Tag Archives: Webb

When in Doubt, Shut Them Out

Dakota Hudson has been with the team the entire year, so he’s seen everything that’s gone on.  He’s watched as the team has lost 34.6% of their quality starts (which would be the highest percentage this century if it holds).  He had seen the team score fewer than 4 runs in 7 of the month’s first 10 games (including the night before).  He watched them lose to last night’s starter, Brad Keller, 8-2 back in May.  And he knew that in his last three starts his offense backed him with a total of two runs.

So, as he watched from the dugout last night, I don’t think he could truly be shocked to watch Keller baffle his offense for six hitless innings.  But through a season of offensive adversity, Dakota Hudson arrived at a game plan.

When in doubt, shut them out.

It’s certainly simplistic logic.  If you don’t give up a run, you can’t lose the game.  And, of course, it’s a difficult standard to maintain.  But it’s an approach that’s become something of an imperative among Cardinal starters, as the offense is frequently slow to get untracked.

Across the entire season, St Louis is batting just .225 with a .693 OPS while the score of their game is tied.  Since the All-Star break that number is even worse – a .220 batting average and a .652 OPS.  In August, while the games are tied, Cardinal hitters are flexing their muscles to the tune of a .218 batting average and a .624 OPS.

And then, last night, six innings of zeros until they finally broke through (box score).

Meanwhile, while the no-hit spotlight settled on the Kansas City starter, Mr. Hudson quietly went about his business of shutting out Kansas City and waiting.

While simplistic, this was an element of Hudson’s game that was distinctly missing coming into the second half of the season.  In his first four second half starts, while pitching in tied ballgames, Dakota was slapped around a good bit – the 19 batters that faced him in that situation stung Dakota to the tune of a .389/.421/.944.  In those 4 starts, Dakota was able to hold the game even for only a total of 3.2 innings.  He just never gave his slow starting offense a chance to get into the game.

Over his last three starts, while the batting line against him with the score tied has only marginally improved (.306/.381/.417), he has managed to keep the games tied for 9.2 innings – highlighted, of course, by the six zeros that he matched Keller with last night.

Over his last two starts, Dakota has faced 40 batters – only two of them with a lead.  A one-run lead.

Jack Flaherty has gotten the memo.  He threw 7 shutout innings the night before to get his win.  Hopefully the rest of the rotation has figured this out as well.

When in doubt, shut them out.

Pitching Resurgence

With the back-to-back shutouts, the Cards pitching staff has started looking like the staff they thought they would be.  Over the last 7 games (or since the last time they used a fifth starter), the Cards hold a 2.34 team ERA with a .220 batting average against.

Tyler Webb

As if surprises like John Gant, John Brebbia and Giovanny Gallegos weren’t enough for one bullpen, Tyler Webb has been nearly untouchable since his most recent recall.  Over his last 10.2 innings, Webb has allowed 1 run on 3 hits, walking 1 while striking out 12.  The batting line against him from the last 35 batters he has faced is an impressive .088/.114/.176.

For all of this, Mike Shildt still isn’t anxious to use Tyler in critical situations.  Since his return, 48.6% of the batters he’s faced have come in games that were more than three runs either way.

Tommy Edman

After a little tailspin, Tommy Edman’s bat has revived.  Hitless in five at bats last night, Tommy saw a five-game hitting streak end.  He was 9 for 21 (.429) during the streak.

NoteBook

After playing in only 118 and 90 games his first two seasons in St Louis, Dexter Fowler played in his 108th game of the year last night.  Dexter hasn’t crossed the 140-game threshold in any season since he played in 156 games with the Cubs in 2015.

Dexter is also up to 335 at bats on the season after finishing with 420 and 289 his first two years here.

Of course, with the increase in games and at bats comes an increase in strikeouts.  He whiffed for the ninety-fifth time this season.  He had 101 and 75 strikeouts his first two seasons.

Just four series ago, the Cardinal pitchers held the Cubs to just 3 runs over 3 games.  That had been the fewest runs St Louis had allowed in any series so far this year.

Now, of course, they have given up 0 in the just concluded series.  Yes, it was just the Royals, and yes, it was just two games, but they still leave KC allowing no runs during the series.  The only other time this has happened for the Cards in this century was July 21-22, 2004.  In two home games against Milwaukee, they won 1-0 and 4-0.  The starting pitchers in those games were Woody Williams and Jason Marquis.

When no one is hitting or scoring, the games do tend to fly by faster.  With last night’s game taking just 2:38 on the clock, the two games against the Royals averaged just 2:46 per game – the fastest series of the year by average time (yes, I know it was just two games).  The previous fastest series (and still the fastest three-game series) occurred April 26-28 at home against Cincinnati.  Those games averaged 2:46.7.

The Cards have now swept the last two series.  Of their 39 series so far this season, the Cards have gone into the last game 10 times in a position to sweep.  They have now finished off that sweep 7 times.  They have had 5 sweep opportunities both at home and on the road.  They have finished off 4 of the 5 at home, and now 3 of the 5 on the road.

Little Things Decisive in Dodger Victory

Neither hit was very much, really.  Not highlight reel smashes by any means.  But in the professional levels of any sport, little things are frequently most important.

It is the bottom of the second inning of last night’s game in Los Angeles.  St Louis is holding a 1-0 lead.  The Dodgers have the tying run at third base, but there are two outs.  Cardinal starter Miles Mikolas only needs to get eighth-place hitter Kristopher Negron to hold the lead into the third.

But Negron manages to float a Texas-league single into short center, and the game was tied.

Now it’s the seventh-inning.  The Dodgers have added a run in the interim, and now lead 2-1.  Andrew Miller is into the game for St Louis.  The Dodgers have a big insurance run on second base – but again, there are two outs.  Miller will be facing left-handed hitting Max Muncy.  Again, all Andrew needs is an out and we go into the eighth-inning still a one-run game.

Muncy’s ensuing ground ball wasn’t exactly stung.  But it was perfectly placed as it snuck through the shifted infield, driving Edwin Rios home with the extra-run that padded Los Angeles’ 3-1 win (box score).  A win that sent the Cardinals to their fourth consecutive loss, and seventh in the last nine games.

All throughout the losing spell, there have been two constants.  There has been a nearly total absence of offense (over their last 9 games, the Cards are hitting just .225 and scoring 2.22 runs per game).

There has also been an abundance of two-out RBI’s against them.  For the month of August (in which they are 1-4), 13 of the 21 runs batted in against them have come with two outs. Over the last 9 games, 19 of the 37 runs batted in have been two-out RBIs.

The offense, of course, has had their two-out opportunities as well.  Last night, they were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, 0-for-3 with two outs.  A two-out, bases empty, ninth-inning single from Andrew Knizner was St Louis’ only two-out hit in 10 such at bats.

For the month they are hitting .232 with only 3 runs batted in with two outs.  Over the nine games, they have just 4 two-out runs batted in.

For the Dodgers, everything is coming very easily right now.  That is far from the case in St Louis these days.

Having forced their way back into contention in the division, the Cardinals are consistently coming up short in the money moments of these recent games.

