Monday, July 03, 2017

Halfway to the End

The Cardinals had a chance to reach the halfway point of the season one game below .500, but Martinez laid an egg and the offense no-showed, so they're 39-42 instead. They are still in contention for a playoff spot, thanks to the NL Central being trash this year. They're coming off winning 4 of 6 from the Diamondbacks and Nationals, two of the actual good teams in the NL. Hard to tell what that means, if anything.

The rotation is inconsistent. Martinez has been good, last night being a notable exception. Mike Leake has rebounded in his last couple of starts after a rough prior month. Lynn's ERA has jumped to close to 4, but his FIP is still over a run and a half higher than that. If he doesn't get the walks and homers under control, I'd expect things to keep getting worse. Wainwright, for the second consecutive year, has an ERA way above his FIP, which makes me suspect it isn't simply bad luck. When he gets hit, he gets hit hard. I'd put Wacha in the same boat. His FIP is equal to Leake's, but his ERA is over a run higher (4.16 to 2.97). Although I'm surprised their FIPs are that close. Leake has a slightly better HR rate (he allows one roughly every 12 innings, Wacha one every 10), and his walk rate is vastly better (about 5.5% vs. 8.4%). Wacha strikes out more guys, which I guess is the difference, the numbers figure Leake should be giving up a lot more hits. Which is fair, but my guess is Leake avoids hard contact better than Wacha. Marco Gonzales made the only start by someone outside those 5, and was hammered.

The bullpen has gone through a lot of turnover, but is still garbage. Socolovich was outrighted to the minors, Broxton was released. Siegrist is thankfully on the DL right now. No one can be trusted to get outs on a consistent basis. In Martinez' previous start, against Arizona, he gave up 2 runs through 6 innings, and the team scored 5 runs, which should have been enough. But Rosenthal, Oh, and Bowman, who are in theory the good relievers, combined to surrender 4 runs in a little over 2 innings and lose the game. Oh, looking at ERA vs. FIP, is getting lucky, because he's surrendering a homer every 6 innings. Rosenthal and Bowman are supposedly getting unlucky, although Rosie's walk rate is back up to a batter every other inning (12%), so it's hard not to see it as him doing it to himself. On the plus side, Cecil has stabilized. His ERA is down to 3.69, which is only a little better than his FIP (3.87). If he's going to be here 4 years, it would be best if he didn't suck the whole time.

Lyons has been useful in long relief when Waino or someone else gets hammered. Brebbia and Tuivailala have both been mostly effective in mop-up work, though FIP suggests both are getting really lucky. Tui could stand to cut down on the walks, and Brebbia should probably stop hitting guys every 5 innings. Mike Mayers still gives up too many home runs, John Gant made one appearance and didn't impress.

The offense is nothing special. While the team is 5th in OBP, they're unfortunately 10th in slugging, so they aren't doing so hot at getting those runners home. Matt Adams was traded to Atlanta, Jhonny Peralta was released, Kolten Wong can't stay healthy, Grichuk was sent all the way to A-ball, worked back up, and is back in the majors. Aledmys Diaz appears to be taking his turn down there now. Fowler is currently on the DL. They've called up Paul Dejong, Chad Huffman, Alex Meija, and Luke Voit at different times. All of which has the feel of a team trying desperately to find a spark that will get them going consistently.

Molina is 5th on the team in HRs, and tied for second in SBs. Great, we're back in 2007, only with no Albert Pujols. Yadi's OBP is hovering around .300, but his ISO is around .145, which is pretty good for him. Fryer has managed 3 extra-base hits in 75 PAs, and his OPS is below .500, even with an uptick in playing time recently.

