Tag Archives: Oh

Relentless Pirates Finally Prevail

For eight and a half grueling innings last night, the Cardinals hung with the Pirates.  Continually on the verge of having the game blown open, they managed escape after escape.  When Josh Bell hit the inevitable home run that provided Pittsburgh with its 5-2 walk-off victory (box score), he became the eighteenth Pirate to reach base that night (12 hits and 6 walks).  By contrast – although they hit a lot of line drives – the Cardinals finished their evening having put just 6 runners on base (6 hits and no walks).

The Cards went down in order five times in their nine innings.  The Pirates went down in order only twice.  Eventually, the sheer weight of the Pirates relentless pressure (and the Cardinals’ inability to sustain anything like offense) was enough to do the Cardinals in.  St Louis jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, but never scored again.  It was yet another first game of a series lost, and yet another loss in which St Louis held a lead at some point.  These were items from yesterday’s installment.

And, of course, another late miss-step from the bullpen.

Tommy Pham

With outfielders dropping around him like flies, Tommy Pham continues prove himself as an everyday contributor.  Tommy finished the night with two hits, and hit another ball hard.  He is now hitting .371 (13 for 35) and slugging .657 (2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs) for the month of July.  In the ten games played so far, Tommy has scored 8 runs and driven in 9.  Pham has also hit in 12 of his last 15 games (although he has started only 13 of them), hitting .392 (20 for 51).  He has scored 15 runs over those 15 games, and driven in 12.

A statistical oddity: Pham came to the plate in the eighth inning with runners at first and second and one out.  He lined out to right.  For the season, Pham is a .295/.397/.420 hitter when up with the bases empty.  Four of his eleven home runs have been solo shots.  With one runner on base, Pham is a terror.  He is 27 for 65 (.415) with 5 doubles, a triple, and his other 7 home runs (.846 slugging percentage).  He has been up 3 times with the bases loaded, getting a single and a double and driving in 5.

But he is now 1 for 28 on the season when batting with two runners on base.

Stephen Piscotty

Before leaving the game with an injury in the ninth inning, Stephen Piscotty suffered through another 0 for 4 with two more strikeouts.  It’s been that kind of season for Piscotty.  He is now 0 for his last 8, and hitting .120 (3 for 25) over his last 7 games.  He hasn’t scored a run in any of those 7 games, and hasn’t had an extra base hit in his last 8 games.  For the month of July, Piscotty has had 37 plate appearances, with the following results: 5 singles, 1 double, 2 runs scored, 3 runs batted in, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts, once hit by a pitch, and 1 double play grounded into.  It works out to a batting line of .171/.216/.200.  Hitless in three at bats last night, Stephen is now 1 for 15 this month (.067) when batting with the bases empty.

What could happen now?  Well, Stephen’s injury has sent him back to the DL.  After a period of recovery, he could spend some time with Diaz (and maybe Grichuk) in Memphis, re-working his swing.  Being optioned to the AAA club after his injury clears might be a good thing for him.

In the meantime, Magneuris Sierra has made his way back to the big club, and should see some regular playing time.  That might be a good thing, too.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong returned to the lineup with an 0-for-3 night that snapped his 6-game hitting streak.  During the streak, Wong hit .450 (9 for 20), and slugged .650 (4 doubles).  He scored 5 runs in the 6 games.

Mike Leake

Mike Leake has now made two starts in July – last night and July 5 against Miami.  In those two starts, Mike has fought his way through 8.2 innings, allowing 23 baserunners (17 hits and 6 walks).  “Only” 10 of them have scored – and “just” 5 of those runs were earned.  It has cost Mike 156 pitches to clear those 8.2 innings.

Last night was the better of the two games, as Leake gutted his way through five innings, allowing just 2 runs although he dealt with 12 baserunners.  Of the 25 batters he faced, only 8 came to the plate with the bases empty (and 5 of those reached).

His evening was a study in frustration.  The third inning run he allowed resulted when he attempted to snare Gerrit Cole’s grounder and deflected it into an infield hit.  His fifth was even more frustrating.  After getting a double play to mostly ease him out of the inning, Leake walked the next three hitters and gave up the game tying single.

Over those last two games, 29 of the 47 batters he has faced have come to the plate with at least one runner on base.  He has pitched to only 18 batters with the bases empty, and 9 of those have reached.

Matthew Bowman

While some pieces of the bullpen are still lagging, others are starting to achieve sustained effectiveness.  Matthew Bowman pitched the sixth and gave a couple of hits, but got a double play and ended the inning with no damage taken.  Matthew is unscored on over his last 7 games (5 innings), and over his last 19 games (16.1 innings), Matthew holds a 1.65 ERA and a .246 batting average against.  He has also stranded all 11 inherited runners.

Matthew has always pitched very well with runners on base – this season he has held batters to a .221/.267/.324 batting line when they hit against him with runners on base.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil turned in his fifteenth consecutive scoreless appearance (15.2 innings) with his scoreless seventh inning.  He gave up a two-out double, but no damage.  In his 15.2 scoreless innings, Brett has given just 7 hits and 1 walk.  The batting line against him in those innings has been .137/.154/.176.

Trevor Rosenthal

Add Trevor Rosenthal to the list of relief pitchers who seem to be turning things around.  He had the Pirates three-up-and-three down with two strikeouts in the eighth.  He has now strung together 4 consecutive perfect outings of one inning each, striking out 7 of the 12 he’s faced.  Sixty-eight percent of his pitches (36 of 53) have been strikes – usually the defining issue for Trevor, and batters have missed on 41% of their swings (9 of 22).

This year Trevor has been absolutely golden until a runner gets on.  Hitting against him with the bases empty, batters are .167/.244/.218.  Once a runner reaches, though, batters improve to .277/.373/.383 against him.  Half of the 16 walks he’s allowed this year have come with at least one runner already on base.

Still, most of the bullpen has been coming around.  Through the first 10 games (and 30 innings) of July, everyone other than the closer has combined for an 0.90 ERA, no home runs allowed, and a .236/.306/.291 batting line against.  Now if they could only fix that ninth inning.

Seung-hwan Oh

So, it’s a pretty bad thing when your closer comes into a tie game in the ninth inning, and you get that sinking feeling in your stomach.  Such is the season for Seung-hwan Oh.  A double, a fly ball, an intentional walk, a three-run walk-off home run.  I tried to be surprised, but . . .

Heroic last year, Seung-hwan has now allowed runs in 7 of his last 14 games.  Over his last 13 innings, he has given 11 runs on 20 hits – 5 of them home runs.  He carries a 7.62 ERA over those games, while opponents are hitting .351 and slugging .632 against him.

With the home run, Oh has now allowed 22 runs (19 earned) this year in 41 innings.  He surrendered 20 runs (17 earned) all of last year in 79.2 innings.

The home run was the eighth against him in 2017 (only 5 were hit off of him all last year).  He is now on pace to serve up 15 home runs for the season.  In 2001, Dave Veres saved 15 games.  He served up 12 home runs in 66.2 innings.  That is the most home runs allowed by any Cardinal reliever in this century who saved at least 10 games that season.  At 20 or more saves, the record goes to Jason Motte, who saved 45 games in 2012 while serving up 10 home runs in 80.1 innings.  Oh is already in that neighborhood.

Sixty-one batters have now reached base against Oh in just 41 innings.  The only batter he faced last night with the bases empty doubled to left.  In the 6 games he’s pitched in July, batters up with the bases empty are 6 for 11 (.545) with a double and a home run (.909 slugging percentage).  For the season, Seung-hwan (who, by the way, turned 35 today) has a .333/.349/.536 batting line against with the bases empty.

Living and Dying With the Fastball

Lance Lynn closed out the season’s first half with a nifty seven innings of 3-hit shutout ball against the Mets.  He pitched pretty well the game before against Miami. Although he ended that game with a loss, he surrendered only 2 earned runs in 5.1 innings.

These two games merit a little closer examination.  Lance is a first-pitch fastball pitcher pitching in a fastball hitting league without that over-powering fastball.  Complicating matters even more is the fact that Lance isn’t one of those pitchers with pinpoint control.

So how does a guy like Lynn survive and sometimes thrive?  The best answers are always the simplest.  Over the 12.1 innings that Lynn has thrown over his last two games, he has been very consistent at keeping the ball away from the middle of the plate.

In those 12.1 innings, Lance has pitched to 45 batters.  Six of them got first-pitch changeups, and one got a curve.  The other 38 got some flavor of a first-pitch fastball (4-seam, 2-seam or cutter).  Some of these were strikes, many weren’t.  But almost all of them were in the vicinity of the plate, and of the 38 first-pitch fastballs thrown, there were only two that swerved back over the plate where more aggressive hitters might have taken a cut at them.

One thing about the fastball – everyone wants to hit it.  So a lot of times your command doesn’t have to be pristine.  If the fastball is a tad inside, or just a smidge off the outside corner, there is a pretty good chance that someone will chase after it anyway.

Surprisingly, though, that didn’t happen with either the Marlins or Mets.  They must surely have been looking for that fastball, but both teams showed no interest in fishing for it.  And so they took.  And took.  And took.

