One month into the 162-game grind that is the MLB season is hardly a long enough amount of time to make judgements about a team or a player for the rest of the year. However, a month of play does give fans a good idea of certain trends. For the St. Louis Cardinals, it is tough to pick things out, while some developing trends are certainly easier to spot. For example, Aledmys Diaz is not going to hit above .400 all season, that is a certainty. Something tougher to predict would be when and if Mike Leake will become the groundball pitcher the Cardinals signed him to be or if he will continue getting hurt by the longball. Of course that question and more will be contemplated below, so let’s get to it and evaluate the Cardinals performance.
At a glance: The Cardinals are 12-13 overall entering play on Monday night, far below the even modest expectations many sites like Fangraphs had. Struggles with the rotation have hurt the team most, as have slow starts from many key lineup components. The Cardinals sit six games back of the division-leading Cubs, and there are still five months to right the ship, but the ship needs to be righted sooner rather than later as a double digit deficit when May ends would be quite the hole to be in.
Starting Rotation: D
The lone bright spot of the rotation has been Carlos Martinez, who has gone 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA and has 28 strikeouts in just under 35 innings pitched. Michael Wacha has been good as well with an ERA of 3.07, but he has gotten past the sixth inning just once so far this season. Outside of those two there isn’t much to be excited about. Jaime Garcia sports a 3.73 ERA but has taken three consecutive losses since twirling a one-hit gem back on April 14. Mike Leake has been bad, with an ERA above 5.00 and “ace” Adam Wainwright has been downright awful, showing a complete lack of control and feel for his pitches. Things stand to get better of course, especially since Wainwright’s only problem seems to be his control, as he is leaving balls up in the zone for hitters to drive. The veteran pitcher has said he is working on getting his pitches down, and though we are hopeful that will fix Wainwright’s game, for right now the Cardinals get a low grade for their rotation’s putrid performance through one month.
The Cardinals’ main reason for even having 12 wins is largely because of the offense, which is scoring 5.72 runs per game, second only to who else but the Cubs. The offense is succeeding right now despite glacial starts from Kolten Wong (.232/.308/.232 and no XBH) and Randal Grichuk (.179/.261/.359) as well as slow starts from Matt Holliday (.256/.341/.500) and Matt Carpenter(.242/.375/.429). That’s not even to mention the black hole at first base where Brandon Moss (.227/.325/.545) and Matt Adams (.261/.320/.435) are both struggling to find a groove at the plate.
How has the offense produced then? Credit can go to rookies Aledmys Diaz (.405/.438/.703) and Jeremy Hazelbaker (.313/.352/.672) who have burst onto the scene and have been the motor driving this Cardinals team. Steady contributions from a now-healthy Yadier Molina (.329/.412/.435) and sophomore Stephen Piscotty (.284/.352/.495) have helped as well. Of course two rookies cannot be counted on to drive the offense all season, and Randal Grichuk plus the Matt duo will have to wake up at some point if this team wants to keep running a top-10 offense let alone a top-five offense.
The bullpen has been the saving grace of this team. St. Louis’ bullpen ranks 4th in the Senior Circuit thanks to strong performances from closer Trevor Rosenthal and rookie setup man Seung-hwan Oh. The offense running smoothly and the bullpen being able to hold leads is the main reason the Cardinals are near .500 at all, and outside of Carlos Martinez the Cardinals best pitching have come out of the bullpen.
Overall Grade: C+
The Cardinals’ 12-13 record could be worse if not for the offense and bullpen, but things could also be a lot better and as a result the Cardinals are humming along as an average team. This series against the Phillies though is a perfect chance to bust out the bats and get hot, and the Cardinals are already on their way, as Adams, Diaz, Grichuk, and Wong all hit homers in Monday night’s game. Wainwright also hit a homer to go with his nice pitching line of six innings, five hits, three earned runs, one walk and four strikeouts. Wainwright’s line is encouraging and shows progress, especially with only one walk allowed, which may suggest that Wainwright has started to solve his control issues and be on the right track back to ace status.