With the first series of the year completed, here are some lessons learned for the St. Louis Cardinals (keep in mind it is a very small sample size as only 3 games have been played):
Clearly, the Cardinals offense still struggles against left-handed pitchers. Tony Cingrani dominated the Cardinals in game 2 holding them to just 2 hits while walking 2 and striking out 9 through 7 innings. This is an issue the Cardinals need to address as it has been well documented last season how poorly they hit against lefties (.238 avg against lefties, .280 against righties). In the upcoming series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cardinals will be facing another lefty in Francisco Liriano. Liriano frustrated the Cardinals last season. Hopefully in 2014 the Cardinals can figure him out. As of right now, Allen Craig is the only player showing success against lefties (.333 avg), but he is struggling against righties (.111 avg). As a team so far in 2014, the Cardinals are batting .138 against southpaws compared to .217 versus right-handers.
The Cardinals committed 5 errors in their first 3 games. Most of these errors were rather routine plays that should have easily been made. I understand it is early in the season and some guys likely have a little rust and some jitters. However this needs to be cleaned up in a hurry. You cannot expect to win games relying solely on your pitching staff to pitch out of jams the defense put them in. Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Peter Bourjos, Jon Jay, and Jhonny Peralta have all committed an error. Adam Wainwright even had a wild pitch which, in my opinion, looked like Yadier Molina could have caught.
The bullpen, while loaded with talent, has not been as reliable in this early season as they were last season. They allowed 4 of the 7 runs the Reds scored this series. Most concerning are Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist. Both of these guys were dominant last season, but have started 2014 a little slow. Martinez gave up the go-ahead run in Wednesday’s loss, while Siegrist allowed 2 runs yesterday. Siegrist allowed 1 hit and walked 1. Both of these runners later scored after Pat Neshek gave up a home run to Todd Frazier. Fortunately, Trevor Rosenthal has looked sharp in his closer role.
Hitting with RISP
The Cardinals, other than Thursday’s game, appear to be drastically regressing to the mean when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position. After leading the league last season (.330 avg), their numbers seem to be falling back down to the league average in this statistic as they left several runners stranded during the first 2 games. This trend seems to have started during the post season last year. So far in this young season the Cardinals are batting .167 with RISP
Matt Adams Can Hit!
Adams went 3 for 5 yesterday with 2 doubles and scored twice. He has shown he can hit the ball the other way as he beat the shift multiple times this series. Through 3 games he is currently batting .417, although he has struck out 4 times in 13 plate appearances. Adams has proven he is, and deserves to be, an everyday player. The work he put in this offseason has paid off. He lost 10-15 pounds of weight. He has learned to hit the other way. His strikeouts per walk rate was 3.48 last season which is higher than the league rate of 2.49. That can be improved upon. Hopefully as the season progresses we can see him put work into that area as well. Through these first 3 games, his SO/BB rate is 4.00.
Kolten Wong is Absolutely Ready to Be the Every Day Second Baseman
While his defense was shaky in game 1 as he committed an error on a routine play, his bat has really come alive compared to last season. He seems to be settling down and focusing in better during his at bats. Wong is batting .333 through the first 3 games, and has 3 walks compared to only 1 strike out. It is also nice to have his speed on the base paths. He scored from first base yesterday on a Matt Holliday double to the left field corner.
Starting Rotation is Strong Yet Again
Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha were dominant in their starts. Wainwright went 7 innings, allowing 3 hits while striking out 9 and not allowing a run. Wacha went 6.2 innings in his start allowing 3 hits while striking out 7. Lance Lynn struggled early in yesterday’s game, but kept the Cardinals in it as he picked up his first win of 2014. He gave up 8 hits while allowing 3 runs in 5 innings pitched. He also gave up 2 homers, but struck out 7. Hopefully Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly can continue this run of solid starts as the Cardinals head to Pittsburgh.
I realize this has only been one 3 game series, so the sample size has been limited, but it looks like this team is destined for greatness as long as they can improve on a few areas, and keep up the good work in some others. Obviously, as the season progresses some of the bats that seem cold now will inevitably heat up. I also expect the bullpen to quickly return to form.