Cards & Flying High & Flops

Many MLB teams have already reached the 40 game mark in this unique 2020 season. Much of our attention has been diverted to off-the-field actions, reactions. Now…let’s focus at on-the-field action.
…Of course we begin with our home-town boys-the Cards. The middle of the lineup was severely limited early in 2020 as the 2 Pauls– Goldstein & DeJong—were not in the lineup. Both have returned with strong production in limited games. Goldy holds a .325 mark leads the club. Having only 5 HR, 15 RBI’s are due…at least partially….to the opposing teams pitching around him. DeJong has 3 dingers and a .299 mark. DeJong is definitely seeing fewer fastballs IN the zone this year. What does it say about the Cards offense that Brad Miller leads the team in RBI’s with 21? The Outfield, outside of Dexter Fowler, has seemed more like a carnival ride…everyone gets on for a ride(game) or 2….then someone else takes his seat and does the same…repeat, repeat. Bader, O’Neill, Edman, Carlson, Lane Thomas have been circulated in for a game or 2-then sat out-and come back in for another short stint in a few days…repeat the cyle. It seems to be demanding a… “PRODUCE right now” feeling… or you’ll be on the bench. That’s NOT how to develop young players. The early impression presented was that Carlson WAS the man. He was in the lineup almost daily for 2 weeks. He may well be the “man”…in a year or 2…. but not now. The steady diet of off speed breaking pitches that he was fed presented difficulties for him. I assume that until 1 of these players shows consistency over 10 days-2 weeks, our carnival ride syndrome will continue. Looking deeper into the long range plans….the Cards are forced into a corner with the arrival of 5 outfielders, so some will have to be dealt. Tommy Pham & Randy Arozarena faced similar settings here in recent years. Now….the question REALLY is…. which 2 or 3 do you keep for the long run? (Fowler will be gone after next year). At this stage, I’d put Edman @ 3b (a national commentator pointed out that Carpenter doesn’t have the bat speed any longer to pull those HR to right). O’Neill has shown flashes… I think he’s Randall Grichuk all over again. Grichuk in 1291 AB’s in St Louis hit a HR every 19.56ab. Once he went to Toronto, the level rose to a HR every 17.7 ab. O’Neill has only had 364 ab in 3 seasons with 18 HR—a home run once every 20.2 ab! Lane Thomas’ short, quick swing has gone funky. The once short, crisp swing has disappeared (probably due to lack of use)… It now looks longer & slower. Further his defensive play seems hesitant in decision making. Bader’s speed & defense are exceptional. So…. from my view…all we need from him is “average” batting. To this point…he’s doing that! The OBP (on base percentage) tells you more than the batting average. Across the MLB, a .370 OBP is Great;.340 is above average; .320 is average; .310 is below average. Bader’s OBP in 2020 is .331 With his other qualities and that OBP, he should be playing every day. The Cards offense does need a jolt…as I write this the Birds are 28th in the MLB in runs scored(the ultimate point of batting—scoring runs). Being 29th in HR also adds to the scoring issues.
…..The pitching has seen some remarkable efforts by Adam Wainwright. Truly incredible! All those young pitchers watching should note that he didn’t need a 93+mph fastball to get people out. He changed locations, pitches & speed IN the strike zone. No free passes–he’s issued 9 walks while facing 158 batters. Despite many off-season nay-sayers, Dakota Hudson’s ball “moves” downward and he’s sliced down his walks. In 2019, he walked 86 in 174 innings(almost 1 every 2 innings). This year, he’s walked 9 in 31 innings about 1 for every 3.5 innings. Despite some critics, he definitely belongs in the rotation. Jack Flaherty is the ace but he’s failed to establish his presence on the mound in 2020. The shockingly low pitch count on his return made me wonder…. why wasn’t he pitching throughout his down time. Heck, hire a college coach or college catcher to catch you…build yourself up to 80 pitches even BEFORE you return. Personally, I expected the ace of the staff to be ready to go upon return. Maybe…. maybe…my expectations are too high for Flaherty at this point of his career. Carlos Martinez seems to be a wild card. His career has seen more ups/downs than a Ferris wheel.
