Column: Cardinals miss on Luis Robert

Saturday was the first day that 19-year-old Cuban phenom Luis Robert was officially cleared to sign a deal with a Major League club and the action moved quickly. Several clubs made bids on the young player who one anonymous American League executive hyperbolized as “the best player on the planet.” The last couple weeks it had been reported that it was going to come down to the Cardinals or the White Sox. And then on Saturday it became apparent that the White Sox were the chosen team.

Reporting over the weekend initially indicated that the Cardinals had the best offer on the table, but that the White Sox wowed Robert with their presentation that included a Spanish-speaking manager and fellow Cuban stars (both of which the Cardinals have as well). But later reporting by MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh indicated that they may not have even been on par with the White Sox’s offer.

So once again it appears that the Cardinals stuck to a proven broken model and missed out on the player they wanted.

“What I know is that we didn’t sign him. All negotiations have different nuances. All negotiations have different risks. All negotiations have different upside. This was certainly a unique opportunity for us because historically we are not playing or trying to sign these types of players. I don’t second-guess our strategy or second-guess our approach,” said Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak to the Post Dispatch on Sunday after the team had been informed that their bid was not the winning one.

It’s okay, Mo, I’ll take it from here and do some second-guessing on the strategy and approach.

Under the tenure of Mozeliak, the Cardinals have routinely come up short when it comes time to sign players on the open market. Overall, those decisions have worked out for them, though I’m not sure how much credit you can give the Cardinals simply because another team got more aggressive than they did.

The Cardinals have been missing a franchise altering talent in their lineup since the departure of Albert Pujols following the 2011 season. Oscar Taveras was supposed to be the next one and Mozeliak responded to his potential by paving his road to the Majors. As we all know, Taveras never got the opportunity to realize that potential and the organization is still lacking a player of his caliber.

By all accounts, Robert is a potential franchise altering talent. Even if you don’t buy all the hype, the odds that he becomes a consistent contributor are still very good.

He was the best player available in this international signing period. He was routinely the best player in international tournaments playing against players older than him. Most scouts even consider him to be better than any player available in this summer’s draft, where the Cardinals’ first pick will be #94.

Simply put, of all the talent he has ever faced or been stacked up against to this point in his career, he has been the best.

If the Cardinals believed that Luis Robert was a potential franchise altering talent, and it would appear that the answer to that question was yes, then there is only one question to be asked. If not Robert, then who?

If not Luis Robert, who is going to be the franchise altering talent for the Cardinals?

The Cardinals’ minor league system has plenty of quality talent that projects to contribute at the Major League level, but it has no singular position player that has the potential that Robert has.

In a little over a month, the Cardinals will be locked out of making a play for a player like Robert in the next two international signing periods, but there doesn’t appear to be another one coming that soon anyway.

The odds that that player will be selected in this year’s draft are slim as well thanks to the signing of Dexter Fowler and the penalties for Chris Correa’s hacking of the Astros. Furthermore, they aren’t a franchise that is generally bad enough to earn high picks in future drafts and hoping a Delvin Perez caliber talent drops to you in the late first round or that you stumble upon the next Albert Pujols in the 13th is not a sound franchise building strategy.

For those reasons, there was no better time for the Cardinals to put the model aside, step beyond their comfort level and do what it took to ensure that Robert would one day be playing in St. Louis.

Because of the salary structure in baseball and how players in the first six years of their career are generally underpaid, even if they went beyond their comfort zone, the odds are still very good that Robert will give you a return on your investment unlike any veteran free agent would.

Instead, the Cardinals played it cheap, stuck to the model and once again came up short. And for the Cardinals, that question still remains.

If not Robert, then who?

And I don’t see an answer to that question.

The Cardinals could act by trade, but the prospect cost to acquire a franchise altering talent is incredibly high and rightly so. But that kind of trade would require far too much talent leaving the franchise to make sense.

