Monday, July 04, 2016

The Cardinals At The Midpoint

At the midpoint of the season, the Cardinals are 43-38, so just slightly ahead of their 22-20 pace at the one-quarter mark. They're an inconsistent, mediocre team. Look at roughly the last month: Won 7 of 9 from the Giants, Reds, and Pirates, then lost 5 in a row to Houston and the Rangers. Swept the Cubs. Lost 5 of 7 to Seattle and the Royals. Just finished sweeping the Brewers. In general, I'd say they're still a team good enough to mostly beat bad teams, but not good teams. They're in the hunt for the second wild card, with the Mets and Marlins, but unless they pick it up significantly, or the Dodgers slip badly, that's probably the best they can hope for right now.

The offense is still doing most of the heavy lifting. The Cards are 1st in runs scored, 2nd in doubles, 3rd in HRs, 4th in on-base percentage. 14th in steals, though, which considering their barely over 50% success rate, is probably about right. I guess Heyward took all the baserunning smarts with him when he left.

Molina has not sustained his .315 batting average from the early part of the season, and is currently sporting an OPS+ of 77. The Cardinals released Eric Fryer when Brayan Pena finished his rehab stint, though Pena has just 5 plate appearances in the week and a half or so since he was called up. The Cards really need to give Molina more days off, regardless of what he says. Who's the manager here?

Adams and Moss continue to form a mostly effective left-hitting first baseman. Adams has kept his average up enough his OBP is acceptable, and the power is there to some extent. Moss got his average up to about .250, which has boosted his OBp to almost .350, and 32 of his 54 hits this season are for extra bases. I admit I wasn't real high on keeping Moss, but he's certainly demonstrating why the Cardinals wanted him in the first place. On the other side of things, Wong is struggling badly. The team sent him to AAA, played him in CF for a week and a half, then called him up and are switching him between second base and the outfield. This doesn't really strike me as great strategy. I know playing Wong in CF lets Carpenter (who has an OPS of almost 1.000 and an OBP over .420) play second, and they can play Peralta at 3rd and Diaz at SS for more offense, but at a certain point, I wonder how much defense a team can sacrifice. Plus, Peralta hasn't lit things up so far, though his isolated power is about 170, which is roughly what it was 2 years ago. Diaz is still hitting pretty well, though he has cooled off from his torrid start, as you'd expect. Greg Garcia continues to crush the ball in his limited opportunities, and the team gut bait on Ruben Tejada quickly.

In the outfield, Holliday is showing the power (iso of 230), but the rest of his numbers are down. So, still the reverse of his offensive profile last year. I'm not sure what you'd attribute that to. His older, probably slowing down, but he's still able to make solid contact. Is he having to guess more, and can't correct to make decent contact when he's wrong? Piscotty is having pretty much the same season this year he had last year, which is fine. He's not going to be Heyward (and Matheny should definitely stop trying to play him in CF), but he's doing fine. The contact is there, the walks are there, the power is there to a certain extent, he plays a solid RF, he's a good player to have. Center field has been a mess, as evidenced by the fact they've actually tried playing Kolten Wong there. Hazelbaker kept slumping and the team finally sent him down. Grichuk never started hitting, and also got sent down. Not sure what his issue is. His K rate is down, actually, but so is his power. My dad said they'd been discussing during broadcasts the team telling Grichuk to not throw so hard or swing so hard to avoid messing up his back, but I'm not sure he can be successful that way. He probably needs to learn, so I guess it's good they send him back to the minors. And it got Tommy Pham called back up. It took a few games, but Matheny seems to be rediscovering confidence in playing Pham (or he figured out the Wong thing isn't working). And Pham's offensive numbers are slowly ticking up, albeit in an extremely limited sample size. He still has fewer plate appearances than Tejada on the season.

The pitching staff is a somewhat different matter. It's still sort of mediocre. 6th in runs allowed, 6th in walks, 11th in strikeouts, though second in HRs, so that's something. waino has supposedly been pitching much better over the last two months, and his FIP is around 3.60, although his ERA is lagging well behind. Strikeout rate is still down, although better than it was. Wacha actually has the best FIP in the rotation, I guess because he's considered to have bad luck on balls in play. He got a lot of good luck yesterday, given how much trouble he got into, so maybe it's evening out. Or maybe he was just lucky. The things I've heard, he's not getting good sink on his pitches, so he's giving up hard contact, which is a bad sign. Garcia's numbers have been drifting up, but his FIP and ERA roughly correspond. Martinez is apparently getting really lucky judging by the gap between FIP and ERA. His K rate is down too, but so are his walks, so I'll take that tradeoff. Mike Leake is. . . the 5th best pitcher in the rotation.

The bullpen is kind of a mess. Rosenthal lost the closer job and can't even pitch successfully in mop-up situations right now. Siegrist is out with mono. Oh has taken over the closer role, to somewhat mixed results. I'd imagine it's mostly just the league starting to adjust to him, but it bears watching, especially given Matheny's tendency to run his closer into the ground. Maness is back off the DL and struggling. Lyons and Broxton are both, according to their FIPs, getting much luckier than they ought to be. Broxton's walking too many guys (more than a batter every other inning), and Lyons is surrendering a lot of HRs, still. On the positive side, Matt Bowman's been useful, and he's probably going to have to continue that trend, given the current state of things.

At the moment, the Cardinals are in the middle of a favorable stretch of games, playing the Brewers, the Pirates, and the Brewers again before the All-Star Break. If they're ever going to go on a sustained stretch of winning, this is the time.