The St. Louis Cardinals: What To Do, What To Do?
It's like a tale of two cities, or possibly a tale of twins who choose different paths to adulthood. You look at them and try to guess where they'll be in a few months based upon projections and gains and losses to the team and then, out of nowhere a surprise jumps up and scares you to death. You never saw this coming, weren't prepared for it at all. So you settle back and take stock of the situation and try to get a handle on what's going on here.
Well, at least you try to do so. Here is a look at what was, where they went, and what is now. Take care now; it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
2015 Cardinals Pitching
What can I say about this group? Waino goes down early and is gone virtually the entire year. There goes your ace. So, what happens? Wacha gets 17 wins and has an ERA of just over 3; Martinez gets 14 wins and an ERA of 3. Lackey has a career year with 13 wins and a 2.77 ERA. Lynn wins 12 and has an ERA of 3 while Garcia wins 10 with a ridiculous 2.43 ERA. They struck out three for every one walk and were the toast of the league most of the year. As a spot starter Lyons had an ERA of 3.75 in 17 games with 60 K's and only 15 walks. Pretty good fill in I'd say.
Rosenthal set a mark for most saves ever for the team at 48, struck out 83 against 25 walks. Siegrist appeared in 81 games, struck out 90 and walked 34 while Maness saw action in 76 games, struck out 46 against only 13 walks.
2016 Cardinals Pitching
The starting pitchers are Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Micheal Wacha, Jaime Garcia and newly acquired Mike Leake. Martinez, Wacha and Garcia were all with the team last year and were part of that historical run, so we should know what to expect with them, right? Wrong. To date, they have literally been a roller coaster ride of forgettable stats that show just how far they have fallen. Wainwright has been around for sometime and is the undisputed ace of the team, but perhaps due in part to his losing last year to injury (not arm, but Achilles) we were not sure just what to expect. Well, thus far not much. I hate to say it but while he is improving with each start I am not seeing the shut down ace we all know and love in Waino. He's just not there right now.
With last year's co-ace Lance Lynn out with Tommy John surgery for the year, the Cards went out and tried to get David Price by offering him a huge contract. But he decided he would rather stay in the American League East so he signed with Boston. Another reason to not like them. But with the way he's been pitching so far, I am happy with not having that monster contract around our necks. Enter Leake: a steady, if not spectacular pitcher who throws a lot of ground balls, Granted, he got off on the wrong foot but has righted his ship nicely lately and is actually the one I would probably trust the most right now.
Martinez has perhaps the best stuff on the team but he is really having problems. Far too many balls, far too many pitches thrown is resulting in his not making it out of the 6th inning for the majority of his starts. He's striking out people well enough but even that is causing him to throw too many pitches to be effective.
Garcia is on again-off again with his starts and is trending off lately. Again, his stuff is great, so great that he can't find the strike zone. Every pitch darts and dances left, right, up, and down to the degree that he literally is like a knuckleball pitcher, not knowing from one instant to the next where the ball will wind up.
And Wacha is just throwing, not pitching right now. It seems like he is aiming everything and as a result not able to find the strike zone very often, but when he does they pounce on it.
In the bullpen, Oh has been Oh-mazing. Known as The Final Boss in his Asian baseball career, he is continuing that saga here in the states and mowing batters down left and right. Rosenthal is his usual self, alternately striking 'em out or walking them. More of the former, less of the latter please.
2015 Cardinals Hitting
I had high hopes when Heyward came on board to replace the tragic Tavares loss. He was okay, hitting .293 with 13 HR. Piscotty arrived and took the league by storm, finishing at .305. Carpenter supplied the power because no one else could! Holiday and Adams were out all year. Peralta and Grichuk hit 17 dingers each so were pretty good and Wong was surface of the sun hot in the first half and Pluto cold in the second. The word that describes the Cardinal hitters last year was unspectacular.
