Bird Bytes: Someone Please Explain the Mystery of Carlos Martinez

After being allowed to play, run around and have some fun in the Cubs’ yard on Thursday night, the Cardinals had a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning and were feeling frisky.

This must have gotten on the Cubs’ nerves. They soon let the visitors know: OK, that will be enough of that. Go sit down. And behave yourselves.

Final score: Cubs 9, Cardinals 6.

The first-place Cubs won for the 13th time in their last 16 competitions. They opened a lead of 8.5 games over The Cardinals had 15 hits and scored in six of the nine innings.

But the Cardinals committed errors No. 78, 79 and 80 …

Tommy Pham got picked off first base; that’s now 58 St. Louis  running redbirds lost in the dirt through unforced  base running errors this season.

The Cards’ bullpen is guilty of improper relief pitching as of late — vandalizing games, spray painting a a 9.32 ERA and .933 opponent OPS over the  30.2 inning. Where the hell is patrolman Bud Norris? Did he quit the beat? Someone needs to put a stop to this. Start writing some tickets, Officer Bud.

The Bad as in Lousy and Baffling Carlos Martinez was back. And when the Cardinals’ trembling-hands defense gave the Cubs an opening, the bears sharpened their claws and chased Martinez out of Wrigley Field.

Let’s get after some numbers, opinions, analysis and annoyances:

Updating the scorecard: Cardinals are 48-47 on the season … a record of 28-35 since May 7, with a mark of 12-19 since June 12 … in their last 61 games against the Cubs, including the 2015 NLDS, the Cardinals have a winning percentage of .393; record of 24-37 … Cardinals are 2-11 in their last 13 games at Wrigley Field … and have lost 21 of their last 33 games played at the home of the Cubs … NL wild card, if you insist: Cardinals are in a thicket of eight NL teams angling to shake loose and grab one of two wild card spots. Thursday’s loss put the Cardinals 4.5 games out of the No. 2 WC. The Atlanta Braves currently has that No. 2 WC stashed under a pillow, with Arizona (minus a half-game), Colorado (minus 2.0), San Francisco (minus 4.0) and the St. Louisans (minus 4.5 games) trying to get to it.

Good As In Kick-Ass Ace Carlos Martinez: In his first eight starts of the season, “El Gallo” had six quality starts and a fab 1.62 ERA that ranked No. 3 among qualifying MLB starting pitchers. Opponents managed a smallish .544 OPS against Martinez, and had a slash line of .183/ .304 / .240 … he’d given up only 0.18 homers per nine innings … and an average of 1.08 Walks-Hits per inning … the Cardinals were 6-2 in his starts. And then he strained a lat muscle in early May.

Bad As In What the Hell Is Wrong With You Carlos Martinez: In nine starts since coming off the disabled list, Martinez has four quality starts and a 5.32 ERA. In case you’re curious, that 5.32 ERA ranks No. 105 among 133 MLB pitchers that have made at least five starts since June 5, and No. 78 among 95 throwers that have started seven or more times since June 5. The Cardinals are 3-6 in his nine starts. Opponents’ OPS in the CM’s last nine is ripened  .802 … the bruised slash line against him is .288/ .379/ .424 … 1.73 Walks-Hits per inning … 0.79 homers per nine IP.

Carlos vs. the Cubs: Since Joe Maddon became the Cubs’ superb manager and Bob Graham-level promoter extraordinaire in 2015, Martinez has made nine starts against the franchise formerly defined by Koyie Hill, Chico Walker, Manny Alexander, Sergio Mitre, Shawn Boskie and Turk Wendell. Martinez has a 4.88 in the nine starts, with four quality starts, with a 1-4 record, and a home-run yield of 1.39 per nine innings. And  a .455 slug and .812 OPS against him. Not good. Bad. In six career starts at Wrigley Field, Martinez is 1-3 with a 5.25 ERA … and in his last four starts at Wrigley, the Martinez ERA is 6.45. This is not the work of an ace.

Jon Lester, on the other hand, the left hand, has painted the corners: Lester has made 17 starts against the Cardinals since signing on with the Cubs. Twelve of the 17 have been quality-grade starts, his ERA is 2.35, and he’s given up two earned runs or fewer 11 times … and three earned runs or fewer in 16 of the 17. Lester’s record vs. STL is 7-5, but that’s mostly because of skimpy run support. This is the work of an ace.

