As the MLB season nears July, general managers are examining their clubs and formulating an opinion: will they be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?
When Cards GM John Mozeliak tried to shake up his disappointing team by imposing coaching-staff changes on June 9, the Cardinals responded by sweeping a woeful Philadelphia team. But since then the Cardinals have dropped five of seven; the big shakeup, so far, has led to a 5-5 record. The rotation is collapsing. The bullpen is roughed up. Thanks to Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler, the offense has been scoring more runs as of late, but the Card are receiving little production from the No. 3-4-5 spots in the lineup. And we know about the defense and base running and managing.
Question: does this look like a team that will be in the buyer’s mode come mid-late July? There is no reason for a firm answer right now, but unless something changes dramatically and very soon, it would be hard to imagine Mozeliak going into the buyer’s mode a month from now.
Yes, Mozeliak has time. But he also has a team that’s 10-22 in its last 32 games. A team that’s fallen to 5.5 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central. A team that’s already 12 games out in the league wild-card race. Unless there’s a sudden turnaround — and winning this next series at Philadelphia doesn’t qualify — then why would Mozeliak part with prospects and tamper with the future in a lost-cause deal to enhance a deeply flawed team?
For the first 43 games the Cardinals had the best starting-pitching ERA in the majors, at 3.00.
In the last 25 games the Cards’ starters are free falling, with a collective 5.76 ERA and only seven quality starts. That rotation ERA ranks 27th in the majors and 14th in the NL since May 25.
During this 25-game rotation reality check, only the brilliant Carlos Martinez has remained strong and reliable. Here’s some updated numbers from a stat that I recently cited:
Since May 25, Martinez (in five starts) has a 2.21 ERA, four quality starts and has averaged 7.3 innings per assignment. But the other rotation arms … goodness … it’s simply horrendous these days.
These stats entail the 19 combined starts made by Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Mike Leake and Michael Wacha and the one spot start taken by Marco Gonzales:
— 20 combined starts, a 7.09 ERA
— Only three quality starts between them in the 20 starts.
— Martinez was nipped for one homer over his 36.2 innings; the others were pounded for 22 home runs in 96.1 innings — a horrible blast-off rate of 2.05 homers per nine innings.
— A weak average of 4.8 innings per start.
— Starters not named Carlos Martinez lasted fewer than six innings in 14 of their combined 20 starts.
I’ll be blunt here: If the Cardinals’ rotation can’t get back in form to supply consistent quality and a healthy share of innings, this season cannot be saved.
Heck, even with the No. 1 rotation ERA in the majors in their first 43 games, the best the Cards could muster was a 23-20 record. Since the starting pitching went wayward on May 25, the Cardinals have staggered to an 8-17 mark.
If the Cardinals want to refreshen this rotation and give it more zest, the organization has multiple options at Triple A Memphis. And they could move Wacha to the bullpen, where he’d likely be more effective because of the short-burst nature of the role.
Mozeliak may have shaken up the coaching staff, but until now the same feeling of urgency hasn’t applied to the roster except for the release of infielder Jhonny Peralta.
That’s just a quick look-in at this topic for now; I’ll dive deeper into this issue in the coming days and weeks.
Thanks for reading …