Mikolas

In an increasingly troubled rotation, Miles Mikolas continues to be a beacon.  Although he took yesterday’s loss, Miles contained the dangerous Dodger lineup to 2 runs over 6.2 innings.   Since he re-tooled over the All-Star break, Miles has 4 quality starts in 5 games with a 2.18 ERA.  In 33 second-half innings, Mikolas has walked just 5 batters.  Although he has already served up a career high 17 home runs, he has allowed none over his last 3 games, and just 1 in the second half.

Miller

As Andrew Miller has opened the second half, he has had a little trouble early on here getting that third out.  In last night’s game, he gave a two-out RBI single to Muncy in the seventh.

Since the break, Andrew has faced 17 batters with two outs.  Those batters have 3 singles, a home run, and 4 walks – a .308/.471/.538 batting line.

Tyler Webb

With little fanfare, Tyler Webb has thrown the ball very, very well since his last return from the minors.  With last night’s perfect eighth inning, Tyler’s last 7 games have seen him serve just 1 run on only 1 hit (a pinch home run off the bat of Oakland’s Chad Pinder in Saturday’s game).  Tyler has fanned 8 of the last 16 batters to face him, and has 10 over the 7.2 innings of his last 7 games, while walking just 1 – giving him a batting average against of .042 and an on base percentage against of .080.

Webb has been quite good all season at claiming that last out.  Batters facing Tyler with two out are 6 for 42 (.143) – albeit with 7 walks.

Paul Goldschmidt

Back among the offensively downtrodden is centerpiece Paul Goldschmidt.  Hitless (with 2 strikeouts) last night, Paul is now 0 for his last 11 with 5 strikeouts, and has gone 6 games without driving in a run.

July’s Player of the Month, Paul has scuffled through the early games of August.  In his first 20 plate appearances this month, Goldy has 2 singles, 1 double, 1 walk and 7 strikeouts – a batting line of .158/.200/.211.

In the statistical anomaly department, all four of Paul’s at bats last night came with one out.  That 0-for-4 makes him just 3 for 17 (.176) with one out over these difficult last 9 games.  He has hit .308 (4 for 13) with no one out, and .333 (2 for 6) with two outs.

NoteBook

Last night’s attendance total of 53,070 was the largest crowd for any Cardinal game this season.  The previous high was the 48,555 in St Louis’ game against Pittsburgh on Sunday May 12.

In his 18-win 2018, Miles Mikolas set all of his significant career highs, including games (32), games started (32), hits allowed (186), runs allowed (70), earned runs allowed (63) and walks (29).  Mostly because his first half was difficult, Miles is closing in on surpassing all of those numbers (23 games and starts, 139 hits allowed, 61 runs  – 58 earned, and 22 walks).

It’s been three years since Dexter Fowler has played in over 130 games.  He played in his 102nd last night.  That season (2016) was also the last time that Dex had over 450 at bats – he has 316 already this year.

Finding a Way to Win the Close Ones

In his remarks after the game, Paul Goldschmidt (whose grand slam had sent home the winning runs) more or less put his finger on the issue.  He said:

“I think we’re going to have to find a way to win these games.  There’s going to be the games you just lose, and there’s going to be the ones you come out there and win.  But we have to find a way to win the close ones.”

These words of wisdom (quoted in the mlb.com game account) came in the aftermath of another one-run game – this one a 6-5, ten-inning conquest of the Pittsburgh Pirates (box score).

The Cardinals have now played 17 games in the month of July, and nearly half of them (7 to be precise) have been decided by one run.  There is a romance to the one-run game.  As the Cardinal’s slugging first baseman pointed out, a season is determined by that percentage of games that could go either way.  The ones that are decided less by talent and more by character.

It’s part of my interest in one-run games.  Games where the difference is truly as thin as one at bat either way.

Almost always, one-run games are characterized by strong pitching efforts.  They are generally 4-3 or 3-2 games.  The Cardinal’s one-run games this month, though, have been decidedly offensive by comparison.

Of the 7 there were 2 that were clearly pitching duels – a 1-0 game and a 3-2 game.  But the other five are a 5-4 game, two 6-5 games, and the 12-11 game of last Friday.  In their 7 July one-run games, the birds have hit 12 home runs and averaged 5 runs a game.  But the Cards are only 4-3 in those games, because the pitching staff has scuffled to a 5.02 ERA in them.

For the season, St Louis has fought through 29 one-run games.  They have won 14 and lost 15.  The Brewers, by comparison, are 15-11 in one-run games, the Braves are 18-11, and Philadelphia is 13-10.

San Francisco is 23-10 in one-run games.

It’s a trait you almost always see in the tough teams.  But something not consistently found in the Cardinals.

Not yet, anyway.

Tommy Edman

Tommy Edman contributed 2 hits and a run scored to the victory.  Tommy has been in the starting lineup for 7 straight games, and is hitting .300 (9 for 30) in those games.

Edman has also been one of the team’s most consistent forces in one-run games since bursting onto the scene.  He has played in all 7 this month (starting 6) and is hitting .407 (11 for 27) in them.  He has played in 10 one-run games since his call up.  He is hitting .438 (14 for 32) with a home run and 4 runs batted in in those games.

Tyler O’Neill

After a torrid start after his recall, Tyler O’Neill – now that he has been made a fixture in the lineup – is starting to fade a bit.  After his 0-for-5 last night, Tyler is just 2 for 18 (.111) – all singles – over his last 4 games.  He has no walks and six strikeouts in those contests.

Yairo Munoz

Yairo Munoz was also one of the Cardinals held hitless last night – he was 0-for-4.  Munoz has been one of the team’s better hitters in one-run games, but not this month.  In the 7 July one-run games, Munoz is now hitting .217 (5 for 23) with no walks.

Daniel Ponce de Leon

Daniel Ponce de Leon started the affair and lasted just 3 innings.  Four walks in those innings hastened his exit.  Still, for the innings that he pitched, Daniel was only touched for one run.  When he starts, I’m surer management would like to see him get deeper into games, but for the month of July so far Ponce de Leon holds a 3.00 ERA over 18 innings.

Daniel has also been one of those players who have stepped up in the one-run games he has been a part of.  Ponce de Leon has only pitched in 5 of the 29 Cardinal one-run game (4 as a starter), but holds a 2.66 ERA and a .211 batting average against in those 20.1 innings.

Tyler Webb

Just recalled from Memphis, Tyler Webb was thrust right into the middle of another one-run game.  He threw two scoreless innings (the seventh and the eighth) to help send the game into extra-innings.

Tyler has pitched in only 4 games this month in and around his trip to Memphis, but two of those have been one-run affairs (he also pitched in the 5-4 loss in Seattle on July 2).  He pitched 1.1 hitless innings in that one as well – although he granted one intentional walk.

Webb has 3.1 hitless innings in the one-run games he’s pitched this month, and for the season has allowed just 1 run in 6.1 innings during parts of 8 one-run games.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia struck out two more batters in his .2 scoreless innings last night.  Since returning from his paternity leave, John has pitched 9 innings, giving 2 runs on 4 hits.  He has struck out 17 of the last 33 batters to face him.

Brebbia has now pitched 10 innings across 9 one-run games this season.  He holds a 1.80 ERA and a .194 batting average against in those games, while striking out 15 batters.

Carlos Martinez

This was a 6-3 Cardinal lead in the tenth inning when Carlos Martinez walked in to preserve the lead.  He did – after 6 batters and 3 hits that included a home run.  He was saved from his first blown save of the season (as a closer) when Jose Martinez cut down the tying run at the plate.

Carlos is now a troubled closer.  He has given up runs in 4 of his last 5 games.  Over his last 5 innings, Martinez has given 6 runs on 10 hits and 4 walks.  His ERA for his 8 July innings has risen to 6.75.

Carlos has all 4 of the saves the team has in one-run games this month – but they haven’t been pretty.  In the 4 innings of those saves, Martinez has allowed 4 runs on 9 hits.  For the season, Carlos has thrown 11 innings in 10 one-run games with a 4.09 ERA and a .311 batting average against to show for it.

Carlos continues to be a concern.

NoteBook

The grand slam proved to be Paul Goldschmidt’s sixth game-winning run batted in of the season.  This ties him with Paul DeJong for second on the team behind Marcell Ozuna’s 9.

Kolten Wong’s intentional walk was his thirty-third walk of the year.  He drew only 31 in 407 plate appearances last year.  In his seventh season, Kolten has never walked more than the 41 walks he drew in 411 plate appearances in 2017.

Two Fastballs

The second inning had been a mess.  Cardinal starter Jack Flaherty labored for 39 pitches to the eight batters who made their way to the plate in that inning.  After a single by Dee Gordon had tied the game at one each, Flaherty gave an infield hit and two consecutive walks to plate a second run.

But, that inning behind him, Jack needed just 29 more pitches to work his way through the next two innings, picking up four strikeouts along the way.

Now it’s the fifth inning, still 2-1 Seattle.  A four-pitch walk to the first batter, Daniel Vogelbach, brought Omar Narvaez to the plate.  Probably, few pitches are as predictable as the first-pitch fastball right after a four-pitch walk.  It didn’t help that the fastball was right down the middle at just 92 miles per hour.

Regardless, Narvaez was ready for it, and suddenly it was a 4-1 Mariner lead.

But the game wouldn’t end there.  After home runs from Jose Martinez and Yairo Munoz tied the game, St Louis gave the ball to Giovanny Gallegos to get them through the eighth.  Seattle answered with pinch-hitter Tim Beckham.

Gallegos has been much praised in these pages recently – and with good reason.  Giovanny has really been very good over the last several weeks.

Last night, however, Beckham gave him a worthy battle.  After Tim fouled off four of the first six pitches, Giovanny threw his fifth fastball of the at bat.  It was inside, but not inside enough.

And just like that, what could have been an outstanding pitching effort in a satisfying victory ends as a 5-4 loss.

While the rest of the National League Central has been marching in place waiting for the Cards to join the party (and both the Brewers and the Cubs lost again last night), the Cards have been dutifully losing six of the last seven.  This loss, so reminiscent of many of the other six (the Cards have served up 15 home runs over the last seven games), and, in fact like many of the 42 lost already this year.  Last year’s team allowed 144 home runs over the entire season – the fewest total in all of baseball.  Through 83 games of 2019, St Louis has now surrendered 114 already.  An otherwise quality outing reversed by one or two mistakes not gotten away with.

During the current 1-6 streak, Cardinal starters have contributed just 35.2 innings (Jack only gave them 4.2 last night), during which they have been pelted for 26 runs (20 earned) on 49 hits that have included 11 home runs.  It all sums up to a combined 0-5 record, a 5.05 ERA, a .325 batting average against, and a .589 slugging percentage allowed (courtesy of 2.78 home runs allowed per every nine innings).

This kind of struggling from your rotation is enough – usually – to cause a losing streak regardless.  But when this is the staff saddled with one of baseball’s least potent offenses – well.

At 41-42, the Cards would be 13 games out if they were in the American League East.  They would be 11.5 games behind the Twins in the AL Central or the Astros in the AL West.

Anywhere in the AL, and they would be 4.5 games out of the last wildcard spot and behind four other teams.

Elsewhere in the National League, they would be 15 games behind the Dodgers in the West, and 7.5 behind Atlanta in the East (although anywhere in the NL, they wouldn’t be farther than 2.5 out of the last wildcard spot).

Some of those other situations might convince the proud Cardinal franchise to be sellers – and maybe they should be sellers.  But with the Central Division waiting patiently for someone to lay in a claim, there is little (read zero) chance that St Louis will sell.

Instead this organization that is profoundly puzzled at why their hitters don’t hit and their pitchers don’t pitch will patiently wait and hope things will turn around.

Truthfully, it wouldn’t really take much.  Most nights, just a couple of pitches here and there.

Jack Flaherty

One of the prized young hurlers in the system, Jack Flaherty is in a troubled spot right now.  The home run he served up last night means that Jack has been touched for at least one home run in each of his last 6 starts.  He has given 10 of them in 30.1 innings, and 17 of the last 35 hits against him have been for extra-bases.  He has an 0-2 record, and a 7.12 ERA over those starts.

Tyler Webb

Among the relievers, Tyler Webb is now starting to string some impressive appearances together.  Coming in in the sixth, Tyler kept Seattle off the board for 1.1 innings.  It was his sixth straight scoreless outing, during which he has given just 3 hits (singles) over 5 innings.  Over his last 15 appearances, Webb has a 2.03 ERA.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina just can’t get anything sustained.  With three hits in the first San Diego game coming close on the heels of a five-game hitting streak, it was hoped that that would be the beginning of a hot streak for Yadi.  He hasn’t had a hit since, going 0-for-7 with 3 strikeouts and a double-play in the last 3 games.

Harrison Bader

Hitless in 2 at bats last night, Harrison Bader is now 2 for 39 (.051) over his last 14 games.  The hits are both singles, and he has no runs batted in over that span.  By all rights, of course, Harrison should have had a double last night, but a truly superior defensive play by Kyle Seager at third kept the zeros coming for Bader.  That, sadly, is how things play against you when you are in that slump.

Tommy Edman

This is how quickly things can turn in baseball.  In the Saturday game against San Diego, Tommy Edman led off with a home run – his second.  At that point, he had 9 hits in his first 25 major league at bats – a .360 average.

That was his last hit, as Tommy is currently riding an 0-for-10.

Winning Teams Still a Stumbling Block

Last night in San Diego, the San Francisco Giants did – and did rather handily – something that has been a challenge for the Cardinals all season.  They beat the Padres – beating them pretty badly, by the way, 13-2.  By contrast, St Louis scored just 19 runs against them in six games – four of which they lost.

The loss dropped the Padres back down to – but not below – the .500 mark at 42-42.  As such, the Cardinals’ performance against San Diego last weekend (losing two of three) holds with the pattern established throughout the season: a noted inability to beat the better teams.

Going back to the previous road trip, the Cards got themselves swept by the Cubs (currently in second place in the division).  They responded by winning 9 of their next 14 games – a streak that gave the team and its followers a shot of confidence.  But all 14 of those games were against losing teams (Miami, the Mets, Miami again, and the Angels).  When the schedule brought in two teams with at least as many wins as losses (the Athletics and Padres), the Cards resumed their losing ways – losing four of the five.

