With less than 10 percent of the season gone what do we know about this year version of our St. Louis Cardianls?
First let me say that I think we are still too early to draw conclusions. I know about a week ago there were those were in panic mode. The I told you so birds were out early. but after a 1 - 3 start the Cardinals have won 7 of their last 9 including a sweep of the defending National League Champs LA Dodgers. Oh and they now own the longest current winning streak in the National League. There are still 149 games to go so let's not print playoff tickets just yet.
While it is too early to form a complete opinion there are some trends to be aware of.
Strikeouts were a big problem last couple of years. Through the first 5 games it looked like that was going to continue 11, 10, 11, 15 and17 for a total of 64Ks. or 12.8 per game.over the next 4 they cut that down only striking out 30 times or 7.5 times per game. Then only to strike out 40 times in the 4 game set against the Dodgers. Now there has been some questionable umpiring but not that much. right now the Cardinals are averaging 10.3 Ks per game. the Ks are coming from the wrong place the first 4 batters Carpenter 14, Goldschmidt 16, DeJong 15, Ozuna 13, 58 Ks in 13 games or 4 Ks per game from this group.
the second half of the line up has performed better but not by much Molina 5, Fowler 12, Wong 10, Bader 13 40 Ks or 3Ks per game.
Hopefully when the top of the line up heats up the Ks will come down, because this is not a trend you want all year
The starters have been up and down. In the opening series against Milwaukee only one pitcher made it past the 5th inning Micheal Wacha 6 IP 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7S O starting him off with a 1.50ERA the other three Mikolas, Flaherty and Hudson combined for a woefull
13.2 IP, 19 H, 12 ER 4 BB, 13 SO and served up 7 HRs.
This trend continued for the 2 games in Pittsburgh. Wainwright and Mikolas combined for 9 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 6 BB, 5 SO. more games with again. Fortunes turned after that. as the next 3 games Cardinal starters went 16.2 IP, 14 H, 2 ER, 10 BB, 22 SO. Sadly only one win could be had.
The latest Dodger series gave us a mixed bag Mikolas 6 strong innings giving up only 3 runs. Hudson blanked the Dodgers for 4.2 innings but gave up 6 hits and 4 walks. Flaherty went 6 innings giving up on 1 run on 3 hits. Wacha who had been very good his first two outings could only last 3.2 innings giving up 8 hits and 7 runs.
So far it has been a Jekyll and Hyde act but some real positives in Wainwright, Mikolas and Flaherty of late. Hudson is still a work in progress and Wacha, we will have to see how he bounces back from the Dodger game. This rotation has some strong pieces and back up arms are not that far away.
So far the lack of a "True Closer" has not been the issue. The Alex Reyes relief role needs some tweaking so he has been sent to Memphis. Due to early heavy use of the bullpen the Cardinals were forced to add an extra reliever for the time being. Cardinal relievers have converted 4 out of 7 save opportunities. Hicks 2, Hudson and Gant 1 each.
New acquisition Andrew Miller struggled early with an ERA that ballooned to a 10.8 on April 6th his last 3 outings 1H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO in 2 innings He seems to be settling in. To give him some left side help the Cardinals have called up Tyler Webb, who almost made the team out of Spring Training.
The unsung hero to me in the pen is John Brebbia 6 games 8.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER 4 BB, 10 SO and an ERA of 0.00 and WHIP of 0.69 opponents batting average .071
John Gant has also been a rock steady option. 8 games 10.2 IP, 3 H,1 ER, 6 BB, 8 SO with an ERA of 0.84, WHIP of 0.84 OPBA .097.
Dominic Leone seems to also have rebounded from last year's injury woes in 7 games 7.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 7 SO an ERA 2.35 WHIP of 0.91, OPBA .115
Then there is closer in the making Jordan Hicks 5 games 5.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO 3.18 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and OPBA of .158
Bullpen workhorse from last year Mike Mayers is picking up where he left off 6 games 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO, 1.35 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, OPBA .231
Outside of a game or two here and there the Pen has been very solid
The offensive output is positive in that the Cardinals are outscoring opponents 5.15 - 4 per game.
The standout right now is Paul DeJong he leads team in BA .346, OBP .414, SLG .673, Doubles 6. Right behind him in three of those categories is Wong BA .302, OBP .392 SLG .605 only 1other regular above .250 is Ozuna .262. Then you have 3 others hitting below the Mendoza line Bader .189, Goldschmidt .180 and Fowler .176. However there are 6 regulars with an OBP of .300 or better.
Goldschmidt leads the team in HRs 6, RS 10, RBIs 10 and walks 9
the two main players off the bench Tyler O'Neill .273 0 HR, 3 RBIs and Jose Martinez .259 0 HRs and 3 RBIs Strikeouts are O'Neill's issue as he has struck out over 1/3 of his ABs this year. Martinez has had a slow start plus coming off the bench this year adds a degree of difficulty to his game this year.
The Cardinals have shown more aggressiveness in base running and hitting. As I stated at the top if they can reign in the strikeouts, they can have a very potent offense.
The defense is much improved over last year.
The Infield has the potential to have 3 Gold Glove candidates Goldschmidt, Wong and DeJong.
There was much concern about Carpenter at 3B as to did he have a good enough arm. He worked with Oquendo and altered his throwing style to be more accurate. Plus now two years removed from shoulder issues his throws are looking much better and it doesn't hurt to have Goldy manning 1B
The Outfield does have questions.
Bader is solid his speed and range give him a chance for a Gold Glove.
It is no secret Dexter Fowler is no Gold Glove RF but he is not a bum. Is there a better option? O'Neill would have the edge defensively over Martinez. If Fowler can't get his offensive numbers up we just might see O'Neill in RF
Marcel Ozuna's shoulder trouble last year is just that last year. The off season surgery seems to have done it's job in the terms that he is throwing with no pain and better velocity and it will only get stronger.
Catching? two words, Yadier Molina. Plus a veteran back up in Matt Wieters.
In short Cut down the strikeouts, stabilize the rotation and get consistent offensive production this team can contend for the division title.
As always thanks for reading and let me know what you think.
hit me up here or
on face book or Donald A Glenn Jr.
on twitter @bortas2002