Bird Law

Way back at the end of April, over at the Redbird Daily, I took a quick look on the first month’s return on the Cardinals winter trades. Now that we have reached the All-Star break, a symbolic half way point (though the season is technically 58% over), it’s a good time to revisit this topic and see how the situations have changed. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Trade #1 – Diaz to Toronto

Cardinals Get:

J.B. Woodman, OF: (A+) 60 Games, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 7 2B, .259/.333/.396

Blue Jays Get:

Aledmys Diaz, SS: (MLB) 70 Games, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 11 2B, .240/.277/.393, wRC+ 79

Review:

Woodman is looking like the solid organizational depth piece that we assumed he was upon being acquired. He is showing just a touch more HR power than he previously has, being just one shy of his career high of 7, set in 96 games last season. Considering that the Florida State League suppresses offensive numbers, he looks okay. Still, at 23 years old and never being much of a prospect, expectations are low.

Diaz is who we thought he was. His average and OBP are a little behind where he was in 2017, but his SLG, K% and (barely there) BB% are nearly identical. His overall offense is well below average. When not on the DL, he has been the primary SS, making 64 starts. He currently is at -1 Defensive Runs Saved, which is much better looking than his -10 mark in 2017, and more in line with his -3 from 2016. So he’s not much of a hitter and a little below average at SS. If Troy Tulowitzki hadn’t been injured all season, Diaz would likely be in the utility role that he profiles for.

Win or Loss? The Cardinals aren’t missing Diaz, even considering that DeJong missed significant time, because Yairo Munoz has been a better offensive player and is probably close to equal defensively. It also freed up a 40-man roster spot for team that has seen those become precious. Toronto got a serviceable MLB player at a position of need. As boring as it is, this is probably a wash.

Trade # 2 – Piscotty to Oakland

Cardinals Get:

Yairo Munoz, SS: (MLB) 165 PA’s (55 Games), 16 R, 5 HR, 23 RBI, .285/.339/.417, wRC+ 105

Max Schrock, 2B: (AAA) 83 Games, 35 R, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 7.4 K%, .272/.314/.362, wRC+ 76

A’s Get:

Stephen Piscotty, OF: (MLB) 88 Games, 43 R, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 24 2B, .264/.326/.457, wRC+ 115

Review:

Munoz has spent most of the season with the big club, but did spend 26 games in Memphis. The rate stats between the two levels are almost identical, outside of K%, which is 6% higher in the majors. At 24%, it could come down, but overall he has held his own as a part-time major leaguer. He can occupy multiple positions on defense, though his skill at the positions varies. Still, the ability to play the positions at all gives him valuable versatility and a little bit of power makes him a nice option to have on the bench. He may never be a starting-caliber player, but his Johnny-Peralta-Lite profile makes him a nice player to have.

After a hot start that made many fans clamor for Max Schrock to replace Kolten Wong, he has cooled considerably. His greatest skill is contact, evidenced by a stunningly low 7.4% K%. Reports are that he has done fine defensively and he has been getting some looks at 3B to increase his versatility. He has logged some innings at SS in lower levels, but those days are likely behind him. Still, his future lies somewhere in the Greg Garcia, Daniel Descalso area as a solid left-handed hitting utility man.

Piscotty has returned to being the solid all-around hitter that we expected him to be. 2017 was, unfortunately, just a lost season for him. Across the board his numbers have normalized to pre-2017 levels. It’s great to see that he is back to business as usual. The defensive metrics have not been kind. After being being a +12 in defensive runs saved over the last 2 seasons in RF, he is a -14 this year. Those metrics can be fluky, so it’s hard to say what exactly is going on.

Win or Loss? This one is tough to peg because of the circumstances that led up to it. Piscotty was the clear winner in the trade. On the field, the Cardinals look like they have a couple solid bench players, they freed up some modest future salary, and opened up room in a crowded outfield situation. Still, when you consider the outfield production the Cardinals have had this year, Piscotty looks even better. Right now, Oakland wins this trade by a hair, but it could look different in a year or two.

Trade # 3 – Ozuna from Miami

Cardinals Get:

Marcell Ozuna, LF: (MLB) 90 Games, 38 R, 10 HR, 49 RBI, 9 2B, .268/.309/.385, wRC+ 89

Marlins Get:

Sandy Alcantara, P: (AAA) 85.0 IP, 3.71 ERA, 4.55 FIP, 6.78 K/9 ; (MLB) 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 K’s, 5 BB

Magneuris Sierra, OF: (AAA) 82 Games, 46 R, 16 RBI, 14 SB, 20.4 K%, 3.7 BB%, .260/.289/.336, wRC+ 61

Zac Gallen, P: (AAA) 17 Starts, 91.0 IP, 4.05 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 8.90 K/9, 3.46 BB/9

Daniel Castano, P: (Rook., A) 34.0 IP, 3.44 ERA, 10.32 K/9, 0 BB ; (A+) 57.1 IP, 5.65 ERA, 5.81 K/9, 3.45 BB/9

Review:

Marcell Ozuna has been a disappointment. He was a gamble coming off of what seemed like a breakout season in 2017, and because of the order in which the Marlins wanted to move their OF’s and the Cardinals determination to get one, they jumped on Ozuna rather than waiting out the superior overall Christian Yelich. The cost would have been higher for Yelich, but the building blocks for the package were likely the same. That’s one aspect that makes the results of this trade disappointing.

