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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