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Bits: Decoding Matheny! Plus, What Do Ozuna and Kozma Have in Common?

Bernie Bits …

Following Monday’s 8-3 beatdown by the Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny became exasperated for no reason when asked a benign question about his team’s inconsistent offense.

“Well,  umm … (Matheny hesitated, then sighed) … our guys are working hard,” he said. “Going about their at-bats. And, uh, some days we score runs and some days we don’t.”

The Beloved Leader of Men’s testiness confused we, the peeple, who watched from the outside. So I will try to help out here by offering a few possible translations for Matheny’s response. It’s my attempt to figure out what he REALLY wanted to say.

1. “Sigh … the media … Why do I have to deal with these people? They are so beneath me. I don’t know why they’re so negative, always coming in here and asking questions about the offense. My guys are putting in the effort. I’m proud of them. They’re my guys. OK, so we don’t score many runs unless we’re pounding on Cincinnati’s pitchers. We’ve been terrible this month. National League teams are averaging 4.28 runs per game this season, and we’ve scored below that league average in 16 of the 24 games we’ve played this month. But they’re my guys. They’re working hard. The media is so negative, always picking on me by bringing up the offense. Always attacking me personally by citing statistics.”

2.  “Sigh … Why don’t these media clowns go ask John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch about the offense? They put this roster together. I didn’t sign Dexter Fowler to a five-year contract for $82.5 million. I didn’t give Kolten Wong a deal for Wong $25.5 million before he did anything to justify such a large investment. Did I make the trade for Marcell Ozuna? No, but they did. Instead of coming in here every day with their mousey questions and implying that I’m to blame for a struggling offense by not getting the best performances from the talent on hand, maybe these media jerks should go ask Bill DeWitt Junior about this roster. And while we’re on the subject, go ask Bill about that four-year contract for Brett Cecil. Are you kidding me? We handed this guy $30.5 million guaranteed? And media jackasses are all over me for the way I run a bullpen?  Me?  I didn’t sign Cecil.”

3.  “Sigh … I know what these media troublemakers are up to … sigh … this is about MABES. I’m onto their little weasel game here … sigh … they’re coming after my best friend forever  … sigh … out to get Mabes … poor Mabes …they won’t be happy until John Mabry is fired as the batting coach … sigh … and that would be the worst and most unfair thing ever … why blame the hitting coach for a team that doesn’t hit very well? I know these know-it-all media snots keep bringing up how the Cardinals fired Derek Lilliquist as pitching coach after last season … sigh … even though Cardinals pitchers had done very well under his supervision. But let me tell you something … sigh … That’s not what happened  at all … sigh … The ‘Lilly’  situation has nothing to do with this current situation with Mabes … sigh … We didn’t fire Lilliquist as pitching coach because our pitchers WEREN’T  pitching well. … sigh … we fired Lilly because our pitchers  WERE  pitching well. See the difference? It’s not the same thing … sigh … If the media is coming after Mabes, they’ll have to get through me first.”

Reading Time 3 Minutes:

Good on Matt Carpenter. He’s back.

Yairo Munoz looks like a keeper; great pickup from Oakland; howitzer arm; knows what he’s doing out there at shortstop… Tommy Pham is batting .209 with a .299 OBP this month but does have six homers … Marcell Ozuna has six RBIs in May. Only six. A total of 203 MLB players have more than six RBIs this month … Ozuna has one homer in May; that gives him as many as teammates Francisco Pena and Yairo Munoz, former Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz, former Cardinals infielder Pete Kozma, and pitchers Carlos Martinez, Brent Suter and Zach Eflin.  And for Ozuna, that single homer (so far) in May is one fewer than the two homers rocked this month by Kolten Wong, Dexter Fowler, Daniel Descalso, Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights: first NHL season, first NHL postseason, 16th postseason game (ever), first appearance in Stanley Cup Finals (ever), first game in the Stanley Cup Finals (ever), first win (ever) in the Stanley Cup Finals.  That quick. So soon. So easy.

First game in the Cup Finals, 60 minutes, 6-4 victory over Washington. Done. First win in the Finals. No waiting,no worrying, no wondering. Three hockey periods, a few timey goals … boom … done. First one in the bag. For the Knights, winning a Stanley Cup game required less time than it takes to smoke one of my H Upmann cigars.

Your St. Louis Blues have been on the ice, competing in the National Hockey League for 50 seasons. They’ve played in 3,964 regular-season games … and 365 postseason games… including 12 games in the Stanley Cup Finals over their first three seasons of NHL expansion-team existence. Twelve games, 0-12.

In one night — 60 breezy minutes — Las Vegas celebrates a win in the Stanley Cup Finals and accomplishes something that has eluded the Blues and their fans for 50 seasons and 4,329 games. It’s like there’s a big incompetent and maniacally egotistical NHL referee in the sky, in charge of making these cosmic calls, and this Koharsky decided that Las Vegas will be rewarded — after joining the league something like 38 minutes ago. And this evil, unspeakably cruel Koharski in the Sky blew his whistle and sent the Blues and generations of Blues fans to the penalty box for 50 seasons … and if we mouth off, this arrogant, donut-eating Koharsky in the Sky will sentence the Blues and their fans to another 25 years of emptiness, sadness, and the search for eternal freedom.

