WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S

Are the Cardinals going to lose a home series to the Colorado Rockies? Is this really going to happen? Well, it’s certainly possible after the team in purple took two of the first three games at Busch Stadium. The best the Redbirds can do is win on Sunday to claim a bah-humbug 2-2 series split.

A split against the Rockies at home is nothing to be proud of. Losing three of four to the Rockies would be worse. As mentioned a few times already, the visitors came to St. Louis with an 8-23 road record on the season. And to throw another fact onto the pile, the Rockies have won only 32 of 115 road games since the start of last season. That’s a dreadful winning percentage of .278 winning.

The Cardinals shouldn’t be scrounging for a series split against this particular opponent.

Yo! Let’s stop right there.

If we think about it, it’s absurd to be haughty about something like this. What’s so special about the Cardinals that we automatically assume they’ll beat up on bad teams … when, after all, the Cardinals are a bad team themselves? This makes no sense.

Look down on the Rockies? Sure, that’s easy. Whatever. But why do we act like the Cardinals a superior entity that should be clobbering other losing teams?

The Cardinals are 101-124 since the start of last season for a .449 winning percentage that ranks 24th overall and 13th in the National League.

The Birds are ahead of only Colorado (.363) and Washington (.442) over the last two years. Yeah, the Cardinals have a better record than the Rockies – but is the gap so huge? Not really. When your team is flopping around near the bottom of the NL over the last two seasons, there’s no reason to get all snobby and look down on the Rockies.

This season the Cardinals are 14th among the 15 NL with an average of 3.95 runs scored per game.

They’re 14th in the NL with a .216 batting average with runners in scoring position.

The Cards are 10th in the NL with an average of 4.65 runs yielded per game.

The Redbirds rank 14th in the NL in defensive efficiency. The St. Louis defense continues to slop around and make physical errors and mental-gaffe blunders. The Cards threw away balls for two more errors in Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Rox. Going into Sunday, they’d made 41 errors this season which is tied for third-most in the NL and tied for fourth overall.

The Cardinals have been charged with 38 unearned runs this season; only two NL teams have been assessed with more. When the Cardinals are guilty of at least one unearned run in a game this season they’re 9-13.

The Redbirds are ridiculously easy to steal against. Their catchers have caught only eight of the 56 runners that have attempted to steal bases. That caught-stealing rate (14%) is 14th in the NL, with only the Cubs being worse at 13%. And the Cardinals don’t swipe a lot of bags themselves, ranking 13th in the NL with 31 steals.

The Cardinals are only .500 at home this season. And they’re a mediocre 21-19 in games against opponents with losing records. To underline the point, St. Louis is 4-5 at home against four opponents (Marlins, White Sox, Mets, Rockies) that rank among the six worst teams in the majors this year based on winning percentage.

All of the above information does not add up to fit the profile of a good baseball team. And a good baseball team – especially in The Lou – would not be playing before all of those empty red seats … sections and rows of them … at Busch Stadium.

The Rockies had nothing to fear as they checked in at Busch Stadium for a long weekend of baseball. And Colorado gave the Cardinals all kinds of chances to win on Saturday, but the home team couldn’t do much with the generous gift of four unearned runs. The Redbirds scored only one earned run Saturday and beat themselves again.

ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: Saturday’s defeat dumped the Cardinals (30-33) into last place in the NL Central, one percentage point behind the fourth-place Cubs (31-34) … the Cubs and Cardinals trail first-place Milwaukee by 7 and ½ games … a seven-game winning streak has carried the Reds (32-33) into second place, 6 and ½ behind the Brewers … the Cardinals averaged 4.17 runs per game at home compared to 4.55 runs per game on the road … the Cardinals have lost six of their last nine games after reaching .500 (27-27) with a win at Cincinnati on May 29.

THE KYLE GIBSON FILE: Saturday’s starter pitched six innings and allowed three earned runs. Gibson would have ended his day with only two runs charged to him, but center fielder Dylan Carlson initially moved up with a wrong first step before changing course in pursuit of the fly ball. Carlson failed to pull it in, and his misstep became a double for Elehuris Montero, who scored on a single to make it 3-0, Rockies.

