The Cardinals have been on a long “run” of having good teams. They’ve been in post-season play for 4 straight years, although the Birds have only won 1 series in those 4 years. This year, the Cardinals are in the “SWING & MISS” mode.

…With the retirement of Yadi Molina after last season (to no one’s surprise), the Cardinals had a long time to evaluate available catchers. It seemed that Andrew Knizner wasn’t the answer to they looked outside of the organization. On Dec 9,2022, the Cards inked Willson Contreras  to a 5 year deal for $87.5m. It looked like that had “hit a HR” figuratively. Getting an experienced catcher that could hit for average and for power was an upgrade of the past couple years. He was a 3x All-Star considered one of the best hitting catchers over the past several years. He carried a .256 avg while passing the 20 HR mark in 4 different years. It looked like it was settled.

…But slightly over 10% of the season had transpired when the Cards took actions that made it look like a “SWING & A MISS” outcome of the trade. He was benched! While he was batting .266-3rd best of the usual starters, he also was 4th best on the team in OPS with a .728 mark. The Cards indicated that his “calling of the pitches” & managing the game wasn’t up to their standard. Now… they wanted more defense. Contreras was viewed as a valuable player due to his somewhat mediocre skills in catching while his batting surpassed the vast majority of other MLB catchers. That profile was known throughout the league (including the Cards). A horse can’t change his stripes.

…This is a guy who’s already played 7 seasons & 734 games in the MLB. He’s not a rookie. The Cards indicated that they felt that his “calling of the game (calling the sequence of the pitches) wasn’t up to their standards! But…now….they expect him to change him overnight? Meanwhile, the Cards turned to the same Andrew Knizner (who was totally “ruled out” earlier) as the regular catcher!

…The direct implication is that Contreras can’t call the pitches in the correct sequence or location. Hence, according to this egregious supposition, the Cards pitchers can’t get people out (often enough)

What a SWING & MISS idea! John Mozeliak (President of Baseball Operatios) & 2nd year Mgr Ollie Marmol  spent most of the weekend shoveling lots of  “stuff” as they tried to explain their move. They tried to soften the “SWING & MISS” tone…they said that it could be corrected. (if that was the case, why didn’t they do it in Spring training?) They said that they still had confidence in him but did say “he’d gotten off on the wrong foot”. I’m sure that all the Cards pitchers realized that Contreras isn’t throwing the pitches…that they were the ones who had really dodged the “bullet” as Contreras becomes the “fall guy” for the horrible start to 2023.If they didn’t like his “call”…why didn’t they shake him off for a different pitch?

…Whoever the Cards catcher is….MO did a SWING & MISS this off-season with the pitching staff. Now…it’s the catcher’s fault that the same pitching staff of last year can’t get batters out with high consistency (just like last year). Just WHO are they kidding?  Knizer (who has 1 season-the covid shortened season batting over .226) is now the catcher!! Heck…if he’s so good @ pitch calling—have him do it from the dugout.

…More Questions—-Why didn’t the Cardinals notice it in spring training? Couldn’t there be game-day meetings to clarify the “approach” to each batter? Maybe…instead of the Catcher calling the pitches electronically, let the pitcher or pitching coach do it. Further, this IS an experienced starting staff with 5 pitchers with 5+ years in the MLB. Each of them already KNOW how they want to pitch each batter in order to get a “SWING & MISS”

…On a team that is 12th in the MLB & 3rd in our division in Runs Scored, the Cards notice this NOW — 30-35 games into the season. Further, it isn’t like that haven’t seen Contreras  play. The Cards-Cubs played each over 100x since Contreras arrived on the scene. And…they didn’t know that his ‘pitch calling” was below par?  They signed Contreras to improve their batting from a position that frankly the Cards haven’t had much strong batting from the(catching position) for several years. His batting numbers practically guaranteed an improvement in the batting numbers from that position. There could be no SWING & MISS there.

…Not to the same degree….the Cards & Jack Flaherty are leading their fans to another “SWING & MISS” on expectations.  Flaherty has a serious shoulder injury. Despite his best efforts, he has not returned to his high performance levels since his should surgery. The tear is in the superior labrum anterior and posterior, or SLAP. This is a serious injury for pitchers. SLAP tears proved to be career-ending injuries for pitchers Mark Mulder and Mark Prior in years past because of the instability it creates in the shoulder.  He seems to have lost just a bit of zip off his fastball as well has his endurance. It’s sad since this is the 1st off-season that Flaherty would eligible for “free agency” money.

…One person who’s cut down on his “SWING & MISS” approach is Paul DeJong. Some fans seem to hold unreasonable expectations for DeJong. He’s not going to hit like Trea Turner but he’s shown a “marked” improvement @ the plate in 2023. Last year he batted .157 (currently @ .364). I don’t expect him to keep up the .364 level but I’m thinking .250 is reasonable (which would be almost 100 points better than 2022). In 2022 he struck out  33.3% of his AB’s. this year, it’s dipped to 20.8%. I believe that these improvements are due to the fact that he’s abandoned the Jeff Albert approach—big leg left, uppercut swing –with the main (maybe sole) approach was to hit Home runs.

….Fans will often say, “just go out & sign somebody who can pitch”. It sounds easy but even when a pitcher is experienced. You never can tell about the Free Agents..it’s sometimes a SWING & A MISS…take a look at some of the “MISSES” of the Cards—2016-the Cards chose not to go after the “REALLY BIG FISH” and dove into a more shallow end as they signed Mike Leake  for 5 years/$80m. In Leake’s one and half seasons in St. Louis, he went 16-24 with a 4.46 ERA in 33.2 innings of work. The Cardinals cut bait with Leake at the 2017 trade deadline, dealing him to Seattle for prospect Rayder Ascanio.  In 2017, Brett Cecil was signed for 4 years, $30.5m. 2017 was a decent year for him. But in 2018, this deal went from bad to a really BAD. His 6.89 ERA in 32.2 innings made him one of the worst relievers in the MLB. Cecil tried to revamp his body moving into 2019 by dropping 60 pounds. However, he ended up developing carpel tunnel syndrome and missed the entire 2019 season before being released prior to the 2020 season.  In 2018, Greg Holland signed a 1 year, $14m contract. He pitched a scant 25 innings for the Cards, had a 7.92 ERA with 22 walks & 34 hits allowed. Cards actually released him late the year. Only to have Holland rub salt in the wounds by signing very late season wit the Nationals and throwing 21.1 inn with an unbelievable 0.84 ERA.

…When wrapping it up today…let’s look @ someone who seldom SWINGS & MISSES. Head Basketball Coach @ Incarnate Word Academy has won 12 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES in the last 15 years!  IWA has been moved up to Class 6 (largest class in MO) for the last 3 years. IWA has won titles all 3 years!

Congrats to him for his continued ability to not SWING & MISS @ the Girls HS level!

…I’d love to read YOUR thoughts on any of the SWINGS & MISSES thoughts. I don’t want you to SWING & MISS on your thoughts…put them up on my Facebook page (Bob Ryan) or post on my website www.bobryansportsblog.com or send to me on Messenger & I’ll post it for you. Thanks for your read!  Bob

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