At one point over the two games, 16 consecutive batters that faced Lance took his first pitch.  Of the 45 batters to face him in the two games only 4 swung at his first pitch.  Only 18 of the other 41 first-pitches were called strikes, but falling behind in the count didn’t bother Lance.  For the season, his 60% strike ratio is the lowest on the club.  But the simplified version of his game plan was not to give in.  To trust that eventually the hitters would come out to where the fastball was.

He ended the two games walking just 2 batters and allowing 9 hits (a .214 batting average).  He might have made it through both games allowing no runs had he not given in just once with a 3-2 fastball that Lynn put right into Christian Yelich’s wheelhouse.  That pitch became a three-run home run.

While mostly effective, this approach does come at a price.  Lance threw 100 pitches in his 5.1 innings against Miami, and 93 more in seven innings against the Mets.  For the two games, Lance averaged 4.29 pitches per plate appearance, and is averaging 4.15 for the season – the highest of any of the Cardinal starters.  Long counts lead to short outings.  In 7 of Lance’s last 9 starts, he hasn’t made it through 6 innings.  For the season, 10 of his 18 starts have ended without Lance making it through the sixth inning.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia is another of the Cardinal pitchers with a good, but not overpowering fastball.  John’s mindset is more of a pitch-to-contact approach.  As opposed to Lynn, Brebbia throws the fewest pitches per plate appearance (3.53) of anyone on the staff.  Fully 43.5% of the swings against Brebbia put the ball in play.  Of pitchers who have faced more than 20 batters this year, only Miguel Socolovich (45.6%) and Mike Leake (44.1%) have the ball put into play with higher frequency.

Sometimes batters want to take pitches against John.  When they do that they end up taking a lot of strikes.  Of the 268 pitches he’s thrown in the majors, 52 have been taken for strikes (37.4% of all pitches taken).

The BABIP enthusiasts have issues with the whole pitch-to-contact notion.  BABIP is Batting Average on Balls In Play.  These types will be keeping a close eye on Brebbia in the second half.  Of the 55 balls hit in play against John (and for this metric, home runs are not balls in play) only 10 have fallen in for hits – a .182 BABIP.  BABIP dogma holds that in the long run everybody’s BABIP trends toward .300 or so, so if – over the course of a few months or even a whole season your BABIP is significantly below that, then you have been lucky, and you should expect your luck to turn the other way at some point.

BABIPist don’t easily embrace the concept of inducing weak contact.  It will be interesting to see if Brebbia’s BABIP holds or changes significantly in the season’s second half.

Seung-hwan Oh

Batters have swung at 49 of Seung-hwan Oh’s last 76 pitches – an uncommonly high 64.5%.  Oh leads all Cardinal pitchers in having 52.2% of his pitches this season swung at.

Oh has had 48 batters come to the plate against him in a double-play situation.  He has gotten only one of those 48 to ground into that double play. Trevor Rosenthal also has just 1 double play in 33 chances.

Tyler Lyons

Through the end of June, only 1 of the 18 hits off of Tyler Lyons had been an infield hit.  Lyons has allowed 8 hits already in July – 4 of them of the infield variety.

Trevor Rosenthal

Batters miss with 32.5% of their swings against Rosenthal (the highest percentage on the staff).  Trevor also throws more pitches per batter (4.51) than anyone on the staff.  In between the swings and misses are an awful lot of fouls and a significant number of pitches out of the strike zone.

Recent Scoring Changes

In the eighth inning of the June 22 game in Philadelphia, Odubel Herrera reached second on what was originally ruled an error by left fielder Jose Martinez.  That has been changed to a double for Herrera.  Cardinal pitcher Kevin Siegrist gets a hit and a double added to his line for that game.  Additionally, the two subsequent runs that scored – originally unearned – have now become earned runs.

In the eighth inning of the July 1 game against Washington, Matt Wieters reached on a ground ball that deflected off of first-baseman Jose Martinez into right field.  Originally ruled an error, this is now a single added to pitcher Seung-hwan Oh.

In the second inning of the July 5 against Miami, JT Riddle rolled a groundball past first base for what was originally ruled an error.  That has been changed to a double – charge pitcher Mike Leake with an additional hit and another double.

Cards Rise and Fall with the Rotation

In a 24-game span from May 28 in Colorado through June 21 in Philadelphia, the Cardinal starting rotation managed just 6 quality starts.  Not surprisingly, the Cardinals won only 9 of the 24.

From June 22 until July 1 against Washington, that same rotation provided 9 quality starts in 10 games.  St Louis won 6 of the 10.

They have now failed to provide a quality start in any of the last 4 games – and any suspense as to whether they would interrupt the streak was over early as the Miami Marlins poured on 7 runs in the first 3 innings.  The pesky Cardinal offense kept fighting back, and the semi-refitted Cardinal bullpen helped St Louis creep back into the game (it was an 8-6 game heading into the ninth), but the deficit was too steep, and the Cards fell to Miami, 9-6 (box score).

They have now lost 3 of the last 4.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia started the evening for the bullpen by finally ending the trouble in the fourth.  It marks, now, six consecutive scoreless appearances for John – totaling 6 innings.  His walk yesterday was intentional.  He hasn’t given an unintentional walk in 11 games (covering 12.1 innings).  During his six-game scoreless streak, John is throwing 71% of his pitches for strikes (58 of 82).

Brett Cecil

Like Brebbia, Brett Cecil just keep doing his job.  His perfect eighth inning gives Brett 12 consecutive scoreless games (12 innings).  During these innings, Brett has allowed 3 hits and 1 walk – a .081/.105/.108 batting line.  Since Freddy Galvis grounded a double into left field in the ninth inning of the June 21 game in Philadelphia, batters have gone 0 for 16 with 1 walk against Cecil.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh – who is still one of the trusted late inning relievers – killed a lot of the comeback buzz with a brutal hanging curveball that Justin Bour flicked over the wall in right-center.  I suspect that Mike Matheny and his staff want to believe that Oh is fixed.  He has now been scored on in 6 of his last 11 games.  In the 10.2 innings he has pitched in those games, it has rained hits (14) runs (8) and home runs (4) on Oh, whose ERA since June 11 is 6.75, with a .311/.304/.578 batting line against.

Only 32% of the last 37 batters to hit the ball in play against Seung-hwan have hit the ball on the ground.

Tommy Pham

In spite of his four strikeout day on Tuesday, Tommy Pham is still 6 for his last 13 (.462) after slapping two doubles and driving in three runs last night.  He has driven in 7 runs in his last 4 games.

Jose Martinez

In his four at bats last night, the hardest ball that Jose Martinez hit was a line drive back to the mound that David Phelps gloved to end the seventh inning.  Martinez, nonetheless, finished the night 2 for 4, as he beat out a couple of dribblers to third.  Up as a pinch-hitter the day before, Jose floated a single into short right-center field.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky.

Greg Garcia

With his dismal June behind him, hits are starting to fall in for Greg Garcia.  Greg had two hits last night, and has hit safely in each of the last 5 games that he has had an at bat in.  He is hitting .438 (7 for 16) during this baby hitting streak.

Luke Voit

Going back to his strikeout in the eighth-inning on Tuesday, Luke Voit is now hitless in his last 5 at bats – the first time in his brief major league career that he has gone five at bats without a hit.  The 0-for-5 includes a 5-pitch at bat, a 6-pitch at bat, and the 10-pitch at bat he ended the game on last night.  Luke has also drawn an 8-pitch walk during this streak.  Voit is still taking very good at bats.

Late Two-Strike Hits Burn St Louis

The first batter Trevor Rosenthal faced in the eighth inning (holding a 5-2 lead) was Jake Lamb.  Trevor got ahead quickly 0-2.  But two strikes were to be all he would manage against Lamb.  Trevor missed with his next three pitches (two of them changeups).  With the count now 3-2, and the changeup not finding the zone, Jake may well have suspected that he would get a fastball – and he did – all 98-mph of it.  But it was up a bit and Jake – not trying to do too much with it – slapped it up the middle for a leadoff hit.

After a Brandon Drury groundout moved the runner to second, Daniel Descalso came to the plate.  Again, after two pitches, the count was two strikes.  But Rosenthal missed with the next two fastballs to even the count.  To this point, Descalso had swung the bat at only 1 of the four fastballs he’d seen.  Is he waiting for the change?

If he was, he guessed correctly, because that’s what he got next – a change (elevated a bit) that he stroked into right for an RBI single.  Now it was a 5-3 game.

With Chris Iannetta up next, Trevor threw two fastballs followed by two sliders, setting Iannetta up at 2-2.  But his 2-2 slider bounced and Ianneta fouled off the next 99-mph fastball.  Chris walked when the next pitch – another slider – missed.  The Diamondbacks had the tying runs on with one out.

A hit-batsman would complicate the inning, but Trevor would work his way out of the inning allowing only one more run (could have been much worse).

Not pretty (or terribly effective) but Rosenthal did get the game to closer Seung-hwan Oh with a one-run lead.  For one batter, at least.  Oh got ahead of leadoff hitter David Peralta, 1-2.  Again, two strikes on the batter.  But Oh’s subsequent change floated on him and Peralta flicked it over the left-field wall for an opposite field, game-tying home run.

