There is no way to overlook that the Cardinals are going through a pretty tough stretch. With only two wins in the month of June so far, St. Louis sits at .500, 32-32, entering Sunday evening’s matchup with the Cubs in Chicago.
Prior to the Cardinals and Cubs series finale — which will be the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball telecast — Karl Ravech hosts ‘Baseball Tonight’ up until first pitch. Karl was kind enough to answer a few questions for us over the weekend.
VEB: The Cardinals have had a tough go on the injury front lately, losing 3 of their 5 starting pitchers over the last two weeks — including Jack Flaherty until after the All-Star Break. Looking around the Majors, do you believe there is a cause for these high injury trends, which are attacking pitchers & hitters alike?
Karl: I don’t believe there is one common thread for the injuries. I believe a variety of things contribute and it all has to do with the pandemics and its effects on a players ability to train, pitch in competitive environments and be built up for a season of 162 games. The start and stop of last season; the abbreviated schedule; the continuation of the analytics dictating how a pitcher throws all contribute to newer stresses on a players/pitchers body and arm. Players are all about routine and the routine blew up last year and we are seeing the effects now.
I also wouldn’t discount in some cases, compensation to one part of the body to make up for an existing injury.
VEB: Speaking of trends, the Cardinals’ staff has been walking and hitting batters at ridiculously high rates. In fact, entering this weekend series, St. Louis has walked 272, compared to only 500 strikeouts, with 50 hit batters. Are their pandemic-altered workout/throwing regimens over the last year to blame for such a lack of command?
Karl: Over simplifying it, pitchers are encouraged to strike guys out. With that as the desired effect, the attempt to maximize velocity leads to wildness. Velocity over command will lead to more batters getting drilled. Someone like Adam Wainwright has hit guys over his career; 9 in 2007, 8 a few years ago but that hardly explains hitting 7 already this season. Hitters are a little more emboldened with their protective elbow guards and wrist guards. Pitchers have every advantage in the game today and owning the inside corner of the plate has always been a turf war, pitching up is the current path to success but pitching in has always been a foundational piece of successful pitchers.
VEB: Third baseman Nolan Arenado has been a critical piece of this Cardinals offense this season, leading the club in batting average, OPS, and runs batted in. Did you originally think he was a product of Coors Field, or did you feel he would fit well here in St. Louis?
Karl: Nolan Arenado is an animal. If you take a lion out of a cage in Denver and put it back in a cage in New York, its still the same lion. Never thought his success was a product of where he played. He’s got a swing that travels anywhere. Defense is top level. I actually think he benefits by playing in a place he wants to play. Players who get to wear the uniforms of a team they love, with a great fan base have extra motivation. We see it all the time with Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals and Cubs and I believe we are seeing it in San Diego as well.
VEB: Entering Friday, the National League Central is the only division where the fourth-place team is fewer than six games back. Currently, the Cubs and Brewers are at the top, with the Cardinals and Reds lurking behind. Do you see it finishing that way, or can the Cardinals get back up there?
Karl: We have to go back to the first question. This season more than any other will be determined by which team can keep most of its core players on the field and on the mound. The Cardinals are built to win now and those teams are the ones who make moves to improve themselves. I believe the Cardinals will win the division.
The Cardinals will look to salvage a win on the North Side tonight, with Carlos Martinez on the mound against Zach Davies and the Cubs. First pitch from Wrigley Field is set for 6:08 PM Central Time.