Damn you, Clarence Campbell.

Bring me the bat of Memphis outfielder Oscar Mercado, age 23 and batting .330 with a .381 OBP and .471 slug and .856 in his first season at Triple A. Six homers, 24 RBIs, eight doubles, 11 steals … bring me the arm of  Ryan Helsley, anyone? The right-handed pitching prospect, who comes equipped with serious heat, has struck out 72 batters in 62 innings down on the farm this season. Helsley began 2018 at Class AA Springfield and was promoted to Class AAA Memphis where he’s gotten even better with a 1.29 ERA with 28 strikeouts and only three walks in 21 innings.

Golden State vs. Cleveland in the NBA Finals. Who would have guessed this? This is very cool; something new and different. After all, you’d have to go way back in the archives to discover that this will be the first Golden State vs. Cleveland championship series for the NBA title since 2017. On top of that, these teams have gone against each other in the NBA Finals only FOUR times since 2015.

Who will win it? Here’s how I look at it: With Cleveland, the question is, “Can LeBron find a way?” With Golden State, the question is: “Can the Big Three find a way?” Against heavy odds James led the wholly unimpressive Cavaliers through three playoff rounds, and faced elimination in two of the three series. Boston had him cornered in Game 7 on the Celtics’ home court at TD Garden, but James … being James … being the greatest ever … did find a way to win. But the young Celtics aren’t at the Warriors’ level. And the Big Three is more like a Big Four: Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green. They were all NBA All-Stars this season.

NL Central Watch: Since the start of the 2017 season the Cardinals have a combined record of 20-30 against the Brewers and Cubs, and a combined record of 30-21 vs. the Pirates and Reds. Please discuss amongst yourselves.

Take Jack Flaherty out of the rotation when Carlos Martinez comes back? Like, there are media people actually discussing this as if it makes sense and should be considered? If the Cardinals demote Flaherty to the minors or otherwise mess with Flaherty by moving him to the bullpen, then they might as well just go ahead and do something else really stupid like trade him.

Back to the NBA … how the hell can Houston’s James Harden be the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for 2017-2018 when he isn’t even the MVP of how own team? Harden is the overwhelming favorite to receive MVP honors based on media voting at the end of the regular season. But Chris Paul is Houston’s MVP, and that was reaffirmed in the Western Conference Finals. With Paul running the show and compensating for Harden’s 300 air balls (or so it seemed), the Rockets beat Golden State three times. But with Paul missing Games 6 and 7 with a severe hamstring strain, and Houston needing one win to advance to the NBA Finals, the Rockets got run out of the gym in the second half of both games (by a combined second-half score of 122-63.) That team became unglued without Paul’s calmness under fire.

It’s impossible to dislike Cardinals first baseman Jose Martinez, the person, because he’s wonderful. But it’s totally understandable to be frustrated and churlish when talking about Jose’s left hand, the one that fits into the glove. Love the man, but hate the hands. I checked and the baseball gods approve. It’s kind of like the old Blues’ winger Gino Cavallini. Just a great dude. He couldn’t help it that his hands were made of sheetrock. And it was OK to hate on the sheetrock.

The folks wanting Jedd Gyorko to play every day at third base: you know what this means, right? A lot more at-bats by Kolten Wong … isn’t the offense weak enough for you?

911?  I’M CALLING TO REPORT AN EMERGENCY: THE CARDINALS BULLPEN

The Cardinals’ bullpen needs help. Going into Tuesday night’s game at Milwaukee, here’s where the Cardinals’ relievers rank among the 15 NL bullpens in key categories:

ERA:  13th, 4.35

Fielding Independent ERA:  14th, 4.16

Strikeout rate: 14th,  20.9%

Strikeout-walk ratio: 11th,  2.18

Wins Above Replacement:  14th, 0.2

Win Probability Added:  13th, minus 0.32

Opponent average:  12th, .252

Opponent onbase percentage: 14th,  .335

Opponent slugging percentage:  12th, .404

Opponent OPS:  14th, .738

HR allowed:  10th, 1.02 per 9 IP.

ERA from 7th inning on:  13th, 4.32

High-Leverage ERA from 7th inning on:  10th,  6.39

On the other hand — left or right, depending on the matchup — the Brewers bullpen is exceptional, leading either the NL or the majors in strikeout rate (28.6%), ERA (2.45), WAR (3.4), strikeout-walk ratio (3.03), ERA from the 7th on (2.03), high-leverage ERA from 7th inning on (3.00).

  • Milwaukee is 25-0 this season when taking a lead into the 7th inning; the Cardinals are 24-4.
  • The Brewers are 29-0 when leading into the 8th inning; the Cards are 22-4.
  • The Cardinals have blown 13 leads this season; the Brewers have given up only six.
  • The Brewers do not have Brett Cecil; the Cardinals do.
  • The Brewers will not be bringing Greg Holland off the DL; the Cardinals will.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie