We Need Another Term for “Feast or Famine”

We’ll catch up on the last few games, the Heroes and Goats and all the rest, in a little bit.  I just wanted to throw out some numbers about the up-and-down offense, to see if it’s really as much of a problem as it has seemed to be the last week.  Anytime you go from double digits to almost nothing that “feast or famine” thing gets tossed out there and right now, that’s a very overused term when relating to the Cardinals.

So let’s look at a few things.  Whether they mean anything or not is up to you.

One thing I looked at the variation in runs scored on a nightly basis.  The Cards have had some wild swings, of course, but honestly looking at the changes they aren’t as wild as I thought.

Change (+/-) Games
0-1 13
2-3 10
4-5 9
6+ 10

Without doing this for every team, something I’m not at all interested in doing, it’s hard to know if this distribution is normal.  And this is the change in runs–that Pirates series saw a +17, a -16, then a 0.  That zero change didn’t make you feel much better, even if it was more consistent.  Let’s map out the runs.

This makes it a little clearer that the fluctuations have gotten much more extreme over the past month.  The Cardinals were not shut out until May 3.  Since then, they have been shut out two other times, meaning a quarter of their last 12 games have seen them with the goose egg.  Also in that 12 game span?  Their two highest scoring outputs of the season.  Because of course.

Even those large scoring games can’t make up for the weakening in the offense.  Marcell Ozuna has come back to earth, Kolten Wong hasn’t been quite what he was the first few weeks, and Matt Carpenter (and truly Paul Goldschmidt) have never really gotten on track.  Here’s the average scoring per month for the Cardinals:

Month Games Average Runs
March 4 4.75
April 25 5.56
May 14 4.43

Maybe you could get away with a little inconsistency in the offense if the pitching staff were rocking along, but I believe we both know that isn’t happening.  “Neat” little factoid I picked up looking this up?  The Cardinals have not won a game yet this year where they scored fewer than three runs.  They’ve only one a three-run game once.

Runs Scored Games Record
0-2 10 0-10
3-5 17 9-8
6-9 11 9-2
10+ 5 5-0

What does this all mean?  Heck if I know. I can understand the idea of trying to get a large enough sample to determine what works and not to be swayed by a bad week or so.  That said, it seems pretty clear right now that the lineup can be tinkered with and it won’t cause a major rupture in the space-time continuum.  Trying out Dexter Fowler at leadoff for a couple of series isn’t going to make things get worse.  Obviously they can produce–we’ve seen those double digit outputs–but maybe a shuffle can help create something that’s a bit more sustainable.

Anyway, that’s a lot of basic math and data tabulation.  I’m sure the real sabermetricians can come up with something better and much more insightful.  On to the games.

Friday (2-1 loss to Pittsburgh)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  You can tell me that it’s smoke and mirrors and I’ll completely believe that, but you have to tip the hat when the results are this strong.  Seven innings and the only blemish was a leadoff home run by Adam Frazier.  Waino struck out eight as well and gave the team chance after chance to win.  I know that it’s not likely to keep up and I know there’s a strong possibility these good outings are leading to more rope for ugly ones, but it’s really nice to see a good line for Uncle Charlie.  Of course, there was that bunt with runners on the corners and one out that didn’t make any sense, but we can’t lay that at his feet.  Wainwright (as he always does) wanted to swing away.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  While Andrew Miller came under strong consideration, the fact that Carpenter went 0-5 and left four men on in such a tight game has to win the day, as it were.  If he cashes in on just one of those chances, things might have gone completely different.

Notes: Watching this game, it felt like one of those times where eventually the Cards would break through.  They’d put runners on early but not get the big hit.  I completely expected them to eventually open the floodgates, but Trevor Williams and the bullpen did a great job of never letting the dam open.  Which makes for a real frustrating game, even more so than games like Saturday.

The Cardinals tied up the game in the bottom of the seventh, but Miller immediately let the Pirates back on the board in the eighth.  In fairness, at least one of the hits from the Pirates was on a pitch well off the plate and I don’t think anything was really hit hard against him, but that’s baseball.  The run snapped a four-appearance scoreless streak and, at least by most eye test measures, Miller seems to be doing much better.  Batters are hitting .185 against him over the past 28 days and since April 23 (counting his appearance Saturday as well) he’s posted at 2.70 ERA and a .470 OPS against.  It’s still not classic Andrew Miller, but it seems to be getting closer.