That leaves free agency where we will see a number of potential franchise altering hitters available over the next couple years at much greater costs and similar, if in different ways, levels of risk. And given the Cardinals’ track record in free agency, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Mozeliak said on Sunday that they will redeploy the money not spent on Robert elsewhere, but that’s what they have always said after coming up short. For two years now we’ve heard about how the organization has cash and is willing to spend it, but we have yet to see it make a difference in their approach to free agency.

This team is a player short. Robert was a golden opportunity to get a potential franchise centerpiece player. The stars were aligned, but when it came time to score, the Cardinals’ choked.

It’s a familiar story. But at some point, actions speak louder than words.

The May Sports Crate

I’ve been aware of Loot Crate for awhile now and never purchased one, mainly because my tastes in the gaming and “nerd” world are pretty narrowly defined, so I was concerned about getting things that I would have no interest in. With the announcement of Sports Crate this spring, I noticed that one of the teams was the Cardinals, and I’m generally a fan of all things Cardinals, so I decided it was time to give it a try.

Let me start out by saying that this is not an advertisement, I paid my own money for the “crate,” much to my wife’s disapproving looks as I opened it up and checked it out. But I was curious about it and decided to check it out for the first month and see if it was worth the subscription price. I decided to review it here because I figure there would be people like myself who would be reluctant to subscribe without some knowledge of what to expect.

The basics of Sports Crate are that you pay $39.99 each month for a five month subscription (or $179.99 for all five crates). Each “crate” includes five to seven team specific items. They also promote that you can win some VIP experiences with your team for subscribing to it, but I obviously didn’t win. And at least this month you received a free month of MLBtv, which for a premium subscriber like myself has little value.

The plus side of the monthly subscription option is that you can cancel at any time, so if you wanted just a single box, you could order just that month’s box. I decided that was low-risk enough for me to check it out for a month before deciding whether I wanted to get into more. If I’m reading their site correctly too, there is still time to order May’s box if you’re interested.

And when I arrived home from work yesterday, my May crate was sitting on the front porch waiting for me. So when I got the opportunity, I opened it up to check it out. Here’s what I found.

It seems like each month is going to have a theme. This month the theme was “Bringing the Heat.”

Here is the figure next to a baseball for size reference.

The first item I pulled out was the BALLERS collectible figure. This month the figure is Adam Wainwright. Given the advertising I’d seen for Sports Crate, it seems that these figures are intended to be the center piece of the boxes. But I was overall pretty disappointed with the figure.

My first thought was that they couldn’t decide what size to make the torso, so they came to a compromise and went with half and half. There is a pivot point between the upper and lower torso, but I’m not sure that an additional pivot point was needed there when you have the waist.

The idea was that you could pose the figure in a number of different ways, and I had the bright idea of trying to pose it in a pitching motion for the picture, but it was more difficult that it appeared and so we got a standard pose. I also question just how much “posing” the action figure can endure before it would break. It’s certainly not something I would let my three and a half year old handle.

Having seen pictures of it before I ordered, I was expecting something a little larger or at least more substantial than this. The figure is beside a baseball in my picture above for size reference. I think that the action figure concept has potential, but I think I would have preferred to have a bobblehead or something like that. Who doesn’t like bobbleheads?

Yadier Molina corn hole game

It also included a miniature corn hole game that has some Yadier Molina artwork on the front of it. You too can practice tossing pitches to Molina as the hole is his glove. Though Molina should really put his mask down as you never really know whether you’re going to get the 2016 or 2017 Trevor Rosenthal.

The bean bags were a little cheap and it is good that they came in a zip lock bag as they were leaking their filler a little bit and left some on my desk just from me pulling them out for the picture.

When I pulled it out, I was originally unsure of what I was going to do with it, but it does seem like a cool item. I figure my three year old and I can enjoy playing with it inside and it’s likely to be a little more his pace than the full size outdoor version. Also, I’m sure it’ll work great for a “cube crawl” at work.

