A look at St. Louis Cardinals first half good, bad, and ugly

Nolan Arenado #28 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on from third base against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 07, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Nolan Arenado #28 of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on from third base against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 07, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

So far, the St. Louis Cardinals season hasn’t gone as hoped. With the second half starting up this weekend, there is a lot to build on.

At 44-46, the St. Louis Cardinals are tied for third place with the Chicago Cubs. They are four back of the Cincinnati Reds and eight back of the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s been a frustrating first half for the Cardinals but it hasn’t been all bad. Let’s discuss the good, bad, and ugly of it all.

The Good

It’s curious to ponder where this team would be without some players. OK, let’s be honest. It’s curious to ponder where this team would be without All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado. It’s still amazing that he is a Cardinal. Arenado leads the team with 17 homers, 26 doubles, hitting .265/.319/.500 with a 120+ wRC.

And then you have him making plays like this:

Paul Goldschmidt leads the team in hard-hit percentage at 55.6%. He’s hitting .265/.335/.432 with a 113+ wRC. Tyler O’Neill also had an impressive first half hitting .275/.333/.546 with a 138+ wRC. He’s also built on his Gold Glove season from 2020 with some pretty nifty plays in the outfield including this stunner:

Adam Wainwright has been the team’s ace at a young-at-heart 39. He is 7-5 with 105.2 innings pitched so far. He has 99 strikeouts with a 22.6 strikeout rate with two complete games, both huge for this team struggling to get pitchers to go deep into games. Wainwright has a very solid 30.2% CSW rate which calculates a pitcher’s called strike plus whiff rate.

Alex Reyes has been most impressive as the team’s closer. He is 5-3 with 20 saves through the first half of the season. With 54 strikeouts, Reyes has a 28.7% CSW rate, which is considered okay. He has pitched 41.1 innings, which is the most he has thrown since going 46 innings in 2016. It was noted at the start of the season he will throw a max of 100 innings this season, giving him a good window to help the team in the second half.

It was great to see Reyes rewarded with his first All-Star Game selection.

The Bad

The team’s pitching has been bad. Granted, they have had a lot of injuries to the pitching staff but the most egregious issues are coming from those who haven’t succumb to injury and who are depended upon in high leverage positions.

John Gant leads the Cardinals, and Major League Baseball, in walks. Gant has given up 53 walks on the season. The team leads MLB in overall walks given up at 394. Carlos Martinez has given up 36, the team’s closer, Reyes, has given up 32 and the team’s ace, Wainwright, has given up 31.

I’m curious to see if the All-Star break will provide a reset to stop this epidemic of walks problem. I can’t imagine it’s easy for pitching coach Mike Maddux to pinpoint what needs to be done other than telling them to stop it with the walks. It’s obviously not that simple. But it certainly doesn’t look good. I can’t imagine the likable coach is too comfortable in his seat.

The Ugly

The team has had a gut-punching-awful amount of injuries that have really thrown the team for a loop scrambling for options to fill the holes.

Jack Flaherty was possibly the most painful of the injuries. Flaherty landed on the 60-day injured list with a left oblique injury while at-bat. The team is hopeful for an August return as he continues rehabilitation efforts.

Jordan Hicks is on the 60-day injured list with right elbow inflammation. The team doesn’t believe we will see Hicks this season. Hicks opted out of the 2020 pandemic shortened season as he is a Type I Diabetic after he was out in 2019 recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Hicks is a flame thrower the organization is very careful with as they are looking to him for a bright future.

Miles Mikolas is also on the 60-day injured list with right forearm tightness. The team could see his return later this summer.

Carlos Martinez landed on the 60-day injured list just prior to the All-Star break with a right thumb issue. It’s possible we have seen the last of Martinez as a Cardinal as he is in the last of a five-year contract. It seems unlikely the team will use a team option to bring him back.

Dakota Hudson is recovering from Tommy John surgery, as well but there has been talk of a possible return for him. Kwang Hyun Kim had a couple of stints on the injured list with lower back tightness. Daniel Ponce de Leon has been on the injured list with right shoulder discomfort.

Harrison Bader has had some stints on the injured list thanks to his hard style of play leading to arm tightness and cracked ribs. Paul DeJong was on the injured list with a cracked rib as well. Tyler O’Neill has been on the injured list with hand issues.

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Yadier Molina has struggled with several ailments, mostly his feet, landing him on the injured list. Molina even skipped out on a tenth All-Star Game appearance to rest his feet after a rough first half.

Trades or signings have to be made in the coming days and weeks to stop the pain from these injuries. Here’s hoping John Mozeliak, Cardinals president to baseball operations, is working on making some moves that will help this team for not only this final stretch, but years to come. The Cardinals desperately need the help.

The team doesn’t give up and they do show signs of getting it together. Do they have enough time to get it together, find some pieces to fill gaping holes and claw their way out of third place? We have to allow the next few weeks play out, hope for some transactions to bolster the club and, of course, a little magic.

Analyzing the second-half schedule. dark. Next

The Cardinals begin their second half with a three game series with the San Francisco Giants at Busch this weekend. Here’s hoping this second half gets off to a good start!