Oh the pain of being a baseball fan. Of being a St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. It was promised this would be the team of all teams since 2013. “The sky is falling – push the PANIC button”.
Not so fast, please. As we say each season, “It’s May, it’s early and slumps do happen”. And all true.
Disclosure: “However”. As far as I am aware, 1) the season does not end until Sunday, September 29. 2) I suggest to all Cardinals fans, put that date on your calendar as a reminder. Look at all the 3) games yet to be played.
In April, Cardinals put up 20 wins. So, what has followed in May, is pushing the panic button justified?
Yes, Cardinals sat ‘for one day’ in first place in the NL Central prior to being roughed up at Wrigley Field. A sweep by the Cubs in their three games, for their fourth straight loss on the books. They returned home with a homestand record of 12-4. Now that has ‘grown’ to 14-9. But, have not been swept yet this season at Busch Stadium. Consolation? Not enough for some.
Two series at home this past week. The first game of each, Cardinals did very well. Against the Philadelphia Phillies (first in the NL East) began with a 6-0 shutout. Then followed by an 11-1 rout, and a 5-0 shutout the other way. Pittsburgh Pirates, always tough competition between these two teams, followed into Busch Stadium. Cardinals handedly punched out 17 runs – without a home run thrown in – for Cardinals 17-4 win. Games 2 and 3, Cardinals again found it hard to get past one run, thus Pirates duplicated each game with a 2-1 win.
WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS
Sunday was the clincher for most. Starter Dakota Hudson, once he gave up three earned runs – settled in and held the Pirates scoreless into the sixth. Cardinals answered the call to take a 4-3 lead in the first with Paul Goldschmidt’s two-run homer. Pirates Steven Brault wild pitch for a run, then followed by Jedd Gyorko’s RBI single. In the second, Brault has one runner on to face Jose Martinez who sends out a missile for his two-hole shot for the Cardinals 6-3 lead. Comfortable, but proved to be not enough against the Pirates. And the most unlikely reliever for the Cardinals got stung himself, John Brebbia.
Cardinals held the Pirates in check until the seventh inning. Cardinals reliever Tyler Webb allowed two runners on ~ walk and HBP, no outs. Brebbia was called up to face Josh Bell. In 18 game appearances, Brebbia had only given up “two” solo home runs in his total 21.1 IP. And only a total of five earned runs.
On Brebbia’s 1-1 count, one swing of the bat, the game was tied by Josh Bell’s three-run homer. And, Pirates were not finished with him. With two outs, two runners on, Adam Frazier punches out a 2 RBI double before Brebbia can close the inning. Cardinals very solid reliever, who held a 0.83 ERA, saw that rise to a 1.99 ERA. A stand we have not seen from Brebbia this season. A five run seventh inning. Pirates 8 – Cardinals 6.
Giovanny Gallegos followed in the eighth. One runner on, IBB to Bell, Colin Moran got ‘the’ pitch for a 2 RBI double. Cardinals held in check, thus a Pirates 10-6 win.
I do have agree, Cardinals pitching has not been their strong suit since the beginning of the season. Some of us even voiced concerns in the off-season and during Spring training. Surprisingly, and overall, Cardinals bullpen has been their gravy. The rotation ~ Miles Mikolas (First start – 9.00 ERA, current 3.83/4-3/9 GS), rookie Dakota Hudson (6.23 ERA, current 4.61/2-3/8 GS/9 GP with 1 Save), Jack Flaherty (8.31 ERA, current 4.32/3-3/8 GS), Michael Wacha (1.50 ERA/current 5.35/3-0/7 GS) and Adam Wainwright (9.00 ERA/current 4.15/3-3/7 GS).
At the beginning of the season, Cardinals rotation was hard press to see a full five innings. Far and few in-between to see six. The above mentioned ERA’s are not what Cardinals fans have seen from their “top five” pitchers on the roster in past seasons.
Mikolas is showing signs of getting back to solid ground relative to his 2018 season. He is the only one who has recorded one eight inning stand with two seven inning appearances, back-to-back (7 IP), in his last two. One of those, his and Cardinals first shutout win for the starter. Dakota Hudson, April 9, did toss scoreless innings in the Cardinals 4-0 shutout over the LA Dodgers, but for a no-decision with only going 4.2 IP. Jack Flaherty has only gone one outing seeing seven innings, holding the opposition scoreless, did receive the win, Cardinals 5-2 over the Cincinnati Reds. Adam Wainwright has 7 IP to his credit just this past Friday, for a no-decision in Cardinals 2-1 loss to the Pirates.