“Bringing the heat” pin

There is also an exclusive “Bringing the Heat” pin that features the Cardinals’ logo and a baseball with a flame design around it. I’m not a big pin guy, but as far as pins it seems pretty nice.

Also included is an Adam Wainwright baseball card that’s made exclusively for Sports Crate. It is number one in a team series of five, so it stands to reason that each crate this season will include another one in the set. It’s been awhile since I’ve been into trading cards, so I’m sure it will end up with some that the kid has.

There is also a Sports Crate branded lunch bag. Apparently I wasn’t the only person whose first thought was that it was a fanny pack when I pulled it out. It would have been better if it had been team branded (after all, I’m paying for a Cardinals Sports Crate), even if it was still just the plain black, but it should be big enough to fit a six pack of your favorite beverage to help keep it cold. I recommend some good small market cream soda.

Finally, the item in the crate that really pushed me over the edge to actually subscribing for it, the apparel item. Sports Crate advertises that each crate will include a “wearable” item. That could be a shirt like we got this month, socks or a hat (both items that I’ve seen in promo images for Sports Crate). I’m a big fan of usable items like this and I like wearing Cardinals gear.

A quick photo of me sporting the shirt from this month.

The shirt this month is a three-quarter sleeve moisture-wicking t-shirt that has the St. Louis Cardinals’ script logo on the front. Red sleeves and gray front and back panels. The gray area on the front panel has a graphic on it that took me far too long to realize that it was supposed to be a large glove.

Based on the images I’ve seen on Twitter of other team’s shirts, Cardinals fans got lucky with the color arrangement. Other teams have not been so lucky in my opinion.

The shirt feels like a decent quality. Similar to some of the shirts I’ve designed and had printed up at an old job years ago.

My overall thoughts are that it was about what I expected, even though I was a little disappointed by most of the non-apparel items. Maybe I’m just an atypical fan, but I’m not so much into baseball cards or pins. The lunch bag would have been great if it had a Cardinals logo on it as I’d start using it everyday for my lunches.

The corn hole board has potential, though for many I feel like it would be more of a novelty. The action figure is growing on me, but we’ll see.

I’m split on whether to continue on for the June crate. I likely will in the hopes that my expectations may be exceeded, but I definitely hope they keep it up on the apparel end because that’s what will ultimately keep me subscribing.

If I stick around for the June crate, I will likely post about that one too.

Five things about the Giants Series

The St. Louis Cardinals took the finale of a three game set against the San Francisco Giants over the weekend. They remain second place in the NL Central at 22-19, 1.5 games behind the division leading Milwaukee Brewers and half a game ahead of the defending division champion Chicago Cubs.

The Cardinals now head to Los Angeles for a three game series as they head west for the week. The Dodgers (26-19) are 6-4 over their last ten and coming off a series against the Marlins that saw them win three of four.

A lack of production from the top

It doesn’t seem to matter who the Cardinals plug into the top-3 spots in the lineup this season, they struggle to get consistent production from them. In the Giants series the top-3 spots in the lineup went a combined 6-for-38 (.158) and it’s not unique to this series.

The top-3 spots in the Cardinals lineup are hitting .210 on the season. The only team worse has been Oakland, whose first three hitters are batting .194.

And why I say it doesn’t seem to matter who hits in that top-3? Let’s look at the three guys who have spent the most time in the #2 spot of the lineup. Aledmys Diaz is batting .194 in the #2 spot, .371 elsewhere. Tommy Pham is batting .105 in the #2 spot, .406 elsewhere. Randal Grichuk is batting .105 in the #2 spot, .258 elsewhere. Kolten Wong hit .188 in the leadoff spot while Fowler was out, has hit .315 elsewhere.

