Right where we belong

As the MLB turns the calendar to August,  not only the heat rises…but so does the intensity in MLB baseball. The Cards have perplexed their engaged fan base for much of the season. They raced out of the starting blocks to pile up an early 20-10 record….fans were buzzing.  Then…things slipped and on June 1, the Birds were holding a disappointing ….yet modest ..29-28 record.  As the summer weeks unfolded, on July 28 the Cards were coming off a hot stretch and shoved their record up to 56-49. This is really about where the Cards belong.

Not that the Cards are a powerhouse team, but….they should be above .500. Some….probably many…feel like the Cards SHOULD be MUCH Better.  Tony LaRussa’s succinct quote, “Our record says who we are” really does say it all.  Looking back….maybe we should be grateful to be in the NL Central Division…..in the NL and AL Western Divisions the Dodgers and Astros are already coasting to a division title. Maybe…..when one considers…..the Cards really don’t have an ace…haven’t found a permanent shut down closer, are 11th in the NL in scoring runs, 12th in NL in batting average, have seen some of their key veterans falter….. Molina injured, Ozuna limped out of the blocks to start the season …then…after piling up several good batting weeks, he hit the DL; Carpenter…from my view…..has aged; Cards continue to look for answers by bringing up the next “star” prospect month after month, Goldschmidt started out with several early dingers then limped through a multi week draught through the HR desert, the RF position has NEVER really been won by any particular player throughout 2019. A winning team…its thought…must win the close (1 run) games…currently the Cards are 14-15 in 1-run games. The Brewers are 15-11 in 1-run contests. Amazingly, San Francisco is 23-10 in 1-run games!! With all that being said…..the Cards ARE tied for 1st place.

On the up side….the Cards pitching staff is 4th in the NL in runs allowed ….it doesn’t surprise me that LA is the stingiest pitching staff but that Cincy is #2 and the Cubs #3 in runs allowed does set me back… the defense is vastly improved over last season…sure…they make errors…but…the Cards are #1 in fewest errors in NL at this point….Cards pitching staff is #4 in NL in team ERA, #4 in team Batting average against them and they play half their games in the #3 rated “best stadium” of the MLB and #1 of the NL according to one article. Here were their thoughts..”They don’t call it “Baseball Heaven” for nothing. Our pick for the best stadium in the National League is St. Louis’ Busch Stadium.  You get a stunning view of the city’s skyline from any upper seat and there’s a huge number of brews to choose from at the on-site beer garden, which is fitting for any stadium named after a brewer. Also, Busch Stadium’s Ballpark Village, located right outside the park, it turns each game into an event with its entertainment and dining options before and after.”

Soooo…..the long and short of it….the Cards are really where they belong.  Now…that being said…..a few possible ways to improve this team. Just a couple extra wins COULD make the difference.  Trade 1 of these can’t miss OF prospects for a proven starter…Seattle did this to us when we swapped Marco Gonzalez for Tyler O’Neill in 2017. While we’re still waiting for O’Neill to become a “regular”, Gonzalez is 26-18 since 2017 for the Mariners. Right now he’s 5th in AL in wins with 12! I don’t know if it’s right or wong….but Keep Kolton Wong playing 5x a week. Continue to find reasons NOT to use Wacha.  With Bader gone… how many weeks has he been working on hitting sliders?…..our “D” takes a tumble…Dex does have some range but no where near the arm. Marcel in LF and …I suppose… O’Neill in RF…how about Lane Thomas? He doesn’t have the Hulk Hogan arms of O’Neill but his swing is much shorter (and better) in my view. Placing Tommy Edman (3b)in front of an experienced hitter (like Yadi) might encourage him to just get on base and then use his speed for hit/run or stolen base opportunities….and ….make yadi more productive at the plate.

Lucky for the Cards that they belong to the NL Central Division….

In an article written by Bleacher Report in Feb, 2019, the author tried quantifying which team(s) had the best “young” talent. To be considered “young”…players had to be 25 or less on June 30 of this year. A point scale was established…

Established MLB Stars (10 points): Players with at least one 5.0-WAR season or a zWAR of at least 5.0 for the upcoming campaign were worth the most. These players have already established themselves as All-Star-level performers or are expected to do so in 2018. Ten players qualified.

Budding MLB Stars (5 points): Players with at least one 2.0-WAR season or a zWAR of at least 2.0 for the upcoming season. A 2.0 WAR is generally identified as the baseline for an everyday player, and producing at that level before the age of 26 is a good sign of a bright future.

Top Prospects (1-3 points): Using the top 100 prospect lists from Baseball America, MLB.com and ESPN.com, prospects were awarded one point for each list where they made an appearance.

