Open
Close

The Cardinals’ Most Disappointing Players In the Season’s First Half

Here we go with Part Two. Earlier I cranked out a list of the Cardinals’ biggest surprises before the All-Star break. Now let’s go to the other side and look at the five most disappointing players.

First, here’s who you WON’T find on this list:

— Matt Carpenter, because I’m not going to persecute a very good OBP and SLG hitter just because he’s the victim of terrible batted-ball luck (.256 average) that’s held his overall batting average down to .237 this season. The obsession with Carpenter’s batting average is bizarre. Pay attention. Watch the games. Observe the line drives landing in opponents’ gloves. Whitey Herzog said it Tuesday on my radio show: Carpenter keeps hitting the ball hard, but defensive shifts are robbing him of hits. Carpenter’s OPS this season (.828) is only 10 points less than his career OPS. His park-adjusted created runs is 12 points off his career rate. I think he’ll pull those rates up, especially of his BABIP normalizes. But to listen to the whiners, you’d think this guy had turned into Allen Craig circa 2014. His base running stinks. But Carpenter has always been an crummy base runner, so that’s nothing new in 2017. He’s also a plus defender (+4) in Defensive Runs Saved at first base.

– Adam Wainwright: The 5.20 standard ERA is ugly. His Fielding Independent ERA (3.80) is more of an accurate representation of his work.

— LH reliever Brett Cecil: The dude was a nervous mess  early on, trying too hard to impress his new teammates and fans after signing a big contract. In his last 22 appearances, Cecil has a 1.69 ERA and 0.66 WHIP and has checked LH batters to a .188 average and .455 OPS.

– Dexter Fowler: I’ve written about his defensive issues and have no problems saying that Fowler should be moved to left field, with Tommy Pham manning point in center. So yeah, Dex’s defense is a disappointment. I thought he’d taken a positive turn defensively for the Cubs in 2016. So far, there’s no evidence of that in 2017. But he has been bugged by heel and ankle pain that put him on the DL. Maybe his defense will be somewhat better in the second half. But there’s nothing wrong with Fowler’s offense. He’s 13 percent above the league average in park-adjusted created runs. And after a frigid two weeks to open the season, Fowler has a .366 OBP, .572 slug, .938 OPS, 14 homers and 36 RBIs in his last 56 games.

OK, now let’s get to the list of the most disappointing Cardinals … so far:

1. Aledmys Diaz; what the hell happened? Flailing at way too many pitches outside of the strike zone. Still trying to pull everything. An erosion in power, and onbase capability. And even after working with an excellent teacher, Jose Oquendo, before the season, Diaz got worse defensively. His minus 10 Defensive Runs Saved ranks 34th among MLB shortstops. And Diaz was a minus 4 last season. A year ago at this time, Diaz was a worthy All-Star, and finished with a .300 average, .369 OBP, and .510 slug. This season he’s plummeted in every category; his OPS from last season (.879) dropped to .688 in the first half this year. Last season Diaz was 32 percent above the league average offensively (wRC+), and this season he’s 21 percent below the league average. A demotion to Memphis was mandatory. And I don’t know what the future holds for Diaz.

2. Randal Grichuk, more extreme than ever: Two years ago, Grichuk slugged .548. That slug went down to .480 last year, and is .408 so far in 2017. His park-adjusted offense (wRC+) is 27 percent below league average. His strikeout rate is still way up there at nearly 31 percent. A recent power surge, heading into the break, got everyone fired up again. But we’ve watched this action-adventure scene many times before. In 2015, when he was at his best, Grichuk posted an .877 OPS. That’s down to .678 this season. And the Cardinals put backup outfielder Jose Martinez in Class AAA Memphis to stay the course with Grichuk. Martinez had a .564 slug and .785 OPS for the Cards this season. And that included a .429 average as a pinch hitter.

3. Stephen Piscotty. Where has the power gone? In his first two MLB seasons, Piscotty slugged .467. This season, that slugging percentage is sinking at .378. That’s really bad. The power loss began in the second half of last season and the deterioration is glaring so far in 2017. His batting average is .240. He is homering every 37.5 at-bats. He’s barely above the replacement level, with 0.2 WAR. The Cardinals gave Piscotty a $33.5 million contract before the season. Someone has to figure this out. And soon. The Cardinals can’t keep better hitters on the bench by keeping Piscotty glued in at right field. Performance should matter. Accountability should apply to every player.