Ozuna could have negated that part of it with a studly performance, something he has not given at all. His defense, in a word, has been questionable. Offensively, outside of a blazing hot 2 week stretch, he has been a singles hitter with poor pitch selection at the plate. He is 2nd on the team in RBI, simply because he has been immovable from the cleanup spot. His .385 SLG ranks 9th out of 13 hitters on the team with more than 100 AB’s this season. That is nowhere near the slugging ability that is needed to maximize run scoring opportunities in the middle of the lineup. He is there to drive in 2-3 runs at a time, not pick up an RBI on a ground-out. Overall he has been a below average hitter. I want to believe that going forward, interim manager Mike Shildt will place him in the lineup based on his actual results, rather than the perception of what he is supposed to be.

On the Marlins side, Alcantara did ascend to the majors this year, making one start before finding himself on the DL. He put up ok numbers in AAA, though he was getting plenty of help from his defense. His strikeout rate is still far too low for a pitcher that can hit 100 mph and he walks his fair share. It remains to be seen if his future is as a starter or reliever.

Sierra continues to look like Billy Hamilton-lite, which is the same offensive and defensive profile, without the elite basestealing ability. In his first turn at AAA, Sierra is striking out too much and not walking enough for a player with his skill set. His glove may get him to the majors, but he will have to develop on-base skills in order to maximize his speed and stick around. At 22 years old, he’s reaching the age where tangible signs of development need to show.

Zac Gallen has not been spectacular in AAA, but he hasn’t been awful in his first full season at the level either. He is still just 22 and has just now reached 2 years of service time in professional baseball. His rates are solid and he will likely settle in and move towards being the back-of-the-rotation arm that he projects to be.

The last piece, Daniel Castano, has seen time at 3 lower levels. The results are a mixed bag. He looked solid in the lowest levels, but hasn’t had the same strikeout punch in an extended look at A-Advanced. He will be 24 in September, so he is old for the level he is at. He was always a throw-in/lottery ticket-type for Miami with low expectations.

Win or Loss? It’s a wash right now. Miami has gotten very little from the return to this point, and the true upside of those players can be questioned. On the flip side, Ozuna has been an 8th spot quality hitter. If Ozuna sets the world on fire in the 2nd half and in 2019, helping the Cardinals reach the playoffs, it probably outweighs whatever long-term benefit Alcantara gives Miami and the Cardinals win. If Ozuna continues to do what he has and the Cardinals have to eventually trade him for a modest return, then the Marlins win, even if its just by having Zac Gallen be a solid 5th starter for a few years.

Trade #4 – Grichuk to Toronto

Cardinals Get:

Dominic Leone, RP: (MLB) 15 Games, 13.0 IP, 4.15 ERA, 10.38 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 87.0% LOB

Conner Greene, P: (AA) 48.2 IP, 4.44 ERA, 7.95 K/9, 5.92 BB/9 ; (AAA) 15.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 6.32 K/9, 8.62 BB/9

Blue Jays Get:

Randal Grichuk, OF: (MLB) 63 Games, 28 R, 11 HR, 28 RBI, 11 2B, 25.9 K%, 6.8 BB%, .206/.273/.427, wRC+ 88

Review:

Did you forget about Dominic Leone? After a hit-and-miss start to the season, he’s been on the DL since early May with a nerve issue. He is just another player that hasn’t worked out as expected this season. The jury is still out and we hope to see him contribute in the 2nd half and in 2019.

Conner Greene was the long-term get in this trade. He effectively replaced Sandy Alcantara in the system with his 100 mph heater, but he also throws a plus curve to go with it. Command is the major issue. After being a starter at AA, the Cardinals moved him to relief and promoted him to AAA. The reason is two-fold. 1) His future is almost certainly out of the bullpen, so he was going there eventually, and 2) the Cardinals big league bullpen has been a mess all season, so accelerating the conversion to relief and testing him against a higher level of competition gives the Cardinals an idea on whether he is an option in 2018.

I said this earlier with Diaz, but Grichuk is who we thought he was. We always wished for more, but it was not meant to be. He hits with power, strikes out a lot, and will never hit for a high average or OBP. He saw his season average drop below .100 on June 2nd. Since then, he’s hit .266 with an .866 OPS and provided the bulk of his season’s production. That’s pretty much par for the course. He should have about one more cold stretch and hot stretch in him if the last 2 seasons are any indication.

Win or Loss? The last month plus of production and a few highlight reel catches by Grichuk gives Toronto the win right now. However, considering the Cardinals have seen almost no return to this point, it didn’t take much. The wild card is Conner Greene. If he turns into a stud reliever for 4 years or so, and with the Cardinals unlikely to truly miss having Grichuk, it probably swings the trade in our favor. All of that remains to be seen, though.

Last Minute Trades:

These trades occurred right before Opening Day as players were DFA’d to clear spots on the 40-Man Roster for Francisco Pena and Jordan Hicks (Note: Greg Holland’s spot was created by moving Reyes to 60-Day DL).

Josh Lucas to Oakland for Casey Meisner

Lucas: (MLB) 14.1 IP, 6.28 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 8.79 K/9 ; (AAA) 18.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 8.50 K/9

Meisner: (A+) 78.1 IP, 3.45 ERA, 4.91 FIP, 6.78 K/9, 3.56 BB/9

Review:

Lucas had an impressive 3 inning relief appearance in April that made fans think we made a mistake, considering the struggles of the bullpen at the time. Since then he has been pedestrian. Small samples each way, but comparing his MLB and AAA numbers, he has the look of a Quad-A pitcher.

