Every sensible Cardinals fan knew going into this series against the Dodgers that a split would be just fine. After Sunday’s one sided Clayton Kershaw infused beatdown, the Cards were left with a 4-6 road trip and losers of 3 out of 4 at Chavez Ravine. After splitting the first two games via hardened pitching duels, the Cards got washed out in the last two games by the bloody tally of 15-1. It only gets worse when you look at the score of the entire series, 17-4. Yikes. The Cardinals thankfully have boarded a flight and escaped L.A.! I will talk about the pitching of Shelby Miller over at Arch City Sports this morning. Here, I am going to talk about those troubled bats.
Does this make Cardinals Management climb to the top of the tower and ring the bell? Will the white towel be thrown into the ring? Is there a battleship face like skype message going on between John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny right now? Let’s break down the action and where the mind is at right now on this criminally inconsistent baseball team?
What was the team’s record after June in 2013? 49-32, and this came after a 14-14 month of June. The month that helped last year’s ballclub was a 20-7 May performance after an alright April(15-11). This team sits at 44-39 as the month of June wraps up in 2014. Speaking of the Dodgers, they were spiraling out around this time last season, and then they called up Yasiel Puig to action and the team took off. That runs me straight into a popular topic.
The Oscar Taveras Conversation, Part 435
How about Oscar, Mr. Mozeliak? When I asked the question a week ago, here was Mo’s response.
“I look at Oscar multiple ways. When the injury happened to Matt Adams, it opened a situation up where there was no competing over playing time. The one thing that was interesting was, first day he hit a home run and the next day he got a single. Some people said, “he’s here for good.” They were hoping he would play so well that he would be here for good. Now the question becomes, and I don’t make the lineups, is how do you balance the playing time of Oscar. My one note to Mike was, if he is here he has to play. He can’t be gaining service time and sitting on the bench four days a week. Matheny was concerned about getting him playing time. Also, concerning his ankle injury from last year, getting him every day at bats is in his best interests. I felt like he wasn’t going to play here 5 days a week here, then he had to go back. There are peaks and valleys you are going to have to accept. There’s a lot of talent on this club struggling through those peaks and valleys as well. I get it when people write about it and complain about it. We are frustrated as well. If we could put the team out, it would be great. I will say this. He is an amazing player. When he’s here next, I imagine it will be for good.”
That is mighty logical and even a tad politically correct answer. However, as I ponder the question myself, tonight, I can only think of the impact Oscar could have on this team if he was able to play 7 games in a row. Is it time to call up Oscar and reenlist the young slugger in this lineup? I understand why Daniel Descalso and Shane Robinson are on this team and Oscar is not. The first two are not full time players and the latter has to be. I get that with wholeheartedly conviction. However, how much longer do you give Allen Craig every day at bats? He isn’t taking off. He is hitting a steady .255 with 6 HR and 40 RBI, and after a rough LA series, one may ask is it time to split up his starts with Oscar? That doesn’t work entirely because you want Oscar to start everyday, and that could only happen if you mix Taveras into left and center field. Craig isn’t having a terrible season but one that isn’t meeting larger expectations. When you drive runs at a ridiculous rate(189 RBI in 253 games during 2012-13), the magnification on your stat line will carry more intensity. Craig isn’t producing at that rate and isn’t improving. After a solid May, he has regressed, hitting .255 with twice as many strikeouts(20) as RBI(10). Take away a hot series against Washington at home and Craig had a dismal June. Where do you go from here if the option isn’t bringing up Oscar from Memphis?
I would STILL rather see Oscar here. Craig has tormented righthanded pitchers in the past and could collect at bats against them as Oscar hits against lefties. You could platoon Oscar in right field with Craig while sneaking Taveras into left field to rest Matt Holliday and bump a start from either Jon Jay or Peter Bourjos. That would give him 5 starts. I said this a few weeks ago and still think it now. However, this won’t happen. The Cards will stick with Allen, push Holliday and stay with the center field platoon because they think the sanctuary lies in your key veterans. Well, what if those veterans aren’t improving?
Craig had a bad month of June. How about others?
Holliday-The offensive regression is getting more real by the week. His downfall continues. In past seasons, Holliday perked up as the weather got warmer. He hit .244 in June, and has his slugging percentage sitting at .385. That is comparable to Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton. Holliday’s midseason numbers are .264 average at the plate, 5 home runs and 39 RBI. His strikeouts have increased this year and his power has taken a serious hit. While he was never supposed to be Pujols, Holliday is expected to do more than this.
Yadi Molina-After a strong start to the season, Molina fell down a hill in June. He hit .210 for the month and only drove in 5 runners and struck out 11 times. Could the wear and tear on the knees be affecting Molina’s swing or is he having a down year at the plate?
Jhonny Peralta-While he did drive in 12 runners in June, Peralta only hit .250 and struck out 19 times. He is hitting .241 with solid power stats but can’t carry one leg of this offense. He has done a fine job overall but his hitting isn’t exactly taking off.
Jon Jay cooled off on the road trip. Peter Bourjos got a couple starts and found himself lost on the basepaths. Matt Adams cooled off in LA as well. Point being, the team isn’t taking off at the plate. The veterans aren’t getting it done.
Here’s the biggest question. Are the Cardinals hitters experiencing an off year at the plate? Are Craig and Holliday showing us the future of their production or simply just having a bad season? Is Molina going to keep losing the sharpness of his swing as the innings pile up behind the plate? Are the constant cold streaks at the plate unearthing a bigger picture that many fans don’t want to see? It’s ugly. The run production in June wasn’t horrible but the win totals aren’t improving.
June Quick Stats-
Swept Opposing Team-1
# of Games Cards Were Shut Out-4
# of Games Cards Shut Out The Opponent-5
Scored 5 runs or more-10
Scored 3 runs or less-14
While some trends are impressive, most of them tell the same old story. This Cardinals offense is stuck in stagnant mode. There is no true sign they will break out. It’s not early anymore. The excuses are running dry. Something has to be done to boost this offense. While the typical easy answer is to demand more of the current roster occupants, what if they have given all they possibly could? What if the talent on this team’s lineup simply isn’t as good as it was predicted? It’s not a new thing to have a team underachieve in the game of baseball. They don’t play 162 games for nothing.
The Cardinals are stuck in neutral. Sitting 5 games over .500(twice touching their high water mark of 7 games over) on June 30th. They are 6.5 games out of first place and tied for second with the suddenly awakening Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers aren’t going away. The Pirates are right behind the Cards and Reds. The Central division will start to wake up now. That’s bad news for Cardinals fans.
In a month, the trading deadline will appear. Where will the team be and how close will fans be to the ledge? John Mozeliak’s phone will be busy. Hearts and minds will begin to stir in St. Louis. Do you go all in for Giancarlo Stanton to energize your offense or do you make a smaller move? Do you bolster your weakening rotation(Shelby Miller coming off the rails) with David Price? Do you call up Oscar?
So many questions. So much time to think them over as the team travels to San Francisco on an off day. What lies ahead for the Cardinals as the dog days of Summer begin?
My forecast calls for plenty of heartbreak and sleepless (yet tweet happy) nights. This team shows zero signs of taking off. A move must be made. What move? That’s an interesting question that Cardinal Nation will hopefully soon find get an answer to.