Across all of baseball, batters are hitting .176 with two strikes on them.  But in the bottom of the tenth inning, Arizona came through with its fourth crushing two-strike hit in the game’s last three innings when Chris Herrmann guided Matthew Bowman’s miss-located 3-2 fastball up the middle for the single that drove in the game-winning run in the Diamondbacks’ come-from-behind 6-5 victory (box score).

One third strike in any of these moments would have greatly enhanced the Cardinal’s chances of winning.

Arizona finished 4 for 9 against the Cardinal bullpen when they had two strikes on them.  St Louis has now lost 4 games this season where they led after seven innings.  In three of those games, the lead was at least two runs.

Over 14 games going back to Marco Gonzales’ abbreviated start against Milwaukee in the second game of the June 13 doubleheader, St Louis is 5-9 with a 5.13 team ERA with a .269 batting average allowed.

Trevor Rosenthal

Over his last 7 games, Trevor has lasted a total of 5 innings, seeing 6 runs score on 9 hits and 4 walks.  All of those hits have been singles, but that still adds up to a .391 batting average and a .483 on base percentage.

During those innings, Trevor had 20 of the 29 batters he faced in two-strike counts.  Those 20 batters have hit .438 (7 for 16) with 4 walks (a .550 on base percentage).

Seung-hwan Oh

Oh’s troubling streak stretches, now, to his last 8 games and 8 innings, during which it has rained hits (12) runs (7) and home runs (3) on the Cardinal closer.  The 36 batters he’s faced in those innings are hitting .343 and slugging .600 against Seung-hwan.  He is also seeing 71% of the balls hit against him put in the air – a strong evidence of his pitches elevating.

Oh shares Rosenthal’s recent struggles with batters in two-strike counts.  During the month of June, 66% of the batters to face Oh (31 of 47) have ended with two strikes on them.  They are hitting .323 (10 for 31 with no walks).  For the season, the batting average against Oh with two strikes on the batter is now .281.  Five of the six home runs he’s surrendered have come with the batter in a two-strike count.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil walked a batter in last night’s seventh inning – the first he’s walked in 8.2 innings – but threw an otherwise uneventful inning.  I hate to do this, because it seems like every time I point out how well a particular reliever is doing, he immediately blows up.

But, if Mike Matheny and his staff are entertaining ideas for someone who could slide into that closer’s role while Oh and Rosenthal try to figure things out, Brett might be an option.  Over 9 innings in his last 9 games, Brett has allowed no runs, last night’s walk, 2 singles and 1 double.  His 0.00 ERA is backed by .107/.138/.143 batting line against, plus he has stranded all of his last three inherited runners.  Of the last 22 batters to put the ball in play against Brett, 17 have hit it on the ground (77%).

The last 22 batters to face him that have found themselves in two-strike counts have gone 0 for 21 with one walk.

Even if Matheny and company still have utmost faith in Oh/Rosenthal (and I agree that they should – over the long haul), the fact is that no team can afford to hemorrhage games when they take leads into the late innings.  For a while these guys may have to throw in lower leveraged situations till they get things worked out.

In the interim, a guy like Cecil could be an option.

Carlos Martinez

It’s getting difficult to quantify the impact that Carlos Martinez has on the pitching staff.  He quieted the potent Arizona offense for six innings last night, striking out 10.  Ultimately, two sixth-inning walks were all that stood between Carlos and six scoreless innings.

Martinez has now thrown quality starts in 11 of his last 12 outings, his 6-3 record matched with a 2.37 ERA and a .182 batting average against.  He finished up a 2-2 June that saw him contribute 4 of the 10 quality starts the entire team has so far this month.  His ERA this month is 2.43.  The rest of the rotation checks in at 6.35 for June.

Offense Still Scoring Runs, But . . .

St Louis finished the afternoon with 6 hits – all singles – to go with 5 walks.  They went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and left 8 runners on base.  But they ended the day with 5 runs, which should be enough on most days.  Still.  With runners at second and third and one out in the first, Jedd Gyorko grounded to second.  A run scored, but . . .

Yadier Molina then ended the threat with a grounder.

St Louis pushed ahead 2-0 in the sixth, but they had the bases loaded with one out.  Paul DeJong brought in the run with a flyball, but Greg Garcia’s lineout to first closed out the potential big inning with just the one run.

When the Cards scored three in the seventh, they began the inning putting their first four batters on base – so even that inning could have been bigger.

The offense then followed by going 9 up and 9 down through the eighth, ninth and tenth innings, offering not a hint of life against the Arizona bullpen while the Diamondback hitters kept the Cardinal bullpen under constant pressure.

The Cards have averaged 4.81 runs per game this month.  But . . .

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s game kind of typifies his recent string of games – and to some extent the entire Cardinal offense.  Matt was 0 for 2 in the game (pulling his season average down to .234), but he walked twice and scored twice.  Over his last 9 games, Carpenter is 3 for 28 (.107), but has walked 13 times (a .390 on base percentage), and has scored 7 runs.

Winning Teams – Like the Brewers – Still Own the Cards

After a comfortable win in the first game of the Milwaukee series, the Cardinals engaged the Brewers in three very tightly contested games – games that weren’t decided until the seventh inning or later.  All three games were eventually won by Milwaukee – the last one by a 6-4 score last night (box score).  You could say that the results of these games were less important than the fact that the Cards were “in” every game (even a game they trailed 6-0 at one point).  But the truth is that this recent series fits neatly into the predominant pattern of the Cardinal season.  They are still the team that blinks.  Now just 10-19 against teams that currently have a winning record (a list that does not at the moment include the defending champion Cubs), the statistical message they are loudly sending is that they are simply are not good enough.  That, at least, is the testimony of the season’s first 65 games.

What is curious about this (so far) disappointing team, is the difficulty we have determining its strengths and weaknesses.  Of all the question marks coming into the season, one area of assumed strength was the bullpen – which has been mostly disastrous this season.  Not that there haven’t been other issues, but I think it’s accurate to say that if the Cardinal bullpen had managed to be just average, this team could very well be in first place.  They certainly would be over .500.

Meanwhile, for the season’s first two months the starting rotations ranked among the elite rotations in baseball while the offense did all it could to undermine their efforts.  As May has faded into June, the offense is beginning to find itself while the rotation has been dutifully melting down.

Michael Wacha’s abbreviated four-inning start last night leaves the rotation with only 3 quality starts and a 5.36 ERA through the first 15 games of June – 10 of which have been losses.

Michael Wacha

On May 19, Wacha walked off the mound having thrown 6 innings of 4-hit shutout ball against the San Francisco Giants.  Even though the bullpen turned his 2-0 lead into an eventual 6-5 loss, optimism was high that the Cardinals had revived the career of the talented but oft-injured right-hander.  At that point, Wacha had pitched 42.2 innings over 7 starts (5 of them quality starts).  He held a 2-1 record (with two other potential wins lost by the bullpen), a 2.74 ERA and a .242 batting average against.

Since that moment, Wacha has mostly unraveled.  In the 5 starts he has made since then, Wacha has lasted at least five innings only once.  He has lasted only 21.1 innings total – during which it has rained hits (30 including 4 home runs) and runs (22 – 21 of them earned).  He is 1-2 with an 8.86 ERA, a .333 batting average against, and a .567 slugging percentage against since May 19.  It’s starting to be quite a while since Michael has been good.

Wacha is one of the pitchers that winning teams have taken advantage of all season.  This was his fifth start against teams that have won more than they’ve lost.  He has no quality starts against them, going 0-3 with a 7.83 ERA, lasting just 23 innings in those starts.  Serving up 35 hits – including 5 home runs – in those games, Michael is seeing the league’s better teams hit .361 and slug .588 against him.

Needless to say, the early season enthusiasm over Michael has cooled considerably.

Winning Teams v the Other Cardinal Starters

While the rotation has hit on some collective rough times this month, over the whole season, when faced with winning teams, most of the Cardinals starters have been appreciably competitive.

Carlos Martinez has been the best, his 2-3 record notwithstanding.  He has produced quality starts in 3 of his 5 games with a 3.00 ERA and a .203 batting average against.  From 2015 when Carlos became a member of the rotation, he has made 31 starts and 2 relief appearances against winning teams, providing a 14-12 record, a 3.29 ERA, and a .226 batting average against.  Twenty of those 31 starts have been quality starts.

Lance Lynn (2-3, 3.09 ERA) and Mike Leake (3-2, 3.29 ERA) have also pitched very well against the better teams they’ve faced.  Lynn has held these clubs to a .176 average.  Leake (who was only 1-8, 4.84 ERA against winning teams last year) has held these teams to a .223 batting average.  He has also walked just 6 in 41 innings over 6 starts.

Adam Wainwright has made 6 such starts so far this year, managing a 3-2 record in spite of a 4.26 ERA and a .328 batting average against.

Seung-hwan Oh

The previous night, it was Kevin Siegrist who surrendered the seventh inning run that would give Milwaukee just enough margin to hold onto the 7-6 victory.  Kevin pitched a flawless seventh last night.  The night before it had been Trevor Rosenthal surrendering 3 eighth-inning runs that served up the second game of the doubleheader to the Brewers by an 8-5 score.  Trevor pitched the eighth again last night, allowing a hit but no damage.