Due to full rosters, Meisner ended up pitching in A-Advanced this season, a level lower than he finished 2017 in the A’s system. He has pitched okay in a pitcher friendly league. He probably sees AA at some point, if a spot opens.

Win or Loss? There is no winner or loser here. The A’s got high-level depth and the Cardinals got low-level depth. Wash.

Breyvic Valera to the Dodgers for Johan Mieses

Valera: (MLB) 5/34, 4 RBI, .172/.273/.172. ; (AAA) 55 Games, 6 HR, 8 2B, 25 RBI, .279/.347/.431, wRC+ 103

Mieses: (A+) 65 Games, 33 R, 10 HR, 40 RBI, .251/.311/.424, wRC+ 108 ; (AA) 57 PA’s, 2 HR, .148/.179/.278

Review:

Valera’s potential tops out as a utility player. Being a switch hitter was intriguing, but he had no future here. He is depth for the Dodgers, and considering their middle infield situation and lack of production at 2B, the fact that he hasn’t gotten a little more of a look says it all.

Mieses is intriguing. He has a lot of power. He reached AA in 2017, but the Cardinals returned him to High-A this year. He continued his power display and managed to cut his K% by 10% compared to the same level last year. He was recently promoted to AA and has struggled initially.

Win or Loss: This is another depth move, though the Cardinals did grab a lottery ticket in Mieses. This is a bad comp to do, but his lower level profile is similar to that of Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar was able to eventually get his K% under 20% and really blossom at a later age. At 23, Meises could do something similar, but likely to a much lesser extent, and that is why the Cardinals grabbed him, for the potential. If he makes the major leagues at all, this is a clear win for the Cardinals.

Wrap-Up

In the end, the Cardinals trades mostly served to clean up the roster more than provide them with production. Ozuna could change that, Leone could change that, and Greene could change that. But for the most part the trades, which had the potential to really address significant needs, have been busts. Luckily, the Cardinals didn’t give up anything that will hamper them down the road.

Thanks for reading!

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If you go to Google News, click on to the full coverage of the Matheny firing, and scroll through all the available headlines; you’ll find 18 different articles on who may fill the position of Cardinals manager in 2019. Social media is abuzz with fans throwing out different candidate names, each one convinced that their choice is the right choice.

Post-firing on Saturday night, Bob Nightengale of USA Today immediately tweeted out (his opinion) that Joe Girardi was the favorite for the job. That’s been the most common name, because its the biggest name currently available.

However, if there is a “favorite” on July 16th, it’s the guy that was just handed the keys as interim manager. Mike Shildt. And it’s not simply because he is the interim, he’s as qualified as anyone.

National Perception…

Shildt gets mentioned in the articles regarding potential managers, but it’s more in passing. It’s more of a, “this guy is the interim for the remainder of the season so he’ll have a shot, but…” situation, than serious consideration. Let’s be honest, the writers and bloggers are penning these articles because they want to push the Girardi idea, or present a dark horse or more creative candidate like Mark DeRosa, Carlos Beltran, or even current Reds interim Jim Riggleman. Saying that Shildt is the favorite, or even a top 5 contender, is boring.

Bob Nightengale threw out the most dismissive statement I’ve ever seen:

“Mike Shildt is the interim manager, but he may not even be managing the Cardinals by the time they resume the season next Friday after the break, perhaps promoting Triple-A manager Stubby Clapp for the rest of the season.”

First of all, the Cardinals resume play on Thursday. But moving on. Listening to Mr. Nightengale on the Bernie Miklasz Show on Monday, his dismissing of Shildt seems to be based in a (false) perception that because Shildt was the bench coach for Matheny, he is part of the ongoing issues and his failed leadership, and would bring nothing new. There are two reasons that is wrong. 1) Mike Shildt has only been the bench coach for 3 months, whereas Matheny’s serious issues have been growing since the end of 2015 (if not earlier), and 2) Shildt was not brought in by Matheny, so he is not an extension of the manager. It’s a lazy take that shows a lack of knowledge of who Shildt is and how this coaching staff was assembled.

It also ignores that Matheny’s style seemed to suffocate the voices of his staff. Mark Saxon of the Athletic went as far as reporting that Matheny had recently become “an island” and was no longer receptive to input from others.

I don’t mean to just rip on Nightengale, but I think that his perception could be common for national writers and audiences that know very little about Mike Shildt. So I want to quell that fire. He is a relative unknown, a non-player that spent 15 years rising in the Cardinals system. That doesn’t mean he isn’t the man for the job.

So Who Is Mike Shildt?

Simply, a smart and interesting baseball man. There is an interview with Shildt at Scoops with Danny Mac that I encourage all fans to listen to. Most of what I document below is in that interview.

He is not a former player, though he did play in college. He got into professional baseball through scouting, hired by then Scouting Director, John Mozeliak in 2003. At the time, his interest in scouting was already fading as his real interest was in player development. Mozeliak agree to give him some opportunities in player development in addition to scouting duties. Slowly but surely he gained prominence and in 2006, Mark DeJohn agreed to take over the manager’s position in Johnson City on the condition that Shildt become his assistant full-time. From there he would take on other coaching positions in the organization and eventually manage for 8 seasons between Johnson City, Springfield, and Memphis prior to joining the major league team. He won two championships in Johnson City and one in Springfield. In 2009, while with Johnson City, he was named both the Cardinals Minor League Manager-of-the-Year, and the Appalachian League Manager-of-the-Year.

