Tag Archives: Elledge

Is This the End of the Road?

To be a “glass half full” guy, you could say that – all things considered – it wasn’t that bad.  Over the course of the just concluded, season-long, ten-day, 13-game, three-city road trip, the Cardinals were outscored 63-41 and were outhit .230/.318/.414 to .201/.279/.293.  Yes, on the road trip, the Cards couldn’t even keep their slugging percentage over the .300 mark.

They hit 7 home runs over the last week-and-a-half.  There were 16 hit against them.

So, with those numbers as a back drop, you could convince yourself that you are grateful to return home having gone 7-6 on that trip.

The reality, though, is that the Cardinals missed a serious opportunity.

Ten days ago, St Louis held a 20-20 record.  They were 4 games behind the 28-20 Cubs, 2 games ahead of the 20-24 Brewers, and 2.5 games up on the 21-26 Reds.  The trip would take them through Milwaukee, Pittsburgh (14-30) and Kansas City (20-28).

At the start of the series, the Brewers ranked fourteenth in the 15-team National League in runs scored (180) and were thirteenth in OPS (.698).  Their pitching was sixth with a 4.54 ERA.  The Pirates were last in runs scored in the league (173) and in team OPS (.625).  At 5.10, their team ERA was twelfth.  When they arrived in Kansas City, St Louis found a Royals team that was fourteenth in the American League in runs scored (215), and twelfth in OPS (.702).  Their team ERA sat at 4.46, ranking ninth in the AL.

All these teams had lost their previous series.  The Brewers had lost 5 of their previous 7 games (including being no hit by the Cubs); the Pirates came into the series riding an eight-game losing streak; and the Royals had lost their previous three games and four out of five.

Slice it however you like, these were vulnerable teams.  In the thick of the playoff chase, these were teams that the Cards needed to find some way to push past if they were going to write their own ticket.  Meaning no disrespect to the Brewers, Pirates or Royals – all of whom, I believe, are better teams than their records showed – this final stretch of the season was a gift to the Cardinals.  A waiting opportunity for them to move the needle on their season.

While the Cards were going 7-6 on the road trip, the Cubs were scuffling to a 4-4 mark, the Brewers went 7-4 (including winning three of five from the Cards), and the Reds managed an 8-2 mark.

Even a 9-4 trip would have kept them marginally ahead of the Reds (2 games) and would have them 1.5 games behind the Cubs for the division lead.  As it is, catching the Cubs is now very unlikely, and the Cards are locked into a scrum for that second wildcard spot.

The question at the top of the column, though, is more literal than figurative.  A wildly successful trip could have positioned the team to claim a playoff spot without having to play one or two more games in Detroit after the season is ostensibly over.  Now – even if they win four or five from Milwaukee (which will be challenging enough) – they will still need some help from Minnesota to avoid a final roadtrip and a final doubleheader.

So, among the many questions to be answered over the next four days is, is this, in fact, the end of the road?  Stay tuned.

Martinez

To be very clear about this, there have been many thousands of people who have had a worse 2020 than Carlos Martinez.  Yes, he did contract the virus, and got pretty sick over it.  But he did recover and hasn’t lost his job or felt any significant financial impact from any of the disasters that have swirled around this year.  Lots of people are much, much worse off than Carlos.

That being said, Martinez’ season is a kind of sports metaphor for the way things have been going on a world-wide basis.  In spite of his very best efforts – and Carlos has worked extremely hard to position himself to return to the rotation – nothing has worked out for him at all.

The talented Martinez made 5 starts this season – all of them bad.  The back twinge that ended his night, probably ended his season.  Even if he is deemed healthy enough to start, I can’t imagine the Cardinals giving him another opportunity, either in what’s left of the regular season or in the playoffs.

Barring an improbable further opportunity, Carlos’ final 2020 line will read 0-3 with a 9.90 ERA.  Batters hit .348 against him this year, with a .609 slugging percentage against him.

It’s difficult to imagine someone with Martinez’ stuff ever getting batted around like that – but 2020 has been like that.  Even beyond the strangeness of the schedule, the vile rule changes, the visiting team batting as the home team, and the playing of 11 doubleheaders in about a month’s time, we have seen stuff happen in games that almost never happen.  For example:

Elledge

It is actually a fairly rare thing for a pitcher to be replaced due to injury in the middle of an inning.  In a normal season, I would estimate that this kind of thing happens about twice every three years.

