St. Louis Cardinals: 18-game Grades

Apr 24, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; The St. Louis Cardinals celebrate an 8-5 win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 24, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; The St. Louis Cardinals celebrate an 8-5 win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

With Sunday’s win against the San Diego Padres, the St. Louis Cardinals improve to 10-8 on the season.  Let’s assign some grades to this team we have watched with frustrations, etc.

The St. Louis Cardinals might not witness the postseason with a two-game-above-.500 average.  While there is still plenty of time to “right the ship” on what might not be a “wronged” ship, I find myself wondering why this team sits in this predicament.  To assist me, and hopefully you too, I’ll assign some grades to portions of the team to help assess this point of the season.

Rotation- C+

Departing spring training, this rotation had great promise and were an instant threat to opposing teams.  The likes of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha (a question mark for me out of spring), Jaime Garcia (a perennial question mark but with incredible upside), Carlos Martinez, and Mike Leake should have held their own out of the gate.  This has not been entirely true.

Looking individually, Wainwright has simply not been himself.  Nothing we have seen yet has been top-of-the-rotation stuff.  Waino holds a record of 0-3 and a frightening 7.25 ERA.  I give Waino a grade of D.

Wacha hasn’t looked too bad.  He hasn’t looked too good either, but has been able to notch two wins to his credit and holds a respectable 2.82 ERA.  I give Wacha a grade of B because of his questionable material at this point.

Garcia has been a major surprise.  Surprise in the positive and surprise because of his questionable 2015.  On the other hand, Jaime has always had within him Cy Young material but just never seems to be able to pull it together in spite of injury.  This season he holds a 1-1 record and a 2.70 REA.  I give Garcia a grade of B-plus and look for this turn into an A if he keeps up this performance.

Martinez has been Martinez.  This is high praise as I see this young arm as a top-of-the-rotation starter, not where he is placed in Matheny’s eyes.  Martinez has had incredible command of his games and holds a 3-0 record with a cumulative 2.70 ERA.  I award the first A to Carlos.

I so badly wanted Leake to be great.  He has not met my expectations.  In looking at his history, Leake often starts each season slowly but this team cannot afford for him to take such a long circuitous path to greatness.  Leake’s record- after Sunday’s start where he took a no-decision- is 0-2 with a 5.64 ERA.  I award a disappointing grade of C to Leake.

The outlier of Leake and Wainwright pull the grade of the rotation down to a disappointing C+.

Bullpen- A

Where the rotation has left a sour taste in the mouths of many, the pen has been outstanding.  The likes of Kevin Siegrist, Seung Hwan Oh, Matt Bowan (a pleasant rule-5 pick who made the team thanks to injury but is clearly here to stay), and Trevor Rosenthal are shutting the door on games with impressive command.

The above-listed pen pitchers hold impressive ERAs ranging from Siegrist’s bottom-dwelling 0.00 to Oh’s 1.69 to Rosenthal at the top with an ERA of 2.57.  The only blemish in the pen is Seth Maness with the balloon ERA of 7.11!

All-in-all, the pen has been amazing and therefore receive a grade of A.

Offense- C+

The blemishes of pitching could well be less on display if the offense was strong.  When the offense has been strong, pitchers such as Garcia and Wacha and Martinez have benefited.  That said, the offense seems to once again be in feast-or-famine mode for the season.

The bright spots are the surprise players of Aledmys Diaz, Jeremy Hazelbaker (for a time there but has cooled of late), Randal Grichuk (who started slowly), and even the likes of Eric Fryer.  These players (and others) have put the Cardinals on the radar with instances such as holding four pinch-hit home runs.

The dull spots are from surprising players as well.  These players- Matt Holliday (.228 BA), Matt Carpenter (.227 BA), and Kolton Wong (.208 BA)- should be tearing it up but aren’t.  Many of these could well benefit from a different lineup spot but Matheny is very reluctant to make changes such as this.  In its place, Matheny is content to let players squander in mediocrity until they themselves figure it out.

With all the up-and-down games from the offense, I find it best to award the grade of C-plus.

Defense- C-

During Sunday’s radio broadcast (I listened to the whole game while mowing my massive lawn), it was said that the Cardinals need to shore up their middle infield defense and cut down on errors.  That is the understatement of the century!  Even in Sunday’s game an error was committed by a Cardinal middle infielder!

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Let’s take a look at fielding errors… In just these eighteen games, Diaz has five errors, Carpenter has three, Jedd Gyorko has three, Wong has three, and a small army (Matt Adams, Greg Garcia, Leake, Brandon Moss, and Wacha) each hold one.  This is egregious!

Based on all of these inexcusable errors from players who are making far too much money to commit such things they should have ironed out in spring, I am awarding the defense the grade of C-minus and even contemplated awarding a D.

Overall- C+

I want to think better of this team but just don’t (not yet at least).  Don’t get me wrong, I love this team and this organization and feel that things will get better.  At this point, though, with a two-games-above-.500 record when the team has faced opponents where sweeps should have been a thing of ease, I find this performance to be upsetting.

Let me reiterate that this team is likely to climb from this grade of C+ and that I believe we will all look back at this post and dismiss it heavily later in the season.  Until that time, I pray that the players with the Birds on the Bat work hard and study hard and apply themselves with greater vigor to improve their grade!

Next: Prospect Update: Harrison Bader

As a former educator, this little grading exercise was certainly cathartic.  I hope you enjoyed my opinions (they are just that– opinions) and I look forward to the reversal of them entirely.  Follow me on Twitter and let’s see if we can help improve these games through our support and fandom!