After a dismal start against the Brewers and Padres, who expected the Cardinals to be the best team in baseball heading into the second month of the seasons? Sure, the team has pitching depth, a solid bullpen, and an improved lineup, but after that start it was hard to imagine them sitting atop the Central (And all of baseball):
And a quick look at run differential. The Cardinals have scored 149 runs and allowed 121, for a differential of +28. That translates to a 16-11 record; the team have 1 more win than they deserved.
This weeks thoughts:
- Alex Reyes is headed to extended spring training to continue stretching out as a starter. If you didn’t see, Reyes broke the pinky finger on his glove hand when he punched a wall after a frustrating outing with Memphis. Unfortunately, every outing has been a little frustrating for Reyes; he’s notched 9 strikeouts and 9 walks in 10.1 innings. He’s struggling with command and needs to work out the kinks. You can see that in his minor league WHIP over the last 2 (limited) seasons; his 1.26 WHIP is more than twice what it was in his rehab stint last year (0.61 in 23 innings). He’ll continue to throw at Palm Beach, but won’t catch, run, or bat until he’s healed.
- I was curious to see the roles that Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill would step back into when they came of the IL; happily, they have been moved the bench while Dexter Fowler and Jose Martinez continue their hot streaks. Neither are hitting with much power (2 homers and 10 doubles between them), but both are hitting over .300 and Fowler is getting on base at a .419 clip with a 1.3 WAR. I’ll be happy to see Bader coming in during the 5th or 6th to cover center and shifting one of these 2 out of the game.
- Bader has a lot of prove; he didn’t hit much last season and is carrying a .190 average to start this season. With Kolten Wong coming back to reality, it’ll be hard to this team to start both of these defensive first players with the current lineup. Only Martinez, Fowler, and Paul DeJong are hitting over .300 and only DeJong, Paul Goldschmidt, and Marcell Ozuna have an OPS over .900. If you can’t get more out of Matt Carpenter, you can’t have Bader and Wong in the lineup.
- While the team does have pitching depth, they need more out of the rotation. They are averaging just over 5 innings per start; they need to get up over 6 so they don’t crush the bullpen down the stretch. We’ve see out pitching staff struggle late in the season in the past because they were overworked early in the season. The rotation ERA is also concerning; only Adam Wainwright has a sub-4.00 ERA (Jack Flaherty is close at 4.06). Not only that, every starter has a FIP that is higher than their ERA, showing they should have given up more damage than they did.
- This FIP thing ties into the staff’s inability to avoid homers, which is happening across baseball. The record for homers allowed through the month of April was set in 1996 by the Detroit Tigers; the Cardinals sit second in MLB at 51 (behind the horrible Baltimore Orioles pitching staff that has allowed 71 homers). Just for the record, the Cardinals allowed 19, 24, and 22 homers in the first month of the last 3 seasons.
- I’m currently reading The Shift by Russell Carleton and one chapter is about effective bullpen usage and how the closer role goes against that. I was happy to see on Sunday that Jordan Hicks pitched to 1 hitter in the 8th and he was pulled after the Cardinals added 3 runs to their lead. The team saw that the low leverage innings of a 5 run lead wasn’t worth using their best reliever; Hicks will be ready to pitch tonight after the low pitch count. The move would have been a little more heavily criticized if Dominic Leone gave up more than 2 runs before John Gant shut the door.
I still have more articles planned, but hopefully I’ll be able to actually work on getting them live this week. We’ll also have a big surprise next week, so check back.