The Cardinals were rated  8th in the MLB in this “young star” poll…it broke down like this for them….. St. Louis Cardinals (24 Points)-top prospect-Jack Flaherty.  Lesser Stars (High WAR): CF Harrison Bader (3.8), SS Paul DeJong (3.8), RHP Jack Flaherty (2.6) Key Prospects (Lists): RHP Alex Reyes (3), 3B Nolan Gorman (3), 3B Eli Montero (2), RHP Dakota Hudson (1)

According to the article by Bleacher Report,”the St. Louis Cardinals’ best prospect is at a frustrating crossroads.  Alex Reyes looked like the next big thing when the Cardinals called him up in 2016, but then he underwent Tommy John surgery in February 2017. He seemed to be ready to make a roaring comeback in 2018, but then his shoulder quit on him. Now the Cardinals don’t know what to expect out of the 24-year-old.But if Reyes’ uncertain situation is a knock against St. Louis’ farm system, the team’s young major leaguers are more than worth going to bat for. Harrison Bader, 24, might be the game’s best defensive outfielder. Paul DeJong, 25, is a far better slugger than most shortstops. Jack Flaherty, 23, whiffed 10.8 batters per nine innings as a rookie last year. Not even pictured are right-hander Jordan Hicks or outfielder Tyler O’Neill. The former has enough of an arm to improve on last season’s subdued results. The latter—who, despite his appearance in Baseball America’s top 100, lost his rookie eligibility in 2018—has the sheer manpower to be a great slugger.”

#7 Texas Rangers  — 27 Points—top prospect–Joey Gallo;  Other Stars (High WAR): LF Joey Gallo (3.2), 2B Rougned Odor (2.7), RHP Jose Leclerc (2.5), RF Nomar Mazara (2.0*) Key Prospects (Lists): RHP Hans Crouse (3), RHP Cole Winn (2), OF Julio Pablo Martinez (1), OF Leody Taveras (1)

#6  Minnesota Twins (28 Points) Superstars (High WAR): CF Byron Buxton (5.2) Lesser Stars (High WAR): RHP Jose Berrios (3.9), SS Jorge Polanco (2.2) Key Prospects (Lists): SS Royce Lewis (3), OF Alex Kirilloff (3), RHP Brusdar Graterol (2)

#5 . San Diego Padres (32 Points) Best prospect: Fernando Tatis; Lesser Stars (High WAR): CF Manuel Margot (2.5). Key Prospects (Lists): SS Fernando Tatis Jr. (3), LHP MacKenzie Gore (3), 2B Luis Urias (3), C Francisco Mejia (3), LHP Adrian Morejon (3), RHP Chris Paddack (3), RHP Luis Patino (3), LHP Logan Allen (3), 1B Josh Naylor (1), RHP Michael Baez (1), LHP Ryan Weathers (1)

#4  Los Angeles Dodgers (34 Points) Superstars (High WAR): SS Corey Seager (7.0) Lesser Stars (High WAR): 1B/OF Cody Bellinger (4.2), RHP Walker Buehler (3.4)  Key Prospects (Lists): C Keibert Ruiz (3), OF Alex Verdugo (3), SS/2B Gavin Lux (3), RHP Dustin May (3), C Will Smith (2)

#3. Tampa Bay Rays (39 Points)  Lesser Stars (High WAR): 2B Daniel Robertson (2.6), SS Willy Adames (2.0), LHP Jose Alvarado (2.0)  Key Prospects (Lists): SS Wander Franco (3), RHP Brent Honeywell (3), LHP/DH Brendan McKay (3), C Ronaldo Hernandez (3), LHP Matthew Liberatore (3), OF Jesus Sanchez (3), 2B Vidal Brujan (2), 2B Brandon Lowe (1), 1B Nate Lowe (1) RHP Shane Baz (1), SS Lucius Fox (1)  

#2   Houston Astros (41 Points)  –only team with 2 superstar  ratings of young players already!!  Superstars (High WAR): 3B Alex Bregman (7.6), SS Carlos Correa (6.3) Lesser Stars (High WAR): RHP Roberto Osuna (2.9) Key Prospects (Lists): RHP Forrest Whitley (3), OF Kyle Tucker (3), RHP Josh James (3), RHP Corbin Martin (3), OF Yordan Alvarez (2), RHP J.B. Bukauskas (2)

#1  Atlanta Braves (45 Points)  Ozzie Albies (L) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (R)  Lesser Stars (High War): LF Ronald Acuna Jr. (4.1), 2B Ozzie Albies (3.8), INF Johan Camargo (3.7), SS Dansby Swanson (2.3)

Key Prospects (Lists): 3B Austin Riley (3), RHP Ian Anderson (3), RHP Mike Soroka (3), RHP Kyle Wright (3), RHP Touki Toussaint (3), RHP Bryse Wilson (3), OF Drew Waters (3), OF Christian Pache (3), C William Contreras (1)

The Cards were the highest rated team of the NL Central in this highly unofficial rating system…..it’s rather middle of the pack in the MLB… but its looking good when comparing to other Central teams.

Now…I head to the bench…where I belong….thanks for reaching the bottom!