Shildt also has kerataconus, the rare eye condition that is now widely known of in Cardinals circles because of Tommy Pham. It has nothing to do with his managerial abilities, but it is interesting that two members of the team have it, considering it’s rarity.

Shildt was lucky enough to be directly influenced by legendary organizational man, George Kissell. Documented in this Derrick Goold article, Upon George’s passing in 2008, his family had replicas of his trusted book of baseball notes made and presented a copy to Shildt. It’s a reference Shildt uses to this day. A past winner of the organizations George Kissell Award for “excellence in Player Development”, this is a man that is engrained in the Cardinal Way.

So Why Is He A Fit?

Buy-In: When he was brought to the big league staff in 2017, he was touted as a liaison between the Front Office’s analytics team and the dugout. He is receptive to new numbers and new ways of doing things. He is a nice combination of old and new schools of thought. He’s shown that during his ascent through the system. He buys in to the organizational philosophy, a stark difference after years of Matheny’s resistance to change.

Communication: All reports that I have heard or read in regards to Mike Shildt and his relationship with players are positive. According to MLB.com’s Jen Langosch while on air with the Kevin Wheeler Show, she stated that she had never heard a negative word, on the record and off, in regards to Shildt.

His immediate message in the introductory press conference was to be “open and honest” and his personality and openness to explanation were refreshing in his first post-game press conference. He is low-key, but he doesn’t seem dry or boring. We’ll see what he looks like after a loss, but he seems to value some semblance of transparency.

He also stated that he would be contacting each player individually over the All-Star break, seeking to talk over direction and expectations. He used the word “inclusive” to describe the culture he wants. For a clubhouse that has been described as having cliques and clubs over the last few years, and various reports that allude to some divisiveness, “inclusive” would be a major change.

Experience: He has extensive managerial experience, with 8 season in the minor leagues. That’s more managerial experience than Mike Matheny had at the time of his dismissal. The Cardinals gambled that they could develop a manager when they hired Matheny. He seemed like he had the tools, but the years showed that it wasn’t the case. Names like Mark DeRosa and Carlos Beltran are intriguing, but I just can’t see them going that direction again. Shildt is an organizational man that has actually held the position, and had success in it. Add to that, he was tasked to run the entire minor league spring training in 2008, which was the largest spring group in franchise history. He has experience across the board.

Coaching Staff: If experience is a factor, you have to consider that a veteran manager, such as Joe Girardi, would want to install his own coaching staff, or at least have some say in it. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the current Cardinals coaching staff was assembled by the Front Office, not by the manager. The hitting coaches were the last positions held by “Matheny guys”, prior to Sunday, but have now been filled by highly regarded instructors Mark Budaska and George Greer. The internal promotions or the last two years and the hiring of Mike Maddux have given the Cardinals an impressive coaching staff that was hand picked by Mo.

To make an outside managerial hire you would risk losing some, if not all of your coaches. Now, I don’t think they would hire a manager without compromising on staff, but I also don’t see them wanting to break up this group. With Shildt, they wouldn’t have to.

The Next 3 Months

I can’t sit here and tell you that Shildt will be a good big league manager. He’s had 1 game. However, if you do your research and know his story, you’ll see that he has been being groomed for this opportunity for years. After years of managing, the team created a “Quality Control” coach position simply to find him a big league spot, and then promoted him to bench coach. He was in-house to replace Matheny if the move was ever needed. It was.

I believe that as we sit here on July 16th, the Cardinals Front Office wants very much to see the results that will allow them to lift the interim tag, either later this season or in October. I believe that he is currently the top contender and that they THINK he is absolutely the right man for the job.

He has been given 3 months to prove it.

Dream about the other candidates all you want, but don’t sleep on Mike Shildt.

 

Thanks for reading!

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This episode involves extensive discussion on the Cardinals managerial change, talking over the final days of the Matheny era and looking towards the 2nd Half with Mike Shildt.

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Credits:

  • Press Conference Intro: Audio courtesy of KPLR 11, St. Louis ; Music – Bye, Bye, Bye by NSYNC
  • Theme: Audio – “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” (FOX) ; Music – Summer Song by Joe Satriani
  • Segment: Audio courtesy of KPLR 11, St. Louis ; Music – Manana (Is Close Enough For Me) by Jackie Davis
  • Outro: Music – Cool Change by Little River Band

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It’s all the same, only the names will change. Every day, it’s seems the Cards are wasting away…versus lefties, at least. It’s become normal, and expected, that when the Cardinals face a lefthanded pitcher the results probably aren’t going to be very good. We can’t explain it. The hitters change, the pitchers change, but the struggles remain. And it’s been this way forever.

At least that’s the way it seems.

So, on the heels of a no-run performance against Chicago LHP, Carlos Rodon, I decided to dig into the numbers and find out; does perception match reality?

Over the last few years…

It’s been all over the place. The following chart shows the team record in games started by a LHP (and MLB rank), and their wRC+ vs. LHP (and MLB rank) going back to 2002.

To keep things simple, I’ll just use one stat, wRC+, which is a catch-all offensive stat and is weighted relative to the league, so it keeps things in perspective. I went back to ’02 because that is how far back Fangraphs provides the vs. L split for teams. Thanks to Fangraphs for the split tool and Baseball-Reference for detailed historical standings.