The arc of the season so far has followed precisely the trajectory of their success against the better teams.  The March/April version of this team raced out to a 19-10 record.  At the heart of that record was a 12-7 mark against these better teams.  May saw them spin out to a 9-18 record.  Underpinning that mark was a 7-14 record against winning teams (and, by the way, a 2-4 record against losing teams).

They closed June 13-13 overall, but only 3-7 against teams that currently are at least at .500.

Of all my statistical subsets that reveal a team’s character, wins against winning teams is my favorite.  I’m not sure that any other measure will paint you as clear a picture of who your team is.  That the Cards enter July having been matched against winning teams in 50 of their first 82 games speaks to how frequently this team has been tested.  The fact that this team that expected to contend is only 22-28 in those contests is evidence that – at least to this point of the season – this team doesn’t match up to that competition.

In the ten June games, the offense struggled to 2.6 runs per game on the strength of a .215 batting average.  For the season, there has been very little offensive success against these teams – a .239 batting average, leading to 4.18 runs per game.

The pitching hasn’t been any more capable.  Their June ERA against winning teams was an unspectacular 4.34, which included serving up 18 home runs in the ten games.  The season ERA against these teams is an identical 4.34 (4.48 by the starters and 4.13 from the pen).

While they haven’t always been effective against losing teams either, the schedule will at least award them that opportunity until the end of the month.  Next up, they have Seattle (37-51), San Francisco (37-47), Arizona (43-43), Pittsburgh (40-43), Cincinnati (38-44), and Pittsburgh again, until the Houston Astros (53-32) finally make a visit to Busch on July 26. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are division foes.  The Cardinals’ combined record against them is 7-6.  Any expectation that this team will roll through those games is little more than wishful thinking.

Given the schedule, it is entirely possible (although not a certainty) that their fortunes could improve somewhat over the next few weeks.  Until this team shows me, though, that they can stand toe-to-toe with some of the good teams, we’ll kind of have to take any success they experience with a grain of salt.

Marcell Ozuna

The loss of Marcell Ozuna, of course, hurts on many levels.  Not the least of which was his ability to get hits against the better teams – especially in the month of June.  In his last 8 games against teams with at least as many wins as losses, Marcell had gone 10 for 27 (.370).  Of his 20 home runs this season, 13 came at the expense of these better teams.

Yairo Munoz

Yairo Munoz’ 4-for-7 series against San Diego wasn’t really an anomaly.  Munoz has been one of our better (if rarely used) bats against winning teams.  Munoz is 13 for 37 (.351) in his opportunities against better teams.

Paul Goldschmidt

With his combined 2 for 20 against Oakland and San Diego as the lowlight, Paul Goldschmidt finished June 7 for 37 (.189) against teams that are .500 or better.  For the season, Goldschmidt has faded to .249 (46 for 185) against these guys.

Paul DeJong

June was also trying all the way around for Paul DeJong.  In the ten games last month against winning teams, Paul hit a struggling .184 (7 for 38).  He walked just once while striking out 10 times in those games.

Jose Martinez

June saw Jose Martinez work his way back into the starting lineup.  Like most of the rest of the team, though, he was of little help against the better teams.  Jose hit .179 against them last month (5 for 28).  His 5 hits were 4 singles and 1 double – a .214 slugging percentage.  He drove in no runs against the better teams he played in June.

Harrison Bader

The June struggles of Harrison Bader also reached to his ability to get hits against winning teams.  Bader played in 8 of the 10 games (starting 7), hitting .148 (4 for 27).  He had no walks in those games, against 7 strikeouts.  Of his 4 hits, though, Harrison did come through with 3 extra-base hits – including 2 home runs.  He was the only one on the team to hit multiple home runs against winning teams in June.

Bader is just a .214 hitter (25 for 117) against winning teams for the year.

Adam Wainwright

Some of Adam Wainwright’s best moments of the month came in his three starts against the tough guys.  He was impressive in a 2-0 loss against Oakland, and made two earlier June starts against Chicago – one here (a 2-1 win) and one there (a 5-1 loss).

Overall, Adam finished with two quality starts, and a 2.37 ERA in those games.

Tyler Webb

One of the surprising names that has bubbled to the top of the list against winning teams is Tyler Webb.  Tyler is not noticed as often as some others, but he has been as effective as anyone on the staff against the best competition the Cards have played.

Webb has pitched in 20 of the 50 games, working 19 innings.  He has given just 4 runs on only 7 hits – which include just 1 home run.  It adds to a 1.89 ERA, a .115 batting average against, and a .197 slugging average against.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia has had some rough moments lately, but few of them have come against the good teams the Cards have faced.  In his 24.2 innings against the higher competition, John has fashioned a 2.19 ERA, with a .187 batting average.  He has allowed only 5 extra-base hits in these games (just 2 of them home runs), while striking out 30.  He averages 10.95 strikeouts every nine innings, while allowing a slugging percentage of just .286.

John Gant

John Gant – a revelation overall in the bullpen this year – has also acquitted himself well against this level of competition.  Over his 20 games and 23.2 innings, Gant holds a 2.28 ERA and a .173 batting average against.

Giovanny Gallegos

With little fanfare, Giovanny Gallegos finds himself throwing the most innings of anyone in the bullpen against the stiffer opponents.  With 25 innings against them, Giovanny has pitched to 95 of these hitters.  He has struck out 37 of them.  His 2.88 ERA and .191 batting average against in these games is highlighted by 13.32 strikeouts per nine innings.

Jack Flaherty

More than any other Cardinal starter, Jack Flaherty has been taken advantage of by the best teams.  Like Wainwright, Jack pitched twice against the Cubs and once against Oakland in June.  He didn’t get out of the fifth in two of the three, finishing with no quality starts, giving 13 runs in 13.1 innings on 18 hits including 6 home runs.  It all added up to an 8.78 ERA, a .310 batting average allowed and a .707 slugging percentage against.

For the season, Jack has made more starts (13) against .500+ teams than anyone else on the staff.  Only 4 of them have been quality starts.  He is 3-4 with a 5.18 ERA in those games.  In his 66 innings against these guys, Jack has struck out 74 (10.09 per nine) and served up 15 home runs (2.05 per nine innings).

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha pitched a very solid game against Oakland last week, but in general his games against the better opponents haven’t gone well.  In 8 starts and 1 relief appearance, Michael has totaled 44.1 innings against teams who are at or over .500.  In those innings, Wacha has unintentionally walked 27 batters (5.48 per nine innings) and served up 12 home runs (2.44 per nine innings).  These are usually bad combinations.  Not surprisingly, Wacha’s ERA against these guys sits at 5.48.

Jordan Hicks

Also learning some tough lessons at the hands of the league’s better teams is first year closer and flame-thrower Jordan Hicks.  With relatively few save opportunities, Hicks only appeared in 13.2 innings against these guys.  Not a lot of hits given up, of course – just 11 in those innings.  But these teams combined those hits with 9 walks they were able to draw to make Jordan’s innings stressful.  Hicks has allowed 9 runs in those innings – leading to a 5.93 ERA.

