Swept. By the Tigers.
I know it was only a two game series, so it doesn’t have the import of a “real” sweep. On the other hand, it was Detroit. You wouldn’t expect to lose two games to them in a three game series, much less a shorter one. A split of the two-gamer would have been bad enough, but to not win either game, and not really be that competitive in them, has to set alarm bells off. And not the “door is ajar” alarms but “engine failure” alarms.
We have talked a lot about the game going to eventually catch up to John Gant. The advanced metrics–the walk rate, the (lack of) strikeout rate–indicated he was on a tightrope and eventually it was going to snap. I found this tweet by Jeff Jones really interesting:
John Gant —
First 50 IP: 15 ER
Last 16.1 IP: 12 ER
First 50 IP: 9 ER
Last 14.2 IP: 18 ER
It’s hard to see a full season starter there.
— Jeff Jones (@jmjones) June 23, 2021
If you’ve listened to Meet Me at Musial, you know that one of the reasons I’ve been down on Gant overall is because of that fade he had in 2019. Last year, of course, he only threw 15 innings and avoided this sort of malaise, but he doesn’t seem built to go the distance. With this stat, you have to wonder if even moving him back to the bullpen will help. It may be that the Cards used all his bullets in the early going and he doesn’t have much left. I’m not sure I’m 100% behind that, because I do think shifting him to the bullpen would help him focus his stuff a little more, but even in his bullpen days he was walking over four batters per nine innings. He’s always had that tension between a few too many walks and not enough strikeouts to overcome them, but he’s more likely to work around that in short bursts.
Whatever the case, yesterday should have closed the lid on him starting. He gets the Goat for not only immediately losing a 2-0 lead but for giving up a home run that, sadly, was all the Tigers needed to win. (They got more, though.) The first two runs he gave up came when he walked the first two batters of the third, then gave up a double to Jonathan Schoop, who was quite the pain in these two games–he’d homer later against Ryan Helsley as well. Gant only allowed two hits in his three-plus a batter innings of work, but one was that double and one was a home run to his final batter. The big problem was, he walked four in that span. For a while there, it was a running battle between how many outs he had gotten and how many walks he had given up.
Of course, control isn’t completely a Gant issue. Helsley walked two in his inning and a third and the team walked seven, which was exactly the number of hits the offense got. It’s something that really needs to be cleaned up, though. I ran a poll on Twitter yesterday and it was overwhelmingly agreed upon that, if you have to see the team lose, you’d rather see them give up a lot of hits than a lot of walks. Gant threw more balls (36) than strikes (34) yesterday. That’s not only bad, it’s boring.
Since shutting out the Dodgers over six innings on the first day of the month, Gant has pitched in four games, has an ERA of 11.57 which is fairly deserved (FIP is 9.44) and has struck out just over 7 per nine innings while walking 9 per nine. His ERA has gone from 1.60 to 3.76. For many other pitchers, maybe you could write it off as a rough patch, but given that this is in line with the regression that seemed to be coming for him, it seems like more than that.
I’d like to see the Cardinals shift Gant to the sixth/seventh inning role in the bullpen and let Angel Rondon have a shot at the rotation slot. I don’t know if he’ll set the world on fire or anything, but he’s got some potential and he only has nine walks in 28.2 innings in Memphis. He might actually be able to find the strike zone.
Finding a Hero from yesterday is tough because as much as the pitching staff sputtered (only Giovanny Gallegos didn’t allow a run) the offense didn’t do anything either. There were a couple of chances–two on and two out for Matt Carpenter in the sixth, only to see him strike out, a leadoff single by Dylan Carlson in the eighth followed by a Paul Goldschmidt double play–but on the whole, there wasn’t much happening. I guess I’ll give it to Nolan Arenado, whose second inning home run gave the Cards the early lead and gave hope that things were going to be different. They weren’t, but there was hope. Shoutout also to Lars Nootbaar, who tripled for his first major league hit and scored his first run when Tommy Edman brought him home with a single.
It feels like something is going to happen today. Then again, it felt like John Mozeliak was going to address the rotation a couple of weeks ago when Jack Flaherty and Kwang Hyun Kim went down and he didn’t, using the off days to maneuver around until Kim was ready to return. With the team needing so much work and with things continuing to be miserable (they are 6-14 in June and languish at the bottom of many statistical categories over that span), the beginning of a homestand looms large for a shuffling of the deck.
Hopefully that’s the case. Hopefully it’s more than a few people hitting in different spots in the lineup, though that could help as well. This squad needs more than a fresh coat of paint to be habitable. Let’s break out the power tools and get it done!