Bird Bytes: Tommy Pham, Chasing a Unique Place in Cardinals History

Bird Bytes …

1. It seems like everyone is coming up with a favorite Tommy Pham stat.  I have one of my own. If Pham finishes with a .300 batting average, a .400 onbase percentage, and .500 slugging percentage, he’ll make history. He’d become the first qualifying player in Cardinals’ franchise history to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases and put up a slash line of at least  .300 / .400 / .500.

That’s right; no Cardinal has ever produced a season with that unique combination. And with 10 games to go, Pham seemingly has a good shot at this. He’s hitting .311 with a .411 OBP and .523 slug. He’s already hit 21 homers and swiped 22 bases. Pham just has to avoid hitting less than .300, losing enough OBP points to take him below .400, and mix in enough power to keep the slugging percentage from dropping below .500.

2. Pham and Houston’s Jose Altuve are the only MLB players producing that 300-400-500-20-20 combination so far in 2017. If Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt can steal two more bases, he’ll be the third.

3. Pham is one of nine players to have a .300 / .400 / .500 slash line at this stage of the season. (Minimum 450 plate appearances.) The other eight are Altuve, Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Anthony Rendon, Justin Turner, Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

4. I think the Cardinals can begin to set their lineup for 2018. The top of manager Mike Matheny’s current lineup card will work just fine. Go get a cleanup hitter this coming offseason — with using this bat at No. 3 as an option — and the Cardinals will be good to go.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

4a. Batting first, Matt Carpenter. He has career-best .423 onbase percentage going this season — impressive, even by Carpenter’s standards. And he’s slugging .493. Based on park-adjusted runs created (wRC+) Carpenter is 44 percent above the league average offensively. And that’s the best among MLB leadoff men with at least 350 plate appearances so far.

4b. Batting second, Tommy Pham. Using park-adjusted runs created (wRC+) here are the top No. 2 hitters in baseball this season, minimum 350 plate appearances:  Giancarlo Stanton (173, or 73 percent above league average offensively); Pham (152, or 52 percent above league average); Kris Bryant (145, or 45 percent above league average.) In his 359 PA batting second for the Cardinals, Pham is hitting .320 with a .422 OBP and .523 slug … that’s good for a .945 OPS … and batting second, Pham has strewn 15 doubles, two triples and 14 homers in 300 at-bats.

4c. Batting third, or fourth, Dexter Fowler: I left some room here, because Fowler has demonstrated his ability to bat at No. 3 or No. 4 in the lineup. So when the Cardinals presumably acquire a bat of some renown, that hitter and Fowler can be used third or fourth … whatever works best. In his 146 plate appearances this season as a No. 3 or No. 4 hitter, Fowler is batting .310 with a .394 OBP, and .534 slug for a .928 OPS. And when hitting third or fourth, Fowler’s park-adjusted runs created come in at 44 percent above league average offensively,

5. A tip of the cap to the Cardinals’ relief pitchers. The bullpen had to be restructured after closer Trevor Rosenthal suffered a season-ending elbow injury on Aug. 16. Without Rosenthal to anchor the bullpen, it was a mess for the first week or so. But since Aug. 23, the STL bullpen has the best ERA (3.14) and strikeout-walk ratio (3.87) in the NL. Tyler Lyons, John Brebbia, Zach Duke, Matthew Bowman, Ryan Sherriff and Brett Cecil have done a good job. And rookie Sandy Alcantara has wicked stuff.

5a. Lyons is having an exceptional second half.  Since the All-Star break Lyons ranks second among NL relievers in ERA (1.04), and is eighth with a 35.4 percent strikeout rate.

6. I don’t know what to expect from John Gant when he starts Sunday in Pittsburgh, but he doesn’t have to be a hero. Just turn in a solid four or five innings, and turn it over to the bullpen.

7. In 2008, when he was a pup of 25, catcher Yadier Molina had 7 homers, 56 RBIs and slugged .383. This year, at 35, Molina has 18 homers, a career-high 82 RBIs, and is slugging .445.

8. A guy on the MLB Network said Carlos Martinez is having a mediocre season. Um, yeah. When I see a starter who currently leads the NL in innings pitched (200.2) is tied third for most quality starts (20), is fourth with 211 strikeouts and is tied for ninth with 3.3 WAR, the first word I think of is “mediocre.”

9. Carlos Martinez has a few disappointing starts … and he’s Mike Leake? Good grief.

9a. I gotta give that one a Cuckoo.

10. Speaking of  Martinez … J.D. Martinez. That is all. Nothing to add there. Just J.D. Martinez.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend…

–Bernie

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