A record of 10-20? How the heck...?

Editor's note: That's right, it is Fanpost Friday. The bad news is the Cardinals have really stank it up this season, but on the bright side this odorous season has provided great fodder for Fanposts! ORSTLcardsfan unpacks a few reasons they think the Cardinals are struggling in this Fanpost below. Do you agree? Feel free to write your own Fanpost about it using our trusty guide. And checkout the other Fanpost shared this week that contains an old tribute to Mike Shannon.

Baseball is weird.

Can anyone really suggest that the Pittsburgh Pirates have more talent than the St. Louis Cardinals? Yet, here on May 2, Pittsburgh sits at 20-10 and the Cardinals sit at 10-20. What the hell happened? If you watch the games, you pretty much know that the Cardinal’s are under-performing in all facets of the game. Starting pitching is weak (expected), bullpen is shaky (not expected), offense is inept (who knew?), defense is erratic (totally unexpected), baserunning has regressed (really? How does baserunning slump?). Virtually every move the manager makes backfires. Could it get worse?

I could throw a bunch of statistics to support each of the observations made above, but there are lots of articles that have done that, so I’d have nothing new to add. Instead, I wanted to look at this a little differently and wonder if the seeds of this mess were sown earlier – things that affect the team dynamic more than any single person’s performance. This seems to be a team thing, not a single player problem. Some observations and questions below:

1. 13 players off the Cardinal 40-man roster participated in the WBC, at least 12 of which should see significant time in the majors this year and contribute. Interestingly, most of this group would be viewed as somewhere between struggling and middling in their early season performance, with Cabrera and Goldschmidt the main exceptions and neither of them are on MVP caliber paths. I wonder if the disruption of the WBC schedules left these guys less than fully prepared for the regular season.

2. Also, given the team-wide slump, it makes me wonder if having half your major league roster away during spring training ended up disrupting the team dynamic in an unanticipated way – things we call fundamentals like hitting cut off men and other rotational aspects that are more about teamwork and anticipation of others than they are about individual performance. The other day in SF when Burleson cut in front of the CFer (I think it was Carlson) and caused a routine fly ball to drop is when I really started to wonder. That stuff has been happening this year, uncharacteristic of these guys. Yet it seems to be across the board.

3. The team is breaking in a new catcher AND a new pitching coach, both replacing people that were very experienced and very good at what they did. I wonder if that combination makes things worse. When I see a catcher call 7 consecutive sliders (and lose the game) I really wondered how much that aspect of the game has dropped off with Maddux and Molina both gone.

4. The team lost it’s bench coach right before spring training. After losing last year’s bench coach to the Marlins. This doesn’t seem to improve chemistry, especially since the new guy didn’t really get to work with half the team during Spring Training, and wasn’t really involved in off-season prep work with other coaching staff and FO personnel.

5. I didn’t look this up, but I think it is somewhat unusual that the Cardinal’s were trying to work in two rookies (Walker, Burleson) and three other who have not played a full year (Gorman, Donovan, Nootbar). The performance ups-and-downs that goes with this have manifested (read inconsistency), but as well, they don’t really play good team fundamental baseball, which maybe shouldn’t be a surprise as inexperienced as they are.

6. As great as Yadi was, I think we are learning how great he really was at pitch selection, pitcher management and blocking errant pitches. All 3 of these things have seen significant regression from last year, and last year was a lower bar than typical Yadi seasons. The Cardinal’s leading the league in passed balls and wild pitches traces right back to the change in catchers. I’m not criticizing Cardinal’s management here. It was time for Yadi to retire, and replacing what he brought is nigh onto impossible. But the results are striking.

7. The whole Tyler O’Neill/Oliver Marmol kerfluffle was out of left field (pardon the pun). When was that? Game 5 of the season? Hardly time to say a trend had emerged that needed addressing as publicly and as ugly as it was. It is not unusual when seemingly out of context disputes belie other things brewing beneath the surface. It is hard to overlook that the Cardinal’s play and results has nose-dived since that incident. I believe the Cardinal’s have won 1 series since then, against the only team in baseball worse than they are playing (Rockies).

8. Let’s not forget we have a second year manager on board. Rookie mistakes aren’t the exclusive domain of rookie players. I’m not much of a "he has lost the clubhouse" guy, but I’ve seen managers unable the influence a team to become as good as or better than the sum of their parts. Even Whitey Herzog had troubles in most of 1989 and early 1990, before finally resigning. Anyone remember Vern Rapp? He was mercifully fired. This team looks a lot like those. Just saying.

I’ve watched a lot of baseball over the years, and I realize that not every season is going to go as intended. Sometimes the whole group performs that the 20th percentile projection. It happens. 2003. 1986. 1973. Those a 3 examples of talented Cardinal teams that played poorly. Ok, 2003 really didn’t have much pitching talent, but boy could they hit! I’m pretty convinced this is a talented team, but wondering if the dynamics that accompanied the team into the early season have caused enough disruption to have led to more mistakes and less crispness in overall play, and resulted in a really ugly stretch of baseball. Food for thought.