will Miles Mikolas be ready to take a spot in the rotation — and if so, when? The company line is that Mikolas is getting close, but he was hammered for seven runs, three homers and 11 hits in his 5.2 innings for Double-A Springfield on Sunday. He’s supposed to make his fifth rehab tune-up Saturday. There’s also Johan Oviedo and Jake Woodford. But since being sent to Triple A Memphis, Oviedo has a 5.40 ERA in two starts with six walks and two homers in 10 innings. In one start for Memphis Woodford was tagged for six earned runs and two homers in four innings. Yikes.
16) Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes since the All-Star break: These are combined stats … 23.2 innings, 14 earned runs (5.32 ERA), 21.6% strikeout rate, 11.7% walk rate.
17) I loved the Field of Dreams game.
18) I’m glad the White Sox won.
19) I miss the big man, Lance Lynn.
20) Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy your weekend!
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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* 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.
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.