The Cardinals’ injured closer will get no more opportunities this year, but there are certainly plenty of experiences that are worthy of review.

Most of our issues against the quality teams fall in one of two buckets.  We have the veterans who are surprisingly under-performing.  And we have the young players – and this team’s chances are strongly linked to quite a few key performers who have relatively little experience – working through their learning curve.

Both of these are issues that can improve.  Actually, they are issues that should improve as the season wears on.  The question is: will they?

Searching for a Stopper

Last night was an evening like so many others so far in the 2019 season.  Entering play, St Louis sat 2.5 games behind the division-leading Cubs, and just 1.5 games behind second-place Milwaukee.  Both of those two worthies extended an opportunity to the Cardinals as they both lost.  Meanwhile, the home-standing birds took a 3-1 lead after two innings.

The last time the Cards had played was the Sunday night game against the Angels.  After falling behind 6-0, they put on a spirited ninth-inning rally that fell just short.  St Louis had won their last 5 games after a loss, and were an OK 20-16 on the season following a loss.

And in the middle of everything was rising superstar Jack Flaherty.  As a rookie last year, Flaherty had gone 8-9 with a 3.34 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 151 innings.  Beyond the numbers, everything about his demeanor suggested a future ace.  He even famously came to the attention of Bob Gibson, the Cardinals’ storied ace of yesteryear.

And yet – as it has so often in this most trying of years – things managed to get away from both Flaherty and the Cards.  When former Cardinal Stephen Piscotty finally knocked him out of the game with an RBI fifth-inning single, Jack’s 92-pitch effort only got him through 4.2 innings at the cost of 7 runs on 9 hits (3 of them home runs).  After absorbing the 7-3 loss (box score) his season record fell to 4-5 while his ERA soared to 4.75.  He is 0-2 with a 7.01 ERA in 5 starts this month.  They have tagged 9 home runs against him in his 25.2 June innings.

Particularly disappointing, Jack seems to have his worst outings in games after a Cardinal loss.  This was the eighth time this season Jack has had the opportunity to play stopper to a Cardinal losing streak.  In those 8 starts, Jack has fashioned 1 quality start.  In the 37.1 innings he’s survived in those games, Flaherty has seen 34 runs scored (33 earned) on 47 hits and 20 walks.  The hits include 9 home runs, 9 doubles and a triple.  His record in the stoppers’ role is 1-4 with a 7.96 ERA.  Those opposing batters succeeded against him to the tune of a .307 batting average and a .556 slugging percentage.

Flaherty, though, isn’t alone struggling in the stopper’s role.  That St Louis is 20-17 after a loss is surprising, considering their starters have been saddled with a 5.03 ERA in those games.  Subtract Dakota Hudson’s efforts (he is 3-0 with a 3.19 ERA in 7 starts after a loss) and the rest of the rotation weighs in at 5.53 when starting after a Cardinal loss.

Jack is just 23 and his future, of course, still very bright.  But the learning curve here seems steeper than it looked last year.  In the meantime, it would be helpful to the cause if some of the other starters could give us a little better response after a loss.

Tyler Webb

Lost in another disappointing loss was another solid inning from lefty Tyler Webb.  He had the ninth, and retired the side in order.  Tyler has been called on 12 times already this month.  He has walked just 2 batters in his 9.2 June innings, contributing to his 2.79 ERA,

Marcell Ozuna

One thing about Marcell Ozuna.  When he starts to heat up, you can’t not notice.  Marcell singled, doubled and walked twice last night to provide opportunities that ultimately were not taken advantage of.  Marcell neither scored nor drove in a run.

However, Ozuna has been to the plate 17 memorable times over the last four games.  He has contributed 3 singles, 1 double, 2 home runs 5 runs batted in 3 walks and a stolen base.  His batting line during this outburst has been .429/.529/.929.  As I said, he tends to draw attention to himself.

While the rest of the offense is scuffling through June, scoring 3.82 runs per game and hitting .228, Marcell is having quite a fine month.  He is now hitting .305 in June with 4 home runs and 12 runs batted in.

Most encouraging is Marcell Ozuna in games after a loss this month.  While the rest of the offense, again, has shown up infrequently (.213 batting average and 3.44 runs per game), Ozuna has come out firing in the nine June games following a loss.  He is hitting .452 (14 for 31) with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 6 RBIs and a .710 slugging percentage.

Paul Goldschmidt

Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Paul Goldschmidt is 0 for his last 9 and is down to .192 for the month (15 for 78).  He still has just 5 runs batted in for the month.

NoteBook

Jack Flaherty’s season isn’t showing the straight-line improvement that might have been hoped for him.  With the 9 hits surrendered last night, he has now given up 78 in his 85.1 innings this year.  He pitched 151 innings last year, giving up just 108 hits.  His runs allowed are now up to 46 (45 earned).  He allowed just 59 (56 earned) all of last year.

And, of course, the three home runs bring him within two of his total for his stellar 2018 season.

The three home runs also brought the team total to 102 through 77 games for the season.  Last year this team allowed the fewest home runs of any major league team – just 144 for the entire season.

Through his injury-interrupted 2018 season, Paul DeJong finished with just 436 at bats.  His 5 last night bring him to 293 already this year.  Keeping him in the lineup has made a difference.  His 2 hits last night bring him to 78 this year – he had only 105 all last year.  DeJong also popped 25 doubles last year, after driving 26 the year before.  Last night’s double was his twentieth.  He now has 139 total bases, closing quickly on the 189 he finished with last year.

This is Why You Always Have to Put the Fish Away

Of course, from the moment Starlin Castro jumped an errant slider for his fifth-inning home run, Jack Flaherty was doomed to be the losing pitcher in the contest.  With Jordan Yamamoto starting for Miami that evening, it was understood that all the Marlins would need would be any kind of run and they would be in great shape.

For Jack, though, his effort in the 6-0 loss (box score) is a kind of microcosm of his season.  Jack ended up pitching 7 innings allowing just 4 hits while striking out 8.  For six innings, he and Yamamoto were matching up in a classic pitchers’ duel.  Through six, Miami had 1 run on 2 hits, and St Louis had no runs on 1 hit – Flaherty had provided a double for his team’s only hit.

With the one-two punch of his fastball and slider keeping the Marlins under wraps, Jack had retired the first 8 batters in the game that he had gotten ahead of in the count – striking out 5 of them.

But the game spun away from him in the seventh, when he had a couple of fish backed up in the count, but couldn’t put them away.

Garrett Cooper opened the inning falling behind 1-2 in the count.  Flaherty’s next fastball wasn’t a terrible pitch, but it didn’t quite jam him, and Cooper laced it into left-center for a double.

Flaherty promptly jumped ahead of the next batter – Brian Anderson – 0-2.  But he hung the 0-2 slider, and suddenly it was a 3-0 Marlin lead.

On other days this kind of performance (3 runs in 7 innings) will usually gain you a victory.  These days in St Louis, though, the offense – such as it is – doesn’t afford much latitude.  In spite of the fact that the team is 9-7 this month, they are hitting a distressing .218 and scoring just 3.75 runs per game.  According to baseball reference, the team’s .656 OPS so far this month ranks them as the third worst in baseball – ahead of only Kansas City and Baltimore, while their batting average is better than only Cincinnati’s (.216).

