(Baseball StL) -- You never see the true weaknesses of your team until it struggles and then every deficiency is amplified. The Cardinals’ last 11 games, 8 on the road, has revealed a team that is coming back to Earth.
It was wonderful while it lasted, but they don’t have the horses to win at a 70 percent pace or hit .330+with men in scoring position all year. And while it was marvelous to find that the cupboard stocked with quality minor leaguers, there is a reason why veterans are so crucial and why every day players make the salaries they do. In a word, consistency.
Adrenaline will only carry rookies for so long before they succumb to the relentless travel, hotel food, sleepless nights and constant pressure to perform.
So, here are three big reasons why the Birds struggled in their last 10 games.
1). Nobody is getting on base in the bottom of the order. John Jay hit about .300 in each of his first two years with the Cardinals but is stuck at .243 this year. But worse, he is hitting just over .200 with the bases empty, meaning no rallies starting from his spot. He is also hitting just about .200 against lefties.
Pete Kozma is struggling right now as many expected he would at some point. He lost 20 points off his average in the last 10 games and was 0-17 going into the upcoming home stand. Slumps and streaks are common, particularly among rookies and he will settle somewhere around .250. He’s hitting .429 with a runner on third and 2 outs and batting .300+ with runners in scoring position. Great. But right now, he is hitting below .200 with the bases empty. Couple his struggles with Jay’s and add in the pitcher’s spot when we return to the national league schedule and a third of the order isn’t getting on base. (That makes Matt Carpenter’s 36 RBIs even more remarkable.).
2). We don’t have diddly squat off the bench for right-handed power. If it’s possible, Ty Wigginton got even worse in the last 10 games, losing 30 points off an average that was already below the Mendoza line. He is actually batting below. 100 with the bases empty, meaning you could just put a pair of cleats in the box and lay a bat across the plate and do as well (for $2.5 million). He is 5-14 with runners in scoring position so that’s something, but other than that, he might as well hit with a fungo bat. When Mike Matheny needs a right-handed pinch hitter late in the game, he’s playing a dead hand.
3). The hitters are catching up to our pitchers. It’s an old baseball axiom that the pitchers always dominate early in the year until hitters get into their rhythm. The dominance of the Redbird starters was awe-inspiring, but clearly, this was not the starting four of the 1971 Baltimore Orioles (all 4 won 20 games). Lance Lynn was pounded in one bad inning in each of his last two starts, Shelby Miller couldn’t last two innings against Oakland, Jake Westbrook gave up 10 hits in 4 innings in his last start and even Wainwright got careless against Mike Trout Thursday night, laying in a melon with two outs and a base open. Trout hammered it for an early 2-0 lead.
These are just three reasons why the fantasy season is temporarily derailed. But it’s a long season and players can get hot, pitchers can reassert their dominance and somewhere, there is an unlikely hero waiting to emerge.