It feels so good to get back to doing what I do for the RedBird Daily – this week off moving to Chicago has been a whirlwind.
You know what also feels good? Winning baseball games.
That’s what the St. Louis Cardinals are doing, in some fashion at least, and since everyone (including myself) started to write them off since the New York Yankees series, they now sit 9-10.
Not terrible, considering they had to go 6-1 in their last seven to get there.
I am all for winning the games, hell, take it any way you can get it.
But what I am noticing is that despite the victories is an overall lack of fundemental discipline on the team.
No, this isn’t a Mr. Miyagi moment, and Daniel Larusso doesn’t suit up for the Cards, but there is still an overall lack of discipline – one that to me really is holding this team back.
Tara Wellman (my new favorite follow on Twitter) summed it up best with the recent string of games.
There are two areas of the game specifically that are holding the team back, one surprising and one that seems to be a broken record.
Usually with a St. Louis Cardinals team, you have your mix of disciplined and not disciplined hitters in terms of pitch selection – trending more towards disciplined.
This year, not so much, and what’s more concerning is that it is coming from the core players that the Birds will need to shape up if they intend to make a run.
Point in case – Matt Carpenter and Aledmys Diaz.
A player now deemed the cornerstone of the organization, Carpenter has looked the majority lost at the dish.
His move to the third spot in the line up has not gone as expected, and although he homered and tripled in Milwaukee, he also struck out seven times in four games, bringing his season total to 17.
That’s the most he’s had through 17 games (he’s sat out two this year) in his career.
Not really what you want out of your three hole.
What’s been more concerning is what he is swinging at – taking fastballs and swinging at off-speed stuff in the dirt or out of the zone.
It seems like at least once or twice a game, Carpenter takes the good pitch, and looks for the hard one to hit.
If the Cardinals are going to be successful, this trend cannot continue for their first baseman.
Flip over to Diaz, and you don’t have a case of strikeouts (he only has seven this year in 18 games played), but a complete lack of walks and awful on-base percentage.
Eighteen games in and he has only drawn one walk, and an OBP of .260.
His batting average is higher than Carpenter’s albeit (.250), but for a guy who hits second in the order, you’re not going to score any runs from a player who simply fails to get on base.
He also suffers from poor plate discipline, swinging at absolute crap, and as a result, doesn’t get on.
Although these are just two examples, the Cardinals suffer from a plate discipline perspective up and down the order.
The buck does not stop there, because when the Cardinals do get on base, the lack of discipline stays on display.
Base-running skills remain at an all time low
How the Cardinals managed to win games with their god-awful base-running I will never know.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard that before.
From Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter (again), and even Dexter Fowler at points, the base running has been nothing short of atrocious.
Crazy to think after Mike Matheny said that would be a point of emphasis this season.
This was in DECEMBER:
No, it’s the dumb mistakes on things like trying to stretch a single into a double, going from first to third, and not tagging on fly balls.
THAT is what correlates to a lack of discipline, or knowing when and when not to run.
This team is not going to score a ton of runs, and the last thing they can afford is to lose themselves on the base paths.
So how do they become more disciplined?
From a player standpoint it’s easy – Keep It Simple Stupid.
Aledmys Diaz and Matt Carpenter MUST get on base more, and be more selective at the plate, because after the top three in the line up, it is pretty bleak offensively.
(Strategically, I would also probably switch Diaz and Carp in the line up)
But overall, if they fail to get on, this Cardinals team will struggle.
If you are a top of the order guy, don’t waste your run while on the bases, because you have to know the chances of you scoring are already slim compared to other teams who have formidable power hitters.
If you are lower in the order, congratulations, you got on base – now stay on base, don’t try to be the hero, because your best hitters bat one through three.
Time will only tell if these continuous trends will plague the team or not – but it’s hard to imagine them winning the necessary games needed to be in the hunt at the end of the year.
Thanks for reading.
For more stories I write at work, tales of my time in Chicago, and Karate Kid references – follow @TonOfClayton