posted on July 25, 2012 01:03
The 2012 St. Louis Cardinals are an enigmatic bunch. They have one of the best offenses in baseball and a pitching staff loaded with surprisingly pleasant individual statistics, yet they remain six games out of first place behind the Cincinnati Reds, and are only a grand total of five games over the .500 mark. The club hasn’t won much lately and it seems that the losses are all costly, while the scattered Ws don’t move them up the ladder. Murphy’s Law seems to be in full effect in the Gateway City right now. And when a team is struggling in the fashion that the Cardinals are currently displaying things seems to go unnoticed. Frustration takes center stage and the ever-fluctuating world of baseball statistics can slip through the cracks. Here’s a look inside the numbers at some interesting Cardinal trends and achievements that may surprise you. Just in case you hadn’t noticed.
• Despite the need for pitching and the push to add impact arms before the trade deadline, rookie Joe Kelly has certainly done his part to keep the club above water. Despite being just 1-3 on the year, Kelly has never allowed more than three runs in any start and has rattled off six consecutive quality outings. His WHIP of 1.37 is a bit high, but his 2.78 ERA attests to his ability to work out of jams. If the team trades for a starter he’ll likely head to the pen, but you can’t ask any more of Kelley who has filled in brilliantly for the injured Jaime Garcia.
• What has happened to Lance Berkman’s power stroke? Since coming off the DL he has just four hits in 22 at-bats (three singles and a double), and he has managed just nine extra-base hits in his 74 plate appearances this year. He currently has one home run and just six RBI. This is a guy who put 31 over the wall last year and has 359 career jacks. Injuries have obviously been a concern, but none of his ailments have really been of the power-sapping variety. Something else is going on. Perhaps mechanical snafu or a wrist issue we don’t know about.
• People like to dog on Matt Holliday because of his contract, but the guy has been an absolute beast this season. He’s currently hitting .317 with 16 homers, 63 RBI, 61 runs scored and an OPS over .930. After a slow start in April where he hit just .215 and slugged .376 he hit .340, .363 and .387 in the next three months respectively with OPS totals of 1.007, .983 and 1.159. In July – coming into Tuesday’s game – he failed to get on base in just one game. One. And in that game he came in as a pinch hitter and had just one at-bat. He had at least one hit in every other. The haters need to find a new target.
• Tuesday’s impressive win against reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw was the first in nine games against the Dodgers. A team the Cardinals used to routinely pummel has managed to get their goat the last two seasons. Maybe Tuesday’s win is a sign that the worm has turned.
• The Cardinals can knock the ball around with the best of them, yet the offense’s potency is not reflected in their record. They are just 51-46 despite ranking first in the National League in runs, hits, batting average, on base percentage, OPS, RBI and total bases (they are 4th in homeruns). So the pitching must be to blame, right? Not so. They are just three quality starts behind the National League leader, rank fourth in walks allowed and have a team ERA of 3.75 (the MLB average is 4.00). So pitching isn’t the obvious answer to the team’s lukewarm record. The lack of success actually lies in their ability to come through in close games. The Cards are just 14-27 in games decided by two runs or less. The big hit just seems to elude them.
• Matt Carpenter is among the league leaders for rookies in nearly every offensive category, but the super utility player has been quiet lately. He hasn’t driven in a run since June 22nd (a span of 21 games) and hasn’t homered since May 15th. He also has hits in just ten of his 22 games since returning from Triple-A.
• Allen Craig on the other hand has played in just 56 games this season and already has 49 RBI. The key – obviously – has been his success with runners in scoring position. Coming into Tuesday’s game he was hitting .367 with a Ruthian 1.153 OPS in those spots. Oddly enough, he hasn’t been very clutch with two outs, hitting just .242 when he’s the last chance of the inning with RISP.
• Jason Motte should be blame-free in terms of the Cardinals recent struggles. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last seven appearances and has converted his last seven save opportunities, spanning from June 18th to present day. Middle relief help at the trade deadline may be necessary, but the closer’s role should remain untouched.
• Yadier Molina set career highs last year in runs, hits, doubles, homeruns, RBI, batting average and OPS. He’s already set a new career high in homers this season with 15 and is on pace to shatter his career bests in every other category as well. Scary that it’s only July. Looks like that monster contract was worth every penny.
• Ok, it’s time for me to eat some humble pie. I was convinced that the decline of Lance Lynn in June was a sign of his failing stamina and he would continue to regress. Well, since I flapped my big mouth Lynn has allowed just one run total in his three starts. He went six, seven and six innings respectively and looks much like the dominant pitcher he was in April. I’m not saying that he won’t still tire out as the season wears on, but I may have jumped the gun a bit in regards to when the decline would occur. I also need to throw some love Kyle Lohse’s way. I was convinced he was all smoke and mirrors and would melt down in the second half (as per his career track record), but he has thrown a quality start in every outing in June and July. That’s nine consecutive impressive starts. He allowed two runs or fewer in eight of them. He has a 2.71 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, opponents are only hitting .245 against him and he has walked just 22 hitters on the year. Impressive numbers = foot in mouth.
Just in case you hadn’t noticed.