When Seth Elledge came out of the pen to replace the injured Martinez, he became the fifth Cardinal reliever tasked with that challenge in about a week and a half.  As with most of the others, perhaps – in spite of being given all the time he needed to loosen up – he didn’t quite take long enough.

Over his first 11 appearances of the season, Seth registered a 2.53 ERA with a .194 batting average against.  In short order, after relieving Carlos, Seth was tagged for a homer, a walk and three doubles (not necessarily in that order).  By the time he left, an already daunting 6-1 deficit had turned into an 11-1 deficit.

When I wrote about this earlier (here, I think is the post) I detailed the previous instances of this rarity and suggested that if this is going to keep happening to us, then the Cards are going to have to start preparing somehow for this eventuality.

Molina

Yadier Molina has only hit safely in 4 of his last 6 games, but 3 of the 4 have been multi-hit efforts after he went 2-for-3 last night.  Yadi is hitting .350 (7 for 20) over his last 6 games – hits that include a home run and last night’s double – bringing his slugging percentage to .550 over that span.  His run scored last night was his fifth over the six games.

DeJong

After getting what I thought was a much needed day off (he had made 30 consecutive starts at shortstop), Paul DeJong returned to the lineup with another 0-for-4.  Paul is now 0 for his last 15, and 2 for his last 30 (.067), both singles.

During the month of September, Paul is hitting .205 (17 for 83) with just 2 extra-base hits.

DeJong finished the road trip hitting .171 (7 for 41) with no extra-base hits.  For the season, he hit .208 away from Busch (16 for 77) with 2 home runs – a .286 slugging percentage.

O’Neill

Tyler O’Neill still lists among the strugglers.  Hitless in 2 at bats last night, Tyler is now 2 for his last 22 (.091).  He is 13 for 68 (.191) this month.

NoteBook

When the Cardinals renew acquaintances with Milwaukee this evening, the Brewers will be St Louis’ fifth consecutive opponent to have lost its previous series.  The Cards have not fared well in these matchups, losing 3 of the 4 previous series.

In fact, if you are on a bit of a losing stretch, St Louis is a team you would be relieved to see on your schedule.  To date, St Louis has matched up against 7 teams that had lost the series before.  Five of those teams reversed their slide with series wins against the Cardinals.  St Louis is 12-14 in the games of those series.

My Designated Hitter Rant

As the DH seems to be a real threat in the near future – and many expect it to be universal and permanent by 2022 if not sooner – I am going to include the link to my DH rant at the bottom of all my baseball posts this year (and next, probably).  If you have already read it, you should know that I added a section on July 30 after the Cards first five games with the DH.  Here is the link.  If this idiocy is to become law, I want to do everything I can to make sure as many people as possible understand why this is wrong.

Where Has All the “Slug” Gone?

Of course, the 1-0 fastball is not assured.  1-0 is still early enough in the count that most pitchers aren’t afraid to come back with a breaking pitch.  That being said, if you’re a pitcher who has a mid-nineties fast ball and you’re behind in the count 1-0, you’re probably a little more likely to come back with that fastball.  If you opt for the curve or the change, then it’s possible that you might try to be a little too perfect with it, trying not to go behind 2-0.

Whatever the approach, the 1-0 pitch is one of those that major league hitters generally look forward to.  Across all of baseball (numbers found in baseball reference), batters are hitting .352/.357/.641/.998 on that 1-0 pitch.

Would it surprise you to learn that of all major league teams, your St Louis Cardinals have baseball’s worst OPS on this particular pitch?  If you’ve been watching this team, I suspect that this wouldn’t surprise you at all.  At .731, they are more than 200 points below the league average on this count, and 30 points behind the next-worst team (Arizona at .761).  They are also last in slugging percentage (.434) on that pitch.  Anytime a hitter is ahead in the count, the major league average slugging percentage sits at .508.  Cardinals ahead in the count slug .426 (fourth worst in the majors).

What does this mean?  Let me answer that with two pitches from last night’s game.

