Big bats should get up and carry the load
The St. Louis Cardinals will be starved of their ace Jack Flaherty for a while and will need their big bats to step up and carry the load.
It’s no secret that the St Louis Cardinals have been going through rough times recently. After gaining a lead in NL Central in late April and early May, they calmed down thanks to injuries and steps that caught up with the pitching staff.
As of May 29, they were at their eight-game high above 0.500, but they now stand at 31-26, still five games above 0.500. Their 3.5-game lead they had at NL Central on May 19 has now swung 5.0 games the other way around, with the Cardinals sitting 1.5 games behind the Cubs.
To the Cubs’ credit, they’ve been on an inexplicably good stretch despite a string of injuries, and that’s exactly how it goes in a 162-game season. There will be heat trails, there will be ebbs and flows. Right now, the Cardinals are well placed in the division, even if things look bleak.
There will be more trouble to come, because Jack Flaherty’s an oblique injury will keep it out for much longer than just 10 days. An injury to a team’s number one starter is always a big deal and it’s important the team doesn’t let Flaherty’s injury drag them too far up the standings. The team’s pitcher, who came into the year as a huge force, has been exhausted and as the team seeks outside help in the rotation, other players are going to have to step up to stay clear of strike from NL Central.
Starting with Arenado, its ramping up in the first half of the month was the key to the team’s success. Over the year, his .832 OPS and 11 homers are just in territory for what you would expect from the star third baseman, but he’s in the middle of the worst streak he’s seen since trading with the Cardinals.
Going back to the day the Cardinals had their biggest lead in Central, May 19 was really the start of the Arenado crisis. In 59 batting appearances since then, he’s had just nine hits, reducing 0.164 / 0.186 / 0.309 with just one homerun and six RBIs. It’s been a terrible 14-game streak, and it’s clear he’s out of sync just by watching his strikes.
By the end of the season, 14 games in late May and early June won’t matter, but the team needs him to get started, plain and simple. For a player with nervous swing timing and busy feet in the box, it can happen and it’s part of why he’s so good. Sometimes, however, it can have its pitfalls.
On Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals have yet to see a hot Paul Goldschmidt this season. He started the year with a cold (which is not unusual for him) and it is in May / June that he usually warms up. As of May 1, Goldy has a modest 0.269 / 0.355 / 0.454 slash line with four home runs and 15 RBIs. A .809 OPS in this period is much better than his .597 OPS in the first month of the season, so improvement is to come.
At 33, Goldschmidt still has a lot in the tank. Modest is the perfect way to describe his year so far, because it really hasn’t been bad, he just hasn’t been “Paul Goldschmidt” yet.
The swing and power shown on this 95 mph fastball from Walker Buehler is a really good sign for Goldy that things are brewing. It looks great in the box, it just isn’t seeing results yet. Of course, this circuit looked like the start of a game where the Cards would win the series against the Dodgers, but we all know how this one ended.
The right-hander still hits the ball hard, he still takes his walks and he actually hits at a level closer to 2015-2017 when he was back in Arizona. Goldschmidt will come, he is ahead, and the team needs him to keep turning more and more of those great swings into tangible results.
Like Arenado however, Goldy has fallen a bit in the last 14 games. His .250 / .350 / .400 slash at that point just isn’t where the Cardinals need him, especially when he’s not the only one going down.
The past two weeks have been a simple equation to figure out: when you add a pitching team that underperformed and suffered core injuries to your non-producing order, you get a tough game streak.
There’s no reason to panic fuel the bus or call someone washed or bust or whatever. However, it is in the face of adversity that the Cardinals need their leaders and their best players to be just that. The Cardinals have a month and more of time without their ace and if the pitching is worse, they need their big bats to beat their opponents if they are to stay in the NL Central race.