We open Friday’s Daily Redbird Review with a Question of the Day:
Does anybody really want to win the NL Central?
If so the Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers are sure doing a lot of stuff to mess it up.
Since the July 31 trade deadline here’s the record for the top three contenders in the NL Central:
Except for the Brewers having a day off, it was more of the same Thursday night, with the Cardinals’ hitters soiling their uniforms and ruining another chance to win at Cincinnati, and the Cubs blowing a 5-0 lead to lose at Philadelphia.
The Cubs and Cardinals remain tied for first in the division.
The Cubs and Cardinals also remain tied for first in driving their fans insane.
FIRST PITCH: The Cardinals barely had a pulse offensively at The Great American Ball Park — a place where you have to be really awful offensively to not score. This dozy 2-1 loss to the Reds broke the Cards’ five-game win streak that was built primarily on run prevention.
As a bonehead-bonus — which ain’t good — the Cardinals failed to take advantage of the the Cubs latest stumble over a tripwire on the road.
The Cubs are 10-27 in their last 37 road games. The Cubs have a toxic bullpen and an weirdly erratic offense. The Cardinals have outstanding pitching and a boring, overmatched offense.
LET’S ACKNOWLEDGE THE OBVIOUS: Jeff Albert’s information overload is an obvious factor here. The Cards’ hitting coach is a smart man, and I was happy with his hiring, but Cardinals’ hitters are screwed up inside the head right now. When you stare at fastballs down the middle, chase out-of-zone pitches, and seem stunned by seeing a changeup or other offspeed selections — the headwires are tangled.
And, of course, the talent is lacking.
That’s the No. 1 problem.
CARDS KILLER: Reds starter Sonny Gray went five scoreless innings, allowed only one hit, struck out 10, and walked three. But after the game Cardinals manager Mike Shildt was real proud that his boys made Sonny Gray work. I’m thinking that the rest of us would have preferred seeing Shildty’s guys make Sonny Gray’s ERA go up by scoring some damn runs.
Gray also put his team in position to score two runs in the fifth inning with a sacrifice bunt that gave the Reds runners on second and third. Both eventually scored. Well done.
BASEBALL HERO: Let me quote George RR Martin, the famous author who wrote the book that later was adapted and turned into the HBO hit series, Game of Thrones.
Martin wrote: “There are no heroes … in life, the monsters win.”
BLAME GAME: The Cardinals offense was atrocious again, with two hits, 15 strikeouts and one run in nine innings. The Cards went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. The team is averaging 3.6 runs per game this month, and 25 of their 44 runs in August were scored in three games.
TURNING POINT: With two outs in the top of the third, Paul Goldschmidt gazed at a perfect, down-the-pipe strike for a called strike three to leave the bases loaded. Goldy is batting .237 with runners in scoring position this season.
In his last 10 games Goldschmidt is batting .189 with one extra-base hit and a .495 OPS.
HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Nice job by Cards starter Michael Wacha. After not pitching in 10 days, I thought he’d be fresh and capable for the start against the Reds. And indeed Wacha had good stuff, giving up two runs in five innings. I’m not claiming that the dude was Justin Verlander last night, but that isn’t the point. Wacha and relievers Tyler Webb, Junior Fernandez and Ryan Helsley held the Reds to two runs — and the Cardinals should have won the game. The pitching staff did its job.
Kolten Wong had the only RBI last night, drawing the Cardinals close in the ninth.
Wong is batting .353 in August.
LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: The Cardinals are 13th in the National League in average runs per game this season and have the worst offense in the league this month. Through their first 12 games in August the Cardinals are last in the NL in batting average, onbase percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, homers and runs per contest. They have the second-worst strikeout rate in the league for August.
Since the All-Star break the Cardinals rank 13th in the NL in batting average (.236), 14th in OBP (.301), 13th in slugging (.406), 14th in OPS (.707). The offense is 16 percent below league average over this time, ranking 14th in the NL.
With the Cardinals so stout in preventing runs, this team would be thriving with an an average offense.
Not a great offense, not an intimidating offense … just an average offense.
Unless the Cards’ hitting comes to life and performs respectably and consistently the rest of the way, this team is destined to miss the postseason for the fourth consecutive season.
TAKING A CLOSER CLOSER LOOK AT AN UGLY OFFENSE: Here are some revealing stats from Inside Edge. They show just how futile this team is at antcipating changeups and other offspeed pitches and doing something against the soft-serve offerings:
1. The Cardinals are batting just .205 (107-for-522) on changeups this season. That’s fourth worst in MLB and 23 points below average.
2. Cards hitters have 10 home runs on changeups this season, tied for fewest in MLB.
3. Cards hitters have a hard-hit percentage of just .100 (52/522) on changeups this season, worst in MLB, and 46 percent below league average.
4. Cards hitters are slugging just .299 on changeups: worst in MLB and 92 points below league average.
5. St. Louis hitters have 29 extra-base hits out of 107 total hits (a rate of 27.1%) this year on changeups. That’s the second worst in MLB and 10 percent below league average.
6. The Cardinals are batting .193 on breaking pitches this season, worst in MLB and 28 points below league average.
7. Cards hitters have swung and missed 46 percent of the time against low breaking pitches; that’s fifth worst in the majors.
8. The Cardinals have a hard-hit percentage of .119; third worst in the majors and 25 points below average.
9. Cards hitters are slugging just .327 on breaking pitches this season; that’s the poorest in the majors and 55 percent below league average.
10. The Cardinals have 76 extra-base hits out of 230 hits (33%) on breaking pitches this season: third worst in MLB.
Over the last two weeks the Cardinals have a swing-and-miss rate of just under 50 percent on changeups … and yet there’s no recognition, no adjustments, no corrections. These folks don’t even understand how pitchers are attacking them. Pathetic.
SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: As we mentioned, Wong is batting .353 this month with a .436 onbase percentage and big .877 OPS. And though this abominable offense is starving for runs, five Cardinals have had more plate appearances than Wong in August. And Wong continues to bat near the bottom of the lineup card.
GOOD MOVE, SHILDTY: Pass.
BREATHLESS: How horrible is this offense? Lane Thomas leads the team in RBIs this month. And he’s started only two games and taken 12 at-bats in August.
ON DECK: Friday night’s pitching matchup features Adam Wainwright vs. Luis Castillo. In 11 road starts this season Wainwright has a 6.96 ERA, and opponents have a .383 OBP and .510 slug. Castillo is 11-4 with a 2.69 ERA this season and has allowed more than two earned runs in only six of 24 starts. He’s given up more than four earned runs in a start only time. When pitching at home this season Castillo had a 2.35 ERA and has allowed a .181 opponent batting average and .430 OPS.
Have a great weekend!
And thanks for reading.