So last night it was Seung-hwan Oh’s turn.  Again.  Entering in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game, Oh served up a single and the two run home run that sealed the three-game losing streak.

Before he came into last Sunday’s ninth inning against Philadelphia, Oh seemed to be the one member of the Cardinal bullpen who looked like he was starting to figure things out.  He had a modest six-game streak of not giving up a run, holding batters to a .174/.208/.217 batting line.  In addition, he had struck out 11 batters in those 6.1 innings.

He picked up that save on Sunday, although not before he allowed 4 hits and turned a 6-3 lead into a 6-5 nail-biter.  Summoned in the eighth-inning in game two of the Brewer series with the bases loaded and facing a 1-run deficit, Seung-hwan gave a hit and a sacrifice fly to let 2 of the 3 runners score.  After last night, the last 16 batters to face him have 7 hits (including a home run) and a sacrifice fly – a .467 batting average and a .667 slugging percentage.  Seung-hwan doesn’t look so fixed anymore.

John Brebbia

If the name John Brebbia meant nothing to you before the season started, you were not alone.  His promotion from Memphis in late May didn’t occasion hordes of media types descending to witness his major league debut.  But there has been little not to like about Brebbia as he continues to get outs in an otherwise out-challenged bullpen.  Brought in yesterday in perhaps his most crucial situation yet (tie game, bases loaded, fifth inning, no one out), John did a very capable job defusing the situation while allowing just one of the runners to score.  He then added a scoreless sixth.

It’s only a total of 8.2 innings over 8 games, but John’s numbers are encouraging – two runs allowed on three hits – a 2.08 ERA and a .103 batting average against.  Serving up one of the Scooter Gennett home runs in Cincinnati on June 6 has been the only blemish on his record so far.

Five of Brebbia’s first eight games have come against winning teams.  They haven’t been terribly high leveraged situations, but he has, nonetheless, thrown 5.2 innings of one-hit scoreless ball in those games.

Matt Carpenter

If you are looking for positives to take away from this game – and in fact this series – you pretty much have the top of the batting order: Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler.

Famously re-inserted into the top of the order nine games ago, Carpenter has responded with a 9 game hitting streak during which he has hit .429 (15 of 35) and slugged .886 (7 doubles and 3 home runs).  All 7 of the doubles have come in the last six games after Matt had hit only 5 doubles through his first 55 games.  Carpenter has also gone 5 games without striking out.

After beginning the month just 2 for his first 19 (.105), Carpenter may have put himself in the player of the month conversation.  He is now hitting .315 and slugging .611 this month.  His June OPS is currently .994.

Dexter Fowler

As Carpenter is starting to make things happen in the leadoff spot, Fowler has been heating up in the second position as well.  In the nine games since Carpenter was switched, Fowler has hit .357 (10 for 28) and slugged .679 (3 doubles and 2 home runs).  He added a home run and a single last night.  After a rough start, Fowler’s June batting line is starting to look very healthy.  In 54 plate appearances this month, Dexter has 7 singles, 3 doubles, 3 home runs, 7 runs scored, 9 runs batted in, and 8 walks – a .283/.389/.543 line that adds up to a not-so-shabby .932 OPS.

Jose Martinez

The Brewers series (in which he started all four games) started on a very high note for Jose Martinez.  He hit two home runs in the first game, drove in another run with a ground ball in the second game, and then added two more RBIs with a triple in the third game.  It finished on a much lower note, as he went hitless in his last seven at bats – including the deflating double play that ended the eighth.

The three extra-base hits from the Milwaukee series notwithstanding, Martinez is just 5 for 26 (.192) this month.

NoteBook

Tonight’s opponent – the Baltimore Orioles – come into the series having lost three of four to the White Sox.  Earlier this season, St Louis played a streak of six straight opponents that had lost their previous series (Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago & Boston).  This was immediately followed by a streak of four straight opponents that had won their previous series (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Colorado & Los Angeles again).  The Orioles will now be St Louis’ fifth straight opponent since LA not to have won its previous series (Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia – which split a four game series, Milwaukee and Baltimore).

Wainwright, Offense, Secures Sweep of Phillies

From the beginning it was a struggle.  With single runs in the first two innings, the Philadelphia Phillies took the early lead.  It was a struggle at the end, as well, as an almost comfortable lead nearly disappeared.  But this time St Louis had just enough.  Just enough grit from Adam Wainwright.  Just enough runs from the offense.  And just enough luck to hold on for the 6-5 win that swept the three game weekend series (box score).

Adam Wainwright

Admittedly without his fine command, Adam Wainwright battled through five innings to earn his seventh victory in his last 8 decisions.  After yielding 7 hits in 3.2 innings in his previous starts, Adam has now given 13 hits over his last 8.2 innings.  For the month of June, Adam is allowing opponent’s to hit .288 against him (although he is 2-1 so far this month).

The Phillies hacked at 39 of the 84 pitches that Adam spun in their direction.  They only missed with 5 of those swings.  Swing-and-miss stuff may be a little over-rated (Mike Leake has the rotation’s lowest swing-and-miss ratio at just 17.6%, with Waino second at 18.4%), but you would think that Adam with that curveball should have a few more misses.  Among rotation members, Carlos Martinez gets the most misses on swings against his pitches.  Batters come up empty 25.1% of the time against Carlos.

With the five inning effort by Adam, the rotation has managed just 3 quality starts through the first 11 games of the month.

Surviving the Bullpen

St Louis finished the sweep of the struggling Philadelphia club, but to do so had to once again overcome shakiness from the bullpen.  A prime contributing factor to the seven-game losing streak that opened this month, the bullpen continues to be a sore spot – allowing more runs yesterday (3) in four innings than the starter gave up (2) in five.

Through the first 11 games in June, the St Louis bullpen carries a 4.85 ERA and a .523 slugging percentage against.  They have now allowed as many home runs in 29.2 innings this month (7) as the starters have served up in 62.1 innings.

Tyler Lyons

Tyler Lyons has been taking advantage of most hitter’s normal inclination to take the first pitch, by throwing first pitch fastballs for strikes.  Since no one will ever confuse Tyler’s fastball for Trevor Rosenthal’s, it’s a risky strategy that so far has worked more than not.  Three of the four batters that Tyler faced in the sixth-inning last night got first pitch fastballs.  The one he bounced to Freddy Galvis was the only one that wasn’t a strike.  Michael Saunders took one right down the middle for a strike – on his way to a strikeout.  Maikel Franco swung at his and singled to right.

Ten of the thirteen batters to face Lyons this month have seen first pitch strikes.  No Cardinal pitcher this month facing at least 10 batters throws a higher percentage of first-pitch strikes (76.9%).  So far, most batters have been taking the pitch.  Franco was just the seventh batter (out of 44 faced) this season to swing at Tyler’s first pitch.

Still, it’s more than a little risky.  Joey Votto was sitting on that first-pitch fastball from Lyons last Thursday in Cincinnati when he scorched it for a game-icing two run home run.

Be careful, Tyler.

Three of the six swings taken against Lyons last night put the ball in play.  This has been a consistent issue for Tyler this year.  To this point of 2017, 47.5% of the swings taken against Lyons have put the ball in play – the highest percentage on the staff.  That percentage has risen to 56.3% this month.

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman faced four batters in the seventh-inning yesterday, and threw first-pitch fastballs to all four.  None of the fastballs ended up over the plate, but all ended up as strikes.  Three of the batters (Andres Blanco, Odubel Herrera, and Howie Kendrick) chased after that enticing fastball, and home plate umpire Tom Woodring did Matthew a favor with a generous strike call on an outside pitch against Daniel Nava (who hit the next pitch – a hanging splitter – over the wall in right).  Among the 24 batters that Bowman has faced this month, 10 have chased the first pitch (41.7%).

Trevor Rosenthal

Speaking of Rosenthal. He faced three batters in the eighth inning and struck them all out.  He has now fanned 41 of the 92 batters he’s faced this season, holding them to a .171 batting average.  Trevor has really been better than ever this year.  Except when he hasn’t.

Possibly because Trevor is getting very, very proficient at throwing that slider for strike three (and 2 of his 3 last night took third-strike sliders), batters have begun to be more aggressive on the first pitch – which is still usually a fastball.  In April and May, only 27.4% of the batters he faced chased his first pitch.  So far this month 42.1% have gone for Rosenthal’s first offering (including two of the three last night).  Last year, only 14 of his 56 strikeouts (25%) came on called third strikes.  This year he already has 14 called strikeouts among his first 41 (34.1%), including 5 of the 10 so far in June.

Philadelphia offered at 9 of Trevor’s 15 pitches (60%).  Everybody loves to chase that fastball.  The 19 batters he has faced so far in June have chased 54.4% of Rosenthal’s pitches.  For the season, 50.2% of his offerings have been swung at.  The only higher ratio on the club belonged to the since-departed Jonathan Broxton, who drew swings on 51.7% of his pitches.

