St. Louis Cardinals: What the Heck are We Doing with Jose?
The St. Louis Cardinals are making a huge mistake with their treatment of their best, and most consistent hitter – Jose Martinez.
The St. Louis Cardinals, under interim manager Mike Schildt, are feigning interest in a defense-first approach to the second half of the season. In addition, the team is inexplicably giving lackluster underachiever Dexter Fowler all of the starts in right field.
These approaches do not match up, and the victim of the hypocrisy that has become the new Cardinal Way is the team’s most consistent (and arguably best) hitter in Jose Martinez.
A quick search of St. Louis Cardinals media coverage contains speculation and sound bites indicating that Jose Martinez is becoming a weapon off the bench and that he is trade bait for an American League team. Let me break this down point by point.
First, while Jose Martinez is better-suited for a DH role, benching him on a bad team does not increase his trade value – it tanks his trade value.
Second, and this is the hypocritical part, Jose Martinez not being good at defense is not a reason to bench him. This team is filled with mediocre and just plain awful defenders who are not as good offensively as Martinez.
Martinez should start before Fowler for the St. Louis Cardinals
Take, for example, St. Louis Cardinals starting right fielder Dexter Fowler. Before we even turn to the metrics, Fowler flunks the eye-test. He does not hustle and takes terrible reads on the ball off of the bat. He is supposedly one of the fastest players on the team, yet you never see him sprinting for a ball. His throws are lazy, he has no range, and he does not even raise his glove above his head to catch the ball.
Next, let’s take a look at the advanced metrics. If you check out Dexter Fowler’s Fangraphs page you can see just how terrible he is in all defensive metrics. One stat that stands out is that he only makes 80% of plays that are likely to be made on defense. That is terrible.
There are too many defensive problems with Fowler to cover in this article, so suffice it to say that he is a wretched defender. Even though he is terrible on defense, his offense is somehow worse. If Chris Davis did not exist, he would be the worst player in baseball. He is slashing .176/.270/.567 and he made the Chicago Sun Times “No Star” team.
But, Dexter is around until 2021 and he has a contract worth north of $80 million. He is the starter in right field for this team. Do not even get me started on what this means for Harrison Bader (who has outplayed and outperformed Dexter in every possible way this season). The hypocrisy, of course, is what this does to Jose Martinez.
Jose Martinez should be starting at first base for this team. Even when he makes errors, those errors are less impactful at first base than on other parts of the field. Moreover, he actually tries hard on defense – and just is not that good at it. That said, he is one of the best, if not the best, hitters on this team.
Given that the team does not care about defense (see Fowler, Dexter playing at all, for example), Jose should be starting every day. Whether you start him to increase his trade value to an AL team or you just want to put your best offense out there, he needs to be in the lineup.
This is not a good start for Mike Schildt. He is making the very same mistakes that Mike Matheny made in choosing loyalty to slumping veterans over performance and the best interest of the team. If you want a powerful bat off the bench, then you need to bench Jedd Gyorko. If you want the best defensive alignment, then you cannot play Dexter Fowler in right field. You have to pick one, Mr. Schildt.
You cannot continue with this hypocrisy. It will tank this team into the cellar – but hey, maybe that is exactly what the team is trying to do. This lineup and defense being put out there day after day, to me, shows the St. Louis Cardinals tanking so they can sell assets at the trade deadline.
Nobody likes a hypocrite. Nobody likes a team changing direction the last few weeks of spring training. Management and the front office must be held accountable, by the media and the fans, for this about face during the last days of spring training.
What do you all think? Is this team self-sabotaging, or is Schildt really putting his best team out there? How do you explain starting Dexter over Jose if you care about defense first? Does it matter how good the defense is if your bullpen can’t hold a lead? Leave a note on Twitter or in the comments to chime in.