Leading off in the first inning, Kolten Wong took the first pitch of the game for a ball.  Kansas City starter Carlos Hernandez came back with the 1-0 fastball, up a little and over the outside part of the strike zone.  Wong took it the other way, but didn’t really drive it, hitting a looping little fly to left.

Now, it’s the eighth inning.  Paul DeJong is up with two outs.  This time the count is 2-1, but the concept is the same.  A fastball count, and looking – one might assume – for something to drive.  Jesse Hahn – now on the mound for the Royals – gives Paul the fastball at about 94 mph on the upper, outside corner of the zone.  DeJong also goes the other way, but with no authority, his lazy fly ball to right closing out the inning.

It’s a trend you almost can’t help but notice.  As a team, these guys can turn reasonably well on the inside fastball.  But that outside fastball – especially in a fastball count – has been repeatedly frustrating.

Addressing the media after last night’s 4-1 loss (boxscore), manager Mike Shildt talked about the offense and it’s missing “slug.”  As of this morning, St Louis’ season-long slugging percentage sits at .374, the fourth worst in baseball.  Only Pittsburgh’s 46 home runs are fewer than St Louis’ 48.

As far as approach goes, there’s nothing wrong with the opposite field strategy.  Baseball’s elite sluggers can effectively pull the outside fastball, but even they will – more often than not – take it the other way – and to good effect.

Across all of baseball, batters hitting the ball to the opposite field are slashing .318/.314/.501/.815.  When the Cardinals hit the ball the other way, they slash .253/.243/.398/.640.  They have 4 opposite field home runs all year.

I hope you are understanding that I don’t present this as “the answer.”  The season-long hitting issues that have plagued this team are a complex question involving a lot of moving parts.

But if you’re wondering where the “slug” has gone, this is one place that it is definitely missing.

Fading Offense

After finishing with just 6 hits last night, the Cardinal team batting average sinks to .229 for the month of September.

Molina

Yadier Molina was the only Cardinal with multiple hits last night – he had 2.  Things may be starting to turn a bit for Yadi, who has two hits in two of his last 4 games – a span in which he is 5 for 13 (.385) with a home run.

Yadi got his hits in spite of being behind in the count both times.  As the most aggressive swinger on the team, Yadi as almost always behind in the count (as he was in 3 of his 4 at bats last night).  For the season, Molina ends an at bat behind In the count 40.3% of the time – the highest of any Cardinal regular.

Wong

Kolten Wong has recently been playing through a muscle issue in his side.  How much that injury is affecting his game is difficult to divine with any accuracy, but his production at the plate has fallen off.  He is 1 for 12 (.083) over his last 4 games.

DeJong

Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Paul DeJong is now riding an 0-for-11 streak, part of a larger .077 streak (2 for 26) over his last 8 games.  Both hits were singles.  Back in the second inning of the September 11 game against Cincinnati, DeJong lined a double against Luis Castillo.  That was his last extra-base hit – 44 at bats ago.

Paul is now at .215 for the month (17 for 79).  He has 2 extra-base hits this month, that double and a home run (off the Cubs Colin Rea), that was 64 at bats ago.

Paul made his thirtieth consecutive start at shortstop last night – thirty games that have accrued over the last 26 days.  When you see a guy whose bat is starting to look slow, and you notice that he plays every day, it’s hard not to wonder if fatigue is part of the issue.

O’Neill

The struggles continued for left-fielder Tyler O’Neill.  Hitless in 2 at bats before being lifted for a pinch-hitter, Tyler is hitting .135 (5 for 37) over his last 15 games.  He is down to .197 (13 for 66) for the month.

Carlson

Recently returned to the big-league scene, top prospect Dylan Carlson has had some encouraging moments.  But mostly, the struggles have continued.  Dylan was 0-for-3 last night, and is 1-for-10 over the last 3 games (with 5 strikeouts).  He is 3 for 14 (.214) since his recall, and 3 for 20 (.150) this month.

Webb

Last night’s contest did feature another excellent performance from Tyler Webb, who came in with the bases loaded and extinguished that threat in the sixth.  He then added a perfect seventh.

Over his last 12 games (13 innings) Tyler has surrendered 1 run on only 11 hits (10 singles and 1 double), while walking 3 and striking out 12.  He has an 0.69 ERA over those games, with a .229/.269/.250 batting line against.  His ERA for September is down to 0.84 (10.2 innings).  He has stranded all of the last 9 runners he has inherited.

