The merry-go-round continued for another day as Cardinal starting pitching was roughed up in this latest 11-7 affair.
St. Louis began the scoring barrage with a Willson Contreras double, plating both Nolans on a rather generous defensive miscue by Hunter Renfroe.
The Angels countered in their half of the second with a Matt Thaiss single, scoring Anthony Rendon and setting up Luis Rengifo for the go-ahead three-run job.
The Halos never looked back from this point onward, as in the third inning, Anaheim cashed in for six runs, knocking out starter Jack Flaherty in the process.
Life for St. Louis came in the form of Tommy Edman in the fourth inning, as he cracked a three-run homer to deep right to inch the Cardinals closer.
Paul Goldschmidt continued his strong season as he ripped a two-run double to right center. He’s been one of baseball’s best hitters and a bright spot in a campaign riddled with despair and anguish.
Everyone knows the story by now, so I wanted to add my thoughts on what needs to be done going forward rather than dwelling on the past.
Evaluating Oli Marmol
I personally believe that the Redbird skipper has taken more heat than he deserves early on. He’s not the engaging personality that we’ve seen from previous Cardinal managers, but Marmol has pushed the right buttons more often than not in-game. I like his reliever usage strategy, opting to deploy his best-available arm in the most high-leverage situation instead of sticking to a traditional set-up to closer format. He’s made optimal use of the 26-man roster given to him and I applaud him for yanking his starters and not being afraid to turn the game over to his elite arsenal of bullpen arms. Oli has played the cards he was dealt to the best of his ability, for better or for worse.
This isn’t to say that his job isn’t secure; we’ve seen the best tacticians lose their jobs because they fail to win over locker room respect. Early season struggles will naturally induce frustration from both players, coaches, and other personnel, but having the right guy at the helm to guide the crew through the stress is vital to getting back on track.
The pitching trend across the league has been power over command, with elite starters routinely punching out 30% or more of batters they face. St. Louis lacks miserably in this department, as they rank 24th in MLB in Eno Sarris’s Stuff + amongst starters.
One look at the advanced pitching stats for the Cardinals’ rotation and it’s no surprise to see that Jake Woodford, the least likely of the bunch to induce a swing and miss, has been one of the worst starters in baseball to begin the season. His 93.5 average EV against ranks in the second percentile in all of baseball, as he’s really struggled locating his low 90s heater effectively.
He was moved to the bullpen today, with Adam Wainwright seeming poised to take over his spot in the rotation. The rationale behind keeping him on the roster is twofold; the first reason is that he has one more team option left, so ops will likely want to tinker with his fastball before giving up and waiving him.
This leads to my second reason. The team likely believes his fastball will turn around to the point where he’s commanding it like he did his past 116 major league IP prior to 2023 (1.0 pitching fWAR during this time). Woodford was a serviceable innings-eater during that time, which, coupled with his strong Spring, justifies him making the team out of camp. Wainwright will bring a high 80s fastball, albeit with a stronger ability to pick out his spots at will. Having another strong fastball commander in the rotation will do the team well, as Woodford has scored a 35 (7th percentile in MLB) in this department, and it showed as his sinker has been routinely getting shelled.
Guillermo Zuniga made his MLB debut on Tuesday, punching out Mike Trout with upper-90s gas. I think he can be a fantastic reliever, but I can’t help but think that with Matthew Liberatore winning pitcher of the month in the International League, he should be the one getting the call to take over. It’s also interesting to think about how, if the team wanted a low-90s sinkerballer, they could’ve just kept Dakota Hudson, who is closer to free agency and is more expendable than Woodford.
It’ll be interesting to see how the team turns it around this season. Reinforcements are clearly needed in the rotation, and as much as I love to see Adam Wainwright back, I worry about his ability to eat innings if his command goes south. He no longer generates whiffs on a consistent basis, and I think it’s going to take a couple of starters capable of this to really make an impact. The manager can only do so much on his end, although he’s an easy scapegoat given his status as the team figurehead. I’m on record telling the fanbase to relax on the most recent podcast, words I’m already beginning to eat, but fans can hopefully find some closure on being able to zero in on a clear catalyst of the team’s struggles.