The St. Louis Cardinals’ 2011 season was written in the stars, and it looked like they were off to a cosmically stellar season in 2013. But the month of June has been less than celestial for the Birds. With the loss to Oakland this afternoon, the Cardinals finish the month 14-14, the worst month for the Cardinals so far this season. From the apogee of the best record in baseball, and sole possession of 1st place in the NL Central, the Redbirds descended to the nadir of second place behind the fireball Pittsburgh Pirates and the loss of 6 of their last 8 games.
The starting pitching, sans Wainwright, has struggled in the month of June. The offense has cooled off as well. Is this the start of more than a June Swoon?
Every team goes through cold periods. The timing of those cold periods, however, can make or break a season. While Cardinal Nation is certainly concerned, and rightly so, about the recent faltering of the team, a slump in June is certainly preferable over one in September. And the trade season is in full swing, so the opportunity to improve the team for that last half surge is right on the horizon. So I at least don’t despair.
There are some concerns that need to be addressed, though I would argue that a trade is not necessarily the only way to address them. The starting pitching issue could work itself out, with better outings by Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn. Both are excellent pitchers who have hit a rough patch. Jake Westbrook is still battling elbow issues and will hopefully have better outings as well. The other rotation spot could be addressed internally, with the options of Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly, and perhaps a resurgence after some time in Memphis of Tyler Lyons. There is also the imminent return (hopefully) of John Gast from the DL. A trade for a veteran innings eater is not out of the question, but I would certainly think giving up the farm for the likes of Cliff Lee is completely unnecessary.
The lineup is another issue. While the top 6 in our lineup is still one of of the best top 6 in baseball, the bottom of our lineup has become a black hole. Jon Jay and Pete Kozma are both struggling, and unless Matt Adams can learn to play CF or SS, getting him into the lineup every day is not going to happen. Then there is The Ty Wigginton Problem. That problem being that he shouldn’t be on the roster. Again, a trade may or not be the answer. Shortstops with even an average bat are hard to come by. Troy Tulowitski is an expensive and unhealthy pipe dream. As long as the Rockies are in contention they would be crazy to trade him. The Kozma issue could be addressed simply by giving him more time off, perhaps by bringing up Ryan Jackson to spell him at the position. Of course, that creates a roster problem, which is where Ty Wigginton comes in. Please Mr. Mozeliak, cut your losses and say bye bye to Ty. I’m begging you. Even if you want to leave Ryan Jackson in the Gulag, just pick up somebody, anybody, on the trade market who isn’t an automatic out and who can play the infield.
Finally, there is the Jon Jay issue. For whatever reason, Jay is simply not turning it around. Carlos Beltran cannot play CF. Oscar Taveras is on the DL and is not playing particularly well anyway. There is Tommy Pham, a terrific defender in CF, who is not spectacular with the bat, but can hold his own. Perhaps someone can be found on the trade market who can at least give us decent defense, with a better bat than Jay.
The bottom line is that the bottom of the order needs improvement. This is where the emphasis should be. Who that improvement is and how much it costs I leave up to those who are paid to make those decisions.