Since the All-Star Break, the Cardinal offense has been very hit and miss. Over these last 19 games, the Cards have scored a modest 74 runs (3.89 per game). Bad slumps from the three and four hitters have been a big chunk of this, but there have been other missing pieces as well.
One of these is the simple expedient of putting the leadoff batter of the inning on base. Over the course of the whole season, the Cards have done this notably better than the league average. Cardinals leading off an inning reach base at a .328 clip. Over all of baseball (according to baseball reference) those batters reach at a .318 clip. The Cards rank ninth in all of baseball, and fourth in the National League in leadoff on base percentage. Once that runner reaches, the Cards haven’t been especially proficient at bringing him home (just 49% of the time) due to lots of base running gaffes and many, many strikeouts with runners in scoring position. But even when this hasn’t translated directly into runs, getting that first batter on adds stress to the pitcher and pressures the rest of the defense.
Coming out of the All-Star Break, though, the Cards found great difficulty in getting that leadoff batter on. Through the first ten games of the second half, St Louis only put 25 leadoff batters on base in 90 innings (.278).
But, beginning with the Colorado series, St Louis has seen a significant uptick in performance here. Culminating with putting 5 of their 9 leadoff hitters on base last night, the Cards have seen 28 of their last 77 leadoff hitters reach (.364). Last night, Yadier Molina ignited a 3-run sixth inning with a leadoff home run. This was the pivotal inning in the Cardinals 5-4 victory (box score).
Still, this improvement hasn’t translated directly to more runs. Only 2 of the 5 leadoff hitters who reached last night scored (and one of those was Molina, courtesy of his own home run). Over the last 9 games, only 46% of leadoff runners have scored, and the team is only averaging 3.67 runs per game in those contests. Nonetheless, St Louis has won 6 of these last 9, and I feel confident that if this team keeps applying the pressure, eventually you will see the impact on the scoreboard.
Molina has led the way in this little 9-game resurgence. He contributed three extra-base hits last night (2 of them home runs). He has played in 8 of the last 9 games, hitting safely in 6 of the 8 games, including multiple hits in 5 of those games. His 12 hits (including 3 doubles and the 2 home runs) in 31 at bats give him a .387 batting average and a .677 slugging percentage in that span.
Last year, as you recall, Yadi hit .365 from the All-Star Break to the end of the season. Nineteen games into the second half this year, Yadi is hitting .311 (19 for 61).
Yadi doesn’t walk enough to be a great leadoff hitter. Over the course of the season, Molina is a .296 hitter leading off an inning, but with only a .315 on base percentage. But he has been much better in the second half, reaching base 8 times in the last 20 innings he has led off (.400). He is 4 for 8 as a leadoff hitter over his last 8 games.
Paul DeJong is starting to spin his wheels a bit, now. He was 0 for 5 with 4 strikeouts last night, and doesn’t seem to be seeing the ball well at all. He is now hitless in his last 14 at bats with 7 strikeouts. He has hit 5 home runs in the second half, but is now hitting just .211 (16 for 76) since the break.
It seems that we always end up waiting on Randal Grichuk. When he “returns” to the team – either from a trip to the minors or back from the disabled list, there is a short burst where we see the kind of hitter that Grichuk could be. But after a few games, that goes away and he starts disappearing for long stretches. After his 0-for-3, 3 strikeout evening last night, Randal is just 3 for 21 (.143) over his last 6 games. It has been 8 games since his last home run and last run batted in, and 6 games since his last run scored. He has struck out in 7 of his last 10 at bats.
I feel that I should be knocking on wood when I type this, but it certainly looks like Trevor Rosenthal has his closer’s mojo back. He has saved his last three games – all one run leads, and 2 of them requiring more than one inning. Trevor has struck out 10 of the last 14 batters he’s faced, and since the All-Star Break (8 games, 10 innings), he has 17 strikeouts, a 0.90 ERA, and a .147/.194/.147 batting line against.
For the moment, anyway, there is a great feeling of confidence on the part of both his teammates and the fans when Trevor comes into the game.
Tommy Pham played in his 78th game this season last night. That ties (with 55 games to go) his career high in games played in a season that he set last year.
This has been a break-through year for Tommy. He has already set career highs in at bats, hits, doubles, home runs, total bases, runs scored, runs batted in, walks, strikeouts, hit by pitches, sacrifice flies, stolen bases, caught stealings, and grounding into double plays. In most of these categories, he has either already exceeded his career totals coming into the season, or is about to.
Recent Scoring Change
Speaking of Tommy Pham, a recent scoring change added a hit to his season. In the second inning of the July 18 game against in New York, Pham reached on a ground ball to third that was originally ruled an error. That has been changed to a hit for Pham – and an RBI, as Michael Wacha scored on that play. Met pitcher Rafael Montero gets charged with an additional hit and an additional earned run.