By all accounts, the St. Louis Cardinals were supposed to compete for the National League Central Division crown this season. After the Cardinals’ April, here’s what we know about this team so far.
The good news is that after the St. Louis Cardinals‘ April they are right where they were supposed to be. They are in the thick of the Central Division race. They ended the month only 1.5 games out of first place (and currently in first). There were reasons for optimism heading into the season, and those have held true thus far.
Despite the late signing of a proven closer, Bud Norris seems to have locked down the job in the early going. There’s still a chance that Greg Holland eventually takes over. However, Norris has done nothing to have himself removed from the closer’s role thus far. He’s recorded six saves with a 1.72 ERA and 0.89 WHIP thus far.
Miles Mikolas has been better than advertised. After a couple of shaky outings, he has been the best starter not named Carlos Martinez. Given how bad Lance Lynn has been for the Twins, the Cardinals’ front office is looking good right now.
How about Carlos Martinez? He has shed any doubts about whether or not he is truly an ace. His 1.40 ERA is second to only Johnny Cueto (0.84) for the league lead among qualified starters. Yes, that is better than both Clayton Kershaw (2.86) and Max Scherzer (1.79).
For as consistent as the pitching has been, the offense has been woeful at times. Newly acquired Marcell Ozuna was expected to be the big thumper in the heart of the order. To date, he has two home runs and is only hitting .243.
Ozuna isn’t getting on base either. He’s only walking at a 2.5% clip while striking out 23.5% of the time. His OBP sits at .261 as well. If there is hope it’s in the fact that Ozuna’s BABIP is below his career average. So maybe there is a turnaround coming.
Ozuna is not the only one to blame. Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter have both failed to get it going at the plate on a consistent basis. The same is true of Kolten Wong. The offense as a whole has to improve.
Mike Matheny continues to shuffle the lineup in order to find some consistency. In some ways, it’s actually comical to watch. Matheny continues to look in over his head. He’s sticking with his guys, but the offense can’t seem to get going. It might be time to make more than just lineup changes. Maybe some call-ups or a couple of trades can help jump-start the offense.
Two words: Greg Holland. The former Rockies closer has made everyone clamoring for his signing eat their words. For all of the great moves made by the front office, this one was terrible. Holland was immediately thrust into high leverage situations and looked completely overmatched.
Why the Cardinals felt the need to spend $14 million and a first-round draft pick for a one-year rental that is floundering is beyond me. There is still hope that Holland can right himself given his track record. He will have to as injuries continue to hit the bullpen rather hard.
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Like I said at the outset, this is a team still in the thick of the NL Central race. Ending the month being swept at the hands of the Pirates was embarrassing, but the Cardinals are still in it. The offense should get better and Mike Matheny seems to be growing as a manager.
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is wins and losses. In that regard, the Cardinals are doing okay. The pitching is better than expected and the offense is worse than expected. Those two things should begin to balance out and that will still make for a very competitive team.
Hang in there Cardinal Nation. This season is shaping up to be a very exciting one.