Year | wRC+ (Rk) | Record (Rk) | Year | wRC+ (Rk) | Record (Rk)
2018 | 92 (17th) | 11-13 (18th) | 2009 | 80 (29th) | 28-21 (7th)
2017 | 104 (6th) | 19-16 (8th) | 2008 | 100 (14th) | 27-29 (20th)
2016 | 99 (17th) | 20-24 (24th) | 2007 | 98 (19th) | 29-27 (12th)
2015 | 84 (25th) | 25-18 (3rd) | 2006 | 89 (24th) | 23-34 (26th)
2014 | 104 (9th) | 21-18 (12th) | 2005 | 103 (10th) | 32-20 (1st)
2013 | 86 (22nd) | 19-23 (20th) | 2004 | 110 (3rd) | 26-13 (2nd)
2012 | 113 (2nd) | 31-17 (2nd) | 2003 | 122 (2nd) | 19-17 (11th)
2011 | 113 (5th) | 19-20 (20th) | 2002 | 102 (8th) | 21-16 (8th)
2010 | 96 (15th) | 26-28 (19th)

Here’s how that summarizes:

Starting with wRC+, the Cardinals have been Top 10 in MLB vs. LHP 8 times in the last 17 years. They have been 14th (nearly middle of the pack) or lower 9 times, including 4 times in the bottom 10. Now, 4 of those Top 10 seasons occurred from ’02-’05, seasons in which the MV3 was together and healthy, and supplemented by very good RH hitters, like Edgar Renteria and Reggie Sanders.

Fittingly, league average wRC+ is 100, and that has typically fallen right around 15th every year. So if we just look at the last 13 seasons, 4 have seen Top 10 finishes in wRC+ vs. LHP (above average), with the other 9 years ending with the Cardinals in the bottom half of baseball (exactly average or below).

In nearly 70% of the seasons since ’06, they haven’t hit LHP very well, as a team.

Now to the records. Since 2002, the Cardinals are a collective 413-354 (+59) in games started by a LHP. If we again take away those peak MV3 years, they are 315-288 (+27). So they have won more games started by LHP than they have lost. But not by much, averaging a hair more than 2 games over .500 in that category over the last 13 years. 7 of the last 13 have had records below .500.

There is some correlation between how they hit collectively and their record, but there are also a couple major outliers each way. 2009 and 2015, in particular, were great pitching years so it makes sense that they overcame poor offensive performance and posted good records. Still, typically they win when they hit well and lose when they don’t, as you would expect.

And as I said before, over the last 13 years, they’ve hit poorly and had a losing record the majority of the time.

So, going back to my original question…Does perception match reality?

Yes.

It’s not just fan exaggeration, the Cardinals actually have a track record of mostly being not-so-good vs. LHP, over the last dozen years.

But should they be bad in 2018?

Collectively, the team is currently below average with a 92 wRC+ (17th in MLB), and their 11-13 record vs. LH is ranks 18th in baseball. However, many key players have above average numbers vs. LHP this year.

Running down the list by wRC+ we have: Jedd Gyorko-172, Harrison Bader-148, Matt Carpenter-129 (some fans probably can’t believe that he hits LH well), Tommy Pham-112, Jose Martinez-102, and Marcell Ozuna-98. That’s 6 players you can start that are (nearly) average or better against lefties. The two that aren’t are Dejong and Molina, who have a .208 and .200 BABIP, respectively, vs. LHP. That’s unsustainable and unlucky. Even so, 6 average-to-above hitters should be enough to find success.

I attribute some of the struggles to bad timing. When Pham was hitting LHP early in the year, Carpenter wasn’t, Gyorko was hurt, and Bader had yet to take on a platoon role with Fowler. Then those things flipped. The offensive pieces have never been healthy or clicking at the same time all year.

Jose Martinez should be doing more as well. Last season he had an insane 240 wRC+ and .847 SLG against lefties. This year its a modest 102 wRC+ and puny .361 SLG. Pham has also dropped 164 points off of his SLG compared to last year. And it’s well documented that Fowler has just 4 hits from the right side this year, which is almost unfathomable for a guy that is a career .290 hitter against LHP. Ozuna should also be doing better than just below average, which is the theme for his season. Still, against LH the last two years he’s had a wRC+ of 143 (’16) and 112 (’17).

This particular team should not be bad against LHP, but they are.

Same as it ever was.

For whatever reason, not hitting LHP well is just a Cardinals thing.

Thanks for reading!

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With the changes in the Conclave roster, it seemed a good time to let you, our readers, know a little bit more about the guys that you are reading, whether they are coming over from The Redbird Daily or have been a part of the Conclave for a while.  So I (Daniel Shoptaw, also known as Cardinal70) thought I’d ask a few questions of these writers.  Enjoy!

Blogger: Adam Butler
Blog Name: Bird Law
Twitter: LanceDance1

Daniel: For those that don’t know, who is Adam Butler outside of his blogger life?

Adam: I’m 26 years old and live in Jerseyville, IL. Just under an hour north of St. Louis. I attended Ranken Technical College in St. Louis and received a degree in electrical control systems. I’m currently an electrician for MetroLink, which is St. Louis’ light rail public transit, for those that don’t know.

Daniel: I know you aren’t necessarily out there every day but I imagine at times as part of your job you get to be around Busch Stadium. Does the sight of the place give a little boost to your day?

Adam: It can be pretty cool working around the stadium at times. On a few different occasions I’ve driven by as the fireworks go off and I’ll cheer with no actual idea of what I’m cheering for. Other times I’ll be watching the game on my phone and hear the fireworks go off. Since the stream on my phone is on a delay I’ll know the hitter hits a home run before actually seeing it. It can be rough as the offseason winds down. It just makes me even more impatient for warm weather and Cardinals baseball.

