Late In Games, the Cardinals Are Snoozing and Losing

As we know, as we’ve seen too many times, the Cardinals are doing a terrible job of extending leads, protecting leads, holding leads. The problem is extreme. It is also chronic. And it is embarrassing.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Cardinals have have lost an MLB-worst 13 games this season after leading a game by multiple runs. That  equals their totalfor all of 2016,  and there are still 107 games to play on the schedule.

During their current 5-14 skid the Cardinals have lost eight times after having the lead.

The Cardinals have squandered leads to go down to defeat in their last four games, including their stupid-baseball demonstration that ended in a 4-2 loss to the Reds on Monday at The Great American Ball Park.

None of this should be even remotely surprising by now.

The Cardinals gave away two more outs on the bases on mad-dash fits of baseball insanity. This extended their MLB high of 47 runners lost on the bases on unforced errors. That includes 20 runners, most in the NL, crashing into an out when trying to advance an extra base.

Third-base Chris Maloney has turned into an accomplice; Monday night he sent Paul DeJong barreling home on a remarkably inept decision that pretty much destroyed a chance at a big inning. You don’t walk back from Dead Man’s Curve. And for the eighth time this year and the 19th time over the last two seasons Stephen Piscotty ran into another out while trying a daredevil stunt into third base on a hit-and run.

In the seventh, center fielder Dexter Fowler couldn’t snatch a line-drive iron shot that went for the two-run double that ruined a splendid start by Carlos Martinez. In the Fielding Bible calculations done by John Dewan, Fowler has a plus-minus rating of minus 11 this season. (That’s really awful.) And in the Bill James Defensive Runs Saved Metric, Fowler ranks 32nd among center fielders at minus 7 DRS.

Ah, the bullpen: Kevin Siegrist came in to relieve Martinez in the seventh and allowed two inherited runners to score, giving the Reds a 4-2 lead and the ballgame. More on this in a few minutes.

And then there was a STL offense that managed two runs in nine innings against a Reds pitching staff that ranks 28th among the 30 MLB teams in overall ERA (4.88) and 30th in starting-pitching ERA (6.06). This time the honors belonged to someone named Asher Wojciechowski, the Reds’ starter who entered the competition with a career big-league 6.66 ERA, a .590 slugging percentage against him, and five homers allowed in 24.1 innings. The Cardinals scraped two runs off him in six innings … with one coming on a bunt by the pitcher Martinez.

The late innings are the Cardinals’ curse … and that make us curse them.

The Truth is in the numbers … 

— Cardinals relievers have allowed 39.2 percent of inherited runners to score. That’s not only the worst rate in the majors, it would be the worst by a Cardinals’ bullpen since 1981. Since 2012, only one other bullpen (the 2014 Rockies) has a IRS percentage as bad as 39.2%.

— The Cardinals have been outscored 37-17 in the seventh inning.

— The Cardinals have been outscored 44-19 in the eighth inning.

— From the 7th inning on, the Cardinals have scored the fewest runs in the majors (60) and given up the most runs in the majors (105.)

— In the first six innings the Cardinals have outscored opponents by 39 runs.

— From the 7th inning on, the Cards have been outscored by 45 runs.

Why? Well, we already covered the bullpen’s chronic inability to keep the game in check and prevent inherited runners from scoring. And we mentioned the Cardinals’ low-scoring offense in the late innings.

Let’s elaborate on that …

— In the 7th inning and beyond, the Cardinals rank 25th in the majors in batting average (.217), and 25th with a .654 OPS. And again, only 60 runs, fewest in baseball once a game moves into the 7th inning .

— In “Late and Close” situations as used by STATS LLC, the Cardinals are hitting .194 (28th) and have a .601 OPS (28th.)

— Using park-adjusted runs created (wRC+) the Cardinals are 28 percent below league average offensively in high-leverage situations.

— Cards hitters have struggled all season when batting with runners in scoring position; their .236 average ranks 22nd.

When your bullpen can’t extinguish flare-ups, and your hitters are gasping late in games, and lunging to deliver timely hits in high-leverage scenarios, it will be severely difficult to prevail in close contests.

We should take note of something else: the Cardinals’ record in tie games … 

They’re losing way too many up-for-grabs games that shape a team’s season.

When a game is tied going into the 6th inning, the Cards are 3-4.

Tied going into the 7th, 2-5.

Tied going into the 8th,  1-4.

Tied going into the 9th,  2-4.

Tied going into the 10th,  2-5.

Tied going into the 11th,  2-4.

This factors into the Cards’ 7-12 record in one-run games, and their 2-5 mark in extra-inning games.

And coming up short in close games  goes a long way in explaining the Cardinals’ overall 26-29 record — their worst record through 55 games since the 25-30 in 2007.

By the way, that  ’07 team finished with a losing record in one-run games. Those 2007 Cardinals also ended the campaign with a 78-84 record.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

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