Friday, August 17, 2018

Forty Games To Go

Three-quarters of the MLB season is done, and the Cardinals are 66-56. They're nipping at the Brewers' heels, and the Cubs have at least one more team to keep in mind. Matheny was fired, and the bullpen overhauled, as multiple crappy relievers were released, demoted, or put on the DL.

Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha are still on the DL, and Carlos Martinez returned, only to immediately go back to being injured. Miles Mikolas continues to be the leader of the rotation, and Jack Flaherty has been a solid #2 starter, although his home run rate is a little high. John Gant has manage an ERA of about 3.75, with a FIP almost identical. He doesn't work deep into games, but he's usually solid while he's in there. Luke Weaver has been a disappointment, generally failing to work deep into games and with an ERA at 4.67. His FIP is a little better, but 4.13 still isn't any great shakes. Austin Gomber's been getting starts recently, and is getting good results, but walking way too many guys. That's going to bite him sooner or later. Daniel Poncedeleon made one start, and no-hit the Reds for 8 innings. Tyson Ross started last Sunday and did well, although it was against the Royals, so that barely counts as a Major League game.

The bullpen got a huge boost just by removing the 5 worst members at the same time. Holland released, Lyons waived (and unclaimed so back in AAA), Bowman still in AAA, Gregerson and Cecil on the DL (although Cecil is back). Norris is still mostly pitching well, and the Cards were winning by enough runs recently he was able to have several games off. Hicks is not striking guys out, and the walk rate is still top high, but he's not outperforming his FIP by as much as he was early in the season. Mayers is still here, being OK. John Brebbia's on the DL. Tyler Webb's been called up twice, thrown about 8 innings, hasn't given up a run so far. Chasen Shreve has been better than I figured he would be in 5 innings. Poncedeleon and Dakota Hudson round out the current bullpen. They're both walking too many guys, especially for how few they're striking out, but they've gotten away with it for the most part so far.

Yadier Molina is playing all the time. His defensive stats are down this year, but his OPS+ is 114. He shouldn't be batting second, but he's on pace for probably his third-best offensive season. He still needs a few days off. Although Francisco Pena's .514 OPS argues otherwise. And maybe Shildt figures all these young pitchers need Yadi's steady hand behind the plate.

Matt Carpenter's been on a blistering pace for the last three months. He's up to 33 HRs, which is over twice as many as anyone else on the team. His OPS was over 1.000 for a hot second, it's still .975. He's actually playing pretty good defense at third and first this year, which is nice. Kolten Wong has dragged his OPS up to almost league average while playing excellent defense. Shildt's even moved him up out of the 8th spot in the lineup. DeJong's numbers are pretty far down, he doesn't seem to have come back from the hand injury at full strength. Plus he was making a lot of errors there for awhile.

Greg Garcia's not having a very good year, and Shildt has turned to Jose Martinez as his typical first bat off the bench guy, whereas Matheny favored Garcia. It's a good call, Martinez is a much better hitter than Greg, and Greg has actual defensive versatility, as opposed to Martinez who may stand at different positions, but is awful at all of them. Yairo Munoz has hit well, but is on the DL. He may be the getting ready to take Garcia's job next year. I'd feel better about that if I'd seen any indication Munoz could play any position competently. Gyorko's dragged his offensive numbers up above league average lately, which is nice.

Dexter Fowler has continued to be terrible, yet the team insisted on playing him every game even after they traded Pham. Then Fowler got hurt, which may have been the second-biggest thing to boost the team's fortunes (after ditching Greg Holland). Tyler O'Neill keeps getting hurt every time he starts to earn some playing time. He's not walking, but he's hitting. Bader is playing ridiculously good defense, running the bases well, and hitting decently. I should be more excited about that, but I'm still bummed about Pham getting traded, I guess. I've been slow to warm to Bader. Marcell Ozuna is hitting basically the same as Wong, without playing spectacular defense. Ozuna hits the ball hard, but he hits it on the ground all the time. Shildt, when O'Neill was out, played Jose Martinez in right field and would then sub in Jose Adolis Garcia as a defensive replacement.

The Cardinals' schedule the rest of the way is slightly more home games than away. It is almost entirely against teams also in the playoff hunt. 6 games each against Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, 3 each against Colorado, the Cubs, Braves, and the Nationals. 7 against the Dodgers. On the one hand, it's a chance to make up ground in the wild card race, and bury some other teams. On the other, you're playing other good teams, so there's no guarantee they won't bury the Cards instead. But the team seems more energetic and happy. Guys have mentioned they don't fear getting benched if they have two bad games, Shildt seems to let the team run, but more judiciously. He pulls starters early, before things go too bad, and tries to take advantage of all the guys with starting experience in the 'pen. Guys who can throw multiple innings. Allegedly that's what they'll do with Carlos if he makes it back in time.