However, out of a collective 41 game appearances, Cardinals rotation only has five of those going deep into the game. Mikolas is Cardinals only starter who has seen five plus innings per outing.
With each of the rotation, Cardinals W/L: Mikolas (6-3), Dakota Hudson (4-5), Jack Flaherty (4-4), Michael Wacha (4-3) and Adam Wainwright (4-4).
Not getting first pitch strikes and going deep into counts have plagued Cardinals rotation. And resulted in some multi-run homers along with multi-base hits. The question remains, after such a homestand and it being mid-May, will the Cardinals make any moves prior to July? Or, that should bring out the ‘aggravated’ for sure.
CARDINALS OFFENSE SPORADIC ‘AGAIN’.
The Cardinals offense, much like last season, have had moments of greatness and then not so much. We saw this last season, also. However, in the month of April, they were succeeding with small ball with home runs in the mix. This season, they had 20 wins by the end of April for another tied franchise record. But May has started off with a slump for their offense.
I will save Jose Martinez from scolding, all he does it hit. However, comparing April to May. April holding a .400 BA, May a .289 BA which is still respectable. His OPS has only declined slightly from a .941 in April to a .913 in May. He has 3 HR/19 RBI/7-2B/21 Runs with 39 hits. He holds a 11-22/BB-SO ratio.
We have yet to see Matt Carpenter hit high gear, .201 BA/4 HR/9 RBI/6-2B/1-3B on on 30 hits. The big story right now about Cardinals lead-off is his 26-42/BB-SO ratio. One who in the past led the Cardinals in drawing walks. Last season alone, he closed 2018 with 102 walks vs. 158 strikeouts. And, as we saw last season, it was about mid-season before Carpenter was a terror at the plate. My concern is his BB-SO ratio right now. If not by a hit, Carpenter was able to find his way to first. WHICH, many fans don’t appreciate that fact. They fail to look outside the box. But, that is just my opinion.
Paul Goldschmidt, a .270 BA/10 HR/23 RBI, which is on the rise. Paul DeJong, a .321 BA/7 HR/19 RBI/15-2B/1-3B off 50 hits, adding 34 runs, holding a 21-30/BB-SO ratio. Clean-up Marcell Ozuna, .236 BA/11 HR/34 RBI/8-2B on 35 hits, adding 30 runs, with a 17-34/BB-SO ratio. Yadier Molina, .277 BA/3 HR/27 RBI/11-2B on 41 hits adding 15 runs. Dexter Fowler, .294 BA/1 HR/10 RBI/7-2B on 30 hits adding 14 runs ~ 16-27/BB-SO ratio.
Even though a feast or famine beginning this season, for the most part, offense by numbers look pretty good. Consistency, however, needs improvement ~ bringing runners in is a must do going forward. That has been their weak suit lately.
Cardinals sit in the middle of the MLB pack for errors with 23 along with Oakland A’s, Philadelphia Phillies and the Texas Rangers. Cardinals added a few this last homestand ~ only four. But, runs were given up due to errors made.
Even though Cardinals have some negatives, per say, talent and strength is throughout this team. Capability to do better is the goal. Conviction as a team is a must.
Yes, it is early and I for one am not hitting the panic button. Yes, we do sit in fourth place in the NL Central by percentage, but tied with the Pirates in third place ~ only 3.5 games behind the current first place holders, the Chicago Cubs; and, only 1.5 behind the Milwaukee Brewers. BUT, what both these two teams may be feeling (I feel it’s more from the fan base) is the Cincinnati Reds just four games back of Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
One thing we do know for sure. There is never a dull moment in probably the strongest division in the MLB – the NL Central Division.
Being May 13, I feel the Cardinals aren’t looking at the standings. They are concentrating on the next series up against the Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta. Tuesday is Game One with game time at 6:00 (CST). What was is done. Can’t change the results of those games. However, going forward they look to be on a stronger stretch for success.
PANIC BUTTON ~ In my opinion, save that for July into August. I’m one of those crazy fans that holds faith and belief in my Cardinals. No, I don’t wear rose-colored glasses. I realize they have work to be done ahead of them. When all is said and done, I don’t believe we will be disappointed.
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