Bird Bytes: Cardinals Need Strong Finish To First Half. Plus, Three Keys To A Turnaround.

Bird Bytes:

1. The Cardinals are 16 games into a 39-game stretch of playing teams that are slightly above .500, right at .500, just below .500, or just really, bad. The Cards must take advantage of a chance to pile up some wins. Their record against a softer schedule, so far, is 9-7. That’s a winning record but the Cardinals have to pull more wins than that.  That’s why their last home-stand was such a missed opportunity; the Cardinals won four of the first six games, then dropped three in a row to Anaheim and Oakland. So instead of going 7-2 or 6-3, the Redbirds ended up at 4-5.

2. Accordingly, the Cardinals can end the unofficial first half of the season on a positive note by having a strong road trip (nine games) taking them from San Diego, to Seattle, to San Francisco — and right into the All-Star break. The Padres are 40-40, the Mariners are 37-48, the Giants are 34-46.

3. I believe the Cardinals are better than their 40-39 record shows. I could be wrong about that, of course. This team has issues and problems and no quick remedies. But if the Cards are poised to break out of the lousy stretch (20-29) of ball that’s slowed them down since May 2, this is the time to start stacking victories. They weren’t able to get that done at home. Maybe they’ll begin heading in the right direction on this final road tour of the first half.

4. If not … then at some point we’ll have to conclude that the Cardinals aren’t who we thought they were … they aren’t who we thought they would be. But for now, all they can do is start winning as much as possible and hope that the Cubs and Brewers continue to dawdle and struggle to put together winning streaks. At some point the Cardinals will have to rise up instead of relying on other teams — Cubs, Brewers — to mess up.

5. Here are the three most important keys to turning the thing around: (A) Matt Carpenter, (B) Paul Goldschmidt and (C) Paul DeJong. A boring offense can be become an exciting offense if these three guys start getting on base, start hitting for power, start driving in runs. If all three get hot, then this offense will thrive. If they remain flat, it’s going to be a long season.

6. DeJong’s overall season numbers are above average; he had a .350 onbase percentage (good) with a .468 slugging percentage (pretty good.) In terms of OPS+, DeJong is 16 percent above the league average. But for the last five weeks (31 games) he’s batted only .176 with a .261 OBP and .328 slug. DeJong can make a big difference if his bat reheats.

7. As for Goldschmidt and Carpenter … Carpenter the season with a 130 career OPS+, or 30% above league average. This season? Carpenter is 11 percent below average … a negative swing of 41 points in OPS+ …  And before 2019, Goldschmidt gad a career OPS+ of 145, or 45% above league average. This year he’s one percent above average … that’s a drop of 44 points from his career standard.

8. Here’s a positive: as a group the Cardinals’ starting pitchers are improving; they head into the weekend ranked fifth in MLB with a June ERA of  3.76. The Cards rotation is 10th in the majors with a 4.29  Fielding Independent ERA this month.

9. Positive: the Cardinals have 20 Defensive Runs Saved on shifts this season, tied for third overall in MLB, and tied for second in the NL. Manager Mike Shildt’s smart use of the shifts is making a difference.

10. Speaking of Shildt: He’s taken some heat after imploring fans and media to heap more praise on his disappointing team; he explained that he wanted to let his players know that he had their backs. OK, but here’s a question: when will the players show that they have Shildt’s back? Or do they expect to hide behind him — and let him absorb a pounding — all season?  Shildt deserves better from his players.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend…

–Bernie