A bigger problem for the Cardinals is that this seems to have become a consistent thing. In 2016, the top three in the Cardinals’ lineup hit a combined .258 which ranked 25th. In fact, the Cardinals top-3 hitters haven’t ranked in the top half of the league in batting average since 2013, where they hit .298 and were ranked second. They went to the World Series that year.

The plus so far is that the back two-thirds of the lineup are carrying the team. The Cardinals four through nine hitters are batting a combined .288 on the season, best in baseball.

Martinez dominates

On Saturday, Carlos Martinez allowed just two hits and a walk over 9 innings of work and came away with a no-decision as the game remained tied at 0-0 when he exited the game. Martinez’s game score of 87 was the fourth best scored game this season and the best scored game where the starting pitcher took a loss.

You have to go back to June of 2015 where Chris Sale struck out 14 batters over 8 innings for a score of 92 in a 2-1 loss to find the last time a pitcher with a score of 86 or higher lost a game.

If I’m counting right, teams whose starting pitcher turned in a game score of 86 or higher had won their last 85 games.

And so did the rest of the starters

In addition to Martinez’s nine shutout innings, the Cardinals’ rotation was on it this weekend.

Michael Wacha was returning to the rotation after being skipped the last time through the rotation to give him added rest in the hopes it would help him avoid a recurrence of his stress injury later this season. He showed that he did not miss a beat, throwing 6 shutout innings on 4 hits and 3 walks.

For Adam Wainwright, it was important for him to come out and back up the 7 shutout innings he threw against the Cubs and turn in another quality start. And he did that, allowing 1 earned run over 6.1 innings of work.

Peralta returns

Jhonny Peralta returned to the starting lineup on Sunday night for the first time since rejoining the club on Friday. And since then, he has reached base five times in six plate appearances. Already a large improvement over his first two weeks of the season where he reached base five times in 27 plate appearances. He had pinch hits on Friday and Saturday before going 2-for-3 with a walk on Sunday.

Gonzales putting himself back on the map

Not a big league thing, but Marco Gonzales made his third start returning from Tommy John surgery over the weekend. He threw 6.1 scoreless innings of work for Memphis, lowering his ERA to 0.68. He has been dominant, allowing just 7 hits and 2 walks over his 13.1 innings of work in two Triple-A starts for a 0.68 WHIP as well.

For a team whose Major League bullpen is a complete mess, having Gonzales and Tyler Lyons on the horizon could be helpful.

Bonus: Pham story

If you haven’t already, go check out Derrick Goold’s story on Tommy Pham and how he’s dealing with keratoconus. I’ve often seen Pham giving himself his vision test and wondering why he did it and whether it was connected to his eye condition. It’s a good read of some of the struggles he’s had to work through, which makes the talent he’s shown all the more impressive.

Cardinals trade Matt Adams to Braves for prospect

Everyone knew Stephen Piscotty was going to be activated on Saturday in time for the game, after all, he was in the lineup and batting second. What was unknown was what the corresponding roster move was going to be. Would they send out their extra pitcher or make room some other way. Some other way was the answer as the Cardinals announced that they have traded 1B Matt Adams and cash to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor league infielder Juan Yepez.

Adams, 28, is hitting .292/.340/.396 with 1 home run this season over 31 games. The former 23rd round pick hit .271/.315/.453 with 56 home runs in 486 career games in Cardinal red.

He will join former teammate Jaime Garcia with the Braves, a team that became interested in adding a first baseman after learning that they would be without Freddie Freeman for three months after he broke his left wrist.

Since the Cardinals committed to Matt Carpenter at first base this winter, it didn’t really make much sense for the organization to bring Adams back for 2017, except in the hopes of trading him. The team even tried him in left field for a bit early in the season, but that didn’t pan out as hoped. There was nowhere in St. Louis for him to carve out an opportunity.

He will get that opportunity in Atlanta, where he will get the chance to play regularly over the next three months until Freeman returns. Freeman is a player I’ve often compared Adams to. Early in his career, Freeman struggled against left handed pitching as well, but the Braves kept playing him and after a couple seasons he adapted and has become one of the league’s best and most consistent hitters.