These days, if you are a starting pitcher in St Louis, it is risky business to fall behind.

Jack – who has lost 3 of his last 4 decisions – has served up 8 home runs over his last 21 innings.

TylerWebb

Although the run didn’t score while he was on the mound, Tyler Webb did serve up the double to left-hander JT Riddle that set Miami’s three-run eighth into motion.  Tyler has now given runs in 3 of his last 6 games.  Over the 4 innings he has pitched in those games, the 20 batters to face him are hitting .400/.444/.667.  Tyler’s ERA for the month of June has risen to 4.26 over 6.1 innings.

JohnBrebbia

One of the team’s great assets in April and May, John Brebbia is scuffling through June.  Most of the real damage done in that eighth inning occurred with John on the mound (he allowed the inherited runner to score, and then added two more of his own runs in just two-thirds of an inning).

John has pitched 8 times this month, and given up runs in 4 of those games.  In 7 June innings, John has been banged for 9 runs (8 earned) on 9 hits and 3 walks.  It all equates to a 10.29 ERA and a .300/.364/.500 batting line.

Offense Dominated Again

Jordan Yamamoto must be thinking the majors are a piece of cake.  He has pitched only two games in the “show” and – not only has he not allowed a run in 14 innings – he has barely been threatened.  In those innings, he has given just 5 hits and 4 walks – a 0.643 WHIP.

Of course, both of those starts have come against the offensively challenged Cardinals.  His next start, I believe, should be in Philadelphia.  He may find out then that it won’t always be this easy.

As for the Cardinals, in an ironic counterpoint to the big hits Flaherty (and Brebbia, for that matter) gave up when they had two strikes on Miami’s hitters, the Cardinal batters couldn’t even taste success when they had the advantage.  St Louis was 0-for-7 against Yamamoto when they were ahead in the count.

The list of struggling Cardinal hitters remains pretty lengthy.

MattCarpenter

Hitless again in 3 at bats last night, Matt Carpenter still looks like he’s getting closer.  He is still hitting just .245 for the month of June.

PaulDeJong

Among the casualties last night was Paul DeJong’s seven-game hitting streak.  During the streak, DeJong hit .367 (11 for 30) and slugged .700.

PaulGoldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt endured another 0-for-4 at the plate.  He has 1 hit over his last 6 games (20 at bats).  For the month of June, Paul’s average has slipped to .179 (10 for 56).

MarcellOzuna

After a torrid start to the month, Marcell Ozuna is also starting to fade.  Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Marcell is just 3 for his last 17 (.176) with no extra-base hits.  Marcell’s last extra-base hit was the ninth-inning home run he hit against Miami’s Adam Conley in the blow-out win back on June 11 (23 at bats ago).

YadierMolina

Yadier Molina was 0-for-3 last night.  Over his last 7 games, Yadi is just 4 for 26, with 3 singles and a double.  He has drawn 1 walk, driven in 1 run, and struck out 7 times over that span, giving him a batting line of .154/.185/.192.

Yadi was behind in the count for all 3 plate appearances last night.  Since his return from injury, Yadi has found himself behind in the count on 46.9% of his plate appearances.

HarrisonBader

Harrison Bader’s hitless streak reached 5 games and 16 at bats after his 0-for-3 last night.  Bader is 9 for 50 (.180) for the month of June.

Bader had one of the at bats against Yamamoto where he was ahead in the count.  In the fifth inning he came up with a runner at first and two outs – the game was still 1-0 at that point.  After taking a ball, Harrison jumped on a fastball down and in and bounced to third.

All season, Bader has been unable to take advantage of being ahead in the count.  He is 2 for 12 this month when ahead in the count (.167) – both singles.  For the season, he is 9 for 42 (.214) when he has the advantage at the plate.  The hits are 7 singles (2 of them of the infield variety), 1 double, and 1 home run – a .310 slugging percentage.

If you don’t make hay when you’re ahead in the count, you will struggle to sustain a decent batting average – one reason Harrison’s has fallen to .220.

NoteBook

Here’s how the recent games have gone.  Last night’s game broke a streak of 5 straight games in which St Louis held the lead at some point.  It was also the sixth of the last seven games that the Cards had trailed in at some point.

Marlins Emphatically Deny Cardinal Sweep

So, if you are a rookie pitcher making his very first major league start – like Miami’s Jordan Yamamoto was last night – the one thing you might ask of your teammates is a little bit of a cushion.

Wish granted.

Before Cardinal starter Miles Mikolas could get out of the second inning, he was behind 5-0, and young Yamamoto carried it from there, slicing and dicing the Cardinal lineup for 7 three-hit, shutout innings.  There were more runs in the Marlins’ tank, but they didn’t need them as they rolled over the Cards 9-0 (box score).

Other than the fact that the game finally ended, there were few positives the visiting team could take from this most recent drubbing.  Few positives, but plenty of lingering concerns.

Be Concerned, Be Very, Very Concerned

As good as Jordan was on the mound, this game adds to a very long trend of offensive futility in St Louis.  Over their last 24 games, the Cards have now been shutout twice; held to 1 run three times; to 2 runs 5 times; and to 3 runs 4 other times.  St Louis is 3-11 in the 14 games where they have scored less than 4 runs.

Over the dismal 24 games, the Cardinals are hitting .214 and scoring 3.50 runs per game.  Manager Mike Shildt’s patience looks like it will have to hold out a little longer.

MattCarpenter

Hitless in 3 at bats last night, Matt Carpenter’s current slump has him with just 2 singles for his last 15 at bats (.133).  He’s had no extra base hits in his last 5 games.

Eleven games ago, Matt was re-installed as the leadoff hitter.  The change hasn’t sparked much.  Matt is hitting .226 (7 for 31) since then.

DexterFowler

After his own 0-for-3 last night, Dexter Fowler is now hitting .140 (7 for 50) over his last 17 games (13 starts). Only 2 of those hits are for extra-bases (he has a double and a home run), leading to just a .220 slugging percentage.

Dexter has drawn just 1 walk in his last 8 games, and is hitting .222 for early June.  In the Cardinal’s 24-game offensive tailspin, Fowler has the lowest average (.153) of any of the regulars.

HarrisonBader

Harrison Bader went 0-for-2 with a walk last night.  He now has just 1 hit over his last 4 games, and is hitting .200 (6 for 30) for the month.  That being said, 5 of the 6 hits have been for extra-bases, and Bader has also drawn 7 walks, so his OPS this month is actually a pretty healthy .875.

MilesMikolas

Loser of 4 games all of last year, Mikolas lost his fourth in a row last night.  Over the five starts, there haven’t been a lot of positive numbers – a 7.03 ERA, a .343/.377/.626 batting line against, and just 2 support runs.  Not a happy combination.

TylerWebb

Tyler Webb is another unsung Cardinal reliever who has been pitching very well of late.  Although he surrendered an inherited runner, Webb was the only Cardinal pitcher last night not to allow a run.

Over 12 innings in his last 10 games, Tyler has given just 2 runs on 5 hits.  The hits have been 4 singles and a double.  He holds a 1.50 ERA over those appearances, with a .132 batting average against, and a .158 slugging percentage against.

