Let’s see how far we have to go to have the Cardinals average three runs a game over that span. Three runs a game isn’t much–after all, we noted earlier in the year that they have only a handful of wins with three or less runs, which isn’t terribly uncommon around the league–but I think that highlights the biggest of the problems.
Last night, they scored one run against San Diego. 1/1=1.
Wednesday, they were shut out by Oakland. 1/2=0.5.
Tuesday, they got three runs against the A’s. 4/3=1.33.
Sunday, they got four late against the Angels. 8/4=2.
Saturday, they put up four against Los Angeles. 12/5=2.4.
Friday, they scored five in Albert Pujols‘s return. 17/6=2.83. Almost there!
Thursday, they got six in extras against the Marlins. 23/7=3.29.
So over the last week’s worth of games, they’ve scored an average of just over three runs. (And five of those were directly the result of a misplay from the opponent, two against the Angels on Saturday and all three against Oakland on Tuesday. Take those out and it’s 2.6 per.) That number would drop if you went back a couple, since they scored zero and two the games before that. We’ve talked about runs and hits averages for the various months before, but here’s where they stand now:
Honestly, I’m surprised that they are averaging 7.5 hits a game this month. It doesn’t much feel like that, does it? They’ve had seven games of 10 or more hits of the 24 and nine of 5 or less, so it’s not exactly an even distribution.
The problem also is WHEN they are getting these hits. Allen Medlock and I talked about this last night, though I don’t remember if it was during the most recent Meet Me at Musial or not. How often have the Cardinals gotten the first two outs of an inning, then gotten a couple of hits to put runners perhaps on the corners, only for someone to then make the third out? Look at the run they scored last night, for example. Jose Martinez started the inning off with an out, then Yadier Molina singled. Harrison Bader followed that with a lineout to center. Right there, with a runner on first and two outs, your expectation of scoring a run has to be very small. Even when Kolten Wong doubled, as Allen pointed out, most anyone but Molina would have scored. Instead, hits came at the wrong time and that put two on but with two out for the starting pitcher. 95% of the time, that means the threat is over. Thankfully Michael Wacha legged out an infield hit and a run scored, but you see where I’m coming from, I hope.
Maybe it was even more notable a couple of innings before, where the Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out, but then had 8-9-1 coming up. You should still be able to get something out of that, but it’s not as surprising that you don’t.
And all of THAT is tied into the fact that the top of the lineup, the 1-2-3 guys, go 0-4 way too often. Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Paul DeJong combined to go 1-13 with a walk. If some of these guys could start hitting, you’d have more opportunities to see the middle third of the order come up with runners on rather than becoming the runners themselves and hoping the bottom half can drive them in.
If all of that wasn’t enough, the one guy that was producing at least something on the regular, Marcell Ozuna, dove back into first last night and messed up his hand, seemingly fairly severely. Which is bad for a whole host of reasons. One, you hate to see anyone get hurt but especially a guy like Ozuna, who has shown his personality and been much more fun to watch this season. Two, that takes away that significant bat in a lineup that really can’t afford it, though we’ll see if Tyler O’Neill can bring some of that power he shows in Memphis to the bigs with regular playing time. Three, even if you wanted to do a soft sell and try to trade Ozuna before the July 31 deadline for some prospects, that’s probably out of the window now. Ozuna’s on the IL until at least the All-Star Break, perhaps longer. Then he’d have to build some value back up. Not that I believe the Cards really would trade him, but that seems out the window now.
Let’s go ahead and assign our Hero and Goat for last night for record-keeping purposes. I’ll give the Hero to Yadier Molina for his three hits, but Michael Wacha made a strong case, keeping the Padres off the board until Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eric Hosmer–two solid bats, at least–touched him for back-to-back solo homers in the sixth. Wacha for the most part was quite good and it reminds me a bit of the Dakota Hudson situation from earlier in the year. The results were terrible, the numbers didn’t work, and everyone (and I’m in that number, don’t get me wrong) clamored for him to be demoted. Then he turned it around and, for whatever reason, is one of the best pitchers on the staff now. Wacha is starting to go in that direction. I don’t know that he’ll be as good as Hudson was, but he’s put together enough good outings that it’s not a “why is he still in the rotation” situation.
Normally, when there’s doubt about the Goat I go with the leadoff hitter to break ties, but I’m not quite ready to do that to Tommy Edman for last night. For one, it was just his second start at the leadoff spot and he about had a two-RBI infield hit before it was overturned on review. He also made at least one nifty stab over at third base. Of course, if I don’t go with him, it probably falls to Paul Goldschmidt.
I feel like I beat up on Goldschmidt a lot and I really don’t want to. I am glad that the Cardinals got him and I still hold out hope that the extension they signed him to will be a positive. But there’s been a lot of 0-for nights for Goldschmidt and some of the swings he takes look miserable. He struck out on a pitch well off the outside corner last night, which lead Joe Schwarz to put this Tweet out there:
Goldschmidt has his mind made up that he’s swinging at a pitch of late and refuses to adjust when it’s in an obviously unhittable. It’s really weird. That shouldn’t be a skill that disappears so quickly.
— stlCupofJoe (@stlCupofJoe) June 29, 2019
Which checks out. It feels at times that Goldschmidt thinks he has to do something and will be swinging even when the pitch isn’t close. For the month of June Goldschmidt is hitting .186 with just six extra base hits and 22 strikeouts against 10 walks. Maybe he’s feeling the pressure to be the guy, maybe there’s something else, heck, maybe he just needs his eyes checked out (it’s been a thing before with Cardinal players). But whatever the case Goldschmidt needs to at least be an approximation of what the Cardinals thought they were getting when they traded for him.
Also, the month of June last year, Goldschmidt hit .364 with 10 homers. Even if you want to say he’s a slow starter (which really wasn’t born out by the overall numbers, I don’t think) he’s off his pace from last year. You can say the same about Matt Carpenter as well and it makes the extensions for both of those guys look a little dicier than we were hoping.
Cards get at it again tonight with Dakota Hudson on the mound. If they aren’t able to put enough runs up for him to get the win, they’ll have gone a week without one, finish the first half as a sub-.500 team, and will be continuing to rely on the kindness of strangers to stay in the division race. Let’s hope they can get the win tonight and start a better stretch of baseball than we’ve seen….well, since April.