Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: Cardinals Need A Loud Wakeup Call For A Drowsy Offense

The Daily Redbird Review:

FIRST PITCH: In a peculiar twist to their season, the Cardinals have gone into the hitter-heaven setting of Coors Field in Denver and scored two total runs in 18 innings, losing the first two games of a three-game series by identical 2-1 scores.

This has never happened before, not for the Rockies, not at Coors Field. For the first time since Coors opened in 1995, the Rockies have won consecutive games despite scoring two runs or fewer.

The Cardinals’ wheezing, constricted offense is responsible for the team’s first instance of back-to-back-to-back losses since Aug. 6-7 at Dodger Stadium. The Cardinals went through a stretch of 32 games without losing two in a row.

The Cubs lost again Wednesday at San Diego and have dropped five of their last six. So despite their most inept 48 hours of no-show offense in many years, the Cardinals still lead the Cubs by four in the NL Central with 17 games to go.

But keep an eye on Milwaukee. The Brewers were a season-worst 7 and ½ games out of first place a week ago, but a six-game winning streak has put the Crew even with the Cubs and only four games behind the Cardinals.

With gasping Cardinals’ hitters apparently having a hard time getting oxygen through their windpipes, they’ve let the Cubs hang around and given the Brewers a huge boost of hope coming into this weekend’s series at Busch Stadium.

CARDS KILLER: The Cardinals are strangling themselves for the usual reasons: they’re absolutely baffled by seeing any pitch other than a fastball, don’t seem to understand that the other team is muffling them with offspeed pitches, and simply cannot adjust during games. The Rockies got clobbered by giving the St. Louis hitters a diet rich with fastballs when the Cardinals swept a four-game series last month. The Rockies adapted. They’re throwing the offspeed stuff now. The Cardinals are looking for fastballs. They’re confused by the Rockies’ change in tactics. Makes no sense.

BASEBALL HERO: Cardinals need a lineup hero, that’s for sure. Actor Kevin Costner said this: :“Real heroes are men who fall and fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they’ve stayed true to their ideals and beliefs and commitments.”

Yeah, and they also started looking for offspeed pitches instead of standing there expecting fastballs. Heroes also made adjustments from one at-bat to the next.

BLAME GAME: The Cardinals were a pathetic 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, making it 2 for 18 with RISP in the first two games. For the season the Cards rank 14th in the NL in slugging percentage (.398) and OPS (.744) with runners in scoring position. That slugging percentage is also 28th among the 30 MLB teams. The Cards’ puny total of 27 homers with RISP ranks 27th, and only four MLB teams have fewer doubles than the Cardinals with men in scoring position.

TURNING POINT: The Cardinals could and should have busted this game open early. But with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the first, Paul DeJong killed his team’s chance for an early lead and big inning by grounding into a double play that let the Rox escape.

DeJong has done a poor job statistically with runners in scoring position this season, batting .219 with a .310 OBP and .314 slugging percentage.

In park adjusted runs created (wRC+) DeJong is 34 percent below league average offensively with men in scoring position.

DeJong is a helluva player but has really struggled in this vital area. Obviously, he’s not the only one. It’s been a strain for this team to deliver with RISP.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: For the second night in a row the Cardinals’ pitchers held the Rockies to two runs — and the Rockies, statistically, are the No. 1 “home” offense in the majors. Good job by Dakota Hudson, John Gant, Tyler Webb and John Brebbia.

The Cardinals have the best ERA in the majors since the All-Star break at 3.32. Their ERA in September is an exquisite 2.63.

Also:

Leadoff man Dexter Fowler has done his job well over the first two games, reaching base in five of eight plate appearances: three hits and two walks. And Dex scored the Cards’ lone run in each game.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: The St. Louis pitchers need better run support to make sure their excellence results in team success.

The average for runs scored per MLB team this season is 4.85 runs per game.

The Cardinals have scored a below-average total, four runs or fewer, in nine of their last 14 games. They’re  4-5 in the nine games. And they only won the four games because of superb pitching that gave up only THREE total runs in the four triumphs.

The Cardinals have lost 10 times this season when allowing no more than two runs in a game — the most such losses by an NL team this season.

CAN YOU DO BETTER, PART TWO: On the flip side of the equation, the Cardinals’ offense has been held to two runs or fewer a whopping 44 times overall in 2019.

Let’s compare that to other successful National League teams.

Number of games of scoring two runs or less:

  • Braves, 25
  • Nationals, 26
  • Brewers, 34
  • Mets, 34
  • Dodgers, 35
  • Diamondbacks, 38
  • Phillies, 40
  • Cubs, 41

In the NL only non-contenders — Marlins and Giants — have scored two runs or fewer more times than the Cardinals this season.

The St. Louis record in those games is 7-37. The consequences of having so many low-scoring games is plain to see.

MUST DO BETTER, PART III:  Need to go to the list:

1. Harrison Bader is batting .154 with a .233 onbase percentage,  .192 slug and a 27 percent strikeout rate since Sept. 2.

2. In 68 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Tommy Edman is batting .185 with a .574 OPS. In his last 40 PA with runners in scoring position, Edman is hitting .179 with a .456 OPS.

3. In 53 PA since Aug. 28, Marcell Ozuna is batting .102 (that’s 5 for 49) with a .170 OBP and .224 slug.

4. Paul Goldschmidt hasn’t homered since Aug. 24 and is slugging .382 in 68 PA since then. But Goldy has driven in 13 runs over that time. He’s also drawing a bunch of walks — which is understandable considering the way Ozuna and DeJong are struggling in the No. 4 and No. 5 lineup spots.

PLEASE DO BETTER, PART IV:  The Cardinals are 37-20 since the All-Star break despite having to scratch for runs. Too many observers are fooled by the outlier games in which the Cardinals go off for 10+ runs. But it’s the other games that define them.

For example: the Cards have scored 32.7 percent of their total second-half runs in eight games. (The total is 91 runs in the eight games.) So eight of the 57 games inflated their run-scoring average to 4.9 per game since the All-Star break. That’s good, right?

Well, no. Not really. In their other 49 games since the break the Cardinals averaged 3.8 runs — more than a run below the MLB average.

In 27 games in August, the Cardinals averaged 5.2 runs … wonderful! Well, sorry, but not really. They scored 65 runs in six games of the 27 games … and averaged 3.6 runs in the other 21.

Just keep these numbers in mind the next time you hear a local homer-media meatball getting aroused and salivating when the Cardinals break the malaise with an infrequent 10-run outburst.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: Nothing, really. But it might be a good time to give Randy Arozarena a start in the outfield.

GOOD MOVE, SHILDTY: Since moving Fowler to leadoff in early August, Fowler has a .372 onbase percentage and .436 slug for an .808 OPS. That Fowler OBP is pumped by his terrific 14% walk rate since Shildt made the move.

BREATHLESS: On Wednesday night, MLB teams set a new single-season record for most homers. Only two of the 30 teams have actually hit fewer home runs this year compared to last season — despite the tremendous escalation of the industry home-run rate.

  • White Sox:  1.12 homers per game last season and 1.08 HR/game this year.
  • Cardinals:  1.27 homers per game in 2018, and 1.22 HR/game this season.

(Oh, dear.)

ON DECK: Miles Mikolas goes for the Cardinals today at 2 p.m. local time as the Cards make their getaway from Coors Field. Mikolas has a road ERA of 5.83 this season and has allowed 1.7 homers per nine innings on the road. Among 65 MLB starting pitchers that have worked at least 70 road innings this season, Mikolas has been hit for the seventh-highest slugging percentage (.507.)

Thanks for reading…

–Bernie