Free Jedd Gyorko.
If anyone out there has made a visit to the center of Mike Matheny’s mind in recent days, we’d all appreciate a report, so we can better understand why Jedd Gyorko is seated in the dugout watching the game, instead of starting the game, and swinging the bat four or five times a game, and having a shot at changing the game with a blast of power.
Having Gyorko play the role of spectator makes no sense considering:
1) The Cardinals are batting .199 in their last 12 games, with a thinned .319 slugging percentage, and an average of 2.9 runs per game. In the month of May, the Cardinals rank 29th among the 30 MLB teams with a .201 batting average, are 25th in runs per fame (3.0), and are 25th in slugging (.350.)
2) Matt Carpenter, the poor guy, is looking worse by the day. Thursday night Carpenter went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts at San Diego. And this is sad to see. Carpenter is 1 for his last 21 with nine strikeouts. After having a 2 for 4 night including an RBI double to lead the Cardinals to a 5-3 win at Wrigley Field on April 16, Carpenter is batting .109 with a .234 onbase percentage and .218 slug in 64 plate appearances. He’s struck in 25 percent of his PA. For the season, Carpenter’s batting average is down to .147, his OBP has dipped below .300, down to .296, and his .284 slugging percentage ranks 169th among 173 qualifying MLB hitters.
3) Gyorko, who can’t get a shot at regular playing time from Matheny, has made the most of his 47 plate appearances. He’s batting .324, with a big .447 OBP, .622 slug, and 1.068 OPS. He’s slammed three homers, two doubles and driven in six runs. Gyorko, who bats from the right side, is 6 for 13 with two homers vs. left-handed pitching.
Hey, but with the STL offense looking so anemic, and Carpenter in such a messed-up state right now, who needs a good hitter in the lineup when Gyorko is obviously more valuable in the dugout, where he can be put in charge of protecting the sunflower seeds?
I’m not sure when exactly he manager decided that Gyrko is a scrub. Since coming to St. Louis before the 2016 season, Gyrorko has a .330 OBP, and .489 slug and a sturdy .819 OPS in his 966 plate appearances. Gyorki has more homers, 53, than any Cardinal since the start of the 2016 season. His his RBI count (132) is third to Yadier Molina (157) and Carpenter (.150.) Among Cardinals hitters with at least 500 PA over the last two-plus seasons, Gyorko ranks third (to Paul DeJong and Tommy Pham) in slugging, and is fourth in OPS.
Gyorko’s home run ratio of one every 16.28 at-bats is not only the best among Cardinals hitters since the start of 2016, but it puts him at No. 28 in the majors during that time. He’s capable vs. LH pitching (.873 OPS as a Cardinal) and RH pitching (.798 OPS as a Cardinal.)
Oh yeah, and Gyoroko played very well at third base last season with 10 Defensive Runs Saved.
Gyorko’s right-handed swing has to be in there against LH pitchers from now on; he’s slugged .518 against them with an .873 OPS since the beginning of 2016. Carpenter, who bats left, has a .183 average, .282 slug and .616 OPS vs. LH pitchers since he began struggling against them at the outset of 2017.
Here are a few interesting things about Gyorko:
First, he’s one of the best and most dangerous hitters in the majors when a pitcher gets behind in the count against him. Second, at a time when MLB bullpens have so many dominant arms, Gyorko has terrific numbers against relief pitchers since joining the Cardinals in 2016. And if you try to sneak a fat first-pitch strike by Gyorko, he’ll be all over it.
A few stats to underline the points … and all are based on what Gyorko’s time as a Cardinal… starting with the 2016 season:
Gyorko is slugging .814 on the first pitch of at-bats, good for 13th best among MLB hitters with at least 540 PAs.
He’s homered 19 times, hitting one every 8.1 at-bats, in 153 at-bats with the pitcher behind in the count. That’s 10th best in MLB among hitters with at least 540 PA.
Gyorko has an OPS of 1.376 in his 202 PA facing a pitcher that’s behind in the count. That ranks No. 18 among qualifying hitters. And his slugging percentage with the pitcher behind is .837. And the Gyorko batting average with a pitcher behind in the count is .405 (62-for-153.)
About those relief pitchers: Gyorko has 22 HRs in 336 ABs at-bats against relievers. That’s a homer every 15.3 at-bats vs. relievers. That’s tied for the 7th best in MLB among hitters with at least 540 PA.
There’s a lot of appeal in Gyorko’s hitting, and plugging him in at third base for a few days to give Carpenter a chance to regroup would be the right and bright thing to do.
I said this on my radio show Friday and I didn’t throw it out there in a cavalier or disrespectful manner. But Carpenter worries me. This is starting to bring back memories of Allen Craig from 2014. Remember that? Craig was free falling his way through the season, his offense dissipating, until GM John Mozeliak intervened by trading Craig to Boston in the deal that brought starting pitcher John Lackey to the Cardinals. Mozeliak made the move, in large part, to prevent Matheny from wasting so many at-bats on an unproductive and declining hitter.
Carpenter can turn things around, and as I wrote earlier this week, it begins with fixing his swing to cut down on a swing-miss rate that’s up to a horrible 28.5 percent.
In the summer of 2014, Craig batted .237 … Carpenter was at .147 through Thursday.
Craig had a .291 OBP … Carpenter: .296.
Craig had a .346 SLG … Carpenter is slugging .248.
Craig had an OPS of .637 … Carpenters’s OPS was .581 through Thursday.
In park-adjusted runs created, Craig was 32 percent below league average offensively in 2014. And Carpenter? After another unfortunate night a the plate on Thursday, he’s 32 percent below league average offensively in the same metric … same as Craig in ’14.
This is a call for Jedd Gyorko.
Thanks for reading…