When it comes to the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup, it's either a home run or nothing. It's June 14 and the Cards have a problem on offense. All it took was a couple surging bad teams to expose their flaws on offense.
Going into the 2018 season, the worry was with the starting pitching and bullpen. The rotation lacked depth and the pen didn't have assigned roles or promised execution, only a bevy of questions. The lineup had on-base machines like Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler, all-around juggernauts like Tommy Pham, power magnets such as Marcell Ozuna and Jedd Gyorko, and the newly arrived versatile threat of Jose Martinez. Oh, and Yadier Molina's resurgent power and reliability.
They were good, right? Wrong. As the halfway point of the season starts to lurk, the bats are a joke and in huge trouble. And there isn't an answer on the horizon on the farm, so don't get your hopes up.
Tyler O'Neill came up, excited fans for a few days, and then pleased them with consistent breezes from his strikeouts. Luke Voit had his moment last season, but won't thrill anyone with extended playing time. Patrick Wisdom will only add to the strikeout rate with his home-run ambitions. There's nothing there.
What is John Mabry teaching these Cardinals? Go up to the plate, watch good pitches fly by, and then swing at average to bad ones? I don't understand what the approach is. On his 101.1 ESPN morning show, Bernie Miklasz diagnosed the problem as an approach issue. Paraphrasing Miklasz, they don't walk enough or hit enough doubles as a team, and they just don't have a plan at the plate. So, what is being taught or advised, other than close your eyes and hope for the best.
This is not a new problem for the Cardinals. Take away the wildly rare performance with runners in scoring position from the 2015 season and this lineup has been a predictable, under-performing mess for seasons. They have been a home-run-or-bust team in the past, but got by with solid-to-above-average pitching or individual performances that came out of nowhere.
While it wasn't enough for a playoff berth, it salvaged parts of the season while hiding the problem. The 2016 team found a way to slug, but that was more of an outlier. Outside of that, it's slightly above average or below average all around.
For example, what does 2017 look like without Pham's breakout season? It's a bad year. NO ONE saw that coming, so it helped hide the problems. An all-around talent who hit for average, power, and reached base. Whoa!! This season, after a hot start, Pham has come back to Earth, even if he does lead the team with a 1.6 fWAR.
The problems were exposed by the Padres. According to mlb.com reporter Joe Trezza, the San Diego series represented the first time the Cardinals didn't draw a walk for the entire three games since 1978, which is 40 years ago for the non-math wizards. That's terrible and no doubt will lead to a series loss.
The Cardinals are masters of none at the plate. They don't walk, hit enough doubles, get on base often enough-but manage to hit home runs and strike out. All for one or nothing at all.
Going into tonight's MLB action, the Cardinals rank last in doubles and triples in baseball. Both leagues. Their 75 doubles are bad, but their three triples are embarrassing. In fact, the Cardinals are below league average in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Their .243 team batting average is exactly that: average in the National League.
It's not just one person. Dexter Fowler and Kolten Wong are sure outs right now and have been for much of the 2018 season, but it's more than that. What about Matt Carpenter's switch from moderate average hitter to now a .230-.250 guy? Who is watching over him or instructing? What is Martinez doing that others can't latch onto? What is the message?
Here's the thing: whatever his message is, Mabry's ideas are dated and worn out. While the hitting coach doesn't have as much of an impact as a pitching coach, in my opinion, you can't continue on with a guy who isn't getting through. The Cardinals didn't hesitate to fire Chris Maloney a year ago or let Derek Lilloquist (whose pitching staff was nowhere near as bad as Mabry's lineup) over the winter. What's stopping them from firing Mabry?
If the answer is a need to avoid angering Mike Matheny, who is friends with Mabry, then the house should just be cleaned out completely. If you are worried about feelings and relationships, the Cardinals will finish third in the wild-card running once again. They will be perennial underachievers; a high spending team with no real idea of how to change on offense. As much as pitching wins championships, bats still do a lot of talking in how a game is won. This season, the Cardinals are wasting solid pitching performances.
A couple of weeks ago, I stated on Twitter that acquiring Manny Machado wasn't ideal for a team that couldn't know for sure if the star would re-sign here. It's still a risky play and something John Mozeliak will not do, but he is the kind of reset the lineup needs. Love or hate it, Machado would reload this offense and make it fierce. He's s game-changer. While I would find it hard giving up three or four prospects at least, I can see the crowd who fancies the bold move.
Since that won't happen, the Cardinals need to take the first step in fixing this offense and take away the old voice in Mabry. Call it the easy-way-out move, but it's the right one. Mabry's teaching isn't doing anything and leading to worse approaches at the plate.
When your team goes 4-5 against Miami, Cincinnati, and San Diego, something needs to be done. Something that should have been done a couple years ago. Give me one reason why Mabry should stay. Please try and give me a reason. Let me help you out: there is no reason.
You can't fix this lineup with a magic wand. Tony Stark can't drop in and fix a mechanical flaw in the body or find a cutting-edge baseball bat. There are no answers at Memphis or Springfield. The change must happen in the dugout.
The hitting woes are nothing new and aren't going away. In order to fix a problem, you must identify that there is one.
Come on, Cardinals. Your bats are a joke, so do something about it. The off-day is a perfect time to make a change, especially with the Chicago Cubs coming into town. It's almost too perfect. As a wise woman once said, "The truth may set you free, but first, it will make you mad."
You can make a move to benefit your ball club, or make sure your manager's feelings don't get hurt.
Thanks for reading and please hit the cages.