clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Panic and the St. Louis Cardinals

New, comments

The Cardinals aren’t going to panic. Should you?

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

This morning, Ben Markham took a look at the Cardinals offense so far this year, and noted that the Cardinals’ chances of making the playoffs hadn’t declined that much from the beginning of the season. The Cardinals are off to a 2-5 start, and what was an 86-win team to start the season is all of a sudden an 84-win team. The Cardinals have had some problems in the early going, but which aspects are the most troublesome?

While the 2-5 start obviously isn’t good, everything is relative. The Pirates are 3-3, the Mets are 4-3 and the Giants are 3-5. Presumably these are the teams the Cardinals will be fighting with for a Wild Card spot. Every win matters and 3-4 or 4-3 would look a lot better, but the Cardinals haven’t lost too much ground at this point. That’s a good thing. A few other good things...

The rotation has been very good so far. Carlos Martinez has had one great start and one mediocre one. Mike Leake had a good start. Lance Lynn had a good start. Michael Wacha had a good start. Adam Wainwright had one good start and one start where he could have used a little more help from his defense. He hasn’t looked anything like vintage Wainwright, but on the whole, the rotation has been quite good, and there is little reason to think that won’t continue going forward.

On the hitting side, the Cardinals haven’t been good, but for the most part, we are just dealing with extremely small sample sizes. The Cardinals have a collection of solid hitters and over the course of the season, that’s going to even out. Given his age and the way he has played the last couple years, Jhonny Peralta’s start is the most discouraging, but the Cardinals have a replacement in Jedd Gyorko that should provide as good or better overall production at the position.

As for the offseason narrative of defense and baserunning, that’s still up for debate, but only in the sense that Kolten Wong has started enough so far and no outfielders can get hurt because Matt Adams is atrocious on defense. For baserunning, Stephen Piscotty was caught stealing, which continues a trend of his from last season, Matt Carpenter was doubled off first, and Randal Grichuk was thrown out at third on a bunt attempt by Carlos Martinez. The Grichuk out wasn’t really his fault, but overall, we haven’t seen the awfulness from last year so far.

On defense, the team hasn’t been great and starting Matt Adams in left field has been a colossal blunder costing the team multiple runs that Adams is highly unlikely to give back on offense. That said, Fowler has been fine in center, moving Grichuk to left should still give the team solid defense in the outfield, but they can’t have anybody get injured again because Mike Matheny chooses offense over defense every single time.

So far, things haven’t gone well, but nothing above is too discouraging. Things really haven’t changed greatly from where the Cardinals were at the beginning of the season—as long as Adams in the outfield is done—but the bullpen has not been good so far. There seems to be some real concern, and Matheny seems ready to push the panic button.

Seung-Hwan Oh has pitched poorly and his velocity is done from last season, but he’s also only pitched once since Opening Day and that was in a blowout. In terms of cause for alarm, Oh is pretty low on the list. Matt Bowman has been fine, Trevor Rosenthal’s first appearance was fantastic, and Jonathan Broxton has pitched about as poorly as should be expected, but those appearances have come in low-leverage situations. Tyler Lyons has pitched well in rehab, and when he comes back, it might be time to move on from Broxton as Miguel Socolovich is the better pitcher at this point, unless there’s an injury somewhere else.

If you want to panic about a reliever, Kevin Siegrist is probably the guy to panic about. When Siegrist was lights out in 2013, his fastball averaged 95 mph. When he was injured in 2014, it was down to 94 mph. He put up a solid season in 2015 averaging 94 mph, though it was a slight step back from 2013. Last year, Siegrist wasn’t great and got pretty lucky on sequencing averaging 93.3 mph.

So far this season, Siegrist is averaging 92.2 mph and that is with a change in velocity measurement that has added close to one mile per hour for most pitchers. Siegrist is now down essentially four miles per hour from his peak, and until he gets that velocity back, he should not be used in high-leverage situations. Relievers are volatile, and there’s a reason that long-term deals for non-elite relievers don’t work out.

Speaking of, Brett Cecil has also lost some velocity and gotten poor results. It might not be a terrible idea to use him in less pressurized situations until the velocity comes back. It’s way too soon to turn on Cecil and this could be just some rust getting ready for the season, but that velocity needs to be better if he’s going to be anywhere close to the pitcher the Cardinals thought they were signing.

With Oh and Rosenthal, the Cardinals still should have a pretty dynamic duo at the end of games. Matt Bowman, Miguel Socolovich, and potentially Tyler Lyons should add some help in the middle innings, and hopefully Brett Cecil can return to form. Broxton might not have a place on the team, but he hasn’t really been used in important situations while the most concerning development is Kevin Siegrist, who needs to be moved down in terms of role. Moving forward the Cardinals bullpen should be pretty good.

The Cardinals didn’t have a really big margin for error heading into the season in terms of making the playoffs. A 2-5 record has shrunk that margin even further. There isn’t too much reason to panic early on in the season, and there are a few positives. The Cardinals are a good team, one that should win in the neighborhood of 85 games, but to make the playoffs some of the things that have gone wrong are going to have to get better going forward.