Rosenthal finished with almost as many swinging strikes in his one inning (4) as Wainwright had in 5 innings (5).  Trevor leads the pitching staff in swing-and-miss percentage, both for the year (33.0%) and for the month (40.8%).  As a result, batters are putting the ball in play on just 20.6% of their swings this year and 14.3% of their swings this month against Rosenthal.

Strikeout pitchers, of course, do run the risk of elevated pitch counts.  It cost Trevor 15 pitches to retire his three batters last night.  He averages more pitches per batter faced than anyone else on the staff (4.52). In the month of June, he’s been throwing 4.74 pitches per plate appearance.

Seung-hwan Oh

Closer Seung-hwan Oh had a string of six consecutive scoreless appearances (6.1 innings) snapped as Philadelphia came back to make a game of it with 4 singles and 2 runs in last night’s ninth inning.

The string of singles gave Oh 4 opportunities to get a double play grounder.  He didn’t.  For the season, Oh has faced 35 batters in double play situations.  He has gotten that double play just once (Giancarlo Stanton bounced into a 6-4-3 with runners on first and second and nobody out in the ninth inning on May 10, helping to preserve a 7-5 Cardinal win).

For the game – although 16 batters came to the plate with an opportunity to ground into a double play – the Cards could get only one of them to comply.  Tommy Joseph – the last batter Wainwright faced – ended the fifth by grounding into a double play.

Oh is another pitcher who throws a lot of first-pitch fastballs.  But he puts most of them on the edge of the strike zone, so his first pitch is infrequently swung at.  Only 2 of the 7 he faced last night offered.  Of the 18 batters faced this month, only 4 (22.2%) have wanted Oh’s first pitch.  For the season, just 28.5% offer at Seung-hwan’s first delivery.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler hit the fifth-inning home run that flipped a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead.  Dexter also led off the game with a double.  With 4 hits in his last 9 at bats, Dexter has looked better at the plate, lately.

Fowler is still hitting just .242 for the month (8 for 33), but 5 of those hits have been for extra bases (2 of them home runs) – giving him a .515 slugging percentage this month.

Kolten Wong

Sparkplug Kolten Wong returned to the lineup just in time to face Philadelphia.  He went 5 for 10 in the series, scoring 3 runs.  St Louis won all three, but how much of that was Kolten Wong and how much was the Phillies?  As the Brewers begin a four-game series tomorrow, we will begin to find out.  It is nonetheless true that the sometimes maligned Wong is now hitting .294/.393/.434 for the year, and has been a sparkplug.

Leake Labors But Can’t Stop the Bleeding

From May 5 through May 10, the St Louis Cardinals buzzed through Atlanta and Miami on their way to a rare perfect 6-0 road trip.  They limp home tonight having been on the receiving end of a perfectly unperfect 0-7 road trip.  All we’ve had, so far in 2017, is the roller-coaster ride.  A 3-9 plummet to start the season.  A torrid 18-6 rebound that threw us to the top of the division.  And now a bottom-dropping 5-17 tailspin that has many of us reaching for something to throw up into.  As noted later on, this losing spin is approaching record territory.

The 2017 Cardinal season is, apparently, not for the faint of heart.

Also on a bit of a roller coaster is yesterday’s starting pitcher.  A virtual machine through April and most of May, Mike Leake has regressed some over his last few starts.  Although he mostly pitched better than his final line indicated (5 innings, 3 runs, 2 earned), Mike still absorbed the loss when the bullpen turned his 3-0 deficit into a 5-2 defeat (box score).  After winning 4 of his first 5 decisions, Leake has now lost 4 of his last 5.

Mike Leake

After beginning the season with 9 straight quality starts – a streak that saw him go 5-2 with a 1.91 ERA – Mike Leake has come back to earth a bit.  Yesterday marked his third straight non-quality start – although, in his defense, he probably could have pitched the sixth inning.  Even so, it was a battle throughout as Cincinnati punched out 10 hits over the five innings and kept the heat on.  Since his 9-quality-start streak ended, Leake is 0-3 with a 5.30 ERA.

Again, there were no runs scored in Mike’s behalf.  Over the 12 starts of his season, so far, only Carlos Martinez has seen less support among the Cardinal starters than Leake.  This is the third time this season already that the Cards were shut out while he was the pitcher of record, leaving Mike with just 32 support runs over his 80 innings of work (3.60 runs per 9 innings).  Martinez has seen only 25 support runs in his 79.1 innings – just 2.84 per nine innings.

Over the 11.2 innings of his last 2 starts, Mike Leake has caused 26 ground balls and only 13 fly balls.  Among Cardinal starters he is the most likely to draw that ground ball as 55.5% of the balls in play against him are hit on the ground.  Adam Wainwright (52.9%) and Martinez (52.2%) are the only other Cardinal starters to get more ground balls than fly balls.

Unfortunately for Mike, this hasn’t worked out all that well as 9 of the 26 grounders (including 5 of the 13 yesterday) found their way through the infield for hits – a .346 batting average on ground balls that suggests more bad luck than bad pitching.

More Runs Against the Bullpen

It has come to the point that when the starter goes out – however well or poorly he has been pitching – you get that sinking feeling in your stomach, because you know once the bullpen comes in, there will be more run scoring.  Sixteen times over the last 22 games, there has been at least one run scored against the bullpen.  Of the six games that the bullpen didn’t allow any of their own runs, they gave up two inherited runs to cost Carlos Martinez a loss Monday night against the Reds.

In all, during this dreadful streak, the bullpen has served up 10 home runs in 65.2 innings, allowed a .284 batting average against, and carries a fairly astonishing 6.30 ERA into the beginning of the home stand.

Seung-hwan Oh

After a six-day layoff, closer Seung-hwan Oh finished up the loss with a perfect eighth inning.  If the wheels are starting to come off in other areas, at least Oh looks like he is starting to settle in.  He is now unscored on over his last 5 outings (5.1 innings).  He has only pitched 7 times in the last 22 games, but has a 2.16 ERA through the 8.1 innings that he has pitched during this downturn.  In the last 32 at bats against him, Oh has surrendered 6 singles and 1 double – a .219 batting average with a .250 slugging percentage against him.

Yet – as with everyone else during the recent struggles – his one hiccup cost a game.  Handed a 5-4 lead in the first game against San Francisco on May 19, Seung-hwan served up two singles and a 2-run double to Eduardo Nunez.

With the season a third gone, Oh – so far – has done better in situations like last night, where he hasn’t come into the game as the closer.  Of his 24 games so far, he’s been in that closer’s role 15 times.  He is 1-1 in that role with 13 saves, 2 blown saves, and an OK 3.38 ERA.

In his 9 appearances in non-closing situations, Oh has an 0-1 record, but a 1.64 ERA and a .220 batting average against.  Opponents are hitting .266 against Oh when he is in as the closer.

Not That The Offense Couldn’t Help More

Again, Cardinal pitchers saw very little support.  Two runs (scoring after the contest was mostly decided) on six hits and no walks drops the team batting average to .226 and the team’s scoring average to 3.05 runs per game since May 15.  For the season, the team batting average is down to .248 and the runs scored per game has dropped to an even 4.00.  All this while the team ERA has risen to 4.01.  Not a collection of good trends.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina singled twice in four at bats last night.  Beginning with a sixth-inning home run against Lester last Saturday, Yadi is now 6 for his last 15 (.400).

Dexter Fowler

Hitless in four more at bats yesterday, Dexter Fowler’s season average fades back to .222.  He has only 2 hits over his last 6 games (17 at bats – a .118 average), and has hit .214 (18 for 84) over the last 22 games.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko’s batting average continues to regress toward the .300 mark.  It’s down to .307 now after his 0 for 4 last night.  Gyorko finished the lost road trip with no extra base hits and only 4 hits total in 20 at bats.

Tommy Pham

During his 0-for-3 day, Tommy Pham saw a good streak end and a bad streak continue.  Pham, who has been drawing more walks than ever before, had walked at least once in 5 straight games (until yesterday).  Tommy still maintains a .397 on base percentage this year.

On the other hand, Pham has now bounced into a double play in 3 straight games.  He already has 7 for the season.

Pham has also been among the slumping bats of the last three weeks.  He is hitting just .246 (15 for 61) since the troubles began.  He has, however, also drawn 12 walks in that span, so his on base percentage has been a solid .360.

NoteBook

In this century, this is the ninth time that the Cardinals have lost as many as seven in a row (once in 2002, three times – famously – in 2006, once in 2007, 2008, 2011 – another world championship season, and 2013).  Only three of those losing streak have stretched to 8 games (twice in 2006 & once in 2007), with the 2007 streak finally reaching nine games before ending.  That streak, lasting from September 7 through September 15 of that year, has been the longest Cardinal losing streak of the century so far.

2007 was also the only other time in this century that the Cardinals lost 17 out of 22 games.  That stretch – which included the 9-game losing streak – occurred from September 5 to September 25.  At 78-84, the 2007 team was the only Cardinal team in this century (so far) to finish below .500.

Even that team managed to stay above .500 until game number 138 when the September collapse settled in.  Here is the box score of the game that finally ended the streak.