Adams never got that opportunity to play through those struggles and adapt in St. Louis, though he showed a hint of being able to hit left handed pitching last season, as he hit .283/.300/.522 off them.

The trouble for the Cardinals that I see with this deal is the loss of a power bat off the bench. This is likely a case of an opportunity coming up to trade Adams somewhere where he would get the chance to play that he wouldn’t have had in St. Louis. It’s not the first time that the organization has “done right” by a player in Adams’ shoes. But I can’t shake the feeling that they just chose Jhonny Peralta over Adams. And I don’t think that’s the right decision.

As far as the Cardinals’ return, Yepez, 19, was signed by the Braves out of Venezuela in 2014 for a little over a $1 million signing bonus. In 121 career minor league games, he has hit .281/.355/.407 with 6 home runs in the Braves organization. At 6’1″ and 200 pounds he is still considered a very raw prospect.

In 2015, after hitting .299/.364/.458 as a 17 year old in rookie leagues, Yepez was considered to possibly be one of the highest ceiling bats in the Braves’ organization. The scouting reports cite quick hands and great contact skills. There are questions as to his plate approach, but he is still young. He walked just 7.6% of the time compared to a 23.0% strikeout rate.

His defense is also a question. Originally signed as a third baseman, scouts have hinted at a move to first base, where he has played the majority of his minor league games, since he was signed. The Braves moved him back to third base this season.

In discussing Yepez, Mozeliak termed him as a “lottery ticket” type prospect. He was a young player that was thought highly of and has stalled a bit recently. The Cardinals are expected to assign him to Peoria.

Column: How can the Cardinals best use Jhonny Peralta?

St. Louis Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak has said that infielder Jhonny Peralta is expected to be activated this weekend as they play a three game set against the San Francisco Giants in St. Louis. The question then on everyone’s mind is how to use Peralta?

Peralta opened up the season penciled in as the starter at third base. It seems like the organization expected Jedd Gyorko to step in and take the job later in the season if he got hot and went on a power surge. However, Peralta struggled to open up the 2017 season and ended up on the disabled list after an adverse reaction to some cold medication.

In the mean time, Gyorko secured his hold on the everyday third base job. Through 37 games this season, Gyorko is hitting .330/.385/.607 with 7 home runs and has easily been the Cardinals’ most valuable position player. He’s even proving the doubters, like myself, wrong by continuing to play plus defense on the field.

There is also Greg Garcia on the roster who has hit .255/.367/.314 this season, but while Garcia is an on base machine, even last year Peralta provided more punch than that.

For his part, Peralta has admitted that he does not expect to come back as the starter at third base for the Cardinals. It seems like an obvious position for those of us who judge purely on performance, but it is a positive that he seemingly accepted what his opportunities are likely to look like going forward.

The benefit of the disabled list trip for Peralta was that he got an opportunity to take a rehab stint and hopefully find some of that long lost timing at the plate.

The answer to me for how you use Peralta is simple: You let him show you.

Be prepared, Peralta will likely draw a spot in the starting lineup a couple times over the first few days he’s up. I support this because you need to figure out what you have out of him sooner rather than later.

So to start, Peralta will most likely take most of the third base time away from Garcia and he will likely get some time at shortstop to spell Aledmys Diaz. I think, depending on how things shake out in the outfield, you could see him get some playing time in left field or even first base. Those are all positions he has played before in the Majors.

As I wrote last season, I don’t think his 2016 results were representative of the kind of player Peralta can be going forward. He had a hand injury last year and those are notorious for messing up swings and timing. It’s one of those situations where you’re “healed” but you aren’t actually back to 100%.

I still believe Peralta can be an average to slightly above average offensive threat. I don’t think we’ll see 2014 Peralta again, who hit .263/.336/.443 with 21 home runs, but I don’t think a Peralta who can hit .260/.330/.400 who can hit you 10+ home runs over the rest of the season is completely out of reach.