….around the league, as much as we moan about the Cards—they are still in a playoff spot. Some teams are really flopping…even more than Dick Fosbury did in the 1968 Olympics using his own, self-styled Fosbury Flop to clear the High Jump Bar. How about the Angels? The Angels have only 1 regular over .300….and it’s not Michael Trout…it’s David Fletcher (mid-inf) who’s on the DL!! Mike Trout holds a .296 avg, 16 HR, OPS 1.057. Most players would die for those stats but some actually feel like he’s “under” performing. Albert is slugging his way through his golden baseball years and some golden baseball marks- he’s now #6 in All-time HR with 656 just 4 behind Willie Mays. Albert, now 40, just passed up Alex Rodriguez to take over the #3 position in career RBI’s @ 2094. At the same time he’s currently batting .227 with an OPS of .646. Despite his stumbling to the finish line….I’m being naïve & silly here….but…I still hope that he buys himself out of part of his Angel contract so that he could play his last series here in the Lou as a Cardinal.
…Meanwhile, the defending World Series Champions, Washington Nationals, are flopping in LAST place of their division. Anthony Rendon is missed offensively but the club is still in the middle of the pack in most offensive categories. Pitching, the horse that the Nats road last year to the Championship, has slipped. They do have the oldest staff (31.0 years old), the 2nd highest WHIP in MLB, and 2nd highest HR/9 inn.
…on the other side, some teams unexpected teams are flying high and are competing. The Chicago White Sox are in the trio of teams battling for the top of the AL Central with Cleveland & Minnesota. Long overlooked 1B slugger Jose Abreu..now in his 7th season @ 33 years of age…leads the way. He has 191 HR in his career(4 seasons over 30+). The buzz Chicago has shifted to the South Side and centers around two 23 year old rookie players. Rookie Eloy Jimenez holds a .280 avg with 11 HR. More highly touted, Luis Robert has 11 HR in 151ab and 6 stolen bases(as a team, the Cards have 10). Seemingly at the prime of their career- 27 year old SS Tim Anderson leads the way with a .350 mark. 3B Yoan Moncada hasn’t got into high gear yet but he’s only 25 and has 2 full years under his belt. The Sox also brought in some experienced veterans acquired to provide maturity—Edwin Encarncion(3rd in active players in HR-422) & Yasmani Grandal.
…the San Diego Padres are flying high also! If they were in any other NL Division, they’d be in 1st Place. However with the LA Dodgers in the NL West, the Padres are in 2nd place with a 29-17 mark. While not the TOP team, the Padres seem to be the most exciting team in the NL. Fernando Tatis, Jr has been spectacular thus far– .303avg, 15 HR, 8 SB, 1.031 OPS (on base + slugging), and OBP-.396(getting on base 2 of every 5 at bats!). Manny Machado, now 27, seems to be playing steadier, more solid baseball since he’s not in the spotlight as often. Machado hits .307, OPS .973, 13 dingers. Other youthful, rookie contributors are Jake Cronenwirth & Trent Grisham. The veteran leadership comes from Wil Myers .294, 11 HR, 29 years old and Eric Hosmer .288, 30 years old. Old man @ 32 years of age, Tommy Pham, who was brought in to bring some leadership & fire to the team but he’s injured. I’m not sure that this team is fully prepared for a deep playoff run but they ARE one of …if not… THE….most fun to watch due to their skill, speed, power, pizzazz, and unpredictability.
…flying high but not in 1st place yet still shocking most everyone is the Miami Marlins. The Fish are currently 20-19 with 21 games remaining. While this .500 mark sounds very modest to most of us….the Marlins haven’t swam in the .500 waters since 2009! Since 1993 (their 1st year), the Marlins have only made the playoffs twice! Yet, each time they won the World Series! 2003 and 1997 were those magical Marlin years!
…btw…versions of the Fosbury Flop are used today in international high jumping meets. He was the first to jump by arching his back and his stomach facing the sky. His style is “flying” now 
….Thanks for the read….and check out some of my former blogs (if you missed any) on http://www.bobryansportsblog.com. Please feel free to respond to ANY part of this blog—on FB, on my web site or an email to me. Also….if possible…help me spread the word of this weekly blog to your friends.

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