No extra base hits in this game for the Cardinals, but Paul Goldschmidt had three singles and Marcell Ozuna had two.  Jose Martinez had two walks.  12 runners in a game really should produce more than one run, especially the day after scoring 17, but that’s nothing we’ve not seen before.

Saturday (2-1 loss to Pittsburgh)

Hero: Miles Mikolas.  Not a lot to choose from, though Mikolas might have gotten it anyway with another strong performance.  I think we’d take two runs in seven innings with seven strikeouts every time out, wouldn’t we?  And this was actually his worst line for May, meaning that a lot of those early season worries are behind us.  He’s got a 2.45 ERA over his last five starts and that includes giving up four to Cincinnati at the end of April.  Mikolas seems to have made whatever adjustments necessary to keep at the top of his game.

Goat: Marcell Ozuna.  0-4 with five men left on base.  When there are only two hits and five walks for the offense, that’s a lot to leave on.  Ozuna struck out in the first with Paul Goldschmidt aboard, grounded out in the third with Paul DeJong on second having driven in what turned out to be the only run of the game, lined out with nobody on in the sixth, and grounded out with the bases loaded in the eighth.  Since the start of the Cubs series, Ozuna is 6-48 (.125) with one home run.  Right now, the old label Dexter Fowler had seems to apply here: he go, they go.

Notes: Another day, another questionable bunt choice.  After Kolten Wong had led off the eighth with a walk, Yairo Munoz pinch-hit for John Gant.  Now, if you have a pinch-hitter, the expectation would be that he hits.  After Munoz fouled off the first pitch, he was called down to the third base coach’s box with what everyone in the world assumed was a notification that he missed the bunt sign.  Sure enough, he pops up the next pitch as he tried to move Wong along.  It would seem, if you really wanted to move Wong over, that you would leave Gant in to bunt or perhaps get another pitcher up there to do it.  If you bring in a guy like Munoz, who is in the big leagues because of his bat, it would seem to make sense to let him hit.  Maybe hit and run, maybe let Wong steal if you are that worried about the double play, but don’t give away the out especially with a guy that isn’t asked to do it often.

Another solid day for Goldschmidt, who had one of the two hits and two of the five walks plus scored the only run.  It’s still not the power we’d like but he has a 1.077 OPS in the last week, which gives a lot of credence to the idea that he’s starting to come around.

Also Jordan Lyles tossed my son a baseball after he was done warming up before a start in AA so I’m never going to be too mad when he has a good game.

Sunday (10-6 loss to Pittsburgh)

Hero: Jose Martinez.  Three hits including a two-run bomb that looked to ice the deal for the Cardinals early.  (That said, his defense didn’t help keep that lead solid.)  He also singled and scored in the first as the Cards rallied out of their early hole.

Goat: John Brebbia.  Everyone’s going to have a bad day and this was Brebbia’s.  After Tyler Webb walked one and hit one to start the seventh, Brebbia came in and immediately allowed a home run to Josh Bell to tie the game up.  That was bad enough, but he followed that with two doubles and a walk that led to two more runs.  The Pirates tacked on more late but the game was decided right there for the most part.

Notes: Dakota Hudson had a terrible first and then righted the ship a little bit, throwing five scoreless frames after that.  However, even as he’s been able to do a little better about keeping runners from scoring, there are still a lot of issues with him.  For the season, lefties have a 1.205 OPS against him.  His WHIP in May–which has been his good month so far–is 1.588.  His strikeouts per nine is down from April and his walks per nine is up.  But the most insane stat has to be this: when he’s behind in the count, hitters have a .460/.583/.778 slash line.  That’s in 85 plate appearances!  Those numbers should not be that ridiculous after about 10-20 PA.  And next up for Hudson is Globe Life Park in Arlington where Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo are waiting.