If you play him and he hits, you keep giving him opportunities. If he doesn’t hit, you limit his appearances.

The question at that point becomes what Mozeliak really meant when he said earlier this year that the organization was applying a short leash to Peralta. How long will they give him to find traction? If he can’t, will they release him? I think it’s a possibility, especially as Gyorko and Garcia continue to demonstrate that he may not be needed. And everyday that goes by, it gets cheaper to cut him.

Five things about the Cubs Series

The St. Louis Cardinals took two out of three against the Chicago Cubs over the weekend, but their division lead still stands at a game, now over the Milwaukee Brewers. Their record now stands at 21-15, on pace for 94 wins.

The Cardinals now wait for the Boston Red Sox to come to town for two games on Tuesday and Wednesday for a rematch of the 2004 and 2013 World Series teams. The Red Sox won both series.

Cecil is not getting right

Brett Cecil threw 0.1 innings of work in this series, allowing a home run that ultimately proved to be the difference maker between a loss and taking the game to extra innings. Cecil allowed that home run to left handed batter Tommy La Stella, who had hit just 4 home runs over 209 MLB games and never against a left handed pitcher.

At this point Cecil has appeared in 20 games for the Cardinals and has a 5.79 ERA and 1.92 WHIP. He has allowed a run in each of his last four appearances and hasn’t had a clean inning (no runs, no hits, no walks) since April 28th, seven appearances ago.

He’s on pace for 90 appearances this season, which brings some question of whether recent troubles have been as a result of overuse.

Bottom line is that Cecil should be relegated to cleanup duty until he demonstrates that he can capably get batters out on a regular basis. He does not need to be seeing a close game.

Earlier this season, Mike Matheny talked about how “we need to play (Cecil) to get him right.” And his appearance on Friday night got me thinking, is Matheny saying that they need to play a player to “get him right” a kiss of death? I recall him saying that specifically about Mark Ellis, Mitchell Boggs, and Trevor Rosenthal through all of his struggles. At least in Rosenthal’s case, it was actually rest that corrected him as he had been pitching through an injury. He may have said that about Allen Craig too.

All this to say, Matheny should really stop saying that they need to play a guy to “get him right” because it does not have a very good track record.

Other than Cecil tho

The Cardinals’ bullpen not named Brett Cecil threw 7 innings in the Cubs series and allowed just two baserunners. One was a walk by Jonathan Broxton on Friday night and the other a hit off Seung-hwan Oh on Saturday afternoon.

At this point in the season, Cecil, Broxton, and Miguel Socolovich are the only three relievers in the Cardinals’ bullpen who have turned in below league average performances this year.

Fowler’s patience

Dexter Fowler may have gone 0-for-4 in his two starts and a pinch hit appearance in the series, but he also reached based a team high five times in the series (tied with Randal Grichuk), taking two walks in the series opener and another three walks on Saturday.

By taking a walk to lead off the game on Saturday, Fowler reached base to lead off a game for the first time since April 27th. He is batting .154 with a .214 on base percentage to open a game.

Wainwright turns in best start of the year

Adam Wainwright seemed to have found some of his old mojo and shut down the Cubs over 7 innings on just 4 hits and 4 walks while striking out 3 on Sunday while the Cardinals powered to a 5-0 victory to win the series. Wainwright also got his ERA on the season below 6. It was his best start of the season so far, but that bar wasn’t that high.

On May 18th last season in his 9th start of the season, Wainwright went 6.2 scoreless innings in his best start of the season up that point and brought his ERA below 6. That was the beginning of Wainwright posting a 2.84 ERA over his next 14 starts while the Cardinals went 10-4.

One can hope that this is the beginning of another such run.