Matt Carpenter's batting average is sitting steadily between .210 and .250. His OBP is still .370, which is behind only Wong and Pham among regulars, and an ISO of .224. He leads the team in HRs with 14, and is tied with a couple of guys for second in doubles with 15. He seems to be grading out as about an average first baseman defensively. Wong is having his best offensive season by far, if he could just stay on the damn field. OBP of .390, ISO of .143, defensive stats don't love him this year, but could be small sample size noise. Diaz still isn't getting on base, and isn't hitting for nearly enough power to make up for it (ISO of .136). Gyorko's been the best hitter on the team overall. Drawing a surprising number of walks for him, and an ISO of about .220. Not as much power as last year, but a much more well-rounded game. Defensive stats like him, and he seems to be a runner who knows when to pick his spots.

In the outfield, Fowler was steadily bringing up his numbers. The power has been there most of the season - his ISO is .236 -  but his OBP was starting to climb as well. Piscotty's still getting on base at a decent rate, with a .365 OBP, and the power is starting to come back. The ISO is still only .156, but it's better than it was earlier in the year. Grichuk still isn't hitting for nearly enough power to compensate for his abysmal OBP. His ISO is .183, which isn't gonna cut it with a .275 OBP. He's struck out as many times as Carpenter (66) in 110 fewer PAs, while walking one-quarter as many times (14 vs. 56).

Among the reserves, it's a mixed bag. Greg Garcia still gets on base, but his average has tanked enough that's it's dragged his slugging well below .300. If you could combine his and Grichuk's batting lines, you might have something. DeJong has walked twice in 107 PAs, putting even Grichuk's free-swinging to shame. He's just getting away with it a little more, since he's hitting .269. He even manages to strike out slightly more often than Randal, 30.8% versus 30.4%. Jose Martinez is not proving so useful now that he's not hitting .390. His average and OBP are even with Yadi's, but he's hitting for more power, with an ISO of .199. Which still only makes him a basically average hitter.

Tommy Pham is the real standout of the bench guys, and it's questionable how accurate it is to describe him that way. He was in the lead in innings played in left field until recently, and with Fowler out, he's taking a lot of the starts in center lately. Pham strikes out a bit himself - although 24.9% is still a lot better than 30+% - but is walking a fair amount, giving himself a .373 OBP. The power comes and goes, but the ISO is still at .200 right now, and he already has 9 stolen bases, with only two caught stealings, and most of the numbers like his defense. As always with Pham, the question is how long he can stay healthy, but hopefully he's earned Matheny's trust to the point he'll get regular playing time until he gets hurt. He's been the best outfielder on the team this year, by a country mile.

Huffman, Voit, and Meija has 36 PAs between them, with 10 hits, including 2 doubles (Voit), a triple (Huffman), and a homer (Meija).

The offense's problem seems to be too many unbalanced hitters. Too many guys with power, but no capacity to get on-base. Molina, Diaz, Grichuk, DeJong, maybe Jose Martinez. Which might explain all the solo home runs they seem to hit. But then you have the guys like Garcia and Piscotty who can get on base, but aren't driving the ball much. This team is not built for small ball, no matter how hard their manager pushes for it, or how much I might enjoy watching them do it (if they could do it successfully).

There's a month to the trade deadline. I don't know if they'll be buyers or sellers. I suspect buyers, in the typical patch job bullpen acquisition Mozeliak tends to favor, simply because it's going to be hard to land a substantive upgrade to most of their positions. Except maybe shortstop, and there aren't a lot of available options there. If the Angels would fall back, maybe Andrelton Simmons would become available. I'd be fine with them trading some of the relievers - Oh, Rosenthal, Bowman if he can get you something - for a highly regarded position prospect. But that would require those guys to pitch well enough to make someone want them. I suspect Wacha's not an attractive target, and ditto for Lynn and Wainwright. Plus, trading Wainwright might look bad to the fanbase. He's the second-longest tenured guy next to Yadi. Leake has a no-trade clause, but he supposedly wanted to play for the Diamondbacks at one point. They're in contention in a loaded NL West, would they consider trading for him, and what could you get?

The Cardinals really need a position player who can move the needle, that big star to slot in with their legion of solid players. Not a lot of those guys in the majors that are available, but maybe they can get themselves a potential future star from a team trying to win right this second.