Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to find a meaningful baseball statistic related to team performance that indicates the Cardinals aren’t doomed to mediocrity this season. You may have to ignore small sample size issues and suspend disbelief to do this. We’re talking about data mining a mountain of data with a spork here, so good luck with that.
On offense where they are supposed to remember to do the thing, the Cardinals remain steadfastly committed to not doing that thing. Their 335 runs scored puts them 24th in all of MLB. It seems unlikely that 4.4 runs per game will propel this team into anything other than a wall. After all, the 2016 team scored 4.8 per game and didn’t get to play bonus games after the season.
Surprisingly, the team is 16th in stolen bases with 40 – thanks in large part to Tommy Pham’s 8 steals in just 47 games. The slowest catcher in all of baseball has contributed 5, and a guy who recently spent time in a tee ball league has 5 as well. Don’t let the rank or total fool you though. Their 70.18% success rate ranks 20th. They aren’t really good at stealing bases, but at least they try more than they should?
The team sits 18th in BABIP (.295), 17th in ISO (.166), 17th in average (.253), 15th in OBP (.326), 16th in slugging (.419), 16th in OPS (.745), 16th in wOBA (.319), 16th in wRC+ (95), 13th in BsR (0.0), and 17th in fWAR (8.3). In the march to mediocrity, they’ve found their groove.
They are 14th in HBP with 27, so they aren’t even good at standing still. I don’t even think that’s actually a skill, but if it is, then they are average at it.
The team average with runners in scoring position is .253 which is good for 18th. That .253 is exactly the same as their overall batting average as a team, so if “clutch” is a thing, then that’s yet another thing that they lack. Team OPS with RISP is .759 which is incredibly good if “incredibly good” means “17th out of 30 teams”.
Then there is the team’s defense which theoretically can help prevent other teams from doing that one thing. The team’s 17 defensive runs saved ranks 5th, and that sounds pretty terrific to be honest. Exciting, right? The good news is that Gyorko is worth 10 DRS at 3B. The bad news is that Diaz is worth -9 at SS and Fowler -8 in CF. This is akin to the kid with the 4.0 helping his basketball team maintain a collective 2.5 average, and Diaz is flunking Algebra while Fowler is failing Chemistry.
BONUS: They are 30th in out-of-zone plays (214) and 25th in UZR (-7.8). With the exception of Pham’s time in left field, this team is terrible at going and getting balls put into play. When Mozeliak and Friends decided to focus on defense and athleticism, they succeeded except for the defense and athleticism parts.
Pitching might be the closest to a bright spot to be found, and a team ERA of 4.10 puts them 8th. They are 9th in FIP (4.14) and 9th in xFIP (4.16). Being in the top 1/3 means that they are beating mediocrity for now, but I’ve got a lot of faith that the bullpen will help them get to where they belong in the middle 3rd. The starting pitching that has been solid (like a rock) and boasts top 10 staff numbers which I don’t feel up to regurgitating right now. The bullpen has also been solid too (much like frozen dog poop).
The bullpen ranks 19th in ERA (4.44), 23rd in BABIP against (.308), 23rd in strand rate (70.9%), and 5th in relief losses with 16. If you only know one statistic about the NL Central teams, just know where they rank in relief losses.
The Brewers have the most in MLB with 19, the Pirates are 8th with 15, the Reds are 12th with 13, and the Cubs are 14th with 12. The Reds have the best bullpen record in the division at 13-13. On a positive note, the Cardinals have 22 saves against 11 blown saves, and that conversion rate of 66.67% is good for 4th….in the division.
Responsibility for the loss of a single game may be laid at the feet of a particular player (just ask Miguel Montero), but a losing record almost halfway into the season is a team effort. The Cardinals are a basically a team with a few really good players having great seasons sprinkled among a bunch of solid players (and Brett Cecil) performing below expectations. They can turn things around, but I don’t see anybody leading that turnaround.
When the closest thing you have to a vocal leader is a guy with 549 plate appearances spread across 4 seasons, maybe nobody actually can take that lead. Even if someone does, based on the team’s recent history, I fully expect that they would blow it anyway.
DISCLAIMER: The team doesn’t really suck at everything. They just have some issues with running the bases, lack of speed, throwing, catching, fielding, hitting lefties, hitting righties, and everything that happens after the 6th inning.