Carpenter finally finds success against Arrieta

It’s often talked about how Matt Carpenter and Jake Arrieta are college friends from their time at TCU. Entering Sunday’s game, Carpenter was 0-for-28 in the regular season against Arrieta, but Arrieta made a mistake and the result was a 2 run home run. Carpenter will carry a 12 game on base streak into the series against Boston.

Bonus: Cards the best in baseball?

The Cardinals are 8-2 in their last 10 games and 15-5 in their last 20 games, both are the best mark in baseball.

Five things about the Marlins Series

The Cardinals closed out a sweep of the Marlins last night to go to 6-0 on the road trip as they head home to take on the Chicago Cubs. They do so with a one game lead in the NL Central. They are 19-14 and on pace to win 93 games this season. Suddenly my 92 win prediction is not looking so unobtainable.

The Cubs meanwhile find themselves in fourth place in the NL Central, 2.5 games out of first place after getting swept by the Yankees and then losing two of three to the Rockies. They have not been getting the same kind of pitching performances that they got from their rotation and their defense has struggled a little bit as well.

For the Cardinals this is an opportunity to see if their success over the last couple weeks has been the result of poor opponents or whether they can continue their stand against a team that is supposed to be the class of the division.

Give me more Sierra

Magneuris Sierra is hitting .353 over the first four games of his career. He has been on base 8 times. And come around to score on 7 of them. It’s been a pretty amazing start for the guy who a week ago was playing in Single-A. He is a small glimpse at the future, and it’s pretty exciting. He can apparently hit, he can run, he can field, and he has good instincts. It will eventually come to an end when the league starts to figure him out, but I am willing to enjoy it while it lasts.

My favorite part about watching Sierra play has been that the moment has never seemed too big for him. He hasn’t looked outmatched or out of place. Something I imagine it would be easy to give in to in his situation.

His performance has also given the Cardinals the opportunity to take it slowly with Dexter Fowler, rather than push him back into service. That ability could pay dividends down the road for this team. He is 2-for-3 with 3 RBI in pinch hitting appearances since he was cleared to swing a bat. Drove in the game winning run on Tuesday night and a go-ahead run on Wednesday night. So he’s making an impact when he gets the opportunity.

Not a fireman

It was a role that Seth Maness and Matthew Bowman both excelled in over the past few seasons, coming in when another pitcher got in trouble and put out the fire. Over the offseason, the Cardinals signed Brett Cecil to a 4 year, $30 million contract and it feels a lot like Mike Matheny has been trying to justify that contract by pushing Cecil into high pressure situations. And Cecil has not come through for him.

Cecil has inherited 16 runners this season and allowed 9 of them to score, good for 56%. Only two other Cardinals relievers have inherited more than three baserunners this season. Bowman has allowed just 2-of-11 to score and Seung-hwan Oh has allowed just 1-of-5 to score. Early in this season, Cecil has been the worst reliever with runners on base and he just keeps getting opportunities.

Cecil is currently tied for the third most inherited runners in baseball this season and of relievers who have more than 10, Cecil has the 5th worst rate of keeping them from scoring. Bowman, for example, has the 7th best. Over the past few years, Cecil is fairly middle of the road when it comes to allowing inherited runners to score so he has nowhere to go but up, theoretically.

Now, I’m sure that Cecil will have the numbers at the end of the season to demonstrate that he was a quality reliever, which means that his overall effectiveness for the Cardinals will come down to one thing: role. And finding the proper role for a relief pitcher has not been one of the manager’s strong suits.

But Cecil should probably not see anything other a clean inning for awhile. For the sake of my sanity, please?

Leave no man on base!

During the Marlins series, Cardinals’ #3 hitter Matt Carpenter left nobody on base. That’s right. Every time he came to the plate with men on, he reached base himself. He may have only had two RBI in the series on a triple that scored Carlos Martinez and Kolten Wong, but the other three times he came to the plate with runners on, he took a walk to load the bases.

