Kurt Wilks joins us again to talk about his St. Louis Cardinals and throw some shade our way for the preseason predictions!
After listening to the Bat Flips and Nerds guys out of hand dismiss the Cardinals as a team of any relevance in their season preview podcast I was apoplectic (maybe an exaggeration for effect), but life got in the way of me providing a reasoned/bias response.
Well, here we are after 2 months of the season and I have finally got around to it on my work commute.
As the B&N team took trip a through the 30 teams the brief stop at the Gateway City called out Adam Wainwright as defining the rotation! Now I love Waino and everything he has been as a Cardinal but he hasn’t been the same pitcher since an achilles injury cut short his 2015(!!) season in April…come join us in 2018 fellas the sun’s out and the baseball’s awesome!
Tommy Pham (11th in NL MVP vote) and DeJong (NL Rookie of the year runner up) were given the one season wonder tags with little expectation of achieving anything close in 2018. Predictably and insufferably for Cards fans the NL central race focused on the “can’t lose” Cubs and the Brewers with their Jhoulys Chacin led rotation!
The prediction, another season of a smidge over .500 baseball for the Redbirds.
Now, based on the previous two seasons of barely average baseball from the Birds on the Bat this would seem a fair prediction. The likes of Carlos Martinez, Tommy Pham and offseason acquisition Marcell Ozuna had me more optimistic. In response to the pod I took the over on the B&N prediction with 86 wins. I had wanted to push towards the 90 mark but worried this would seem bullish and ruin any credibility I could ever hope of having.
Anyway, just over a quarter of the way through the season where do we find the Cards?
As I could have confidently predicted, even before Ian Happ smashed the first pitch of the 2018 season into where the crowd should have been in right field in Miami, the NL Central is very competitive with 4 teams within a couple of games of each other.
However, the story in St Louis has not been what I had expected. I had high hopes for the offense particularly with the addition of Ozuna coming off 37 dingers and 124 ribbies in 2017, he was the big bat that the front office sought during the hot stove. After the first 170 ABs of the season the Big Bear’s production has been well below what had been projected. Lack of production would be an accurate description for the team’s offense as a whole, barring Pham who is putting up all star numbers again, DeJong who has not yet showed signs of a sophomore slump and Jose Martinez who has made up for some of the worst first base played in the majors with his bat. With regulars Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler and Kolten Wong all batting below the Mendoza line the offense has been a horror show at times.
The second major storyline has been injuries. Yadi, the clubhouse leader and face of the franchise, took a foul ball to the crown jewels from a Jordan Hicks 100+ mph heater! Ouch! The result, emergency surgery and a stint on the DL. To lose M4 for any period of time hurts the Cardinals but the story doesn’t end there. Top catching prospect Carson Kelly replaced Molina but his struggles were followed by his own trip to the 10 day. Add to that bullpen injuries to Leone, Gregerson, Lyons, Cecil, Bowman, DeJong fracturing his hand on a HBP, Pham missing time through injury, Carlos Martinez being hit by the injury curse and elbow issues seemingly having brought an Wainwright’s illustrious career. Injuries galore!
Opening day saw the signing of the “proven closer” that many of Cardinal Nation had desired in the form of Greg Holland. I can’t comment on the performance to date of Mr Netherlands without the use of multiple expletives so I’ll let you to look up his numbers if you are unaware.
So the the Bat Flips and Nerds team must have got it about right then? Unbelievably no! Cardinals find themselves on pace for 90+wins? How the….
Well the answer is in the Adam Wainwright led rotation. Back to 2018 and the rotation has been anchored by Martinez who prior to succumbing to injury was putting up Cy Young calibre numbers. Mix in the surprisingly dominant performances of Miles Mikolas returning to the Major leagues after a stint in Japan, the consistent solid outings from Michael Wacha and the production line of pitching from the farm system in the form of Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty (@UKPhillies can attest to how good he has looked). That all equates to the Cardinals being good for the 3rd best MLB rotation by ERA at the time of writing.
So what’s in the store for the rest of the season?
• The offense can’t continue to be as bad/inconsistent as it has been! I expect Ozuna to start looking like the neon arm sleeve slugger we became accustomed to during his time in Miami.
• The Mets like injuries surely can’t continue.
• Whilst some regression is to be expected from the rotation, the return of Uber prospect Alex Reyes looks to bring extra fire to the pitching mix.
• The one lingering concern I have is that the bullpen has shown few signs of consistency and at times has been downright awful (see earlier Greg Holland reference).
All in all over 90 wins may be at the high end of my optimism but I still have confidence in the Cardinals exceeding my pre-season prediction of 86 wins, thus reinforcing my view that the B&N season preview was unjustly harsh on my Cardinals.
Let’s go Birds!