Look, I get that the depth is an issue now that it’s being used in the bigs.  I get that you could argue that Michael Wacha has been as big of a problem and Adam Wainwright might become one.  You can say that Austin Gomber is succeeding in Memphis because he’s better than AAA pitchers.  Right now, though, isn’t it worth dropping Hudson to Memphis to work on some things and bringing up Gomber to see if he’s figured something out?  Continuing to run Hudson out there, especially in a rotation that is struggling, doesn’t make it seem like winning this year is as strong of a priority as indicated.

Paul Goldschmidt homered for the first time in a while as part of another two-hit day.  The only other extra base hit was from Yairo Munoz who doubled.  That seems to be a recurring thing lately as well, though I am not going to dig into it.  Even when there are a lot of hits, they seem to be a majority (if not entirely) singles.

Tuesday (14-3 win in Atlanta)

Hero: Yadier Molina.  One of his two hits was a three-run homer in the fifth that was a knock-out blow to the Braves (or at least seemed to be, though they put up a small rally in the bottom of the frame).  His other hit was a double, which means that last sentence in the prior game wrapup is already kinda silly looking.

Goat: With the offense being productive up and down the lineup, I guess I’ll give the tag to Jack Flaherty.  Flaherty actually was pretty good save for the fifth inning when he gave up two of his walks and all three of his hits.  Still, the overall line gave him a quality start (there’s been a lot made of the fact that, if Michael Wacha had gone another inning last night, the Cardinals would have had five straight quality starts.  Of course, they’d have only won one of them, so maybe that’s not a huge thing) but just barely and he almost walked as many as he struck out.  It’s not the most egregious Goat game I’ve ever seen, but somebody’s got to wear it.

Notes: Four homers and two doubles.  That’ll do for extra base hits, won’t it?  Dexter Fowler, Kolten Wong, and Marcell Ozuna (who started it all off with a three-run blast in the first) all went yard as the club put up 14 hits and drew seven walks.  Now if they could only figure out how to spread this good fortune out, we wouldn’t have to keep using our FoF phrase.

Nice night by the bullpen as well as Giovanny Gallegos, Dominic Leone, and Luke Gregerson combined for three innings, no hits, and just one walk.  Very good to see Leone starting to come around again and it probably bought Gregerson a little more time to see if there’s something there.  Gotta think Tyler Webb gets the short end of the stick when Carlos Martinez returns this weekend.

Wednesday (4-0 loss in Atlanta)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  Man, it’s hard to find a Hero when the starter is iffy and the lineup produces three hits.  Wong had one of those hits in two at-bats and drew a walk in his other plate appearance.  Wong plummeted after his strong start but he’s hitting .318 over his last six games with two doubles and a home run.  Hopefully this upswing can continue.

Goat: Marcell Ozuna.  0-4 and he left three men on.  Paul Goldschmidt also left three on, but he drew two walks.

Notes: Another game, another data point in the idea that Michael Wacha isn’t necessarily helping this team.  He actually limited Atlanta to just two runs and one of them was unearned, but he allowed four hits and walked four in five innings.  Putting eight runners on in that sort of time frame is asking for trouble.  Of course, you can’t actually do anything with Wacha if he’s healthy.  He’s got no options and it would be very out of character if they released him.  I don’t think moving him to the bullpen would be a real help either.  With Hudson struggling as well, you have to figure any changes happen there first.  Hopefully Mike Shildt can just make sure Wacha limits the damage and doesn’t try to push him far past five innings, even if the results are good.

John Gant gave up a big home run late that sealed the game, but like we said with Brebbia, occasionally that’s going to happen.  Unfortunately, home runs happen way too often to this staff, as they lead the NL in long balls given up.  I guess the good news (maybe) is that the Brewers are close and there are four AL teams worse than them, which is better than the last time I checked in on this stat.  The Cards have allowed 66, the Brewers 63.  Interestingly enough, the rest of the NL Central: Chicago 43, Pittsburgh 43, Cincinnati 37.  That pitching makeover in Cincy really has worked so far.

Cards try to take the rubber game with Wainwright on the mound tonight.  That could go really well or it could go really bad.  If the offense again goes dormant, it’s really not going to matter.

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NL Central Standings

TeamWLPct.GB
Cardinals9171.562 -
Brewers8973.5492.0
Cubs8478.5197.0
Reds7587.46316.0
Pirates6993.42622.0

Last updated: 09/30/2019

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