Entering the season, it seemed like the Cardinals had a number of offensive options on paper. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday would serve as the foundation. Yadier Molina, Skip Schumaker and Ryan Ludwick should all be average or better offensive contributors. Colby Rasmus still gave scouts that special feeling and David Freese had a compelling statistical case for being a starter.
So it's been understandably frustrating watching the Cardinals through the last week or so as the offense scuffles its feet like a 13 year old boy at a school dance. With 7 runs over the last 5 games, it's been rough to say the least. Funny thing though, in the 3 games before that they scored 18 runs. Those were the good old days. The problem seems to be a collection of small issues occurring at the same time: Matt Holliday's groin strain, Freese & Rasmus coming back to earth, Albert Pujols inability to carry the team by himself. It's nothing that's endemic to the process, but rather an unpleasant blip we're seeing.
What makes it perhaps the most frustrating is the teams it's happening against. The Phillies are a good team and you'd like to see the Cardinals perform well against them to prove the validity of their prowess thus far. You can forgive those losses but you don't like them. Even more frustrating is dropping games to a team you're unquestionably better than. The Pirates are a really terrible team. Their starting pitching is mediocre and they lack any great players outside of Andrew McCutcheon. This is a team that you should pound on.
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Jeff Karstens downed the Redbirds with smoke and mirrors last night. He only struck out just 4 batters and allowed 3 hits. The Cardinals had a BABIP of .188 last night with just 3 out of 16 balls in play landing for hits. That's bad and it continues to illustrate the bad luck the Cardinals are running into right now.
Jaime Garcia on the other hand was a site to behold. He struck out 7 over 6 innings, had 8 of 11 outs on balls in play on the ground and walked just 2 batters. If there's one minor criticism of Garcia I have at this point, it is that I'd like to see him throw first pitch strikes a bit more often. But, as I said, it's minor. He's mixing all 4 pitches (fangraphs is classifying a fastball, cutter, curve and changeup -- I'm inclined to say the cutter is more of a slider) with incredible precision. Garcia has yet to allow a HR in 38 innings in 2010.
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The good news is that the Cardinals still have the largest divisional lead out of any team right now.The NL Central is pretty terrible and we're still pretty good.
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The Cardinals are still an average offensive team with a .327 wOBA entering Saturday's game. League average is .326. The primary offensive shortcomings are named Skip Schumaker (.274) and Brendan Ryan (.241). Even accounting for Ryan being an outstanding shortstop defensively, that's a difficult wOBA to live with. Schumaker has little defensive value to counter his anemic hitting.
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The narrative for the team at the moment seems to be runners in scoring position. Through 30 games the Cardinals have a .754 OPS. They have a .759 OPS with RISP. I don't have splits for the last week or so but RISP isn't a problem when looking at the big picture. Looking at the small picture, the Cardinals only have 2 homeruns in the last 7 games (1 from Nick Stavinoha and 1 from David Freese). That power outage goes a long way in describing the recent scoring drought. It won't last but it's part of the overall malaise the Cardinals seem to be suffering from.
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Call your mother. Wish her a happy Mother's Day. Baseball starts at 12:35. Go Cards.