Gibson struck out eight Rockies and has an excellent 28.7 percent strikeout rate in his last three starts. I don’t think that’s been talked about enough. Over the three-start sequence Gibson got 13 of his 21 strikeouts on his sweeper pitch – with a whiff-swing rate of 51.2 percent. Gibson did yield two home runs on the sweeper over the last three starts but it’s become an outstanding pitch for him.

Gibson has provided at least six innings in 10 of his 13 starts this season. That’s slightly misleading because one start was shortened to four innings because of a lengthy rain delay that precluded Gibson from returning when play resumed. But his 10 starts of 6+ innings are tied for sixth among MLB pitchers.

Here are the number of 6+ starts by St. Louis pitchers in 2024:

Gibson, 10
Mikolas, 7
Gray, 5
Lynn, 3
Pallante, 1

The Cardinals are 16-10 this season (.615) when they receive a minimum of 6 innings in a start.

TROUBLE WITH ANDREW KITTREDGE? The right-handed reliever has been a key part of a strong, late-inning performance by the Cardinal bullpen this season. But he had a bad day Saturday, with the Rockies breaking through with three runs in the seventh to erase STL’s 4-3 lead.

Bad days are inevitable, but Kittredge is trending downward.

+ First 14 appearances, 14 innings: 0.64 ERA. No home runs allowed. Opponents were held to a .204 batting average, .250 onbase percentage and .225 slug, and Kittredge struck out 28.8 percent of batters faced.

+ Last 16 appearances, 14 innings: 6.43 ERA, four home runs allowed. Opponents hit him for a .254 average, .313 onbase percentage and .509 slug – and Kittredge has struck out hitters at a much lower rate, 21.8 percent.

At his best, Kittredge has a killer slider. In his first 14 appearances of the season Kittredge had a 46.4 whiff-swing rate and 40.6% strikeout rate on the slider. In his last 14 appearances, Kittredge has a 38.7 percent whiff-swing rate and 32% strikeout rate on the slider.

In his first 14 appearances this season, Kittredge was smacked for a very low .194 slugging percentage when using the slider. But over his last 14 appearances, the slugging percentage against his slider is .586.

Kittredge pitched only 31 and ⅔ total innings across over 2022 and 2023 as he dealt with an injured elbow, the eventual surgery, and rehabilitation. This season Kittredge already has amassed 28 innings, and the Cardinals still have 99 games to go on their schedule. How well can Kittredge hold up physically? It’s a legit question.

JUST THE FACTS

Dylan Carlson is a minus 2 in defensive runs saved when playing center for the Cardinals this season. But hey, at least he’s batting .167.

Andre Pallante starts Sunday’s game for the Cardinals. This season the Cards are 4-9 in games started by the fifth guy in the rotation. They’ve used four of them in the fifth spot: Steven Matz, Matthew Liberatore, Zack Thompson and Pallante.

Catcher Ivan Herrera has nabbed only three of 42 attempted base stealers this season (7.1%). Willson Contreras and Pedro Pages have combined to throw out 5 of 14 runners that attempted to steal (35.7%). Herrera has thrown out only 5 percent of runners that have tried to steal second base.

The Cardinals went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position Saturday. They are now 7-18 this season when hitting less than .250 with runners in scoring position in the game.

Paul Goldschmidt at Busch Stadium this season: .200 average, .254 onbase percentage, .318 slug, .572 OPS and a wRC+ that’s 31 percent below league average offensively. At home he’s also struck out 29 percent of the time and hit .143 with runners in scoring position.

Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have combined for four homers in 233 at-bats at Busch this season. That’s one home run every 58 at-bats. How bad is that? In 2022, Goldy and Arenado combined for 36 homers in 623 at-bats at Busch – an average of one HR every 17.3 at-bats.

Brendan Donovan is batting .300 with a .378 onbase percentage in his last 20 games and has seven doubles over that time.

Thanks for reading, and please enjoy your Sunday.

–Bernie

A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. Friday. Stream live or access the podcast on 590thefan.com or the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

Stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions, Spotrac and Cot’s Contracts 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.