At no point in this century have the Cardinals lost 18 games in a 23-game span.  There were three over-lapping 23-game spans from September 3 to 26 of 2007 where they lost 17 of 23, so unless the Birds can work their way out of the darkness with a win tonight, they will set a little negative history.

Cards Struggle to Prove Themselves Against Winning Teams

With two pretty ugly losses to Boston, the St Louis Cardinals fall to 3-5 during the month of May, and 8-13 for the season in games against teams that currently have winning records.  These winning teams that the Cardinals have played so far are Boston (now 21-18), Chicago (now 20-19), Milwaukee (which currently leads the division at 23-18), the Yankees (currently 24-13), and Washington (now 25-14).

Twenty-one of the season’s first 38 games is a pretty heavy dose of the better teams in baseball, and has exposed some of the early-season weaknesses that this team will need to improve on in order to compete with these better teams going forward.

From an offensive standpoint, the Cardinal team batting line isn’t that far removed from the league averages for those teams.  Against the pitching staffs of the Red Sox, Cubs, Brewers, Yankees and Nationals (these numbers courtesy of baseball reference) all of their opponents have combined to slash .250/.319/.413/.732.  The Cardinal’s slash line against these teams is .251/.328/.408/.736.  But, those teams, combined, allow an average of 4.47 runs per game.  The Cardinals are scoring just 3.95 runs per game against them.

This lingering problem was on full display last night as St Louis put four early runs on the board, but never scored again over the remaining 11 innings of the long and frustrating game that they eventually dropped 5-4 in 13 innings (box score).

From the point where Dexter Fowler walked to load the bases with one out in the second (St Louis ahead 3-0 at that point), the Cards went 7 for 38 (.184) with 10 strikeouts.  After getting three successive hits with runners in scoring position in that second inning, they went hitless in their final six such opportunities.

To this point – against these winning teams – the Cards are just 35 for 170 (.205) with runners in scoring position.  For the most part, this team has found itself overmatched by these pitching staffs in the pivotal moments of these games.  Through 21 games, the Cardinals have come through in crunch-time at bats against this list of teams just three times this season: Randal Grichuk’s opening day walk-off single that beat the Cubs 4-3; Aledmys Diaz’ seventh-inning home run that broke a 1-1 tie and helped the Birds beat Milwaukee 4-1 on April 22; and Kolten Wong’s eighth-inning infield hit that tied the May first game against Milwaukee at 4-all (a game the Birds would lose 7-5 in 10 innings).

One of the strong early impressions this team is making is that they are not mentally tough enough to beat the better teams in baseball.

Kolten Wong

Wong had the double that was in the middle of the three-run second inning.  He finished with three hits for the evening.  It was his sixth multi-hit game of the season and his second three-hit game.  Kolten has pushed his season average to .273 by hitting .291 in May (16 for 55) and .309 (29 of 94) in 25 games since April 17.  Wong has hit safely in 21 of his last 25 games.

While much of the Cardinal club has been found wanting against better competition, that is not the case with Wong.  With his 3 hits yesterday, Wong is now hitting .407 this month (11 for 27) and .317 for the year (19 for 60) when playing against teams that win more than they lose.  He is 8 for 21 (.381) against them with runners in scoring position.

The development of Kolten Wong into the player that we’ve always thought he could be is one of the best things that could happen for the future of this franchise.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko added a couple more hits last night.  Jedd is showing no signs of slowing down much in May.  He is now hitting .328 this month (19 for 58) with a .534 slugging percentage.  He has 3 doubles, 3 home runs and 10 RBIs in 13 starts this month.  He has also now hit in 18 of his last 22 games, hitting .368 in that span (32 for 87) and slugging .644.  His hits include 7 doubles, a triple and 5 home runs.  Jedd has driven in 14 runs in those games.

Gyorko has played in all 8 games this month where the Cards have faced winning teams, and acquitted himself well.  Jedd is 10 for 35 (.286) against them with 3 home runs (.543 slugging percentage).

Over the course of the season so far, Jedd has probably been our most consistent weapon against the better teams that we’ve faced. He has played in 18 of the 21 games – starting in 17 of them – and hit .309 in those contests (21 for 68).  Nine of those 21 hits have gone for extra bases.  Two doubles, one triple, and six of the seven home runs he’s hit this season have come at the expense of winning teams.  He is slugging .632 in those games.

Jedd, however, is 0 for 11 against these guys with runners in scoring position.

Magneuris Sierra

Magneuris Sierra – who has at least one hit in all seven of his major league games – had his fourth two-hit night of the season last night.  It raises his average to .367 in his short exposure to the major leagues (he is 11 for 30).

Sierra’s only exposure to over .500 teams has been this home stand when the Cards have engaged the Cubs and Red Sox.  Magneuris has played in 3 of the 5 games, going 5 for 13 (.385) at the plate (and 3 for 6 with RISP).

He certainly isn’t dazzled by it all.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s halting May continued.  Matt was the only Cardinal starter not to get a hit last night (0 for 5) but he did draw a walk – his sixteenth walk in 14 games this month.  Moreover, although he only has 12 hits this month, 7 of those hits have gone for extra-bases, including five home runs.  Matt’s batting line so far for May is .245/.424/.612.  There are very few players who could hit less than .250 and still be considered legitimate player-of-the-month candidates.  Carpenter, I think could be one of them.

His season batting line (.244/.396/.496) shows that same pattern – although not with the kind of power we’ve seen from him so far in May.  Matt has had that kind of season against winning teams, too – but without quite enough of the production to really say he’s having a good year against them.

In the 8 games he’s played against these teams in May, Matt is just 5 for 28, but with a double, 2 home runs and 7 walks – a .179/.333/.429 batting line (which still equates to a .762 OPS).  For the season, Carpenter has played in all 21 games against teams that currently have winning records (starting 20).  His 70 at bats in those games have produced just 16 hits, but 6 of those hits have been for extra-bases (4 of them home runs) and he’s walked 15 times in those games.  His 2017 batting line – so far – against winning teams is .229/.360/.429 – an OPS of .788.  Like Gyorko, Carpenter is 0 for 13 against all these guys with runners in scoring position.

Ultimately, the hope is that his strikeout totals (currently 25 in those 70 at bats) will level out in favor of a few more hits.  And, maybe, even a few with runners in scoring position.

Mike Leake

Nothing but warm fuzzies for erstwhile number four starter Mike Leake. Mike is now 8 for 8 in quality starts this season (this in spite of the fact that he has now served up 4 home runs in his last 3 games).  Mike has – of course – pitched at least six innings in every start so far, with last night being only the third time all season that he’s needed to throw over 98 pitches to achieve that. At 2.03, Mike still leads the NL in ERA.

Last night was already the second time that Mike has entrusted a lead to his bullpen, only to see it slip away.  He allowed only 1 run in 6 innings against Cincinnati on April 30, walking off with a 4-1 lead only to see the Reds take advantage of the bullpen (and Rosenthal, for that matter) for a 5-4 victory.

Making his performance even more impressive is that half of those starts have come against the winning teams that we’ve listed above.  He is 2-1 against those top offenses with a 2.08 ERA and a .200 batting average against.  In the 26 innings that he’s pitched in those 4 games, Mike has walked just 6 batters (none last night).

How Do The Other Starters Fare Against Winning Teams?

The other starters are a mixed bag.  Carlos Martinez has been very good (2-2, 2.84 in 5 starts – 3 of the quality starts), and Lance Lynn has been OK (1-2, 3.63 in 4 starts – 1 quality start).  In 6 starts against these teams, Adam Wainwright has managed 1 quality start (his last time out against the Cubs), going 2-3 with a 4.99 ERA against them.  Michael Wacha (who was skipped for both the Chicago and Boston series’) has only seen these teams twice – the Yankees on April 14 (6 innings, 4 runs, 9 hits, 2 home runs in a 4-3 loss) and May first against Milwaukee (a no decision after 6 more innings and 4 more runs).  Although they have been much better recently (2.08 in the 8 May games) the bullpen holds a 4.55 ERA against these teams so far.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal has been so good for so much of this season.  Going into last night’s eighth inning he hadn’t allowed a hit over his previous 5 games and hadn’t been scored on over his previous 7.  Those streaks came to an end when Xander Bogaerts (he of the .338 batting average so far this season) sliced an 0-2, 100-mile-per-hour fastball into the right-center field gap for the triple that set up the game-tying sequence.

Rosenthal’s season ERA is still a fine 2.93, but (and this is in a very small sample size) in his 7.1 innings against the better teams he’s faced he has been tagged for 4 runs on 7 hits (a 4.91 ERA).  A lot of veteran hitters (like Bogaerts and Joey Votto and Ryan Braun) can handle that 100-mph heat.  Especially if it’s up a bit in the zone.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh pitched multiple innings last night for the fourth time this season.  One of his innings was a little complex, but he came through not allowing a run.  Oh is now unscored on in his last 6 games, and hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last 13 games.

In 11.1 innings against winning teams this season, Seung-hwan has pitched decently well (4 of 5 in save opportunities with a 3.18 ERA).