4. Seung Hwan Oh, a vulnerable closer: Oh had a 1.92 standard ERA and a 2.17 fielding independent ERA last season, his first with the Cardinals. His strikeout rate has dropped from 33 percent last season to 21 percent this year. His swing-and-miss rate is down six points. His home runs allowed per nine innings has nearly tripled. His ground-ball rate is down 12 points which means more batted balls into the air — and more trouble. His slider has gone astray. Last year LH batters hit only .176 with a .455 OPS against Oh; this year they’ve smacked him for a .346 average and 1.028 OPS. Oh, who is a free agent after the season, has lost value on the trade market.

5. Lance Lynn needs to pick it up. I like the gruff, burly RH who doesn’t try to charm anyone. I realize he’s in his first year back from Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2016. But we were also told that Lynn wouldn’t have any issues because of the extra-long length of his rehabilitation following surgery. I expected him to have a big season and then cash in on free agency. Some may be fooled by Lynn’s baseball-card ERA (3.61.) But that’s misleading. With all of the home runs and walks mixed in, his fielding independent ERA is 5.19, is the worst among Cards starters and ranks  98th among 100 qualifying MLB starting pitchers this season. He’s provided only two quality starts in his last nine games, and has averaged a little over five innings in his last nine starts.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Miklasz – The Cardinals’ Five Nicest Surprises In the Season’s First Half

  • Gene

    Diaz’ downfall breaks my heart more than any other player’s problems. He was my favorite thing about 2016, and now he looks broken.

    • Genevia Smith

      I agree, I hope Diaz can get his groove back, he was very impressive last year

      • Christinedcastorena

        Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !pa346:
        On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
        !pa346:
        ➽➽
        ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash346HomeCityGetPay$97Hour ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★:::::!pa346l..,.

      • Kristiefgallion

        Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !pa318d:
        On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
        !pa318:
        ➽➽
        ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash318MediaMartGetPay$97Hour ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★:::::!pa318l..,…

  • BradW

    Gotta’ hand it to the Cards for having better replacement players to plug all the holes of those who have failed this year. Maybe they shouldn’t have given Wong and Piscotty those big contracts early in their careers.
    I was surprised to see Lynn’s FIP was so bad, but that is really bad. It might be time to trade him and give one of our young guns a shot. We would be selling really low, so maybe that doesn’t make sense. What might make sense is to wait until the offseason and make him a qualifying offer, assuming such a thing applies. Then, we could bring him back next year, let his stock go up, and then trade him for some good prospects. On the other hand, if we could trade him to another team based on his pre-Tommy John surgery, then now would be a good time to trade.
    I don’t see how we don’t push Carp to 2nd and leave Voit at 1B. That really stinks for Wong, but he should be pretty tradable. On the other hand, maybe we keep Wong for his defense and trade Carp. Voit would be too high risk to do such a thing at this time, but he at least needs to keep playing. So, who sits, Wong or Carp or Voit? I think they will give Wong an audition, and if he doesn’t rake, then a disgruntled Wong will be sent to the bench.

    • Genevia Smith

      Voit definitely needs to stay at 1B; 2B as far as I can see Wong and Carpenter are interchangeable, rotate them with pinch hitting

      • BradW

        Carp’s offense outweighs Wong’s defense. Make Wong a late defensive sub, 4th infielder, etc.

        • JohnS

          Wong’s offense outweighs Carp’s offense. Ditto with defense….Enter the young, as the Association used to sing….

          • BradW

            Carp’s offense has been time tested, and he has an OPS of .868 over the last 30 days. He’s been in that range for the last several years. Wong has not proven he can consistently do better. However, it would be nice if he could provide strong defense up the middle. And, stay healthy.

    • JohnS

      I’m really not getting the high FIP on Lynn. Not sure I understand the FIP concept totally, but doesn’t it basically mean that independent of the teams fielding, he is actually giving up 5.19 runs per game instead of the 3.61 ERA per game? How could this happen? How could the Cards’ cruddy defense be decreasing his ERA by over 1.5 runs per game. Are they somehow playing this much “ace” defense behind him??