During his outing, Webb struck out Bubba Starling on an 0-2 pitch, and then retired Nicky Lopez on an 0-1 pitch.  Tyler may not seem imposing on the mound, but he is nasty to deal with if you fall behind in the count.  Twenty-four batters have now hit against him from behind.  They have two singles to show for their efforts.

Gallegos

Erstwhile closer Giovanny Gallegos came off the injured list and got roughed up for a run in his two-thirds of an inning.  It’s been a tough September for Gallegos, who has allowed, now, 6 runs in 4 innings.  The 23 batters he’s faced in September are celebrating to a .316/.435/.526 batting line.

Even though he’s been away for awhile, true to form, Giovanny did not pitch from behind.  Only one of the five batters he faced worked his way ahead in the count (Maikel Franco managed a 7-pitch walk).  For the season, Gallegos has faced 47 batters.  Only 9 have hit ahead in the count against him.

Elledge

Seth Elledge came in to retire the last batter.  Seth is up to 6.2 innings this month, with a 1.35 ERA.  Batters only have 4 hits against Seth, and are hitting .182 against him this month.

NoteBook

With another opening game loss, the Cards have lost the first game of four straight series, six of the last seven, and eight of the last ten.

My Designated Hitter Rant

As the DH seems to be a real threat in the near future – and many expect it to be universal and permanent by 2022 if not sooner – I am going to include the link to my DH rant at the bottom of all my baseball posts this year (and next, probably).  If you have already read it, you should know that I added a section on July 30 after the Cards first five games with the DH.  Here is the link.  If this idiocy is to become law, I want to do everything I can to make sure as many people as possible understand why this is wrong.

Early Damage

OK, so what adjectives describe the Cardinal offense?

Recently, I’ve used words like “scuffling” and “struggling.” And with good reason.  They recently endured a 1-for-26 stretch with runners in scoring position.  “Inconsistent” comes up frequently.  This team that has scored 30 runs over their last 3 games had scored a total of 6 over the 4 games that just preceded the outburst.

After careful thought, “patient” might be the most consistently applicable descriptor.  Especially recently.  They have managed at least 5 walks in 13 of their last 17 games.  In the 21 August games they played after coming out of quarantine, they drew 91 walks (4.33 per game) and had 17 other batters hit by pitches (0.81 per game).  Even though they only hit .245 through those 21 games, they did so with a .351 on base percentage.

A “patient” team isn’t often regarded as “aggressive.”  Those would seem to be mutually exclusive adjectives.  As this team invaded the Great American Smallpark for their three-game mid-week series with the Reds, perhaps Cincinnati was anticipating the “patient” Cardinals.  What they have gotten is aggression.  Whatever their press clipping might indicate, the team in the gray road uniforms has come out of the dugout swinging.

As they ambushed Sonny Gray last night, they didn’t wait for him to work himself into trouble.  Four of the first 8 he faced hit either the first or second pitch thrown.  These included the first two hits to bring home runs.  Brad Miller’s two-run double came on the first pitch thrown him.  Four batters later, Dexter Fowler jumped on the second pitch thrown to him for a two-run single that made it 4-0.

The rout was on from there.  The swinging Cardinals ended with six in the first, added two more in the second, and kept adding.  The final tallies showed 16 runs on 23 hits in a 16-2 conquest (boxscore).

Over the course of the season, Cardinal hitters hit the first pitch thrown them just 9.2% of the time, and jump one of the first two pitches only 23.9% of the time.  Last night they hit that first pitch 9 times (more than in any game this season) and 12 others hit the second pitch thrown – a combined 37.5% of plate appearances.

They picked good pitches to hit, too, going 13 for 21 (a .619 average).  Nine of the 16 runs scored were driven in on one of the first two pitches of the at bat.

It was certainly a good night – and a lot of batting averages look a lot better in the paper this morning.  But I caution against trying to read any deep meaning into this.  The main story line is that one of baseball’s best pitchers couldn’t command his breaking pitches – especially a usually devastating curve ball that kept bouncing in the dirt.

