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Grading the Cardinals April

It’s tough to make meaningful evaluations after one month, so let’s make it even worse by assigning letter grades.

Chicago White Sox v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

One month of the season is in the books, which feels like a meaningful time to look back, even though it isn’t. Through 8 innings of last Friday’s game with the Pirates, I was convinced the Cardinals would win the division and the World Series. By about the 5th inning on Sunday, as the Cardinals were getting Perfect Game’d by a guy named (I believe) Larry Fitzsimmons, I was convinced they would be relegated to the Pacific Coast League.

But rather than let the facts get in the way, let’s make some reckless conclusions about the team at the one month mark. And just to make it even more cringey, let’s assign letter grades:

Tommy Pham: A+

MLB: New York Mets at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Pham leads all NL position players in WAR. Well, technically A.J. Pollack and Asdrubal Cabrera have more. But in my heart, Tommy Pham leads all NL position players in WAR.

For all the value he provides, Mr. Pham will be paid $550k this season. That’s less than half of what Greg Holland made just in the month of April. Which reminds me...

Greg Holland: D-

Greg Holland’s first appearance as a Cardinal was an unmitigated disaster. His appearances since then have been more like mitigated disasters.

Holland should probably earn the F here, but I’m giving him just a little benefit of the doubt because he clearly was thrown into the majors - into the 9th inning, no less - before he was ready, by a man who has no idea what he is doing.

Mike Matheny: F-

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Both VEB alum John Fleming and Bernie Miklasz tossed out the idea this week that Mike Matheny is so bad, we need to pin some of the blame for his badness on the front office.

That’s how bad Matheny is: He is pulling down the GPA of the entire class.

Despite a reformulated coaching staff seemingly aimed at protecting the manager from his worst impulses, his bullpen moves still seem more driven by panic and paranoia than anything else. And as for his vaunted leadership of men? He apparently told Dexter Fowler he was being moved in the lineup via text messages.

Kolten Wong: 80%

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinal fans seem to perpetually underrate Wong, who is not a great hitter. But his defense this season has been exceptional. And did you know his wOBA is nearly identical to Matt Carpenter? That’s pretty good, right?

Matt Carpenter: 65%

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Carpenter provides defensive versatility, which is sometimes mistaken for value: It is not. According to Fangraphs, he has provided negative defensive value so far this season... as he has every year since 2013.

And did you know Matt Carpenter’s wOBA is nearly identical to Kolten Wong’s? Yikes!

The good news is that based on his batted balls, Carpenter’s xwOBA is a beefy .418, while his actual wOBA has been a vegetarian .284. So there’s reason to believe that much of his poor start is simply bad luck, and if he can get ahold of a live rooster, breathe through his eyelids or whatever, he can get straightened-out.

Jose Martinez Offense: (Muscle Emoji)

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

While Matt Carpenter has most underperformed his expected weighted on-base percentage, Jose Martinez has been the 2nd biggest underperformer... and he’s still doing great. Martinez sports a .361 wOBA, and a .436 xwOBA.

Jose Martinez Defense: (Poop Emoji)

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Oh my God is it bad. Often times with poor defenders, it’s not so much visible to the naked eye as it is a gradual, overall lack of range, or a dropped ball here-and-there... But with Martinez, it’s pretty glaring.

I was at a Cardinals bar last night, surrounded by a variety of fans who were in-general a little less informed about the team. They would make observations that were wrong, or at least not up-to-date, and just generally not as informed as the readership of a great Cardinals blog like Viva El Birdos Dot Com. But to man (and they were all men), they all said the same thing whenever a throw went Martinez way: “May, that guy is a terrible first baseman.”

So there you have it: My grades for the month of April. Would you like to quibble with any of these highly scientific ratings? Let me know.