Sunday, August 23, 2015

40 Games To Go

This would have been a much more positive post if I'd done it two games ago. Since then, the Cards have disintegrated in consecutive games against the Padres. The defense has collapsed, the bullpen has scuffled, and the offense has been even more anemic than usual.

The offense is the real concern. The Cardinals have good pitching, but so does every other team with a chance to make the postseason. And the Cards have shown they can be shut down even by mediocre pitchers. You can't keep asking the pitchers to hold the other team scoreless every single game, they have to have some margin for error.

Anyway, injuries continue to be a problem. Wainwright's still absent, as is Jordan Walden. Belisle is still out. Adams isn't back yet, neither is Jay. Holliday came back briefly after the All-Star break, then reaggravated the quad injury almost immediately. By all accounts, he's further away from returning than Adams. Grichuk has some elbow strain that put him on DL, and he was apparently playing through some foot thing, so maybe this will that some time to clear up. Heyward pulled a hamstring, but that only kept him out for a game, though he's not running at full speed yet, which suggests to me they should have let him rest some more, until he felt confident in it.

Of course, it's hard to do that when your manager is insisting on carrying 8 relief pitchers for some reason. That leaves the bench with 4 guys, two of whom are Tony Cruz (useless), and Pete Kozma (almost as useless). Then one of the others is Peter Bourjos, who isn't having a good season, but could be useful in terms of his defense, except Matheny pretty much refuses to use him. Even with Heyward and Grichuk out, Matheny still wouldn't start Bourjos in CF, preferring Tommy Pham. And hey, I like Pham, his luck on balls in play seems to be starting to turn around, but I'm not sure he ought to be starting ahead of Bourjos. I still have some issues with Matheny.

Looking at the team overall, Molina's still not hitting terribly well, 2 HRs against the Giants aside. Neither is Reynolds. Wong's been in a slump since the end of June. Carpenter continues to get hosed by umpires who don't know the strike zone as well as he does. Peralta's power has evaporated. Piscotty's been a helpful addition. Shown a bit of power, but mostly just good at making contact and spraying the ball to all fields. Grichuk shown more power than I thought he had, and he's even walked a little more (6% BB rate). I still think striking out in 31% of his plate appearances isn't a viable long-term approach, but the Cards need him, which is a pretty good summation of how screwed they are. The big question with Heyward coming into this season was whether, on the cusp of free agency, he'd show that power he's hinted at. The answer is no. His ISO is 147, which isn't terrible, better than the 113 he had last year, but it's hardly impressive. Reynolds, Peralta, Carpenter, Piscotty, and Grichuk are all beating it, some of them by quite a bit. He'll still do well in free agency, he has the highest WAR on the team, but not as well as he could do.

On the pitching side, the starters' ERAs all exceed their FIPs by a fair amount, but oh well. I tend to wonder if Martinez and Wacha are going to start hitting a wall soon. They're both up near 150 innings, which is more than either of them have thrown at this level. It's why I was hoping the Cards could build up a comfortable division lead by the start of September. Then Matheny could use the expanded rosters to give some of their starts to Cooney or Lyons. Doesn't look as though that'll be an option now. Garcia's been pitching very well, his stuff is showing some nasty movement. Lackey had been doing well until Friday's game against San Diego. The defense didn't help him any there, but he lost composure, too.