Questions for the Birds!

We haven’t even started playing for “real” yet but already there are questions about birds…the only Birds in St Louis are the Cardinals. I have some questions….you probably have others….here goes..
…Let’s start with the most obvious question– The starting rotation . Wainwright, Flaherty, Matz, Hudson, and Mikolas are our listed starters…each brings questions about health. Flaherty’s “tear” may/may not be serious with respect to missing games. But…will he still have that sharp breaking slider? Hudson & Mikolas are returning from long-term injuries. Many times, pitchers in this same spot return with a little less sharpness & strong stamina. Mikolas is now 33 years old. He’s compiled 1 strong year (18-4 in 2018 with Cards) in his career. In 2019, he was 9-14, in 2020 didn’t pitch and 2021 was 2-3. That’s a HUGE question mark! Dakota Hudson’s numbers parallel Mikolas. He was very good in 2019 (3 years ago) with 16-7 record & a 3.35 ERA in 32 starts. In 2020 & 2021, Hudson was 4-2 in only 10 games! Wainwright was amazingly spectacular last year. His 17-7 mark with 3.05 ERA in 32 starts, 206 innings are truly unbelievable for a 39 year old pitcher. Actually, those stats are very good for ANY AGE pitcher!! Should we still expect that level of performance from a 40 year old? Is our heart blinding our mind from common sense here?
…in the field…the Paul DeJong situation seems to be the biggest question mark. Maybe its our expectations…not his actual play. Take a look at the 2021 stats compared to the other MLB shortstops. DeJong was 24th in games played as a SS. Similarly, he was 22nd in at bats; 22nd in runs; 22nd in rbis; 12th in HR; 43 in OB%; 31st in slugging. So….playing the devils advocate here… Yes…Those numbers are far beneath his career marks in his 5 years in MLB competition but considering the # of game played, his numbers seem to indicate that with more games, he’d be one of the top 6 -10 SS in the league. What if he played in more games last yar? Would his numbers move up correspondingly in comparison to other SS?. In March 2018, DeJong signed a 6 year deal with the Cards for $26m. The Cards did this to alleviate DeJong from demanding a far higher scale down the road. Many, maybe most, fans thought it was a good idea to “lock him up” at the time. Currently many of those same fans are very frustrated by his strikeout rate of 29% of his at bats. DeJong says that he’s been working on his swing in the off-season. The other SS candidate, Edmundo Sosa, who demonstrates a bit more range that DeJong and is speedier on the bases waits in the wings. But…Sosa does NOT have the punch at the plate of DeJong. Somewhat surprisingly, Sosa did strikeout 22% of the time while demonstrating flexibility in defensive positions. Sosa hit 6 HR while batting .271 in 288 AB’s in 2021. Sadly for Sosa, he has the tag as a “backup” player. I suppose that’s due to his versatility. But to answer the question, I think DeJong should have the regular job until he plays himself out of it.
…who’s the closer? Alex Reyes sparkled last year as he finished 54 games in his 69 appearances. He allowed just 4 earned runs while saving his first 20 games. But…once again, he has arm issues. One common trait of successful closers is …lack of arm issues. Reyes clearly doesn’t fit that image. The Cards scrambled last year to find a closer. Out of necessity, Giovanny Gallegos emerged out of the “set up” role to closer. Gallegos has been crowned as the closer at this point. I’m skeptical… his numbers were good last year –14 saves, 24 holds. But…in his career, he’s never had back-back years of a high number of appearances. Optimists would think…this IS the YEAR!! Others might wonder.
…Where in the pen? Another bullpen name heard frequently is Jordan Hicks. In 2018, Hicks had a marvelous year out of the pen—73 games, 3.59 era with 6 saves in 77.2 innings. In 2019, he pitched in just 29 games. In 2020 Hicks sat out the entire year due to covid. Last year in 10 games, his ERA was 5.40. The question may be…can you sit out almost 2 full years, pitch in only 39 games over 3 years and return to the grueling schedule of a relief hurler? Do you still have the same “stuff” as 3 years ago?
… But the bullpen may have a different approach. Mgr Marmol indicates that there will NOT be assigned relief roles (closer, set-up, junk innings) for the pen. While it sounds good, most agree that the 9th inning requires a special temperament. Can all relievers face that pressure? Reyes struggled facing that pressure for several games last year until he matured into the role. Further, just because an opponent rallies in the 6th, 7th or 8th… what’s to say that they won’t rally again in the 9th ? Especially if your closer has already been used in that game. Do you really want your 2nd or 3rd best bullpen pitcher in the 9th inning? Please…don’ try telling me that they’re all equal!! Usually games aren’t won in the 6th,7th or 8th innings…it’s the 9th inning rallies. The Cards were 23rd in the MLB in 2021 in permitting .39 runs/9th innings. In the 8th inning last year, STL permitted .38 runs (2nd best in MLB). In the 7th innings last year, Cards permitted .46 run/inn. It was .48 runs in the 6th. In the 5th inning it was .39. In the 4th inning, Cards permitted .53 runs/gm. It was .50 run avg for the 3rd inning. In the 2nd inning, it was .47 run/inn. The 1st inning saw .51 runs/inn. Sooo…it appears that the numbers (for 5th/8th/9th innings) were the lowest of the game!! Maybe, that designated closer & designated set-up man does make a difference!! The most damage done against Cardinal pitchers last year was in the first 4 innings! Should we start the game with relief hurlers in that case?
…the signing of Albert as a rt-handed DH makes some cents (it’s always about money). While he is a far shadow of the last time he wore the Cards uniform (2011), he seems to have some DH value vs LHP. The real question this an extended farewell tour or a rt-handed bat for lefties? Or…maybe both? However, I think that it’s more a move by the Cards to bring back one of their greatest heroes to get the turnstiles moving. However, I’m skeptical that 42 year old , a shadow of his former self, will lose some of his well deserved honor for those many years in the Lou. Remember, the greatest player of all-time, Babe Ruth, played too long. In his last year in Boston @ 40 years old he batted .181. I don’t want to see Albert walk away in that same fashion. Ironically, Babe started & ended his career in Bean Town…now,similarly, so is Albert in St. Louis .
In situations with other birds….
…There are other Questions about other birds! it begins with the Peacocks of St. Peters. Was this a 1 ride pony or the start of a ride with the big-boys? Like the 1st step towards national recognition? St. Peters owned the hearts of most fans but N. Carolina demonstrated a complete dominance inside. The Peacocks perimeter defense was very, very good. They always to kept the ball in front of them. However, the inside strength & skill of Tar Heel players was too much for these birds.
….Another bird, The Jayhawks, glided easily into the final four with superior talent as the blue-Bloods circle up for a 4-team showdown. The question is will it be Duke, Villanova, N.Carolina or Kansas? All of them glided. It may seem obvious but only 1% of the folks that filled out brackets had this 4-some.
…a bird that no one want to see –the vultures are circling over the Blues. The Blues are 3-9 since March began. Brandon Saad, Vladimier Tarasenko & Brayden Schenn, each have only 2 goals since March 1. O’Reilly & Barbashev each has just 3 goals in that same time span. To my untrained eyes, the Blues look slower than earlier in the year.
……If you’d like to catch up on earlier blogs check I’m always very interested in YOUR thoughts. These Cardinal blogs usually generate “action” in that regard. You don’t have to be an expert (I’m certainly not)… just put your thoughts on my Facebook page or send them to me & I’ll use your initials (unless you indicate that its OK to use your name). Thanks Again for the read! Go Cards!!!

2 thoughts on “Questions for the Birds!

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