Cards GPS needs reset

The St Louis Cardinals have really spoiled us. They continually compete for the top spot in their division and in the past decade (the teens), they’ve reached the playoffs 6 times. They’ve played in 2 World Series in that time and reached the NL Championship Series in 3 other seasons. But….recently… it seems like the Cardinals GPS to winning games has gone awry and needs a reset.
…after last season, the Cardinals had to look closely at their outfield production. In the NL, the Cards OF vs the other NL outfields (15 teams) was 11th in Batting Average; 10th in runs scored; 11th in RBI’s; 9th in OBP; 10th in OPS. Clearly it seems that an upgrade was necessary. Instead, Marcel Ozuna who led the Cards Outfielders in HR, was 2nd in slugging%, 1st in runs scored was allowed to depart. Granted, Ozuna was a liability with his arm in the OF and one gets the feeling that a) when he arrived in camp, he wasn’t in tip top condition; b) What other factors were more significant than his “big” bat in an anemic StL Lineup . The Cards & Ozuna were never on the same page in negotiating. Ozuna was expecting a $50m offer from Cincy. So..Cards offered him a qualifying offer …with seemingly NO intentions of signing him…but hoping some other team would do so and the Cards would obtain an additional draft pick…oh….they do LUV those prospects. Both parties didn’t appear to really want a contract. It turns out that Ozuna signs for less money with Atlanta than the qualifying offer. Something was serious enough for the Cards to stumble around following thier GPS to lose a valuable 2020 Outfielder while receiving absolutely nothing in return.
….Let’s look @ those 2020 Cardinal outfielders…Several natioanal publications rankall the NL Outfielders. In 1 publication , using the ratings of 4 national baseball writers to rank the top 90 OF in the MLB, the returning Cards players were ranked this way: #71 Dylan Carlson!!! That’s it!! No other Cardinals in the top 90 OF of the NL!! Ranked higher than Carlson are recent Card rejects—Tommy Pham @ #19, Marcel Ozuna #24, Oscar Mercado #35. In another poll of NL outfielders, a group of 43 “fantasy” writers, compiled their list. Tommy Edman had the highest Card rating @ #54– Like the 1st poll, he’s another young unproven, player. Carlson was listed @ #91 and Harrison Bader #96, Tyler O’Neill was found at #102, Dexter Fowler landed at #132 (the list ends at the #141!!) It’s difficult to understand the why/how the Cards reached their decision on their new OF path. I’m proposing to ease factors and improve play on the field, buy out Dexter Fowler this year! His contract will be reduced by approximately 2/3 this year. So, you could buy him out of a 2 year contract for 1.3 years. Do it! Buy him out and move on. Btw…this 2nd panel had these former Cards rated in this way—Tommy Pham #18, Marcel Ozuna #20, Oscar Mercado #33, Grichuk #69, Heyward #95 (slipping now), Piscotty #98, Jose Martinez @ #100. One has to wonder…where has the Card GPS taken them on the outfielders path?
….Looking deepr about establishing roles for the outfielders in 2020, the Cards have already chosen paths over the past 2 seasons to provide certain players more playing time. In the outfield over the last 2 seasons, the Cards have given the seasoned veteran, highest paid, the most plate appearances–Dexter Fowler had 908 plate appearances in the last 2 years. Harrison Bader has piled up 833 plate appearances. Tyler O’Neill has only received 293 plate appearances over the last 2 seasons. Now…I’m not a Popeye (O’Neill) fan….but I can’t find any place last year where he started more than 11 straight games for the Cards. He had hits in all of them except the last 2 games…then he was yanked from the lineup & used as a pinch hitter. Do you have to get a hit every day to stay in the lineup? The Cards traded a valuable piece of property for him—Marco Gonzalez. Gonzalez has won 30 games in the 3 seasons that he’s pitched for Seattle. I assume that O’Neill was seen as the bigger, better version of Randal Grichuk..or maybe a less expensive version? Meanwhile, Bader has received multiple chances—yes, he has speed, GREAT defense, and a big wide smile that pleases fans….but….can he hit? To this point, nope! The Cardinals have to wonder if the current GPS path is leading them anywhere positive. Tommy Edman had 349 AB’s last year and produced. I would like to see him play every day….use him to alternate between 3B (Carp) and LF (O’Neill)…the idea would be to make Carp/O’Neill platoon batters with Edman playing every day. OF Lane Thomas was very productive last year at the plate in just 44 AB’s. His .316 batting mark, 1.093 OPS, 4 HR in only limited plate appearances would seem to open a path for him – (See note on Fowler above). ..but…..Dylan Carlson looms on the horizon. If I understand the current covid adjusted regulations, any player not having a service year in 2019 has a new standard in 2020. If a player misses 7 days off the roster, he will NOT receive service year! If that’s true….do ya think that Carlson has ANY chance of starting the season with the Cards? Play him all season OR leave him off the roster for 7 days and save a service year? I think we all know what path the Cards will choose and where that puts Carlson for the first 7 games.