      • BradW

        Yep, I understand FIP the same way you do. Unearned runs may be the culprit, but I would have to look up FIP to be sure.

  • LawrenceKScardsfan

    LOL – I had thought Bernie would skip the disappointments so I went first in my post to Bernie’s “Biggest Surprises” column. Here’s what I wrote:

    “I noticed no negative surprises hit your list. I expected Carp to be
    back to dominating like 2013. Didn’t happen. Diaz struggled. Adams
    was traded. Peralta dumped (when he was signed he was never expected to
    last the entire 4 year contract). Grichuk found himself back in the
    minors (as did Diaz). And the bullpen has been erratic.”

    Bernie didn’t mention Adams or Peralta, but both of these guys were huge disappointments. Diaz and Grichuk are also disappointing. So we agree on that.

    It’s interesting that Bernie does not say Carp is a disappointment based on random ball luck. And he may a point. And he points out that Carp has a +4 DRS which surprised heck out of me based on some of his poor defensive plays. Still, the tea leaves are there – you can’t hide Carp at 2nd or 3rd. And at 1st, should Diaz rebound at 3rd and Dejong stick at SS, you would have to choose between Gyorko, Voit or Carp. Even if Diaz becomes a bench player and Gyorko remains at 1st, it’s going to be a challenge to pick between Voit and Carp – especially if Voit continues pounding the ball. Carp could be a powerful trade piece if the Cardinals are willing to gamble and/or become sellers.

    • JDinSTL

      Hey, but Adams started cranking out bombs when he got traded. He’s an odds-on favorite to clear the fence 30 times this season.

      Quite a turnaround.

      Atlanta’s hitting coaches must be as good as the guys the Cardinals employ in their minor league system

      • JohnS

        Eh, he’s slowed down considerably of late. I kinda doubt he will hit 17 more homes in the last 74 or so games, but we shall see. Best of luck to him though, and I mean that sincerely. He was a victim of the Cards unbalanced roster and Matheny’s SSS theater managing tactics!

        • JDinSTL

          He had a foot injury. He’s a great bet to hit at least 25. What player will hit the most bombs for the Cardinals?

    • EJetson

      Why would they put Diaz at third when Gyorko is having a great season there?

      • LawrenceKScardsfan

        Because Gyorko is the ultimate utility player. He can play every position in the infield. Amazing eh? And so you’d have a 5 player infield with Gyorko rotating.

        • EJetson

          Carpenter can play all but short, but poorly. Gyorko has been terrific at third. DeJong has been a HUGE upgrade over Diaz both offensively and defensively at SS. Wong has been good both offensively and defensively when healthy this season. And Carpenter has been ok at first. No need to screw with Gyorko’s success by moving him around.

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Gyorko was thought of as a super utility player at the beginning of the season. It’s true, he’s settled in at 3rd. But he has more versatility than Diaz in that roll. Diaz was considered a 3rd baseman by most when the Cards signed him. He was forced into the SS role because we had no one else. DeJong has solved that problem initially. Should he stumble you could return to Diaz at SS and move DeJong to 3rd. Again in these scenarios, Gyorko provides utility and substitution that the other two don’t. At least that’s how I see it.

          • EJetson

            Don’t mess with success

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Don’t you mean “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” LOL.

        • JohnS

          They can sell this all they want, but I think playing multiple positions would have to hurt your offensive focus as a player….

          • LawrenceKScardsfan

            Who knows? That’s why you play the game.

    • JohnS

      Seriously doubt Carp is a powerful trade piece. Are DH’s that big of a trade item??

      • LawrenceKScardsfan

        Sure – I think Carp is a good player. He just needs to find the right role. DH makes sense – no need to play defense.

  • JeremyR

    I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but Carpenter does not have a low BABIP because of luck, but because his line drive rate is way down. His career is 25.6%. This year, it’s 22.6%

    • JDinSTL

      POPPED HIM UP!