Credit the Cardinals, of course, for not doing much chasing – and for jumping on Gray’s mistakes instead of just fouling them off.  But this was just one game.

Until further notice, this remains a “patient” offense.  At least, that’s what we want the Reds and the other teams set to face the Cards to keep believing.

Wong

Leadoff hitter Kolten Wong has certainly flipped the switch.  After beginning the road trip with a groundout – extending his hitless streak to 15 at bats – he is 6 for his last 8 with 5 runs scored.

B Miller

If you make an early mistake with Brad Miller at the plate, you will likely pay for it.  He was 3 for 4, including his double and one of his two home runs on the first two pitches of the at bat.  So far, when Brad hits one of the first two pitches thrown to him he is 10 for 17 (.588), including 4 doubles and 2 home runs (a 1.176 slugging percentage).

The Cards have only hit 3 first-pitch home runs this season.  Miller has 2, with Harrison Bader connecting for the other.

Edman

With three more hits last night, Tommy Edman now has multiple hits in three straight games (he is 7 for 16 in those games).  He has hits in 5 of his last 6 games – including 4 multi-hit games.  Tommy is hitting .385 (10 for 26) during this streak.

Edman is right with Miller in punishing early mistakes.  He was 2-for-2 when hitting the first or second pitch last night, and is 13 for 25 (.520) on those pitches during the season.

Molina

Yadier Molina contributed 3 hits last night.  He is 5 for 14 (.357) during the three-game winning streak.  He finished August with a .306 average (15 for 49).  Still no hint that age or work-load is slowing Yadi down.  He has caught all 14 games since he has rejoined the roster.

Yadi had a characteristically aggressive night.  Up six times he hit one of the first two pitches in 4 of those at bats.  This year, Molina is hitting the first pitch thrown to him 18.2% of the time – nearly doubling the major league average, and 39% of his plate appearances last two pitches or less.

Knizner

Into the game late, Andrew Knizner finished with two hits.  He had two hits in his very first game of the year, and then went 0-for-11 until the sixth inning last night.

DeJong

Paul DeJong added two more hits last night – his third straight multi-hit game.  He has hit in 7 of his last 9 games – 5 of them multi-hit games.  Paul is 15 for his last 38 (.395).

Paul was 1 for 2 on the early pitches – and is now 11 for 21(.524) when hitting one of the first two pitches in his at bat.

Kim

While the hitters were feasting, Kwang Hyun Kim was adding yet another strong starting effort.  KK has now allowed no earned runs over his last 3 starts – 17 innings after shutting out the Reds on 3 hits over 5 innings.  The last 62 batters to face Kim have managed just 7 singles, 2 doubles and 3 walks – a .153/.194/.186 batting line.

The starters finished August with a 2.62 ERA for the month and a .166 batting average against.  Kwang Hyun has started them off on the same foot in September.

Elledge

Seth Elledge finished up the game, giving a ninth inning run, but no more damage.  None of the 5 batters he faced hit his first pitch.  And in fact, none of the 23 batters he has faced so far in his major league career have hit his first pitch.

NoteBook

Four days after the Cards surrendered their most runs of the season in their most lopsided loss of the season (the 14-2 shellacking administered by the Indians on August 28), the Cards landed on the Reds for their biggest offensive uprising (and most lopsided victory) of the season.

With is 7 runs batted in, Brad Miller is now up to 18 for the season.  He drove in just 25 last year and 29 the year before, even though his plate appearances were higher than he’s likely to get this year – 170 in 2019 and 254 in 2018.

Kolten Wong passed the 1000 total base threshold last night.  His 5 bring him to 1002 for his career.

The offensive explosion aided the team batting average notably as well.  They started the evening hitting an unimpressive .239 for the season.  The team batting average now sits at .252 – up 13 points on yesterday’s hitting alone.  More than 10% of their hits for the season (23 of 213) came in that game.

My Designated Hitter Rant

As the DH seems to be a real threat in the near future – and many expect it to be universal and permanent by 2022 if not sooner – I am going to include the link to my DH rant at the bottom of all my baseball posts this year (and next, probably).  If you have already read it, you should know that I added a section on July 30 after the Cards first five games with the DH.  Here is the link.  If this idiocy is to become law, I want to do everything I can to make sure as many people as possible understand why this is wrong.