2016 Cardinals Hitting
Homer-happy is what I am calling it this year. At this time they are ahead of everyone in the National League in home runs and almost everyone in the American league. But. They strike out A LOT! Yeah, they're scoring runs; yeah they're hitting home runs but they are also having games where they literally cannot find a ball with a bat. Thus far, their bats are carrying the team in much the same manner that the arms were last year.
Carpenter is coming around and doing his usual thing: hitting the ball all over the place. Among the league leaders in walks, doubles and runs/RBI's he is doing his job. Moss has revitalized himself and leads the team in homers and strikeouts. Adams is crushing the ball and has learned to hit to left field. Piscotty is being what we saw last year and has now taken over the four hole and right field. Can you say Jason Who?
Yadi is Yadi which is a very good thing. But the real eye opening sequence of events has arrived at the shortstop position. No, not Peralta (although he returns from the DL today) but Aledymas Diaz. At present, he is sitting in third place in the league BA department and has made us forget about losing Jhonny this spring. And now that Jhonny is marching home, that means Wong got his marching papers; head downriver son on the first paddlewheeler you can find. Better luck later.
Grichuck simply cannot find a pitch to hit well very often. Jim Edmonds made a statement a couple of weeks ago, saying that Grichuk has the same swing for every pitch. When I started to pay attention, I saw he was dead on. High fastball inside or slider down and away, his groove was almost exactly the same. Mabry, better work on that or Pham will put him out of the field shortly.
An absolute rocket of the bat of Diaz: 107 mph and 426 feet off the foul pole
Less than three seconds from swing to pole
2015 Cardinals Bench
Let's see, what words could I use for last year's bench? Weak? Maybe. Spotty? Yeah, that would work. Last year's bench consisted primarily of Bourjous (.200), Moss (.250), Garcia (.240) and Pham (.268) Oh, and Kosma (.152) (.152?! Seriously! He weighed more than that!) Power was meh and defense was as well. The entire offense was meh as well but it did not matter: the pitching was outstanding. But it had to be because there were no runs being scored.
2016 Cardinals Bench
What can we say about the bench? Ten, that's 10 pinch hit home runs so far. Hell, eleven teams don't even have a single pinch hit homer! And coverage? Moss = 1B, LF and RF. Garcia = 2B, SS and 3B. Hazelbaker = anywhere in the outfield. Gyorko = 2B, SS and 3B. Hitting has Garcia at .452 and 2 HR; Moss .234 and 11 HR; Hazelbaker .254 and 7 HR; and Gyorko .250 and 6 HR. Even Fryer, the backup to the backup catcher on the roster is hitting .400!
You know its going against you when you sign a new, five year $25 million contract and you're sent down to Triple A in the first week of June because there's no place for you like what just happened to Wong. Great defense but no bat right now = downriver.
Changes That Need To Be Made
What would I do as we approach the trade deadline? For one, I would make a change to the starting rotation and quick. I would be on the phone to the Braves G.M. and offer him Wong (under control for four and a half years at a very team friendly contract) for Julio Tehran. If Tehran was on the Cardinals this season, he would have 10 wins and be ace of the staff right now, looking at an All Star selection. If I needed to sweeten the pot, there are some good young players in our minor leagues that would whet the appetite of the G.M. rather quickly.
Or maybe we offer Peralta up. He is only under contract through next year and with Diaz doing well, maybe this will kick Wong in the butt enough to get him going and get him back to the big leagues. But I think Atlanta wants to go younger, not older. Rebuild, you know.
If we were to get a Tehran, I'd send Wacha to the 'pen and get him working in short bursts. He seems to do well for stretches then all hell breaks loose. Get several solid one or two inning stretches out of him and maybe his psyche gets back to normal. We do not want another Ankiel travesty on our hands.
Beyond that, with Waino coming around and Leake doing well, Garcia should right his ship and Martinez also we will start winning more games and ready ourselves for battle some October.
Don't look back Cubs: we're coming for you. No pressure, right? We're right where we want to be while you are in a position unlike anything you have ever been in before: that of a favorite to win a World Series. Good luck with that. Heh, heh, heh.