Matthew Bowman

After enduring a little lag at the end of April through the first days of May, Matthew Bowman has righted his ship.  He pitched last night’s eleventh inning in 1-2-3 fashion with 2 strikeouts.  Matthew hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last 5 games, and his ERA for the month is 1.69 with a .176 batting average against.

Of all the relief pitchers who have risen to the occasion against the better teams, Matthew has been, perhaps, the most impressive.  He has worked in 12 of the 21 games played against them so far, pitching 10.2 innings.  In those innings, he has given just 5 hits and 1 run (on the home run that Milwaukee’s Jesus Aguilar managed against him on May 4).  He has walked 2 and fanned 9, leading to an 0.84 ERA and a .143/.184/.229 batting line against some of baseball’s toughest offenses.  He has also stranded 8 of the 10 runners he’s inherited in these games.

Next Up

San Francisco (playing better lately) is just 17-25 so far.  After that series, the Cards go on the road to face the 23-18 Dodgers and the surprising 25-15 Rockies.  That will be followed by a 4-game home series against the Dodgers again before we take our act to Wrigley.  After this upcoming Giant series, the Cards won’t play another team that currently has a losing record until they roll into Cincinnati on June 5 to play the Reds (currently 19-20).  Assuming the Cubs stay above .500, that will mean 34 of the Cardinals first 54 games this year will be against teams with winning records.

NoteBook

After winning two of three against the Dodgers, San Francisco will the first Cardinal opponent to have won its previous series since they played Pirates in mid-April.  The Cards previous 8 opponents had come in with 7 series losses and one split.

The emphasis on aggressive base-running has had mixed results.  The Cards have run into a bunch of bad outs on the base-paths.  On the other hand they are 15-5 this month in stolen base attempts.  On the extremes of this philosophy are Aledmys Diaz, who already has as many steals (4) as he had all of last year, and Tommy Pham, who in just 11 games has already set career highs in steals (3) and steal attempts (5).  Meanwhile, Fowler – who was added in part to provide some stolen base threat after stealing 13 last season – has only attempted 1 stolen base so far (a successful attempt, as it turns out).

As a footnote to this article, remember that Kellogg was the umpire at first base the night before who called a myriad of Cardinal hitters out on the kind of very slight check-swings that you almost never see called.

The Cards, I imagine, will be glad not to see Jeff Kellogg (one of baseball’s least competent umpires) for a good long while.

Marlins Grind but Cardinals Conquer

All major league victories are hard won – even if they don’t necessarily seem so.  Last night’s 7-5 conquest of the Miami Marlins (box score) – after a grueling 3 hour and 46 minute struggle which began with the Cards trailing 4-0 in the first inning – was, I think, one of the more difficult of the season, so far.

Nonetheless, with the conquest, the Cards have now won six in a row and 16 out of 21.  Last year’s team never won more than five in a row and never managed more than 13 wins in any 21 game span.

The Marlins are currently trending the opposite way, losing 12 of their last 15.  They need some answers in the bullpen – two of the losses they suffered in this series were due to bullpen meltdowns.  But take the Miami hitters lightly at your own peril.

They finished with 5 runs on 9 hits – 2 of them home runs – and 8 walks.  But just as impressive were the at bats, whether they resulted in hits or not.

After almost four hours of baseball, Miami ended the evening having sent 43 batters to the plate and exacting 208 pitches from the Cardinal staff – an impressive 54 of which were fouled off.  The Cardinal pitching staff came into the game averaging 3.83 pitches per batter faced.  They threw 4.84 per batter last night.  Whatever else you may say about Miami, they are a difficult offensive team.

The Streaking Cardinals

In addition to the six-game streak, St Louis is now 7-2 in the month of May – even though the rotation hasn’t been as solid as they were through most of April.  Over the last 9 starts, the rotation has given us 5 quality starts and a 4.10 ERA.  Surprisingly, it has been the bullpen to the rescue to this point of May.  They have a 1.31 ERA in their first 34.1 innings of the month.

Offensively, the Cards enter the home-stand on a significant roll.  As a team, they are hitting .290/.366/.467 scoring 6 runs a game in the early part of May, and over the last 21 games the batting line is .288/.359/.470 while scoring 5.29 runs per game.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko led the offense again with three more hits and two important RBIs that helped the Cards get back in the game.  Jedd extended his current hitting streak to seven games, and now has hits in 10 of his last 11 games.  Over those games, Jedd is hitting .400 (18 for 45) and slugging .689 (4 doubles & 3 home runs) with 10 RBIs.

Jedd is 27 for 69 (.391) with 7 doubles, a triple and 4 home runs (a .696 slugging percentage) since the sweep at the hands of the Yankees.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz broke out of his hitless skid with two hits last night, and hit a couple of other balls hard.  Although it’s been a very streaky ride, Diaz is still hitting .375 (12 for 32) with 6 runs batted in in 7 games since he was re-settled in the sixth slot in the order.  Aledmys has struck out just once in those games.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk hit a couple more long fly balls that stayed in the park and struck out two more times as his 0-for-5 evening extends his hitless streak to 16 at bats and his homerless streak to 51 at bats.  Grichuk’s average is back down to .228 for the season.  Randal has also gone 6 games now without drawing a walk.

Since re-locating to the second slot in the order four games ago, Randal is 2 for 19 (.105).

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn’s streak of four straight quality starts came to a crashing halt in the first inning last night.  He served up two first-inning home runs.  Lance has had 6 hit off him already – 5 of them in just two games.  He served up 3 to Washington on April 11.  Those are also the only two games this season that Lance has walked more than two batters.

The story here, though, was more than the home runs.  In general, the Miami hitters put Lance through the ringer in all of his four innings.  They exacted 104 pitches from Lynn in those innings as they refused to chase pitches out of the zone (43 of Lance’s 104 were ruled balls) and extended at bats by fouling off his pitches.  They drove 22 of those pitches foul, while only missing on 7 swings.

Lance intermittently has the problem of long at bats.  After averaging 4.95 pitches per batter faced last night, Lynn’s season average sits at 4.16 per batter – the highest on the staff (higher even than Adam Wainwright’s 4.07).

Nine of the 12 batters who put the ball in play against Lance hit the ball in the air.  At times over his quality start streak, Lance looked like a groundball pitcher.  When he beat Milwaukee (4-1) on April 22, his ratio was reversed – 9 grounders and 3 fly balls.

Groundball pitchers do have the virtue of getting the double-play ball.  Lynn had four batters at the plate last night in double-play situations and got double-plays from none of them.  For the season, Lynn has induced 2 double plays in 28 such opportunities.  You would think that his 7.1% would be the lowest percentage of any of the starters, but you would be wrong.  To this point of the season, Mike Leake has faced 20 batters in double-play situations and hasn’t gotten one yet.  He has gotten 8 ground balls, but three have found their way through the infield for hits and the defense has been unable to turn any of the other five into double plays.

Lance has also had intermittent problems throwing first-pitch strikes.  Only 11 of the 21 batters he faced last night saw strike one.  For the season, Lance is throwing first-pitch strikes just 54.8% of the time.

Sam Tuivailala

Sam Tuivailala picked up his second win in the last four games.  He pitched the fifth, giving up no hits but walking a batter.  Sam has appeared in 3 games since his recall.  In 4 total innings, he has allowed just 1 hit, but has now walked 3.

I didn’t see Sam pitch down in Memphis, but one notable difference in his game in the few innings since his recall is the frequency of his first pitch strikes.  In his limited appearances last year, only 57.4% of the batters he faced saw that first pitch strike.  He was better at the beginning of the year, throwing 61.5% first-pitch strikes before being returned to AAA.  He threw first-pitch strikes to 3 of the 4 batters he faced last night, and has thrown 11 first-pitch strikes to the 15 batters he’s faced since his recall (73.3%).

This approach compliments his pitch-to-contact style.  Although Sam can throw with good velocity, he doesn’t generate many swinging strikes.  Last year, only 15.3% of the swings against him missed the ball.  Last night he caused only one swinging strike, and is at 12.8% for the year.

Brett Cecil

After being on quite a good roll, Brett Cecil is scuffling again.  Three of the five batters he faced last night got hits.  He has now surrendered hits in 6 straight games, totaling 10 hits (and 3 runs) in his last 4 innings. He has surrendered 2 leads in those 6 games.

With the hits, the batting average against Brett rises to .333, and his BABIP (a number I almost never reference) is a rather stunning .452.  The people who embrace BABIP will take this as good news, as it suggests that Brett has been mostly unlucky.  But not too many of the hits against him have been softly hit.

Derek Dietrich made it a 6-5 game when his one-out, sixth-inning single against Cecil drove home Dee Gordon from third.  Brett has had runners at third with less than two out 12 times this season – and has given up the run 9 times, including all of the last 5.

Brett’s best moment of the night came on a strikeout of Christian Yelich.  Behind on the count 1-2, Christian had no choice but to try to catch up to that slider that started at his knees and was almost in the dirt when Yadier Molina caught it.  Of Cecil’s 18 strikeouts this year, 16 have been swinging strikeouts.  That 88.9% is the highest percentage on the staff.

Brett would certainly walk more batters than he has, but batters love to swing the bat against him.  Last night, 14 of his 24 pitches were swung at (58.3%).  In 5 games so far this month, batters have offered at 48 of the 80 pitches he’s thrown.  At 60%, Brett leads the staff so far this month.

