Despite today's win (which required a seven-run outburst in the bottom of the sixth by the Cardinals after giving up five in the top of the sixth to the Tigers -- oh, and *three* homers by Paul Goldschmidt), the Cardinals have been stinking up the joint and currently have the worst record in the National League. This is a bit of a surprise to everyone.
The problem is the pitching, which has pretty much been just good enough to lose with. And as of this weekend, the Cardinals' big free agent acquisition, Willson Contreras, is going to be DHing for a while instead of catching. This is, of course, big news, indicating that everything is his fault, or that he is being blamed, or some similar combination of things, if you believe the various talking heads out there.
I believe that this is not exactly true. Or entirely true, perhaps.
The problem is that Contreras is following Yadier Molina's act. And Molina's reputation is that he was a tremendous pitch caller. I believe that is largely true. Molina was really good at reading a batter and figuring out what pitch he was least likely to be able to hit if the pitcher was able to put the ball in the right spot. It's a talent. It will put him in the Baseball Hall of Fame soon.
Contreras is not a *terrible* pitch caller. He's also not Yadi Molina. And there's the rub.
There's an old line about sports teams: when the team is underperforming, you can't fire the whole team, so fire the manager and see if it helps.
That's what is happening to Contreras right now. The entire pitching staff has developed a collective case of the yips, and they lack confidence in Contreras' ability to call the right pitch, which means that they lack confidence in their ability to throw a pitch that will get the out, and when you lack confidence in your pitches, you walk batters, or you groove something and see it leave the bat considerably faster than it came in. And then you lose games. Lots and lots of games in painful ways.
It is now time for Cardinals Kabuki Theater.
Contreras will spend something between a few weeks and a month as a DH. When the Cardinals are on the field, he will be sitting between Oli Marmol and Dusty Blake, and I have *no doubt* that he will learn some new things about how to call pitches.
None of the things that he will be learning will be *nearly* as important as what the pitching staff *believes* that he is learning. And when Contreras completes his secret Cardinals Jedi training, he will be pronounced ready.
With any luck, the pitching staff will be over the yips.
And things will be better, because of what Contreras has learned about The Cardinals Way. :)
Or else I'm wrong, and the team will continue to stink up the joint.
But I think I'm right.