Predictability Goes Both Ways

Yesterday, we spoke about how seeing a less-than-impressive Cardinals lineup against a good pitcher meant that they probably would break out and score a lot of runs and, indeed, they got to Stephen Strasburg and company for 14.  However, even during that game, many fans on Twitter were saying something to the effect of “Guess they aren’t scoring tomorrow.”  Do we know our Cardinal baseball or what?

In fairness, Joe Ross is a pretty solid pitcher, or at least has been in my mind.  Looking at the stats, it appears I remember the early Joe Ross rather than the one of the last few years.  Ross didn’t play in 2020 and has 5 ERAs (and fairly equivalent FIPs) the three years before that.  So maybe not as much, though he has thrown now 11 scoreless innings to start 2021 and, after yesterday, has a career 2.86 ERA in six games (four starts) against St. Louis.  No wonder I think he’s good–he almost always seems to be against the Redbirds.

Still, he’s not good enough that you’d think there’d be a 14 run drop.  Paul DeJong wasn’t in the lineup, but given his recent struggles that is not enough to make you think the offense is going to take a hit.  Dylan Carlson didn’t start either, which had more of an impact, but you had the top of the lineup plus Yadier Molina, celebrating his 2,000th start, with Adam Wainwright on the mound.  Things should have been better than they were.

The offense had a few opportunities late, but they were climbing a steep hill.  Wainwright gave up a two-run shot to Ryan Zimmerman in the third–someone pointed out with Wainwright, Zimmerman, and Molina in the same shot, there was about 50 seasons represented and all with the same team, something that’s pretty rare–and got nicked for two runs in the fifth, in part to Lane Thomas‘s only recorded error.  We’ll get back to Thomas later.  So it wasn’t Wainwright’s best game, but it was a solid one and probably in line with what you should expect from the hurler.

Which made Mike Shildt’s decision to pinch-hit for him after five a little head-scratching.  Wainwright was at 85 pitches and the bottom of the lineup was coming up.  The Cards were down four and Wainwright was up third, which meant his spot wasn’t going to be a key one in the inning.  Not to say that it’s a bad idea to take a solid five from Wainwright, but we started this series with Shildt letting Gant bat in a closer, more high leverage situation because he wanted to save the bullpen.  The bullpen went four innings that night anyway and four last night.  I’m sure the off day today played into it, but you would think that Shildt might try to get another inning out of the veteran and not tap the bullpen again.  It backfired at the plate as well as John Nogowski rapped into a double play to end the frame.

Speaking of, I’m starting to wonder if Nogowski is a spring training mirage or, more charitably, if he’s needs more regular time to produce.  That’s what he had in spring, of course.  This season, he got a hit in his second game but is 0-6 since.  It’s a really small sample and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was able to turn it around, but it’s something to watch.

Just like last night it was hard to find a Goat, this time around it’s hard to find a Hero.  The club only got four hits, spread out among four different people.  We’ll go with Tommy Edman because he went 1 for 3 with a walk, putting him on base more than anyone else.  Edman wasn’t perfect, though.  He came up in the seventh with two outs and the bases loaded, but popped out to end the threat.  A hit there brings in a run or two and brings up Paul Goldschmidt (and possibly Nolan Arenado) but it was not to be.

The Goat is a little easier.  I didn’t get to actually watch the game, being at work during it, but following Twitter it was pretty clear Lane Thomas had a rough day in the field to go along with his 0-4 at the plate.  He was only charged with one error, overrunning a hit by Juan Soto that allowed a run to score and Soto to wind up on third.  However, from what I gather, he misplayed a ball that led to a Starlin Castro double in the second and his miscommunication with Austin Dean in the eighth gave Trea Turner a double and the Nationals another run.

We saw some really bad decisions made by Thomas last year, but retroactively we heard about how hard COVID had hit him and how much of a fog he was in much of the year after returning, so that made it a little easier to understand.  He’s well removed from that now, of course, and trying to understand some of what he does is more baffling and concerning.  Perhaps we should have taken more from the fact that the club kept saying Tommy Edman was the backup center fielder even though there was Tyler O’Neill and Thomas as options.

It’s possible that Thomas would go back to Sauget when Kwang Hyun Kim is activated on Saturday.  However, that would leave Austin Dean as the only alternate outfielder if you are assuming Edman plays outfield regularly.  I like Tommy Edman, but I’d much rather him at second, though I realize Matt Carpenter‘s probably going to get a run there for a bit given his hard hit ball data.  Still, it seems like the outfield would be pretty thin if you sent down Thomas.  Hopefully O’Neill is recovering well and will be ready to return in the middle of next week.

Cards get the day off before taking on the Phillies tomorrow night.  I’ve got a series preview going up at the Substack later this morning, though if you are a subscriber it’ll show up in your inbox.  Hopefully they can get well against a team that’s also struggling around .500!

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