Sunday, July 01, 2018

Stumbling To The Midpoint

81 games into the season, the St. Louis Cardinals might be garbage. They're 42-39, 5.5 games behind the Brewers in the Central. There are 7 teams with better records, and the Nationals are also 42-39. The Cardinals have been mostly lousy for the last month. They lost four series in a row to, respectively, the Marlins, Padres, Cubs, and Phillies. Managed a split with the Brewers and won 2 of 3 from Cleveland. The Braves have dominated them the last two nights. Even John Mozeliak seems to be out of patience. I'd be a lot more excited about that if I thought Matheny would actually get fired.

Wainwright and Michael Wacha are both on the DL. Carlos Martinez hasn't really pitched well since he came back off the DL. Luke Weaver is scuffling, with an ERA over 5 and a FIP over 4. Alex Reyes came back and made one start, then left because he tore a tendon nearly off the bone. And he had reported pain or discomfort after his last rehab start, which the team apparently ignored. Fantastic!  Miles Mikolas has continued to pitch mostly well, and Jack Flaherty is doing OK, aside from some issues with home runs.

Bud Norris has been mostly good, and Jordan Hicks has stopped walking people and started striking them out instead. Brebbia and Tuivailala have been OK. Greg Holland unfortunately came back from his injury stint, but hasn't been awful. Mike Mayers has been effective in largely a mop-up role. Brett Cecil is back, and not pitching horribly, but not pitching well, either. Austin Gomber, despite having been a starter his entire minor league career, has somehow become Matheny's favorite lefty reliever. Lack of other options I guess. Cecil's been questionable, Lyons is hurt, so is Ryan Sherriff. But Matheny has pitched him either three games in a row, or three in four days on multiple occasions. That doesn't seem like a smart move to make with someone used to a reliever's life, let alone someone used to pitching every five games.

Molina came back from the DL and is hitting pretty well. Which is good, because neither Francisco Pena or Carson Kelly were doing shit with the bat while Yadi was out. Jose Martinez is hitting well while still butchering first base. Kolten Wong, in contrast, is playing spectacular defense, somehow, but not hitting for shit. Matt Carpenter's bat has come alive, or the hits are falling now, and he's holding his own at third.

Paul DeJong was hitting until he was injured. He may not be back for a while yet. In his place, they've been starting Yairo Munoz a lot, rather than Greg Garcia, which seems stupid. Their OPSes are close, Munoz at .704 and Garcia at .696, but I'd trust Garcia's more OBP-driven approach over Munoz' hackfest. Also, I'd trust Garcia's below-average defense over Munoz', but I don't believe defense factors into Matheny's thinking often. Jedd Gyorko has slumped badly after a hot start to the season.

In the outfield, Dexter Fowler has continued to look useless. His OPS is almost as bad as Pena's, and he's playing abysmal defense. Which has meant more playing time for Harrison Bader, who has responded by playing excellent defense, running the bases pretty well, doing just enough with the bat. If you restrict him to facing mostly LHP, he'll probably be OK. In the good news front, Marcell Ozuna's bat, like Carpenter's, has come alive. He's still only slightly above leauge-average by OPS, but that's better than where he was 40 games ago. Unfortunately, Tommy Pham has been mired in a horrendous slump for six weeks and counting. His OPS+ is down to 99, his defense seems to be slipping. He isn't striking much more than before, but he's not drawing walks, and he keeps chopping everything into the ground.

And apparently I put a lot of my emotional investment with regards to this team into Pham. As he's gone into the tank, my interest has nosedived. I turned on a game this week, watched Carp get a leadoff double, only to see Tommy fail to even advance the runner by grounding out to third, got depressed, and turned the game off.

There just aren't a lot of guys I considered exciting on this team. Flaherty and Mikolas are good starters, but not in a spectacular way so far. Weaver and Carlos are struggling, and I haven't bought into Wacha since his arm problems first cropped up. Relief pitchers are whatever; I'm not getting excited about some guy that comes in and throws hard for one inning. Whoop-de-do. Yadi's resilience is impressive, but not spectacular. Carp's a nice player, but walking isn't exciting. I was hoping for a repeat of last season from Pham, where he did everything. That was a lot of fun.

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