Daniel: What made you get into blogging in the first place?

Adam: I’ve been a huge Cardinals fan my entire life. I’ve always enjoyed digging through player stats and sort of playing armchair GM. That probably comes from my love for fantasy sports. Blogging was something that always intrigued me but I’m clueless when it comes to building a website so I didn’t really know how to get into it. I felt like it would be cool to have my ideas go beyond constant text messages to my friends. Whenever I saw @Cardinalsfarm on twitter say he was starting up a site and looking for writers I figured I’d give it a shot and he let me join the team at The Redbird Daily. It’s been a fun ride ever since.

Daniel: What aspect do you like to write about the most?

Adam: I enjoy digging into the batted ball data with Fangraphs or Statcast more than anything. I like finding things that players are doing differently from year to year and determine how we should adjust our expectations for that specific player.

Daniel: Have the constant text messages with your friends slowed down or has your writing just been in addition to them?

Adam: The text messages with my friends pertaining to the Cardinals have slowed down somewhat as we’ve all gotten older and have more and more going on in our lives. At this point, they’re pretty much limited to my fellow Bird Law co-host Rusty Groppel. Our messages often lead to things that are discussed on the podcast or sometimes will lead to an idea for an article that one of us will write.

Daniel: What do you think has been the highlight of your blogging career so far?

Adam: Two things stand out to me when I think about my relatively brief blogging career. The first was covering the 2018 WWU. That was an extremely fun experience and one that I’ll never forget. The second is attending the annual blogger day events at the stadium and getting to meet a lot of the people that I interact with on a daily basis. It’s kind of wild just how many genuinely great people I’ve met through all of this.

Daniel: Covering WWU, I hear, is a little different than the Q&A at Blogger Day. What was it like to be in the “media scrum” interviewing the players? Did you get any questions asked?

Adam: WWU was definitely different than the Blogger Day Q&A. There’s a much more serious tone to it all. You’re there with people that are being paid to find stories and meet deadlines. You have to sort of find the right balance between letting the reporters do their jobs and also getting the information that you want. I think if I’m ever lucky enough to cover the WWU again I’ll be able to approach it a little less as a fan and more as a guy that’s there to get information that I’ve been looking for and would be able to ask more questions.

Daniel: What do you like most about being a Cardinal fan? What do you like most about the online Cardinal community, which would include Twitter, blogs, podcasts, and the like?

Adam: My favorite thing about being a Cardinals fan is the overall success that I’ve seen in my lifetime. Sure they get frustrating at times, especially lately. But when you step back and look at the big picture, the biggest complaint of my lifetime is that the team is too mediocre. When you look around the baseball landscape, that starts to feel like a really good problem to have.

As far as the online Cardinals community, I like the research that it brings more than anything. Local media can do everything in their power to keep the fans up to date on the happenings with the team, but when it comes to research, they don’t come anywhere close to what the blogging and podcast community has to offer.

Daniel: You are young enough to not really remember before this ownership group and their run of success, as are a lot of fans. Do you think that feeds into the discontent we see online and other places?

Adam: I’m sure it does. I’d like to think I’m a bit more realistic in my expectations because I follow the entire league as much as possible. I’m sure many fans only pay attention to the Cardinals and where they’re at in the standings and don’t pay any attention to the continuous losing that goes on in places like Miami. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, people can be fans however they want to be. But in general I do think the Cardinals have put themselves into a situation where mediocrity is seen as failure and, in a way, it is. When looking around the league, though, you begin to realize just how lucky we’ve been the past 20 or so years as Cardinals fans.

Daniel: Who do you like to read in regards to the research? Is there a certain topic or focus that you find yourself most interested in?

Adam: I read as much as I can on Fangraphs. Their content is second to none, in my opinion. MLB.com has some good writers as well that are using Statcast to create some very informative content. Mike Petriello, for example, is a favorite of mine.

As far as certain content that interests me I really look for two things. Number one is just sort of keeping up with the league as far as players who are over performing or under performing their metrics so that I can be as informed as possible about what we should expect moving forward from certain players. Number two is looking for in depth research of anything that I don’t have a good understanding of. Articles on things like spin rate for a pitcher or spray angle for a hitter are things that I enjoy reading about and trying to get a better grasp of.

Daniel: Why the Conclave and what are you looking forward to with the new platform?

Adam: What I’m excited about with the conclave is that  I know that you are very committed to keeping the site going and keeping top notch content flowing. Myself and my colleagues from the Redbird Daily can go back to focusing on what we got into blogging for, which is writing quality content. I think this will be a very good fit for everyone involved.

It’s great to have Adam over here at The Conclave now.  (As Kyle Reis likes to say, love that Adam Butler.)  It’s also wonderful to have the excellent Bird Law podcast as part of our offerings!

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With the changes in the Conclave roster, it seemed a good time to let you, our readers, know a little bit more about the guys that you are reading, whether they are coming over from The Redbird Daily or have been a part of the Conclave for a while.  So I (Daniel Shoptaw, also known as Cardinal70) thought I’d ask a few questions of these writers.  Enjoy!

Blogger: Rusty Groppel
Blog Name: Bird Law
Twitter: hes_verygood

Daniel: For those that don’t know, who is Rusty Groppel outside of his blogger life?

Rusty: I am a husband and soon-to-be father. Other than following the Cardinals and writing, I also play slow-pitch softball.

