I was thinking about how the Cardinals season had ended, and pondering one of those dreary end of the season memorials, but in reality, the season isn’t over, it’s simply moved on to the next phase.
Personally, I usually don’t watch the playoffs unless the Cardinals are in them. To me it’s like rubbing salt in the wound. (This season was an exception, as I’m a fan of Billy Beane and his lowest payroll in the league playoff team A’s as I noted in a previous post. Alas, they got knocked out by the Yankees right away. Boo.) Rather than watching, I like to assess what the Cardinals have, and what they need.
For example, the Cardinals might just have something that has been elusive since Adam Wainwright started going downhill, a consistent ace.
Miles Mikolas was good from day one. I mean, the Anchorman look alone made him worth the price, then he started pitching. He gave us a chance every time he went out there (and then some), made the All-Star team, finished 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA, a 1.071 WHIP and 4.3 WAR. Sounds like a #1 starter to me. Looking at the rest of the starters, the key is to look past meaningless stats like wins, as Mikolas was the only starter with double digit wins.
Carlos was good when healthy, same for Michael Wacha, who was having arguably his best season before getting injured. Jack Flaherty and John Gant were pleasant surprises. Luke Weaver struggled but he’s still young. And don’t forget we have a recovering Alex Reyes in out back pocket, provided he can stay healthy when he gets back. So all in all, I think our rotation is solid and we don’t need to waste money there.
The bullpen is another story.
After the Greg Holland fiasco, Bud Norris inherited the closer role as he was the only one with any experience there, and all of that experience came the previous year with the Angels where he had 19 saves (and a 4.21 ERA) According to the stats page, only one of our relievers with more than 50 innings had an ERA below 3.50 (John Brebbia at 3.20). A closer with a high era and no lockdown middle relievers or setup men? Not exactly a formula for back end success.
As far as the offense goes, after a slow start, Matt Carpenter entered beast mode in the 2nd half and carried the offense, ending up with a career high of 36 homers. Other players failed to meet expectations. Tommy Pham suffered from Aledmys Diaz syndrome and was shipped off to Tampa Bay. Dexter Fowler hit below .200 when healthy. Marcell Ozuna was the 2016 version of himself, hitting 23 homers like he did that year. Only problem is we thought we traded for the 2017 version, the one that smacked 37 homers and had a .376 OBP, not an OBP in the .320’s. Yes, Jose Martinez had a solid season, and the emergence of Harrison Bader was cool (though he was noticed more for his defense and speed than his hitting skills) but overall the offense was disappointing.
In the end, we had a solid rotation, a struggling bullpen and a below average offense. There is, however, a wild card. Our manager.
Under Mike Matheny we went 47-46 and were basically counted out. Once Mike Shildt took over, however, we went 41-28 and made some noise all the way until the end of the season. Given how Shildt did with what he had, upper management might want to simply see what he can do with mostly the same crew before making sweeping changes.
Save for adding a bullpen piece or 2, I can see doing that. Our big moves of late (Mikolas wasn’t really considered a big move at the time, more of a gamble) have underperformed, so instead of having something like that happen again, why not step back and simply see if Shildt is as good over a full season as he was in roughly a half season. Once that is assessed, *then* make your moves.
As always, thanks for reading.