….another strange path being followed by the Cards GPS is the handling of Carlos Martinez. Widely lauded as the ACE of the Cardinals starting staff in 2016, 2017, 2018, he landed up in the bullpen in 2019 as the closer. While 90% of relief pitchers began their career as starters and were moved to the bullpen at some point, due to the fact that a) they need to throw max effort to succeed on every pitch b) only have 2 pitches or 3) don’t have the endurance. While it does happen frequently….usually prior to the pitcher reaching the MLB level…there have been only a few…very few…who succeeded moving while in the MLB from a starting role to an elite closer. Starting close to home—Lindy McDaniel arrived in the Lou in 1955 as a 19 year old starter. After struggling in 1958 with a 5-7 record, the Cards began using him in relief. In 1959, he started 7 games, relived in 55. He registered 16 saves- a high total for those days when starters went much deeper in the games. In 1960 as a 24 year old, he had his best MLB season. He was 12-4, 2.09 ERA, 27 saves in 65 appearances. He piled up a 21 year career with 5 different teams, 74 starts and 577 games that he finished. Phil Regan was another converted pitcher from starter to reliever who gained some success in the pen. Regan began his career with the Detroit Tigers in 1960 as a starter. In the first 6 years of his career, he started 170 games with some work in the bullpen (often starters were brought into “blow out” games just to finish the game instead of throwing on the “side”. He was traded to the Dodgers in 1966 and moved to the pen. He finished 262 games throughout the rest of his career. Twice registering outstanding save totals of 25 and 21(receiving MVP votes each year). He remained in the MLB for 13 years working primarily out of the bullpen. The strangest career of beginning in the bullpen, moving to the rotation and THEN back to the bullpen exclusively belonged to Knuckleballer, Hoyt Willhem. Wilhem came up in 1952 as a 29 year old pitcher with the Giants. After being traded twice (once with Cards), he recorded his 1st MLB start in 1958 with 10 starts & 29 relief appearances. His best MLB year was in 1959 with Baltimore—15-11 record, 2.19 ERA in 226 inn(his personal high) and only 177 hits! From 1964 through 1972, he worked exclusively out of the bullpen. With his rubber-arm & knuckleballs, he pitched in 1070 games in his 21 year career. My point….it’s extremely rare for ANY pitcher to move successfully from starting role to the bullpen once they reach the MLB….AND only Mr. Wilhem, to my knowledge was able to reverse it and go back again to the bullpen. Despite hyping him all winter about being back in the rotation, the Cards GPS now has Carlos pointed back to the bullpen. It is a very strange path that their GPS has taken the Cardinals with Carlos Martinez.
….However, an unusual path that the Cards will have to reach soon is the future of Yadi Molina. We all know the story about what Molina said 3 years ago and that he now wants to continue playing as a Card or anywhere else. From a wider perspective(outside of the Lou), in an unbiased rating of current catchers by MLB writers, Yadi was listed in the 4th tier (of 5 tiers) of MLB catchers. The 4th tier also includes–Joge Alfaro, Francisco Mejia, Buster Posey, Carson Kelly, Danny Jansen, Omar Narvaez, Sean Murphy, Travis D-Armaud & Tom Murphy. I think those names say it all about what writers from other cities think of Yadi Molina at this stage of his career. The Cards GPS may lead them back to Yadi (at a reduced salary) for 2021+ but is it the right path to follow if you REALLY want to win a division?
…..Well…..it’s time for me to “hit the path” myself….I don’t need a GPS to find the exit sign! I welcome your thoughts on the blog….put it on facebook (under the article).I hope the Cards do calibrate their GPS (GOING PLAYOFFS SOON) quickly. If you’d like to catch up on some earlier blogs…you can find them on http://www.bobryansportsblog.com . I’m gradually entering all of them…I’m back to 2017 now..sometimes, it’s a good path to go back & read some of the thoughts of a year or 2 or 3 ago—the GPS may/may not have changed!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s