My number one extracurricular is music, which is a hobby that runs in my family. I am the bass player/vocalist for local (Alton, IL area) cover band, Tanglefoot, working on our 6th year together. I also play guitar and have written some of my own songs. All told, I’ve been playing music in earnest since I was 15 and have doing solo acoustic shows and band gigs since I was 20.

Professionally, I’m a USPS employee. I started off toting a satchel as a mail carrier, but now work in IT at the St. Louis headquarters.

Daniel: Congratulations on the upcoming arrival! When’s the big day and how much Cardinal apparel do you have for Baby Groppel?

Rusty: Not much yet, and it’s a September due date, so right near the end of the season. I’m sure we’ll do most of that purchasing next spring.

Daniel: What positions do you tend to play in softball and how’s your game?

Rusty: In softball, I’ve played all over the field, including one ill-fated attempt at pitching (in which I spotted a Hrabosky-esque fu manchu, specifically for the occasion). I’ve mostly manned 2B or RF over the last couple years. As far as my game? I hold my own at the dish with occasional power, I can pick it a little at 2B, but my foot speed and baserunning ability leave a lot to be desired.

Daniel: Is there a place that folks outside of the area can hear your music? Anything online?

Rusty: As far as listening online, the most direct route is to hop on SoundCloud and search for Tanglefoot618. There are some decent tracks on there recorded at a recent show. For a more all-encompassing look, Facebook.com/tanglefoot618 gets you to our page where you can see pics, links to those SoundCloud tracks, a few videos, and a calendar on where to find us if you are in the area.

Daniel: What’s your favorite song to play?

Rusty: That’s so hard to say. Every song brings a little something different to the table. If I have to choose just one, and to keep myself from getting carried away and listing like 10, I’ll say Casey Jones by The Grateful Dead.

I will mention that we do a rousing rendition of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck that is a crowd favorite, but has also been banned in a few locations for being too rowdy.

Daniel: How tired to you get of “going postal” jokes?

Rusty: Honestly, I probably made more bad postal jokes myself than anyone else could. As a carrier, the thing that I got tired of was hearing “Boy, it’s a hot one today, isn’t it? Hehehe” 30 times a day in the summer, as though they were the first person to think to make weather-related small talk with a mailman.

Daniel: What made you get into blogging in the first place?

Rusty: I have always enjoyed writing. Essays were always a strong part of my academic life, but that was generally abandoned after graduation. When my wife went back to school, I helped her write several essays for an English class and that kind of reignited that skill.

Not long after that, good friend and colleague Adam Butler caught on with the upstart Redbird Daily. Me and Adam were constantly talking baseball with each other and I was definitely interested in finding a place to share my Cardinals thoughts and actually put my writing skills to use. So when John Nagel put out a call for prospective bloggers in Spring 2017, I jumped at the opportunity.

Daniel: What do you think has been the highlight of your blogging career so far?

Rusty: If I had to choose one thing, it’s been experiencing the Q&A’s with John Mozeliak at Blogger Day. Launching the Bird Law podcast is probably tied for first, though. I just enjoy talking baseball and have a lot of fun tinkering with the post-production, audio editing aspect of it.

Daniel: What inspired Bird Law, both the podcast and the title?

Rusty: Bird Law is essentially the never ending stream of Cardinals related texts between Adam Butler and I, brought to an audio format. I had the audio equipment to make it a good production and Adam’s interest in analytics made be feel like it could dive a little deeper than just a casual baseball conversation, although at its core, that’s what it is.

As far as the name, we basically didn’t have many good ideas. In the TV show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the character Charlie occasionally makes references to something called “Bird Law” of which he claims to be an expert. And so, 1) it was Bird-themed and 2) we could use the sound clips from the show to make a sweet intro. So that’s pretty much how we settled on it. Obviously, Cardinals are birds and we are playing ourselves as somewhat experts on the Cardinals, so it works.

Daniel: What do you like most about being a Cardinal fan? What do you like most about the online Cardinal community, which would include Twitter, blogs, podcasts, and the like?

Rusty: Short answer, tradition.

I’m a nostalgic person. I like to collect my “knick-knacks”, as my wife calls them, and my basement is full of memorabilia, mostly Cardinals related. It’s so easy to get caught up in the tradition of the franchise because it runs so deep. On a personal level, Cardinal fandom is something that has been passed down generation by generation (just like music) in my family. It runs in my blood. So with the Cardinals, it’s not just baseball tradition, but also family tradition.

As far as the online community, the whole experience has been fantastic. I’ve met and interacted with so many smart and interesting bloggers and fans. I’ve gotten to enhance my fandom by digging deeper into things that I otherwise may not have, and I’ve been greatly educated by the work of others along the way.

Daniel: Why the Conclave and what are you looking forward to with the new platform?

Rusty: As proud as I am of what I and my colleagues did with the Redbird Daily, the time has come to move on.

When you approached the RD staff and myself about migrating our writers to the Conclave, it was an easy decision. You’ve has earned the title of “Blogfather” and I look forward to being part of the team that helps bring your clever ideas to life, as well as presenting some ideas of my own. I think that the union of the Conclave and Redbird Daily can usher in new and exciting content that makes the Conclave a site that truly stands out among the crowd of Cardinals blogs.

It’s good to have Rusty around these parts.  I have a feeling he’s going to be inspiring a lot of content around here and that’s a great thing!

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This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily, but as we continue our merger, I am glad to provide this content to the Conclave and the new Bird Law blog.

