Two months in to the Cardinals 2017 season, the doubt is starting to trickle in
May is an interesting time as a baseball fan. It’s too early to despair at your teams bad season but it’s late enough to understand that what you’re seeing on the field is probably what you’ll be getting for the rest of the season. Applying this logic to the Cardinals yields interesting results. After April the Cardinals were 11-12, one month later they’re 24-25, still one game under .500, one and a half games back of first.
So just read the April recap I posted last month and we’re done here. Have a good day!
In all seriousness, it’s pretty remarkable how similar the Cardinals’ April and May were. What do those similarities tell us about how the rest of the season will go? Let’s look at the Pitching, Offense and Defense of the Cardinals and see if or how they’ve changed from the first month of the season
The Offense: Slow and Steady will Probably not Win the Race
Quick! Guess which slash line is the Cardinals offense in May and which is the Cardinals offense in April
Option 1: .258/.329/.413
Option 2: .249/.323/.403
The correct answer is: It doesn’t matter. The Cardinals offense is barely different, and this is a concern considering how slow a lot of their batters started out. Dexter Fowler, Jhonny Peralta, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty all started out slow, but there was hope for an improved May.
However, none of the above players has a slugging percentage above .450. Jedd Gyorko and Tommy Pham, against all odds, are carrying the offense. Gyorko, I should mention, has a BABip of .370. This type of offense is not sustainable.
Fowler has improved from his abysmal April, but his OBP is still under .350, Peralta is virtually unplayable between his offense and defense, Grichuk was just optioned to Class-A and Piscotty continues to struggle behind the plate with a slugging percentage lower than his OBP.
The good news is there’s still plenty of time. Four months of time to be exact. If Tommy Pham continues his breakout and Fowler and Piscotty improve, the Cardinals offense could definitely get better. However, with the personnel the Cardinals have, I just don’t see it ever being great. They just don’t have enough firepower to compete with the heavyweight offenses right now.
The Pitching: Whatever you do, do not go to the Bullpen
Let’s get this out of the way: the rotation has been excellent. Mike Leake continues to impress. Carlos Martinez continues his ridiculous strikeout numbers. Lance Lynn’s looks great post Tommy John. Adam Wainwright is showing he’s mortal but keeping the Cardinals in games, and Michael Wacha is reminding us he’s only 25. The rotation has been one of the best in the majors. If they can keep this going, the rotation might be enough to carry them into the postseason.
Unfortunately, the starters can’t pitch every inning, and that’s where things get messy. The Cardinals bullpen has been atrocious. The only above average reliever so far this season has been Trevor Rosenthal. Tyler Lyons is finally off the DL, so maybe he can provide some stability.
However, it comes down to the rest of the bullpen struggling immensely. Jonathon Broxton, Brett Cecil and Kevin Siegrist cannot get anyone out consistently right now. If you’re Matheny and you’ve burned Rosenthal in the 7th, can you trust anyone to take the 8th before the closer comes in? Two months of a bullpen like this has already taken its toll, as it’s the main factor in the Cardinals sub .500 record.
The Defense: It’s Somehow Worse
Someone please help the Cardinals defense. There’s not even much to write here. You sign bad defensive players, you get a bad defensive team. You may think that Tommy Pham over Randal Grichuk is an improvement, but Pham is not a historically great defender.
Fowler and Piscotty remain meh to bad defensively, and the infield has no standouts save for Jedd Gyorko, somehow the MVP on both sides of the ball for this team. I hate to sound like a broken record but the Cardinals are going nowhere with this defense. It is too hard to sustain success when your defense looks like swiss cheese.
The Cardinals have been lucky to be in a division where nobody is pulling away, but June/July is where the pretenders and contenders start to show themselves. Right now, the Cardinals bullpen and defense have them firmly in the pretender category, but if they can marginally improve both to at least a slightly below average level, then maybe June will be the month they show themselves as contenders.
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