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Da Bits: Fowler’s Bad Numbers at Leadoff. Plus: Easier to Fix Matheny or Blues PP?

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Good afternoon… good night … good morning… whenever you are reading this….

I could dive back into another debate about who should bat leadoff for the Cardinals, Dexter Fowler or Matt Carpenter. I’ve typed too many words and lost my voice on the subject so many times, I’m losing more velocity than Adam Wainwright.

So for now, let’s just limit this to Fowler. Dude was a good, or very good, leadoff man for the Colorado Rox, the Houston Colt 45s,  the Chicago Maddons. Heck, Fowler was at the top of the Cubs lineup when they ended their historical blight by winning the 2016 World Series. You remember what the Cubs and their adoring fans said about D. Fowler: “As he goes, we go.” I wanted the Cardinals to sign Fowler and I’m glad they did.  Wonderful personality, smart player, talented, good teammate.

OK … so why has he been so bad at batting leadoff for your Saint Louis Cardinals? I have no explanation. As I mentioned in this here space a while back, this is probably some random thing. But the more I look at the numbers, the more I think these two things:

  1.   HUH?  What’s up with that?
  2.   Was I drugged?  Who put what in my coffee? I’m dizzy … the hog is in the tunnel … Charlie don’t surf … someone swiped my 1910 Fruitgum Company album …  help.

In 260  plate appearances as the Cardinals leadoff hitter since joining the band before the 2017 season — and trading in blue for red — Fowler is batting only .196, and with a sickly .296 onbase percentage, and a Peter Bourjos slugging percentage (.373). That adds up to a .669 OPS (bad) and a park-adjusted runs created rate that’s 20 percent below the league average.

Before linking up with the Cardinals, Fowler’s career leadoff slash line was  .268  / .366 / .422.

That’s a   .788 OPS  … or 119 points higher than his OPS as the STL leadoff hitter.

Fowler thrived hitting elsewhere in the Cardinals lineup in 2017.

Next up … 

Meanwhile, Matt Carpenter, as the No. 3 hitter this season … and hey, it’s only seven games. But he’s drawn seven walks. (Kind of a leadoff thing, eh?) and he has a .379 OBP. (Kind of a leadoff OBP thing, eh?) And when Matt Carp has come to the plate this season as the three hitter, he’s had 13 runners on base … and he’s knocked in one of the 13. (Kind of NOT like a No. 3 hitter thing, eh?)

Next up: 

Interesting “Ask Bernie” question on Friday morning’s radio show: What’s more hopeless, Mike Matheny as a manager or the Blues’ power play? Now, that’s a helluva question right there. After lengthy deliberation, I have my answer: Matheny is more hopeless than the Blues PP. I owe you can explanation: Blues PP is hideous for multiple reasons including weakened forward lines because of injuries, a shortage of firepower, and yes, a coaching setup that’s pretty much incomprehensible. But that can be fixed. You get injured players back. You get more talent in the house by plugging in No. 1 prospect Robert Thomas and signing or acquiring a damn forward who can score a damn goal on a fairly frequent basis. And you also change coaches if that’s what it takes. But you can’t fix Matheny. Its seven years into the gig, and he’s still doing the same crazy stuff, and he remains among the worst managers I’ve ever seen at running a bullpen.

Next Up: 

I may have buried the lede!

Mike Maddux has really changed the way Matheny runs that bullpen. Radical transformation. I can’t believe it. Can you? What’s that you say? Oh yeah. You’re right. NOTHING has changed. My bad.  I was just kinda hoping …

By the way I think I have a way for the Cardinals to increase their revenue, because we all know they could use more revenue. Here goes: Manager Matheny MUST have an eighth reliever. He insists on it. President of baseball ops, John Mozeliak, complies with the manager’s request. Except … Matheny doesn’t actually USE the 8th reliever. He just likes knowing the 8th reliever is there. The 8th reliever is sort of like the manager’s binky. It just makes him feel secure, and meanwhile the Cardinals are competing with a 24-man roster. Smart!

Anyway … the Cards marketing department needs to put the 8th reliever job online. Make it an auction. Open it for bidding. The winner — the dude who pays the most, and guys would be willing to pay a fortune — get to be the Cardinals’ 8th reliever for the entire season … they get a permanent seat in the team’s bullpen… get their own locker in the clubhouse… get a prime seat on the chartered flight … a sweet, luxurious hotel room on the road … a massive spread of food after each game … they can show up for special events and receive an appearance fee … and they never have to worry about pitching! BINKY TIME! And get paid…

Next up: 

Don’t pull the plug on Wainwright just yet, but a reality check soon will have to slap someone upside the head down there at the Busch Stadium and Ballpark Village Idiot complex … Waino’s 4.84 ERA since the start of the 2016 season ranks tied for 51st among 53 MLB pitchers who have started at least 57 games… there is a huge flaw in Wainwright’s pitching profile: LH batters are clobbering him. That’s why Arizona stacked the lineup with left-side hitters for Wainwright’s start. (Some managers actually pay attention to data. Imagine that)…

Since the start of the ’16 campaign here’s what LH batters have done to Waino: 660 plate appearances, .298 average, .368 OBP, 469 slug, .834 OPS … that’s a major change. In the three seasons (2012-2014) before Wainwright missed all but a small portion of 2015 with a ruptured Achilles, he was much more effective when facing LH batters:  .248 average, .304 OBP, .353 slug… .657 OPS.  Waino’s strikeout-walk ratio was 2.92 vs. LH batters from 2012-2014; since the outset of 2016 that K-BB ratio against them is 1.98.

Next up: 

The Blues and Colorado Avalanche are playing like a couple of teams that may be privately thinking, “No, I thought about it, and thanks anyway, but I’ll take a pass on making it to the postseason… you boys can go right ahead.”  Blues 0-3-1 in last four games; Avs are 1-4-1 in last six games…

Last call: 

If Wainwright can’t show improvement by, say, mid-June, then the Cardinals will have some serious contemplating to do. Because Alex Reyes will be ready to join this rotation in June, and Jack Flaherty should be in this rotation now, and this team has other attractive options for rotation spots.

By the middle of June or end of June, here’s a list of pitchers that figure to be in the starters’ pool:

  1. Carlos Martinez
  2. Michael Wacha
  3. Luke Weaver
  4. Miles Mikolas
  5. Adam Wainwright
  6. Alex Reyes
  7. Jack Flaherty

Yep, seven and maybe more…

And two of the Cardinals best pitching prospects are in the rotation at Triple A Memphis:

  1. Dakota Hudson
  2. Austin Gomber  and …
  3. Don’t forget John Gant who looked very good in spring training…

That’s 10 …

And you never know if other prospects will come along fast to emerge as surprises.

This will be fascinating,  because if Wainwright struggles, at some point the Cardinals will be forced to declare themselves: What is he priority here? Going with your best possible rotation to make the postseason, or having a Farewell Tour and missing the postseason for the third straight year?

Thanks for reading …

Have a great weekend…

-Bernie

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