While walks have been an issue this year, Webb has walked just one batter over his last 5.1 innings, throwing 67% of his pitches for strikes in those innings.  The last home run Tyler allowed was to Yasiel Puig on April 25.  That was 17.2 innings (and 293 pitches) ago.

JohnBrebbia

A revelation earlier this year, John Brebbia has regressed to the norm with a deafening thud.  Miami put an exclamation point on last night’s win with a three-run home run off of Brebbia.

John has now been scored on in 3 of his 5 June outings – giving up at least 2 runs each time.  For the 4 total innings pitched this month, John has given 7 runs.  Opposing hitters hold a .294/.400/.765 batting line against him, and of the 11 batter to put the ball in play against him, only two have hit the ball on the ground.

Congrats to the Blues

We’ve talked baseball and football here, but until now no hockey.  But last night the St Louis Blues were finally able to lay claim to Lord Stanley’s Cup.

I have often felt that being a Blues fan was the closest a St Louisan could come to knowing what life must be like for Cubs fans.  When the Cubs finally broke their historic jinx a few years ago, I sort of felt that the same karma that had permitted the Cubs championship might take pity on the Blues.

Our jinx wasn’t nearly as long – although at 52 years it was long enough.

Some has been written about the fact that it was the Boston hockey team (the Bruins) on the other end of the ice.  It hasn’t been forgotten around here that the Cards were the opponents when the Red Sox (Boston’s baseball team) broke an impressive World Series jinx of their own in 2005.

The expansion St Louis Blues impressively made the Stanley Cup Finals in each of their first three years in existence – getting swept in each of those three final series – the last time by the Bruins.  At that point it would have been impossible to think that it would be a half century before this franchise would ever win it all.

Congratulations to the entire organization.

NoteBook

Miami was the eighth team St Louis has played this season that came to us after losing its previous series.  The Cards have now won 5 of those series, split 2 others, while losing just one (to the Padres in the opening series at home).  They are 16-7 when they get to play against a team that lost its previous series.

With 5 earned runs allowed last night, Miles Mikolas has been touched for 42 earned runs already this year in 78.1 innings.  He allowed only 63 all of last year (in 200.2 innings).

The home run he allowed was the fourteenth off of Miles already this year.  He allowed 16 all of last year.

No One Comfortable Facing Castillo

It all started much too comfortably for the Cards.  The first five pitches out of Cincinnati starter Luis Castillo’s hands were all fastballs (averaging 97.3 mph).  Matt Carpenter launched the second one over the centerfield wall.  Paul DeJong collected an infield single on the fourth.  The fifth was ball one to Paul Goldschmidt.

It was a less than dazzling start from a highly regarded young right-hander who would end up dominating the Cardinals and earning his sixth victory that night.

In fact, the Cardinals would never score again, and Cincinnati would break St Louis’ four game winning streak, 4-1 (box score).

With his sixth pitch, he threw his first slider of the night.  On his sixth pitch to Goldschmidt, Paul grounded out on a change.

Through the first batter in the third – Goldschmidt, again, who walked – it was Castillo who seemed uncomfortable.  His command of the fastball was inconsistent.  The slider and change also eluded him from time to time.

The first 12 Cardinal batters had 2 hits (including the home run) and 4 walks.  But only the one run.  After that, it was all Castillo.  He set down the last 12 batters to face him – six on strikeouts.

The difference was the growing confidence in and command of that slider (and especially that wipeout change) that allowed him to throw any of his pitches – and throw them for strikes – at any time.  Five of the last six strikeouts came on the change-up (all swinging).   After the first two batters hit the second pitch, only two of the last 22 he faced put either the first or second pitch into play.  DeJong grounded out on an 0-1 slider in the second, and Marcell Ozuna flew out on a first pitch slider in the sixth.

The Cardinals would get plenty of fastballs from Luis (mostly on the corners, and some of them as hot as 98 mph), but they could never tell when, and could never sit on it, even when they were ahead in the count.

Of the 24 batters that faced Castillo in his six innings, 13 got first pitch fastballs, and 5 others got the fastball on the second pitch.  Luis threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of those Cardinal hitters.  Nine of those first pitch strikes were fastballs – and 8 of those were taken for called strikes.

In fact, of the 13 first-pitch fastballs thrown by Castillo, only one was swung at.  That’s quite a trick against a team that’s looking to hit the fastball early in the count.  And evidence that not too many Cards enjoyed a comfortable evening at the plate.

Offensive Difficulties Extended

It was an impressive display from Cincinnati’s best pitcher, but it nonetheless continues St Louis’ on-going offensive struggles.  Since they rang up 14 runs on Atlanta on May 14, St Louis is hitting .215 and scoring 3.76 runs per game over its last 17 games.

Matt Wieters

Matt Wieters is hitting his first little dry spell after inheriting the catching job from the injured Yadier Molina.  In his first 3 games as the starter, Matt went 6 for 11.  But he was hitless in 4 at bats last night, and is now 1 for his last 12 (with 5 strikeouts).

Dexter Fowler

Red hot when he was promoted to the leadoff spot ten games ago, Dexter Fowler immediately plunged into an offensive tailspin reminiscent of 2018.  Hitless last night in 4 at bats, Dexter is 3 for 31 (.097) over his last 10 games.  He finished at .171 in May (12 for 70), and is just 7 for 53 (.132) over the last 17 games.

Michael Wacha

After being knocked around in his first trip out of the bullpen, Michael Wacha entered in the fifth inning of this one and settled things down, looking much more like the Wacha we expected to see this year.  He pitched 2.2 innings, giving no runs of his own (although he did allow an inherited run to score) and showing much improved velocity.

Wacha is still getting an awfully high number of his first pitches hit, and hit hard.  Two of the 7 he faced last night hit his first pitch, and both got singles.  In May, 24 of the 108 batters he faced hit his first pitch – a 22.2% clip that is about double the league average.   Those batters hit .500 (12 for 24) with 3 doubles and 4 home runs.

Tyler Webb

One of the low profile arms in the Cardinal bullpen, Tyler Webb has been throwing quite well of late.  He retired all four batters he faced last night, and over his last 8 innings has allowed just 1 run on 3 hits.  In 11.1 innings in May, Webb posted a 3.18 ERA and a .135 batting average against.

Tyler hasn’t allowed a home run since the last time Cincinnati was in town – on April 26.  That was 55 batters, 13.2 innings, and 227 pitches ago.

NoteBook

Matt Carpenter’s first inning home run meant that St Louis has scored first in 6 of the last 8 games.  They are only 3-3 in those games.

The Cards have now lost the first game of 5 of the last 6 series.  They went 0-3-1 in the previous 4.

With last night’s six-hit effort, the team batting average now slips to .249 for the season.

Finished Birds Show Much Promise

The bottom – when it fell out – fell quickly.  A sensation in August (winning 22 of 28 games), the now very young St Louis Cardinals unraveled in September.  Entering the month, they sported the National League’s second best record, and sat just 3.5 games behind the Cubs for the league’s best mark.  At that point, they were a half-game ahead of Milwaukee for the first wildcard spot, and 3 games ahead of the Dodgers for the last playoff spot.

