Here’s your Daily Redbird Review…
Medium-hot take: with our town’s baseball team mired in tedium, can we have another Blues parade?
FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals stayed on the treadmill on Tuesday night with a dreadful 6-0 loss to the lowly Marlins. Though the Cardinals are 6-3 in their last nine games, all played against losing teams (Mets, Marlins), the cold hard fact is this: since the second day of May the Cardinals have the worst record in the National League at 17-25.
THE GOOD NEWS? Despite a problematic rotation, a tired bullpen, an inconsistent offense and a flawed roster, the Cardinals are only 2 and ½ games out of first place in the NL Central. So I guess the Cards and fans will understandably take comfort in knowing that the team is within easy reach of the division top spot despite of the 42-game stretch of uninspiring baseball.
That’s because the first-place Brewers have lost four of their first five games on a trip to San Francisco and San Diego.
And The Crew’s starting pitching is even worse than what we’re seeing from the Cardinals.
Milwaukee’s 4.76 rotation ERA ranks 12th among 15 NL teams.
The Cardinals are ninth in the NL with a 4.36 rotation ERA.
The Cubs, who trail the Brewers by a half-game, have lost six of their last eight games. On top of that, starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks is sidelined with a shoulder impingement — meaning that Tyler Chatwood has been reinstalled in the rotation.
The Brewers and Cubs are giving a chance to catch up. Can the Cardinals take advantage of parity in the NL Central? Can they take advantage of a soft-serve portion of their schedule?
The Cards are nine games into a 39-game stretch of facing bad or mediocre teams. As of this morning, the Cardinals will have only six of the next 30 games against teams that currently have winning records: Oakland and Arizona. And another opponent, San Diego, is exactly at .500 in the standings.
As we mentioned, the Cardinals are 6-3 so far in their easiest stretch of schedule of the season. They won’t have to deal with a truly elite team until July 26 when Houston visits Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals have split the first two games with Miami. They’ve gone 3-2 against the Marlins over the last 10 days. That isn’t good enough.
The Cards and Marlins have two games remaining in their four-game set. The Cardinals can come away with two wins and take the series from a lousy visiting team –or the Cardinals can stay on the treadmill.
CARDS KILLER: For the second time in a week, the Cardinals were absolutely helpless, and bewildered, against Marlins rookie Jordan Yamamoto.
Last week in Miami Yamamoto made his major-league debut by blanking the Cardinals on three hits over seven shutout innings. He did it again Tuesday, neutering the Cardinals by allowing only two hits over another seven scoreless innings.
In 14 innings of futility against Yamamoto the Cardinals have reached base nine times in 48 plate appearances for an onbase percentage of .188. Their batting average against the rookie is .114.
That’s extreme but not exactly shocking. Yamamoto isn’t a hard thrower. He relies on sliders, cutters, curve balls and changeups. The Cardinals are a good fastball-hitting team that struggles against offspeed pitches.
FAILURE TO MAKE AJDUSTMENTS: True fact … St. Louis hitters have the worst batting average (.187), slugging percentage (.255) and hard-hit average (.097) against changeups this season.
I’m thinking that opposing-team pitchers know this.
I’m thinking that other teams are going more heavily with offspeed stuff and throwing fewer fastballs against a slow-to-process Cardinals’ lineup.
I’m thinking that the Cardinals are the only team in baseball that doesn’t know this.
Make some adjustments, maybe?
BASEBALL HERO: Cardinals’ icon Lou Brock has displayed remarkable strength and courage in refusing to succumb to multiple life-threatening medical crises. It’s always a great day at Busch Stadium when Brock is in the house. And thankfully Lou was at Busch for Tuesday’s game, celebrating his 80th birthday. His presence was the highlight of the night for the Cardinals and their fans … and that would have been true even if the Cardinals had won this game, 11-0. Brock’s presence at the ballpark is always the highlight of the day.
BLAME GAME: The Cardinals offense was in the hibernation mode again, going 2 for 28 with four walks against Miami pitching… for the season the Cardinals rank 10th in the National League with an average of 4.6 runs per game. That’s below the league average of 4.74 runs per game.
The Cardinals have averaged 4.2 runs during their 17-25 slide. And since May 2 the Cards rank 29th in the majors with a .373 slugging percentage.
Ugh. This team obviously hasn’t heard about MLB’s booming home-run craze. For the season the Cardinals rank 21st in the majors and 11th in the NL with an average of 1.25 home runs per game.
TURNING POINT: Well, I guess we could say the turning point came when Yamamoto successfully completed his pregame warmup without incident, and walked from the Miami dugout to the mound without tripping and breaking an ankle or something.
HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Zilch.
LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Cardinals’ starting pitcher Jack Flaherty received ladles of sugary-sweet praise from manager Mike Shildt after the game.
And it isn’t that Flaherty pitched poorly; he didn’t. Giving up three runs in seven innings (with one walk and eight strikeouts) would qualify as a quality start … and most likely a winning start had STL hitters provided sufficient run support.
Can we talk about Flaherty’s problems with the home-run ball? Flaherty was popped for two more homers last night. That makes it 15 homers against Flaherty in only 80 and ⅔ innings this season. Last year he gave up 20 homers in 151 innings.
Flaherty is giving up an average of 1.67 homers per nine innings this season –and right now that’s the HR rate allowed by qualifying National League starting pitchers.
Flaherty’s slider was his best pitch last season. Thats no longer the case. Hitters have crushed his slider for six homers and a slugging percentage well above .500 this season. Last year Flaherty gave up only eight homers on the slider all season.
THE CARDINALS ROTATION — ENIGMA: No one has offered an explanation for this. And for some reason, this extreme split doesn’t receive much attention here in Candyland. But after Flaherty’s start last night, the Cardinals’ ERA at Busch Stadium stands at 3.23 this season. That’s the fourth-best home ERA by a major-league rotation. On the road? Cardinals starting pitchers have a 5.61 ERA that’s the worst in MLB.
SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: It didn’t matter, because the Cardinals didn’t score a run. But the Marlins put the Cardinals away on a two-run homer by Brian Anderson in the seventh inning. It was Flaherty’s third time through the Miami lineup. And Flaherty has been extremely vulnerable this season when encountering a lineup for the third time in a game.
In those situations he’s been clubbed for four homers, a .611 slugging percentage and 1.088 OPS. But Shildt let Flaherty go there again. I understand that the bullpen isn’t in the best of shape because of the front-office failure to improve the starting pitching. Shildt is in a tough spot here.
GOOD MOVE, SHILDTY: Quiet night at the old ballyard.
BREATHLESS: Remember when we all believed that Alex Reyes would join the rotation and save Cardinal Nation? Unfortunately, Reyes had another awful start for Triple A Memphis on Tuesday night, giving up six runs on 10 hits and three walks in five innings. (On the plus side: nine strikeouts.)
Reyes is 1-3 with a 7.67 ERA in nine games (six starts) for Memphis. He’s walked 23 hitters in 27 innings.
ON DECK: Daniel Ponce de Leon makes tonight’s start for the Cardinals against Miami right-hander Trevor Richards. “Ponce” has a 2.54 in six MLB starts. He’s pitched well. But a team with below-average starting pitching can’t find a more permanent spot for Ponce de Leon in the rotation?