If you’ve been around Redbird Dugout for awhile, you know that I like looking at RBI rate. In that department, Carpenter currently leads the team, driving in 25% of runners on base when he comes to the plate. The next closest position player on the team is Stephen Piscotty at 17%. The next closest healthy position player on the team is Matt Adams at 16%.

Carpenter has long been one of the Cardinals’ best at driving in base runners, and it’s one of the reasons why moving him back in the lineup, was one of the best changes the organization could make to their offense this winter.

Take a walk

Something that I noticed while working on this was that in the 8th inning of Tuesday night’s game with runners on second and third and a 13 game hit streak on the line in what would finally be his final at bat of the night, Kolten Wong kept his approach, stayed patient at the plate and took four straight pitches for a walk.

He would get another at bat in the 9th, but came up empty, ending his streak at 13 games. Over those 13 games he hit .353/.441/.510 with 6 doubles and a triple. He scored 10 runs and drove in 5 as he hit well enough to take over the leadoff spot with Dexter Fowler out of the lineup.

He has hit just .179 while batting leadoff over the past six games, but it didn’t seem to be an issue as the Cardinals went 6-0.

It’s been awhile

The Cardinals have now spent four days alone atop the NL Central this season after having spent none there last season.

Bonus: Win a pair of tickets to Pitch Talks

Pitch Talks is happening in St. Louis at Delmar Hall on May 18, 2017. In attendance will be plenty of writers who cover the St. Louis sports and the Cardinals specifically. Tara Wellman, who you may know if you’ve clicked on any of her Bird Seeds video blogs (and if you haven’t, you should!), is having a contest to give away a pair of tickets to the event.

All you have to do to enter is go to her most recent post over on her blog at CardsConclave and leave a comment with your all-time favorite baseball tale. That’s it! Easy, right? So do it!

Cardinals release RHP Mitch Harris

RHP Mitch Harris announced this morning that he has been released by the St. Louis Cardinals with a post on Instagram. The team confirmed it later in the day.

Today was my last day as a St. Louis Cardinal. I couldn’t be more proud of the time I’ve spent with this organization. They believed in my when others didn’t. They provided me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and to that I say thank you! Today marks the end of my time with the Cardinals but the beginning to another journey. I don’t know what God’s plan is but I know I’m excited for it. Thank you Cardinal Nation for your unending support! Thank you to the coaches for pushing me to become the pitcher they knew I could be. Thank you most of all to my teammates. I’ll cherish all our time together and most importantly our friendships. It was an honor to wear the “birds on the bat” … Thank you!

Mitch
Aka LT

Harris, 31, was originally drafted by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 2008 draft out of the United States Naval Academy. Due to his military service commitment and unable to get an early release from his service (as NFL players had been able to do), it would be until 2013 before Harris would see a professional mound for his minor league debut. Yet the Cardinals held onto him.

In 2015, the Cardinals called Harris up and he would make his Major League debut in Milwaukee, allowing two hits, two walks, and striking out one in 1.1 innings of work. When he did that, he became the first Naval Academy graduate to pitch in the Major Leagues since 1921. Harris would spend three cups of coffee with the the Cardinals that year, posting a 3.67 ERA and 1.59 WHIP over 27 innings of work.

He would arrive to camp in 2016 as one of the players in the running for a bullpen spot, but arm soreness would derail his spring. In June he opted to have “UCL reconstruction,” a procedure pioneered by Dr. George Paletta and also undergone by former Cardinals’ teammate Seth Maness. Maness has 1.50 ERA in 6 innings for the Royals triple-A affiliate this season.

Harris would throw two innings in spring training and start the season on the disabled list as he worked to regain strength. He would also make two appearances this season for Memphis between disabled list trips, most recent being a 1-2-3 inning on April 16th.

When he was informed of his release, he was preparing to take another bullpen session as he worked towards returning to the mound. He told the Post-Dispatch that he is one to two weeks from being back to game ready.