The people are wondering why Mike Shildt is batting Yadier Molina second in the lineup? Well, I think I can answer this query, providing that you don’t get all clenched up over small sample sizes. Going into Friday’s tilt in Wrigleyville, Molina has handsome career stats when batting No. 2. We are talking only 26 games and 94 plate appearances here, but the returns are boffo, with a .322 average, .351 OBP, .506 slug and .857 OPS. Plus seven doubles, three homers, five walks, 13 RBIs.

Matt Bowman, Matt Bowman, Matt Bowman? I guess he’s got a gig for life, or something? In his last 85 regular-season relief appearances for the Cardinals, Bowman has a 5.25 ERA in 70.1 innings… with a too-high 1.45 WHIP … and a decreasing ground ball rate (62 percent in 2016, then 56% last season, and 47.6% this season) … During the 85 appearances LH batters have a .768 OPS against the RH reliever … and RH batters have done even better against Bowman (.768 OPS.)

Uh, oh. There’s a crusade being organized and the crusaders could be coming after Mike Shildt. Why? Well. Start with this: when it comes to the former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, these otherwise exemplary citizens and patriots go a wee bit  fruit loops, bananas, looney-tunes… and they enjoy searching out critics of the former manager by taking the cuckoo-loco train straight into the social media tunnel. They seem to be annoyed at Shildt, because he betrayed the Beloved Leader of Men, evidently by accepting the Beloved Leader of Men’s former job, and this position became available because Cardinals ownership-management fired the Beloved Leader of Men and then … and then … and then … CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS … allowed another man to take over the Beloved Leader of Men’s office and sit in his actual Leadership Chair.

Anyway, the Cardinals won Shildt’s first game, and lost his second game. That made him 1-1, and hey,  the former manager had a career record that was well above .500. So Shildt doesn’t measure up. They hired a guy who can only win half his games, and it makes no sense. And in losing the second game, the Cardinals had the usual variety of airhead moments that now represent the Cardinal Sin Way. After the three-error game, and the pickoff, I texted a friend: Go check out Twitter. You will enjoy it. It’s predictable, and funny.

The MMM (Martyring Mike Matheny) crusaders are out, and they are demanding to know why the evildoers in the STL media are not screeching for the firing and imprisonment of Shildt based on his hideous, unacceptable 1-1 record  … AND his  completely unforgivable negligence in failing to make the Cardinals fundamentally pure and sound in TWO games. See how these media Mephistopheles are? Double standards. Roast a great man and manager, Mike Matheny, for his team’s fundamental imperfections during his six-plus seasons and 1,065 games. And then Shildt gets the job, and doesn’t have this team fixed after two games … and these people won’t say a word about that.

I also am enjoying the other factions:

+ “The Mo Must Goers”  Hey, What has Mozeliak done, anyway? He’s ruined the franchise. He’s never won anything. Well, except the World Series, two NL pennants and more regular season and postseason games than any continuously serving National League GM since getting the job in 2008. And only the Dodgers, who have had several GMs, have won more regular-season and postseason contests than St. Louis during Mozeliak’s time.

+ The DeWitt Ain’t Trying To Win and That’s a Sin Club… 

Irate BDJ critic: He’s dirt cheap! Doesn’t care about winning. Winning doesn’t matter to him!

Me: Hold on, a minute. Since DeWitt bought the Cardinals before the 1996 season, they are one of only four MLB teams to have won at least 2,000 regular-season games over the last 23 seasons.

BDJ critic:  That ain’t nothing. He’s dirt cheap! DeWitt doesn’t care about winning.

Me: You’ve got to be kidding. The Cardinals have won four NL pennants, two World Series, been to the playoffs in 13 of his first 22 seasons as owner, and have the postseason wins of any NL team — and only the Yankees and Cardinals have competed in more than 100 postseason games since 1996. That’s a helluva lot of winning.

BDJ critic: He ain’t trying to win. You must be on his payroll, Barney.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend…


More: What Would A Carlos Martinez Trade Look Like?