The 2018 Cardinals are experiencing double trouble - a lousy bullpen and an inability to hit doubles.
Both are serious problems that could have the team out of playoff contention by the time they complete a three-game series against the Diamondbacks in Arizona July 4th.
The front office has to do more than sit idly by following a very disappointing, lackluster loss to San Diego in the rubber match contest that gave St. Louis a disconcerting 4-5 record against the three last-place teams in the National League - the Marlins, Reds and Padres. With the exception of set-up man Jordan Hicks and closer Bud Norris, any pitcher trotting to the mound has come equipped with a gasoline can. I'm exaggerating for effect but you get my point. No one else has been reliable. Not really. Not at all.
What was supposed to have been a major strength of this Cardinal team is one of its Achilles heels and there's no sense of urgency on management's part to fix it. President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak and General Manager Michael Girsch can ill afford to wait for the trade deadline to come and go following a combination of bad signings, trades and questionable contracts. There's no sound reason to hang onto relievers Brett Cecil, Luke Gregerson, oft-injured Dominique Leone and exasperating Greg Holland. Consider each a bad investment for which there'll be no return, cut ties by designating them all for assignment (DFA) and move on while there's still a chance to salvage the season.
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Whether the bullpen gets fortified from within the organization's ranks by a call to arms of Memphis' finest major league ready prospects or acquiring a veteran presence or two is immaterial. It just needs to get done expeditiously before the overuse of Hicks lands him on a gurney headed for Tommy John surgery. History hasn't been too kind recently to the likes of Matt Bowman, Trevor Rosenthal, Sadaharu Oh or Kevin Siegriest. This one's all on Mozeliak and Girsch to save their most productive relievers from Matheny, themselves and the knife.
As for the offense, this just-completed nine-game stretch against some of MLB's worst was supposed to help ignite a roller coaster of bad bat-swinging 'Birds before the Cubs rolled into Busch for three games beginning Friday night followed by three in Philadelphia versus the Phillies, four against the Brewers in Milwaukee, three at home when both the Indians and Braves visit prior to the series in Arizona that ends a brutal as well as potentially fatal stretch of the schedule against winning ball clubs.
In an interview heard on 101.1 ESPN's Fast Lane, Mozeliak said "One of the sort of frustrating knocks was our offense up to this point. I do feel like we're starting to score runs. I feel like, from an entertainment side of things, it's a fun offense to watch." Fun? Really? More like delusional! This lifeless offense puts fans to sleep better than Ambien! No wonder it's so quiet at the ballpark!
The Cardinals are now a wretched 15-19 against teams with a losing record since April 27th. That list of opponents includes Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Miami and San Diego. Beyond a doubt, the Cardinals have played to the level of their competition and it's an incredibly disturbing pattern that will ultimately cost them a postseason birth again this year. Mozeliak's "fun offense to watch" ranks last in the major leagues in both doubles (85) and triples (3). Let's put a very troubling stat into perspective. Not since 2008 has a Cardinal team placed outside of the top-15 of Major League Baseball's doubles hit list: 2017, 15th; 2016, 4th; 2015, 10th; 2014, 13th; 2013, 2nd; 2012, 9th; 2011, 6th; 2010, 14th; and 2009, 15th.
A team's ability to consistently hit doubles is a direct indicator of its ability to consistently score runs at a relatively high rate. Conversely, a lack of doubles productions is generally reflected in one's record. The Cardinals are a paltry 3-17 when they don't homer and 83.5% of their hits this year have been a single or homer. There are players who, no doubt, are performing well below their expected levels offensively but that's another factor that can be traced back to management who felt one off-season addition of a middle-of-the-order bat would be sufficient when in actuality, two were called for so that in the event Ozuna struggled, then an Evan Longoria or Jose' Abreu could have taken some of the pressure, some of the heat - self-inflicted or not, off of him or vice versa.
It was questionable whether the front office did their due diligence then and it's questionable as to whether they'll do their due diligence now to make this roster a bona fide playoff contender. A frustrated Cardinal Nation would unequivocally label the team "pretenders" and until moves (I personally wouldn't have dealt a trimmed, nimble, pull-hitter of a first baseman named Matt Adams) are made quite soon to shore up a horrible bullpen and an anemic offense that lacks the ability to consistently hit doubles, the Cardinals are "toast". They simply won't survive their upcoming schedule. They simply won't survive their double trouble. It's not the manager's problem. This one's squarely on Mo' and Girsch who have to do more than sit idly by.