Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Cards At The Quarter Mark

We're a little over 40 games into the baseball season, and the Cardinals are muddling along at 22-20. They haven't gone on any sustained runs of excellence, but also no sustained runs of lousy play. Win a couple, lose a couple. they don't seem like they can run with the good teams, but they can mostly handle the bad ones. Their Pythagorean says they should be 26-16, I guess because they're doing pretty well at scoring runs.

After two mediocre or worse seasons of offense, the Cards are actually first in the NL in runs scored. they're mashing quite a few home runs (second in the NL with 55). Some of that is likely to wear off; Jeremy Hazelbaker will probably not continue to OPS over .800 all season, and Aledmys Diaz is certainly not going to keep his OPS above 1.000. Of course, Grichuk might start to hit at some point, or Kolten Wong, and if Pham can get back on the roster, I remain confident he can do some damage.

So a couple of guys struggling, and a couple of guys surging who will likely fall back. Beyond that, Molina seems to have reverted to his slap-hitting style of 2007-2010, with an isolated slugging of .096, but he's hitting .315. I don't know that he can maintain that, but if Matheny will get him rest, he might be able to stay close. Adams is at least being league average, although the power isn't there. He and Moss seem to be forming an effective left-handed hitting combo, though. Adams is making contact, but with limited power and no walks. Moss is hitting homers, but not much else, and walking some.

Holliday's flipped the offensive script from last year. In 2015, he hit for high average and a high OBP, but didn't show much power. So far, his iso is 220, which is his best in about three or four years, but he's hitting .241 with and OBP below .320. We'll see if the power fades - his last few healthy years it actually increased as the weather warmed up - but either way, hopefully he can get the OBP up. Piscotty's hitting pretty much like he did last year, no complaints there. Ditto for Carpenter, except he's managed to crank his OBP up some more, and maintain the power, even increase it a bit, as his iso is close to .300. On the bench, Gyorko and Ruben Tejada aren't doing much, though the latter isn't much of a surprise. Eric Fryer has been productive in an extremely limited sample, and so has Greg Garcia. They have 15 hits and 6 walks in a combined 34 plate appearances, with 3 doubles and a homer. I know the Cards doubt Garcia's ability to play SS, but considering they were willing to play Gyorko there, not to mention Diaz' struggles, I think they ought to ditch Tejada and just use Garcia. They're going to have to win with offense, so they might as well get the guy who can actually hit on the bench.

'Cause the pitching is, not spectacular. They're 9th in ERA, 9th in strikeouts, 8th in walks, 6th in home runs allowed. They really aren't doing anything terribly well. The rotation is a mess. Wainwright's pitched about average by FIP, but been unlucky I guess But he can't strike anyone out, which isn't a good sign. Wacha's been a little unlucky based on FIP, while Martinez has been lucky. Garcia has been good, FIP and ERA agree, while they also agree Mike Leake has been bad. Of course, with Cooney and Marco Gonzales both injured, the team doesn't really have anyone to sub in, not that I expect Matheny will do that until someone gets hurt. Nobody is pitching deep into games, as Garcia is really the only one averaging over 6 innings a start (Leake and Martinez are right at 6, Wainwright and Wacha are both below it). But the way everyone is pitching, there's no reason to let them go deep into games.

Plus, the bullpen's doing better than the rotations, so better to lean on them anyway. Rosenthal's succeeding despite walking nearly a batter an inning. Seung-hwan Oh's doing pretty well in the majors so far. He's only allowed 17 baserunners in almost 22 innings so far. I don't know if that'll continue as the league grows more familiar, but it's nice while it lasts. Siegrist has a K-to-BB ratio of better than 8 to 1, which is encouraging. I was worried he might return to his control issues of two years ago, but so far, so good. Little bit of trouble with the longball, though. Matt Bowman's doing alright, since he's maybe the 4th or 5th option. Broxton is pitching badly, and Tyler Lyons has a 4.68 ERA and has actually been lucky. He's gone back to having trouble with home runs again, giving up 6 is 19 innings. Maness is on the DL, and Dean Kiekhefer has been useful in some limited use. It feels like Matheny is at least spreading the innings out among different guys so far. Rosenthal, Siegriest, Oh, Bowman, Broxton, and Lyons are all basically between 16 and 22 innings, and Maness was at 12 before he got hurt. So perhaps we won't get in a situation where relievers get gassed because Matheny's overuses them. Although if the starters don't start holding up their end better, there may still be too many innings to go around.

The defense has been a bit of a clown show from what I've heard. Diaz has struggled, Baseball-Reference's stats (for all that they're worth at this stage in the season, basically nothing) don't like Adams at first or Carpenter at third. Although they do like Diaz at short and Wong at second. Hazelbaker is scoring badly at all three outfield spots, and Holliday's not doing well in left (no surprise there). Piscotty and Grichuk are doing OK in right and center, though. Peralta will hopefully be back before too long, although it's a question whether we'll see the Peralta of 2014 defensively, 2015, or somewhere in between.