As of this morning, the Cards have played 75 games, winning 40 and dropping 35. While not exactly the middle of the season, 75 games is more than enough to get a feel for this team, good and bad. In this article, we’ll take an in depth look at the Cardinals using a position by position basis (generally) to find out where this team’s strengths lie and which glaring weaknesses need to be addressed before the end of July. Each player’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) will be given at the beginning of the entry to give you a rough estimate of what that player has been worth so far.
In order to start this post off on a positive note, we will first look at the starting rotation which has been stellar this season. The Cardinals primary five (Wainwright, Wacha, Lynn, Miller, and Garcia) have combined to start 67 of the Cards 75 games this season, with the first four guys each having 15 starts under their belt. Adam Wainwright of course is leading the way for this rotation with a 10-3 record and 2.08 ERA. Waino is having another Cy Young caliber season just as we expected from him so there’s not much else to say here. On a more surprising note however, Michael Wacha has the same number of quality starts as Waino with 12, but his record sits at a mediocre 5-5. This contradiction just goes to show how meaningless the wins has become. Probably the most interesting stat of all regarding this rotation is the eerie similarity between Shelby Miller’s and Lance Lynn’s numbers. Both have pitched right at 91 innings, both have 7 wins to show for it, and Miller has a WHIP of 1.32 while Lynn’s is 1.31. Of the two, Lynn has actually proved himself to be the better pitcher this season as he has given up 5 fewer home runs and his strikeout rate per 9 innings of 8.08 is almost two full points above Miller’s. Finally, with Jaime Garcia coming off the DL to anchor the back-end of this rotation, there are no weak spots for the Cardinals. All of these pitchers have proved themselves at the major league level, so the only question remains is if they can remain healthy for the entire season.
So far this season, the Cardinals’ bullpen has been good enough; not exceptional but not disastrous. Granted, they haven’t truly been needed all that much with the starters throwing nearly 63% of the innings this season. Of the five main guys, the numbers can be broken into three groups: 1. Passable 2. Subpar and 3. All-Star caliber. Group one consists of closer Trevor Rosenthal and set up man Seth Maness. While neither have been especially great this season, they have both been above average relievers for the Cards. ERA+, a stat that takes out the effect of a ballpark on a pitcher’s numbers, rates Rosenthal at 111 and Maness at 130 with 100 being the average mark. Rosenthal has also complied a 11.6 K/9 rate which is exactly what you want from your closer. One cause for concern though is Maness’s 5.2 K/9 and 11.8 H/9, indicating that he’s giving up a lot of hits but not pitching out of jams by way of strikeout. Therefore, Maness’s numbers could easily regress in the second half of the season if his luck runs out. Group two consists of journeyman Randy Choate and sophomore Carlos Martinez, both of whom have had their struggles this season. Yesterday, there was cause for speculation that Martinez could move into a spot start role for the Cards, so his bullpen stats may be unnecessary from here on out. Regardless, his ERA+ rates at 89, leaving him just below average, and his 1.72 K/BB rate indicates a lack of control that’s costly from the bullpen. Choate has been by far the worst of the Cards’ relievers with a 5.75 ERA and 65 ERA+, yet his peripheral numbers don’t indicate any sort of drastic regression, meaning his first half stats could be influenced by a fair amount of bad luck. Finally, in group three we have Pat Neshek who has been pitching out of his mind so far this season. Neshek’s 0.89 ERA is almost unfathomable in itself, but his 418 ERA+ shows just how incredibly important he has been. Neshek has been over 4 times more valuable than your average reliever. Not only that, but his 7.5 K/BB rate is the best of any Cards’ reliever.
Outside of Matt Adams, this group has been relatively average all season long offensively. Sure, Yadi’s outstanding defense makes him a very valuable asset to this team, but his bat as been a tick above average at best and fails to compensate for the rest of the group. So far Adams is hitting .318/.328/.498 with his Slugging % truly carrying this team over the past week. Yadi is hitting a respectable .287, and his OBP actually surpasses that of Adams at .341. Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta have been relatively equal so far this season with Carpenter out hitting Peralta .281 to .236, but Peralta out slugging Carpenter .425 to .378. Finally, Kolten Wong has been the weak link of this infield, barely playing above replacement level and only hitting .228. Currently Wong is on the DL, so hopefully he can reclaim those flashes of true potential he showed in late May when he is healthy.
Much like the infield, the outfield so far this season has been mediocre, except there are no true standouts offensively. One of the larger disappointments so far this season has been Matt Holliday, who has lacked the standout power he is normally known for. Holliday only has 5 home runs and 18 doubles for a slugging % of .388, good for fourth out of the starting nine. While still an above average player, Holliday offers very little in the field and an aging bat may make him expendable at the trade deadline. Peter Bourjos, acquired in the offseason from the Angels, has been a disaster so far this season. He’s “hitting” .204 with a .276 OBP which has led Manager Mike Matheny to start giving more and more playing time to Jon Jay who has quietly been having a very nice season. Jay is hitting a full .1oo better than Bourjos at .304 and is slugging better than Holliday at .399. If he is able to maintain this production, Jay will likely be the starting CF for the remainder of the season. Finally, Allen Craig has been serviceable in RF so far this summer. With numbers on par with Holliday, Craig hasn’t been the best hitter, but he also isn’t past his prime like Holliday. If he can cut down on his strikeouts, Craig may become an above average player, but right now his OPS+, an indicator of overall production, sits at 88 with the average being 100.
Overall, this club has superb pitching but pedestrian hitting so far. With a key trade at the deadline to strengthen this outfield or fill the void at second base, this club could easily make a run to the Series. Until then though, it seems like the Redbirds are destined to sit near .500 and hope for a wild card playoff berth.