The St. Louis Cardinals are making history, but not in the way anyone wants. They are walking opposing batters at a historic rate.
The St. Louis Cardinals are out to a good start to the season. Though the NL Central is a relatively weak division, the Cardinals sit at 23-18 on the year despite being swept in their most recent series against the Padres.
This sweep coming at the hands of the Friars could’ve easily gone differently, but one simple thing keeps getting in the way. The Cardinals are walking too many opposing batters. It’s that simple.
In many other games, the team has been able to overcome their own inability to throw strikes, but that wasn’t the case in the Padres series.
Clearly, this is a season-long issue and while the bullpen may be the primary problem area, it isn’t the only one. Nowhere was this more evident than when Sunday’s starter, Kwang Hyun Kim, walked in two straight Padres to erase the 2-0 lead.
Cardinal relievers lead the MLB with 95 total walks in 144.2 innings on the year. Unacceptable.
On the year, the Cardinals have walked in 10 batters with the bases loaded, easily tops in the league. While the relievers have the historic rate of walks, the Cardinals’ starters are second in the league behind the Rockies in total walks, ballooned by John Gant’s 27 walks which leads the league.
As I mentioned earlier, the walks haven’t often come back to bite the Cardinals, but it is the type of thing that will one way or another eventually. A team can’t have a walk rate this high and succeed over a full 162 games.
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When looking at why this might be an issue, I’ve got a couple of guesses. As far as the team’s most recent stretch goes, they have played 23 games in 24 days. Not to make an excuse, but that is a lot of baseball. Thankfully, this coming week should bring some rest. Another thought is that a lot of their home games have still been in relatively cold temperatures. It’s been an oddly cold spring in St. Louis, and that may be hurting the pitchers’ ability to throw strikes.
Now, off the deep end. Some have called for the firing of pitching coach Mike Maddux. While this may be an option eventually, the impact that the pitching coach has on throwing strikes is unclear, but the fact that it is a wholesale issue across the entire pitching staff might mean it is something about the way Maddux is teaching stuff.
Way off the deep end, maybe it could have something to do with the MLB’s newest crackdown on cheating. One big change this year is that the MLB is paying a lot more attention to baseballs and foreign substances, even going as far to send them to independent labs to test the balls for anything on the surface of the ball that isn’t supposed to be there.
With this rule in place, could the Cardinals have abandoned a team-wide use of something to help with grip and control? Who knows.
Whatever the reason for this awful start to the year when it comes to walks, the Cardinals need to figure it out. Walks will sink this team’s pitching staff in the end, and for a team designed to prevent runs, this issue is a big hole in the boat.