St. Louis Cardinals: Experts stay calm about Cards
While many St. Louis Cardinals fans have already begun to worry about the season, most experts are still holding a verdict on the Redbirds rough start.
In comparison to the lofty expectations from excited fans coming into this season, the St. Louis Cardinals have not opened up 2019 particularly well. At under .500 through the first three series of the year, glaring holes that just weren’t supposed to be there have been gouged open, and the team doesn’t look like the contender that we thought they would be.
However, many of the large sports outlets have not reacted very strongly, keeping the St. Louis Cardinals high on their Power Ranking lists. ESPN only bumped the Redbirds down 3 spots from 11 to 14, which isn’t the greatest, but still among the top half of the league based on a negative record. CBS still has the Cardinals in the top 10, falling just one spot from 8 to 9 after one week.
Here’s what ESPN had to say about their impression of the Cardinals in week one:
"Kolten Wong should have won a Gold Glove last season, and perhaps because he did not, he’s taking out his revenge on opposing pitchers. The Cardinals’ second baseman has six extra-base hits, including three homers. Wong and newcomer Paul Goldschmidt have been bright spots for the so far disappointing Redbirds. What appeared to be a potentially dynamic, high-leverage relief crew has struggled, with Jordan Hicks, Andrew Miller and Alex Reyes combining for 13 runs allowed in their first 11⅓ IP."
The first thing that catches my eye is calling new first baseman Paul Goldschmidt a “bright spot”. While he isn’t slashing the horrendous .100/.341/.133 that he did over his first three series in 2018, his performance this season hasn’t been anything to cry home about either. While his .962 OPS looks good, it is inflated somewhat when you take a closer look.
His 3 home run, 5 RBI game may have been important, and there is an argument that he was in essence the single reason we won that game. However, a win only counts as 1 in the record column no matter how good the win was, and Goldschmidt has not played well besides that 1.
Taking out that Milwaukee game, Goldschmidt has 2 homers and 6 walks, but is hitting just 3 for 30 and has 12 K’s. He had an opportunity to capitalize in a crucial moment against the Padres and responded with a measly groundout to second, and is hitting just .143 with runners in scoring position this season.
Safe to say, the St. Louis Cardinals will need much more from their prized acquisition if they want to not only compete in the NL Central, but also justify the 5 year, $130 million extension the team gave to Goldy before he even suited up with the birds on the bat.
Once again though, it isn’t time to panic. Goldschmidt started last season with an atrocious .209/.326/.393 line, and finished the year with a trademark .900+ OPS on the year. While we have seen some slight declines from Goldy over the past three years, it should only be a matter of time before he gets going like the Goldschmidt we know.
The Wong Way
I’m sure you’ve read plenty about him already, but I guess I have to give my two cents on this again. I know that I have been on record arguing for Kolten Wong to remain in the eight spot to remain in a comfortable rhythm, but the St. Louis Cardinals might have no choice if the top part of the line up doesn’t start hitting soon.
The St. Louis Cardinals simply won’t succeed if the top 4 hitters in their lineup are hitting .220/.289/.482 with a 29.56% K rate. Being patient is important, but at some point, you have to look at the team and see that a shake up is needed.
Is now that time? I don’t think so quite yet, but it definitely is getting close. Dodger Stadium is a park that possessed a higher HR and doubles park factor, which should favor the heavy hitting top half of the St. Louis lineup. If the Cardinals lineup continues to struggle, Shildt, Mozeliak, and co. can only give up so many games before it actually begins to impact the team’s playoff outlook.
Wong has been the only one hitting on the team so far, and Wong’s at-bats are feeling somewhat wasted because of how much difficulty the rest of the team is having. The best case scenario is obviously for the lineup to play as well as we know that they have the ability to, but the Cardinals also must consider what to do if that time never comes.
While Wong’s general inconsistency with the bat throughout his career might make the Cardinals worried about knocking Wong out of his rhythm, the team might not have any choice other than to move Wong up in hopes of galvanizing this offense.
Of course, the final lowlight highlighted is the most frustrating, with three of the highest touted relievers in the Cardinals arsenal in Jordan Hicks, Andrew Miller, and Alex Reyes struggling immensely.
A name that should be getting more attention is John Brebbia. He has always been a very solid reliever since joining the Cardinals, and has allowed just two hits and two walks in four appearances this season. He has generally looked sharp this year, showing a good grasp of the corners, and has been the only reliever I have personally had confidence in right now.
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Other guys like Mike Mayers and John Gant have pitched decently as well, but Brebbia has been the only one that has stuck out as being a true plus asset moving forward. Basically, what that means is that the St. Louis Cardinals need their talented relievers to step up.
Another possibility is the return of Carlos Martinez to the bullpen. If Adam Wainwright does do enough to warrant keeping him as a starter, then Martinez could man the bullpen if he’s needed there, with Dakota Hudson slotting in as the fifth spot.
Just like with the lineup, the best case scenario is for people to play up to their talent level, but that doesn’t always happen. Well, part of the reason the Cardinals were lauded as a legit threat this season was because of their immense depth, which gives them plenty of options to rebound, and plenty of reason not to panic just yet.
It might be easy to get caught up in your own frustration, but let’s remember that we have 94.5% of the 2019 MLB season yet, and panicking now would be the equivalent of freaking out 5 games into an NBA season. The St. Louis Cardinals were built to face adversity and the lofty expectations of this year, so let’s give the team a little more room before calling for massive changes.