Since the end of the Yankee series, Brett is also the most missed pitcher on the staff.  His swing and miss rate over his last 12 games is 31.4%.  Last night, 5 of the 14 swings against him came up empty.

Kevin Siegrist

In last night’s seventh inning, Kevin Siegrist may have looked like Kevin Siegrist for the first time this year.  He pitched a 1-2-3 inning, throwing 10 of his 14 pitches for strikes (68.1% of his pitches this month have been strikes) and striking out 2.

The narrative on Siegrist seems to suggest that his Spring Training injury compromised his readiness for the season.  In his first 7 games, Kevin lasted 6 very eventful innings (7 runs, 5 hits – including 2 home runs, and 10 walks with only 4 strikeouts).  His last 8 times out, his numbers have been a lot closer: 7 innings, no runs, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts.  Still 8 hits allowed, but even that is getting better – he’s given none in his last two outings.

It hardly needs to be mentioned how important an effective Siegrist will be to a sometimes shaky bullpen.

First-pitch strikes is another of the principle differences between Siegrist in April and Siegrist, so far, in May.  Of the 21 batters he faced in April, only seven (33.3%) saw strike one.  Of the first 19 he’s faced in May, 12 have been started off with a first-pitch strike (63.2%).  He threw first-pitch strikes to 2 of the 3 he faced last night.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal added a stress-free eighth.  His season ERA is down, now, to 2.19, and he has been very sharp during the team’s 21-game run.  Trevor has pitched in 11 of the 21 games, earning 3 saves and 3 holds with a 1.64 ERA and a .175/.233/.250 batting line against.  Rosenthal has 21 strikeouts in 12.1 innings this year.

Possibly the principal reason that Trevor’s strikeouts are significantly higher than previously is his ability to throw his secondary pitches for strikes.  Last night, after throwing 4 four-seam fastballs that ranged from 100.1 to 100.5 miles-per-hour, Rosenthal paralyzed J.T. Realmuto with an 86.6 mph slider.  Rosenthal now has 8 strikeouts this season on called third strikes (38.1% of all his strikeouts) – all of them, probably, on breaking pitches.

The three Marlin hitters that he faced combined to foul off 7 of Trevor’s pitches.  It took him 16 pitches (5.33 per) to make it through the inning.  This has been a little bit of a recent pattern as well.  Over his last 11 innings, Trevor is throwing 4.51 pitches per batter and seeing 49.5% of his pitches fouled off.

Seung-hwan Oh

Closer Seung-hwan Oh invited some ninth-inning drama as he surrendered a double and 2 walks (1 intentional). But he got out of the inning with no damage and sent the Cards back to St Louis with the winning streak intact.

Oh has been in the middle of the Cardinal resurgence.  He has been called on 12 times in the last 21 games and has responded with 9 saves in 9 opportunities and a 0.69 ERA.  He has allowed no earned runs in his last 12 innings.

The highlight of his inning was the double-play that he got off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton that took the steam out of the inning.  It was the first double-play grounder that Oh has coaxed this year.

Last season, batters missed on 34.6% of the swings they took against Seung-hwan.  Last night, Oh got no swinging strikes from any of the 9 swings they took against him.  This month, so far, Seung-hwan has generated just 8 swinging strikes from the 47 swings against him (17%).  Of the bullpen regulars, Oh has the lowest swing-and-miss ratio this month.

NoteBook

St Louis had scored first in seven straight games.  The Marlins put an emphatic end to that streak with their four-run first inning.

When the Cubs open the home-stand tomorrow evening, they will be the fifth consecutive team that the Cards have played that had lost its previous series.  The Cubs were just beaten 2 of 3 in Colorado.

Productive Offense Bright Spot in Disappointing Loss

As the Cards finished their April sweep of the Pirates, they were an offense in trouble, with almost their entire roster in a deep and frosty slump.  In terms of at bats, Cardinal batsmen hit .328 with a .557 slugging percentage if they hit the first pitch thrown to them.  From the second pitch onward, they hit .192/.273/.302.  From pitches two through five this highly thought of offensive unit was hitting a “robust” .185/.243/.299.

Milwaukee was the cure then, and – as they face Milwaukee again – the bats show little signs of wearing down.  They have scored 56 runs over their last ten games – scoring at least 4 times in all of them.  For all their home run hitting exploits, the 2016 Cards (which averaged 4.81 runs per game), never put together a string of more than 9 consecutive games scoring at least 4 runs in all of them.

After drilling out 13 hits (including 4 home runs) last night, the Cards – as a team – are hitting .312/.384/.522 over these 10 games.  Predictably, the Cardinals have gotten much more productive deeper into the at bats, as well.  They are still hitting .327 with a .519 slugging percentage on the first pitch.  Over the last ten games, though, the Cards have hit .341/.401/.554 on pitches 2 through 5.  Last night, 9 of the 13 hits – including all four home runs – came after the first pitch of the at bat, but before the sixth.

Unfortunately, the Milwaukee cure has only applied to the hitters.  Another thready pitching effort (along with a few other lapses) pushed the Cardinals back below the .500 mark after a 10-inning, 7-5 loss to Milwaukee (box score).

Jedd Gyorko

Nobody has led the Cardinals out of their offensive malaise more than the surprising Jedd Gyorko.  Hitting .226 with 2 home runs and 4 runs batted in when the team opened their four-game road trip in Milwaukee, Gyorko has been lighting things up ever since.  Jedd has pushed his season average to .369 with a 17 for 34 spree (.500) that includes 4 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs – a 1.029 slugging percentage over his last 9 games.  Jedd was 4 for 5 last night with two of those homers.  He is hard to keep out of the lineup right now.

Jedd jumped on the first pitch thrown to him his first two times to the plate last night, singling to right and grounding to third.  Over his last 9 games, Jedd has jumped on the first pitch 8 times (a team-leading 21.6% of his at bats), and is 5 for 8 with 2 doubles and a home run in those at bats.  For the season, so far, Gyorko is a .583 hitter (7 for 12) and a 1.250 slugger (2 doubles, 2 home runs) when he hits the first pitch.

For the season, Gyorko is a .440 hitter (22 for 50) and a .940 slugger (all 12 of his extra-base hits) when his at bat last five pitches or less.  Once the at bat stretches to six pitches, Gyorko drops to a .133 hitter (2 singles in 15 at bats).

It will be interesting to see how long Jedd can sustain this hot streak.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz bounced back last night with a couple of hits – including a home run.  Aldemys, who’s been a pretty impatient hitter this year, saw a season-high 24 pitches thrown to him.

In fact – in a stark departure from his early season form – Diaz saw at least three pitches in all five at bats, and made it to six pitches in the at bat twice.  For the season, almost half of Aledmys’ plate appearances (45 of 99) are over by the second pitch.  So this – maybe – is a start.

Diaz also leads the team in stolen bases.  He has 3.  He stole 4 bases all last year (in 8 attempts).

Randal Grichuk

Having had his 7-game hitting streak snapped Sunday afternoon, Randal Grichuk began another with two hits last night.  Over his last 9 games, Randal is 12 for 34 (.353) with four doubles and a home run – good for a .559 slugging percentage.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler’s 5-game hitting streak came to an end yesterday in an 0 for 4 effort.  Dexter hit .435 during the streak (10 for 23) and slugged .783 (2 doubles & 2 home runs).  He scored 7 runs over the five games.

Michael Wacha

In Michael Wacha’s first two starts of the season he struck out 14 batters in 12 innings.  Of the swings taken against him, 28.1% (25 of 89) came up with only air.  Over his last three starts, Wacha’s swing-and-miss ratio has fallen to 16.8%.  He has 14 strikeouts in his last 18.2 innings.

Seung-hwan Oh

Travis Shaw’s game-winning home run came on the fourth pitch from Cardinal closer Seung-hwan Oh.  Usually, batters prosper early in the count and pitchers prosper late.  As with much else in the early season for Oh, things have gotten themselves a little backwards.  Batters who don’t wait around to see the fourth pitch from Oh are hitting .240 this year (6 for 25).  From the fourth pitch on, they are hitting .313 (10 for 32) with 2 home runs and a .594 slugging percentage.  Willson Contreras’ three-run home run off Oh on opening night also came on the fourth pitch of the at bat – and also on a 1-2 count.

NoteBook

The Cards did rally to erase a 4-0 deficit, but never took the lead.  This ended a streak of 13 straight games in which St Louis had held a lead at some point of the game.  The last game they had played in which they never lead was the 3-2 loss to the Yankees on April 15.

At 50 degrees at first pitch, last night was the coldest game of the year so far (the first game of the Toronto doubleheader was 52 degrees at first pitch) and (probably for that reason) the poorest attended home game to this point in the season at 36,339.  This was only the second home game this season that drew under 40,000.  The Tuesday April 18 game against Pittsburgh drew only 38,806.

After collecting just 7 doubles in 313 at bats last year, Kolten Wong has 6 in his first 69 at bats in 2017.  He also grounded into his second double-play of the season last night.  He grounded into three all of 2016.