Frustratingly, it doesn’t happen all that often, so when it does you kind of have to eschew the normal protocols of being guarded due to sample-size, and randomness in baseball. When the St. Louis Cardinals are in last place, you simply shoot that fucker right into the vein and kiss the sky. In our modern world, the windows for organic joy are small and close quickly and you have to be fast in order to glean just enough to get through the day.
The best ERA+ belongs to who? | Stats that will blow your mind
Let me say it again because it’s fun to write and more fun to read. The St. Louis Cardinals are in last place at 10-19. The consensus preseason favorite in the NL Central has spent the first month kicking itself in the ass repeatedly, so much to the point the quality of baseball they were putting on display every day killed legendary Cardinal broadcaster Mike Shannon (not really but it’s fun to joke about).
What has landed ALL THAT IS RIGHT WITH BASEBALL into the port-a-john runoff? Well, other than that being the natural habitat for anyone from St. Louis, the main fact is that the Cardinals can’t get anyone out. They’re 20th in starters’ ERA and FIP, and that’s with Jordan Montgomery saving their ass every fifth day with a sub-4.00 ERA and a sub-3.00 FIP.
Miles Mikolas has been utter gasoline, losing a little off what was already an unimpressive fastball which has allowed hitters to tee off to the tune of a .400 batting average on it and a .667 slugging. His sinker hasn’t been any better, and for the most part, it’s stayed high and on the inside portion of the plate this season, which means it might as well be wearing a giant sign saying, “Kick me!” as it heads to the plate.
The Cards thought they were pretty clever signing Steven Matz last year, figuring he could find himself in the warm hug of creepy Cardinals fans rather than the heathen shove of Queens. Half the contact he’s given up this year has been loud, and he’s lost a full MPH off his sinker that’s his primary pitch. He also can’t find the plate with a team of hounds and a helicopter, with a walk rate of 11 percent. Matz is 31 now and has been a good starter in two of his six full seasons. The promise of his fresh face eight years ago with the Mets has long gone yellow and green with mold.
They’ve actually gotten six straight starts from Jack Flaherty without something on his body being eaten by gremlins, a small miracle. But he can’t find the plate either (15 percent walk-rate) and is sacrificing a fastball that he’s lost some steam to for a cutter that at least is keeping his HardHit rate lower than the boom factories Mikolas and his cronies have become.
The Cardinals are hoping that the return of Adam Wainwright, injured while cranking his Model-T during the WBC (metaphor? You decide!), will come to save them. It’s important to remember that Wainwright will turn 42 in August, and was such a disciple at the Hillrod School of Yadi that he might get to the mound, not see Molina behind the plate, and go full Richie Tenenbaum. He’s also not been much more than a #3 starter for years, aside from his fiendish BABIP treachery-fueled success of last year. A #3 starter isn’t fixing this.
Ah, the Yadi problem. To hear Cardinals fans tell it, the reason that most of their rotation is doing the twist-and-gawk following the ball as it rockets toward the open pastures far out behind them is that Molina isn’t around anymore and that Willson Contreras is. A strange claim, given that Molina only caught 71 games last year between breaks to watch his basketball team, because real leaders ditch their teams to watch their side hustle. You may not know this, but Derek Jeter missed multiple games to attend cockfights in Queens, and the Yankees just used a cyborg. The personality was a spot-on match so no one noticed. Stan Musial once missed all of July 1957 to travel to midwest countryside towns hawking flavored beet juice he claimed cured liver damage. True story.
ANYWHO, Contreras has garnered a reputation for being a shitty receiver, at least that was the cover story the Cubs sold everyone to justify not paying him. But Contreras’s framing numbers are perfectly neutral so far this season, which means it’s on the pitchers to actually get the baseball in the same zip code as the plate. And these days, with more pitchers wearing their own pitch-com, and calling their own games, they certainly have the ability to improve upon what Contreras is doing if they feel it’s not up to snuff. Or it could be they just suck eggs.
The Cardinals have had issues scoring runs, ranking 20th in the category while being seventh in on-base percentage, and 13th in slugging. That would seem to be a problem of sequencing and should even out. Though it’s worth keeping an eye on Nolan Arenado, who’s swinging the bat as if he’s been infested with emo aliens. He’s got a wRC+ of 65, has seen his average exit velocity drop in a season when the jumpier baseball has pretty much raised everyone else’s, and his hard-hit rate has cratered. He can’t get the ball out of the infield.
Jordan Walker was supposed to be the new hot young thing and he started that way, and then had a bad 10 days, and found himself demoted to AAA. The strange thing is Walker had gone 4-for-12 in the three games before his demotion. Walker never spent any time at AAA last season so maybe he does need the seasoning, but why was he rushed then? Alec Burleson has been his replacement and he tore up AAA last year, but it’s still a bit odd.
The Cards are still getting MVP-level production from Paul Goldschmidt, and Tommy Edman, Contreras, Nolan Gorman, and Lars Nootbar (I really have to resist the urge to call him “Root Marm”) have hit well enough to not let the BFIB panic over the offense the way they might about the rotation.
Oh, and the pen hasn’t been too much better. Other than Giovanny Gallegos and Genesis Cabrera they can’t find anyone to come in and not play with matches. For years we’ve heard about Jordan Hicks throwing 112 MPH and then when anyone asks why he gets hit all the time or walks a conga line Cardinals fans yell, “Hey look over there!” and then run away back to their vacation shed.
The Cards are lucky to be playing in the Central, where the very rickety (but fun!) Pirates sit atop. The Cubs could make their life harder by simply calling up two of their kids who are turning AAA into a joke, Christopher Morel, and Matt Mervis, to replace a couple of the corpses they insist on putting in their everyday lineup, but they’ve been allergic to that so far. A charge up the standings is still very much available.
But this rotation is still hinging on the health of Flaherty, whose days as a top-of-the-rotation guy may have sailed if they ever arrived, and the return of Wilfred Wainwright. An awful lot is riding on Jordan Montgomery being an all-out ace.
Anyway, however long it lasts, soak it in. The Cardinals are in last.
For more pro-St. Louis thoughts, follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate. Like the fact that Jim Edmonds ate live babies.
Original source here
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