Following this afternoon’s 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins, Jaime Garcia now has four starts in June and has an ERA of 0.96 and a WHIP of 0.61. The Cardinals have also lost three of those four starts. Why? It it certainly wasn’t Garcia’s fault. Twice the Cardinals were shut out and today, the bullpen squandered an 8th inning go-ahead home run from Jason Heyward.
To listen to some, the sky is falling.
And to be honest, they’re kind of right.
But when you consider where the Cardinals are, that should be expected. Can you really expect the Cardinals to maintain their torrid winning pace while missing a third of their WAR production from last year to the DL for an extended amount of time.
With Matt Holliday and Matt Adams missing from the lineup, the offense is much weaker and the bench is too. Mark Reynolds and Randal Grichuk have been pressed into everyday service and they’ve done well since being forced into starting roles. However, the bench is left without a legitimate threat. That impacts your ability to win games late. That impacts your ability to cycle out your new core hitters.
The Cardinals have yet to react to the loss of Holliday as far as the roster goes. John Mozeliak indicated that the team may make a move for offense earlier this week, but no move has been made.
There is no doubt the offense needs help. Mozeliak knows this. Since Holliday hit the DL, the offense has averaged exactly 3 runs per game. That won’t get the job in a majority of games, but is there an answer to help the offense in house?
If you’re asking me, the best option in house is Tommy Pham. Unfortunately for Pham, he plays the outfield and the Cardinals already have a crowded and complicated outfield dynamic. It was crowded and complicated even before Holliday went on the DL, but that means that Pham won’t see much of a chance unless there is another injury in the outfield. Maybe he’s more trade bait for a bench bat than anything else at this point.
There is a heavy call to bring up a guy like Xavier Scruggs, but let’s be honest about what Scruggs is. He’s a 27 year old power hitter who has been stuck in Triple-A without a “fair shot.” This is a story that repeats every year or two. Nick Stavinoha in 2011, Brock Peterson in 2013, shall I go on?
What about Scruggs will bring about a different outcome?
Reynolds has been really good since Adams hit the DL too, so can Scruggs outperform Reynolds often enough to deserve playing time? And I hope you don’t expect him to play much at all in left field either for the same reasons Pham isn’t the right guy.
Consider last September. Matt Adams was quietly dealing with a day-to-day injury in September and the Cardinals didn’t have another true first baseman on the roster, so they called up Scruggs. Scruggs was on a Memphis team in the middle of the playoffs when he got the call, and that’s something that Mozeliak doesn’t like doing unless the guy is going to play. He was also coming off a better season than he’s in the middle of right now. Daniel Descalso was in the middle of a season where he hit .242 with no home runs.
Descalso started over him.
Even with those odds in his favor, he couldn’t get a look. Obviously there is something missing that the Cardinals believe indicates that he won’t produce on the Major League level.
Yes, he can probably provide more impact than Ed Easley can, but Easley has gotten a whopping three plate appearances in his time in St. Louis and two of those came in a blowout loss. It’s not like he’s seeing a ton of action.
With all that said, there really isn’t a solution in house for the Cardinals to go to right now. Their best option will be to try to pick someone up off the trade market and that won’t really materialize for at least another month.
It’s okay though. The season isn’t even halfway over. There is a lot more baseball to play and a decision to add a bench player (or not) in June won’t be the reason a season is lost. The Cardinals are the best team in baseball and will be for at least another 5 days. If 90 wins gets you into the playoffs, and historically that is an automatic, the Cardinals only need to go 47-49 to secure a playoff spot.
When October does roll around, the Cardinals should be in better position. Matt Holliday and Matt Adams are both expected back. There’s also some rumblings that Adam Wainwright expects to be able to pitch as soon as October, so maybe an outside shot of having him in some fashion too.
Like it or not, we’re all along for the ride at this point. It’s going to be bumpy and not a lot of fun, but the Cardinals need to stay the course for right now. They’ll get healthier as the season goes, because let’s be honest that there is nowhere to go in that department but up. As long as they can continue to grind out wins, we’ll still be in this thing when October rolls around.
But if Lance Lynn isn’t off the DL by June 25th, you can help me mash the panic button.