But at the first hint of September in the air, the delicate flower began to fold.  After winning two of three in early September from Washington, they were still third in the league (and the division) and still had a two-game grip on the last playoff spot.  As they began their last home stand, they still had control of their own destiny – holding that last spot, still, by 1.5 games.

As Milwaukee came into town – with six games left in the season – St Louis sat 87-69, not only still 1.5 games ahead for the second wildcard, but just two behind those Brewers for first wildcard, and just 4.5 behind the Cubs (who they would end the season against) for the potential division title.

The remarkable August had offered them no shortfall of opportunities.

All of these finally wound to an end in the pre-October chill of Wrigley Field as the too young Cardinals were exposed again by the Cubs, 10-5 (box score).  The loss finished a string where the baby birds lost 5 of their last 6 (and that on the heels of a three-game winning streak), 12 of the last 22 following the Washington series, and 15 of the 27 games in September.  Needless to point out, they will not be one of the clubs who will be playing in October.

It is easy, at the end, to be disappointed – and even easier to see where this club needs to get better.  And in future posts, we will look at all of this.  But I think, if we can take a step back and look at this little run in totality, I think we would have to admit that this not-quite-ready-for-prime-time team did more than hold its own.

Remember that of those 16 critical end-of-season games, only 3 were played against a team (San Francisco) that did not make the playoffs.  Of their 27 September games, 19 were against teams that finished with winning records.  Of the 68 games they played after the All-Star Break, fully 50 were against teams that finished the season over .500.  They were 29-21 in those games.  For the season, they lined up 93 times against teams that won more than they lost this year.  Through myriad injuries and significant upheaval, the 2018 St Louis Cardinals fought their way to a 50-43 record against these opponents.

Yes, at the end of the day, the youngsters – the pitchers especially – were not up to the September challenge.  But there was certainly enough promise on display to paint a very hopeful picture for much winning in 2019 and beyond.

Jack Flaherty

Jack Flaherty’s tremendous rookie season ended with something of a thud.  He lasted just 2.2 innings during the finale, serving up 4 runs on 4 hits.  His September ended with just 1 quality start in his last six, an 0-3 record, 18 walks and 2 hit batsmen in his 28.2 innings, and a 5.34 ERA.  There are better things ahead for young Mr Flaherty.  In spite of his shaky September, Jack started 19 games this season against teams that would win more than they lose.  His record in those games was only 5-7, but with a 3.35 ERA and a .198 batting average against.  He struck out 124 in 102 innings – 10.94 per nine innings against winning teams.

Jack is an arm to keep an eye on for next year.

As for his recent struggles, they pretty much mirrored the entire rotation this month.  Cardinal starters finished the month with a 4.60 ERA and just 7 quality starts among their 27 games.

Bullpen Sputters to the End.

The game was still close when Mike Shildt went to get Flaherty.  It was just 3-2 Chicago at the time.  So one last time, for 2018 anyway, Shildt entrusted the game to his bullpen.  The results were consistent with the performance through the rest of this month.  Five-and-a-third innings later, Chicago – in addition to scoring one of the runners that Flaherty had left on base – had scored 6 additional runs (4 earned) on 8 hits – including 3 doubles and a home run – and 3 walks.  Even though the offense eventually scrapped its way to 5 runs of their own, they were never really in it once the pen took over.

The September numbers tell the story.  In 104.1 innings (almost 4 a game), the Cardinal bullpen gave 71 runs (58 earned) on 111 hits including 15 home runs.  They also walked 68 batters.  They finished the month with a 5.00 ERA, a .275 batting average against, and a .376 on base percentage against.

In the 19 games against winning teams that St Louis played last month, the bullpen vulnerability was even more pronounced.  In their 72.2 innings against the Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers, Braves, Brewers and Cubs, St Louis relievers gave 61 runs (49 earned) on 88 hits (including 12 home runs) and 53 walks.  Their 6.07 ERA in those contests was accompanied by a .299/.403/.510 batting line against – a cool .913 OPS.

The bullpen was a concern going into last off-season.  It will be again.

Austin Gomber

Austin Gomber’s trajectory – and season’s end, for that matter – closely mirror that of Flaherty.  Another of the August revelations, Gomber served up 4 runs of his own in two relief innings in the finale.  His damage included allowing his fourth home run in his last 10.2 innings.  Austin ended September with a 9.15 ERA in 19.2 innings that included a batting line against of .356/.408/.578.

TylerWebb

The season’s last two runs allowed were charged to Tyler Webb.  They were both unearned.  All of the last 5 runs that Tyler allowed this year were unearned.

Dakota Hudson

Dakota Hudson did finally get the last out of the sixth inning – but not until after he had allowed both inherited runs to score.  Ten of the last 13 runners that Hudson (a starter in the minors) has inherited have scored.

Jose Martinez

Jose Martinez finished his first season as an April-September (mostly) every-day player with two more hits and a walk.  Martinez came down the stretch with hits in 9 of his last 11 games, getting two hits in six of them.  In those critical games against Atlanta, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Chicago, Jose hit .357 (15 for 42).

Martinez is another interesting decision that the front office will have to make this offseason.  He is no spring chicken (Jose is 30), his power is good but not great (he hit 17 home runs), and he is a shaky defender – although much better in the outfield than at first base.  There is talk of moving him to an American League team where he can DH, but he doesn’t hit for enough power to truly profile as the DH type.

That would also leave right field open, so the Cards would open the season with either Tyler O’Neill, Dexter Fowler, or some combination of both in right.  Unless, of course, they could sign Bryce Harper – something I would have to see to believe.

One thing to keep in mind with Jose.  He led the team in batting average after the All-Star break, as he hit 318 (69 for 217).  He hit .333 after the break last year (49 for 147) which would have led the team if he had gotten a regular’s at bats.

Moreover, he hit .344 (52 of 151) in his 46 second half games against winning teams.  At this point, I’m not convinced that the Cards are a better team without him.

Paul DeJong

Wading through a difficult season, Paul DeJong did, at least, end on a high note.  With his two hits in the finale, Paul ended his season with hits in 4 straight games, and in 12 of his last 13.  For the streak, he hit .302 (16 for 53) with 6 doubles and a couple of home runs.  He drove in 11 runs and slugged .528 over those last 13 games.

Patrick Wisdom

A little too old, perhaps, to be considered a true prospect, Patrick Wisdom (now 27) turned some heads with his bat over the last few weeks of the season.  Whether he has an organizational fit or not makes for a good question, but he certainly took advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves.  With his two hits yesterday, Wisdom finished 7 of his last 18 (.389). 

Also intriguing about Wisdom is that his production went up against the better teams.  It’s a decidedly small sample size, but in his 24 games against winning teams, Wisdom hit .323 (10 of 31) with a double and 3 home runs.  He drove in 8 runs in those 31 at bats and slugged .645 against the league’s better teams.

Wisdom is yet another intriguing piece of the Cardinal future.  That last week of the season confirmed that the future isn’t quite now for this team.  But August wasn’t a complete mirage.

The future here is soon.

NoteBook

From the point where they removed the “interim” label from Shildt’s job title, St Louis went 15-16.