The rising frustration level with the 2018 St. Louis Cardinals — which carried over from the 2017 team, which carried over from the 2016 team — has reached a point where die-hard and smart fans are now entertaining the idea of a complete rebuild. Tear it down. Start from scratch. Tank, if you will.

Now, to be fair, not all fans talking rebuild want to see a Cubs/Astros level tank. There is a stark difference between tanking for 5 years to get high draft picks and selling with aims to turn it around within 2 years. Regardless of which method you are interested in, I still don’t think this organization needs to be that dramatic. That said, big changes still need to happen.

Why Not Rebuild?

For me this comes down to pitching. This organization has it. Carlos Martinez is a legitimate #1 and Jack Flaherty is trending that way as well. Michael Wacha and Miles Mikolas are under control through 2019. Luke Weaver, even with his struggles, can be a solid #5 with upside for more.

And there is more on the way, still.

Even with another season ending injury to Alex Reyes, an extended absence from Adam Wainwright, and time missed by Martinez and Wacha; they have still not exhausted all of their depth, with Dakota Hudson, Daniel Poncedeleon, and even Austin Gomber yet to be forced into the starting rotation. If there is one thing this organization does well, it’s develop and find pitching. I don’t see that changing.

A full rebuild would involve selling off a lot of that pitching, and waiting for the next wave to come. I just don’t think that trading young pitching for young hitting is the route to go.

The First Change to Make…

I’d like to see what this organizational talent can do with a change in leadership, which is another reason I don’t want to see a complete roster teardown right away. At least wait until there is a new manager in place for awhile. It’s blatantly obvious that the fundamentals and style of play has gradually gotten sloppier and sloppier under Mike Matheny. It’s getting worse, not better.

Part of that is on the front office. They have made some personnel decisions that sided with a specific need and ignored overall fundamentals. Jose Martinez, as much as I love him, is the prime example of this.

However, there is talent on this roster that is badly underperforming. Why?

And don’t tell me it’s because baseball is hard. Other teams seem to be doing just fine.

Why is it that the front office continues to churn the roster and try different players, and consistently builds a roster with good (50%) pre-season playoff odds, only to see the same disappointing play every year? Could there be a common denominator?

Matheny is stale. He is also just not very good at the 7-10pm part of his job. I don’t know that he’s lost the respect of his players, but I also don’t think he is viewed as the authority figure that he should be. It’s time for the message to change. Now, that being said, there still is no public indication from ownership that their faith in Mike has waivered. I cling to some hope because John Mozeliak stated in a recent interview that “something has to change.” That was while the team was in Milwaukee and they managed to reel off a 4-game win streak at that time. Since then, back to the same old show. I have to believe that Mo’s patience is wearing very thin. Maybe, just maybe, a change is nigh.

The Lineup Needs a Change

Mo has been patiently waiting for the return of some injured players. The thing is, in recent weeks, the bullpen has improved, so good returns from Luke Gregerson, Dominic Leone, or Matt Bowman would just further fortify something that has not been the team’s biggest issue, at least lately.

The problem is on offense. As much of a difference maker that Paul DeJong can be, I don’t think he can raise this sinking ship. It needs a reset.

This is the part of the team that I would be in favor of a moderate sell-off. Jedd Gyorko is under contract for 2019 for $13M ($5M of which will be paid by San Diego). That alone makes him an attractive trade piece. He also has a $13M team option for 2020. This is the year to move him and get assets in return.

There has been some groundswell for trading Jose Martinez. As much as it would hurt to lose his bat, if he can bring a good return as a DH going to an AL club, this is probably the peak of his value.

It’s time to make the Mike Leake move with Dexter Fowler. You may remember that Leake was also traded (despite a no-trade clause and on waivers, no less) in Year-2 of a 5-year, $80M-ish contract. It can be done. They will have to eat some money and get next to nothing in return, but opening up the roster spot and some payroll space may be value enough at this point. In recent interviews, Mozeliak has challenged Fowler’s effort and energy, which is as close to a direct call-out that I have ever heard from Mo. Something has to give here.

He’s not a hitter, but I do want to mention that Greg Holland’s turnaround could make him a very valuable trade piece a month from now. I would love for him to be Good Holland for a contending Cardinals team down the stretch and into the playoffs, but if things continue to not look so good, cash in.

Let the Children Lead the Way

There are young outfielders in Memphis that deserve a look, Tyler O’Neill will get a brief chance in Arizona, but others, like the exciting Oscar Mercado, could bring speed and defense (things we rarely see in St. Louis these days) to the team.

Again, I can’t advocate a full rebuild, but I can get on board with starting an offensive retool this season. Sell some vets this season for players that can help in 2019 and beyond, clean up redundancies on the roster, while opening up opportunities to see what you have in-house offensively with O’Neill, Mercado, and even Memphis stalwart, Patrick Wisdom. Don’t let contracted veterans take all the at-bats and end up not knowing anything more about your young hitters in November than you do right now. Mama, let ’em play.

Worst case scenario, it looks a lot like what we’ve already watched this season. Best case, they make like the 2017 Twins and improve-by-change and make a run after selling.

Then in the winter, you can address the deficiencies that you have identified. But be smart about it.

Don’t declare a rebuild. Definitely don’t tank. Retool. Refresh. Reset. Keep the pitching intact, find out what you have in the offensive coffers over the next three months, and go from there.

And get a manager that won’t handicap the talent.

Thanks for reading!

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