  • Josh

    I’m so tired of the whole batted ball luck (or no luck) discussion. Especially coming from Bernie, who I generally agree with and find to be very reasonable and intelligent when comes to discussing baseball. With modern defensive charts available and resulting defensive shifts, batted ball luck may be a factor, but only an excuse to a point. Professional hitting still comes to the simple but old expression: “Hit it where they ain’t”.
    Good hitters make the needed adjustments and find the holes. Granted, Carpenter is still hitting the ball hard and having success as a high OB guy. However is approach to hitting has changed or may need to change to bring his overall average back up. Never mind what batted ball luck stats say.

    • ken

      so what you are really saying is, there’s no such thing as luck.

      • JDinSTL

        What I’m saying is that Carpenter pops up weakly to LF way too much.

    • Gary Collins

      I agree!

  • ken

    whoa there, bernie! don’t you know that lance lynn is an inning-eating bulldog??!! we just need to find out what’s giving him indigestion. i’ll bet he’s got a furball!!

  • mokukeiki

    Maybe, the Cards shouldn’t offer these mega contracts after one year of good baseball, i.e., Kolten and Piscotty, Allen Craig.

  • Frederick Kruse

    Right on all a Players ! Thats Why this Team is Stuggeling

  • Bill Jorgensen

    I have to wonder if Piscotty has lingering effects from the collision late last year that gave him a concussion?

    • Mark Steinmann

      Not sure, but he wasn’t very good the entire second half of last year, don’t remember specifically when the concussion happened. We are reaching the point where he just may not be very good. He’s been a .240-.250 hitter in his last 500 or so plate appearances with little power and not enough walks. He’s 26, should be entering his prime, but he’s regressed. If he continues this way the rest of the year I think the Cardinals may have to accept he’s not the player they thought he was going to be or who signed the $33.5M contract.

      • JohnS

        Why do they sign these young guys to big deals before they even know what they have? It seems to be lunacy! I think they are attempting to save money, but it is winding up to be over-paying egregiously average to poor younger players….

  • Jim Parisi

    Given the issues Diaz, Piscotty and to some extent Wong have had since signing long term deals, is it a smart move to lock up any player early in their career?

    • M W

      I don’t think it is. One of the biggest motivators for a young player to improve is wanting to get that payday. Take away that motivation and you see what can happen.

      • JDinSTL

        It’s a smart move if you have a GM who knows what he’s doing – and a coaching staff that helps young hitters instead of perpetuating their struggles with poor diagnoses.

  • M W

    Wacha belongs on the list. Has a quality start in 8 of 16 total starts. Hasn’t pitched 7 innings once all year.

  • Black Francis

    Can we really say Carpenter has had bad luck when so many of his batted-ball outs are pop flies to left field? That’s a product of his new approach, not just a case of balls not finding holes.

    • JDinSTL

      I hear “Mabes” worked closely with both Carpenter and PIscotty – working on launch angle, etc. It shows.

    • JohnS

      He hits the ball hard into the shift….that is not bad luck, it is either an inability to go the other way with hard contact or plain stubborn-ness, I really don’t know which. He does seem to pop up weakly to left when he tries to go that way. To be such a theoretically good hitter, can he not bunt a few times down the third base line to open up that defense a bit???

  • geoff

    Hopefully Lynn just ended a bit of a dead arm stage. I think the reason we notice more fault in Carpenter is that we all fell in love with a line drive hitter, and he is not longer a line drive hitter. Carpenter is not hitting into bad luck, he is hitting into the shift and popping up to left field…a lot. That man has a great eye and a refusal to just take those low and away pitches to the undefended left side of the infield. Bernie I am sure someone has kept track of just how many center cut thigh high strikes Matt Carpenter has watched without flinching this year. More than ever it looks like he has no interest in swinging the bat until he gets two strikes. No one really noticed how bad he is on the base because he started from second base so often and he seldom struck out. That can no longer be said. Grichuk looks like a world beater every ten days or so, then he spends the next ten days making everyone wonder why he is on a big league roster. Diaz has always looked like a second baseman playing short to me.

  • Genevia Smith

    agree for the most part

  • Gary Collins

    Carpenter stinks. I don’t care what you think. He should adjust to the shift. He’s a selfish player who thinks he’s a home run hitter. Constantly looking for statistics. You are right about his base running woes! Even there he can never just say “I screwed up”. He’s always got an excuse. What was Huffman doing on this roster? Was it purely because he’s Carpenter’s buddy? Unbelievable!!!