since May 31, Marlins with the same record as the Cardinals
— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) August 14, 2013
It is easy anoit teams in June. The meaninglessness of early season samples is over and things start to look real. In the middle of June, the Cardinals looked as though they could not lose. It was an inevitable march towards the post-season and their eventual crowning as World Series champs.
It isn’t as though too much changed over the last six weeks or so. It’s just that the Cardinals flaws have come to fore as some the magic which enhanced their strengths dried up. The Cardinals are left asking what is real and what was mirage?
Let’s be honest: most of the Cardinals success is very real. All the praise heaped upon the franchise was well-earned. The farm system remains as robust as promised and the talent on the big league roster is undeniable. But the situational greatness which powered the first half Cardinals is both drying up and tending to matter less, as the overarching offensive struggles of the Cardinals finally comes home to roost.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch did a great job breaking down the Cardinals shortcomings today: they don’t hit too many home runs and then don’t really walk that much. Their MO is a barrage of line drives, one after another, which pummels the opposition into submission. Think back to the bizarre Matt Cain start earlier this season, in which he allowed nine runs one inning but was perfect — not a single base runner — in six others.
The Cardinals current roster seems modeled after this “line drives over everything” approach. If pushed, I’d say this barrel-to-ball ability is something they, as a franchise and scouting department, value above all else. It is sound strategy, as line drives are a fine way to score runs, especially as home runs becoming increasingly scarce on a macro scale.
But, for now, the liners ain’t falling and the Cardinals ain’t scoring. Last night Francisco Liriano and the first-place Pirates completely dominated the Cards, with Liriano allowing just a single run in a complete game performance requiring just 92 pitches over a measly 30 plate appearances. Even the run the Cards plated underscored their offensive struggles – down five runs in the ninth, a leadoff double only came across via a wild pitch and a productive out.
There are mitigating factors at play, of course. Not least of which is the injury to starting catcher and MVP candidate Yadier Molina. His offensive profile is very similar to the Cards at a squad but he’s very good at it and he is incredibly productive for a catcher in this day and age. Any team would miss his bat in their lineup, this Cardinals team is no different.
The Cards will be fine but they have gone from NL Central shoo-ins to facing the prospect of a second consecutive brush with the wild card play-in game. Which is better than the alternative (golfing on October 1st) but doesn’t quite seem sufficient for the Healthiest Franchise in Baseball, does it?
And the rest
Great night for defense mattering!
“LEMME SEE THAT BALL”
Rays sideline reporter Todd Kalas is about the life, you know?
Staats: "we've seen that pose before" BA: "not this early" pic.twitter.com/a8JTYl8c5T
— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) August 15, 2013
Little League Home Run Alert!
Awesome: minimalist ballpark designs [Get weird]
In response to this, I received this:
A glorious gift indeed.