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Locked On Cardinals: Measuring the concern level for the Cards after a rough 17-game stretch

Trust and “good feelings” only go so far. At some point, results need to come for the Cardinals
Credit: AP
St. Louis Cardinals' Nolan Arenado tosses his helmet after striking out to end the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Friday, June 4, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS — After a four-game sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds, Mike Shildt says he “isn’t concerned” about the performance of the St. Louis Cardinals. To make matters worse, it’s an overall five game losing streak and seven losses in the last 10 games.

Despite the lackluster performance from his team, Mike Shildt’s answer, and public optimism, is something we’ve seen from him in the past. He is someone who has a tremendous amount of trust in his team, his staff and his players. Some of these players even saw Shildt as a manager at the minor league level, so the trust is probably mutual. That said, trust and “good feelings” only go so far: at some point, results need to come.

Hear more from the Locked On Cardinals Podcast by clicking here.

The results, as of June 7, have been less than ideal. After their second 17 games in 17 days stretch in as many months, the Cardinals sit at 31-29 and 2 and a half games out of first place in the National League Central. The Cardinals came out of the first 17-game stretch 13-4, mixing in two weekend sweeps. This most recent stretch was not as kind to St. Louis, as they went 6-11 and won just one series.

So now, the question has to be asked, should we be worried about this Cardinal team?

Yes, they are banged up. Yes, if one or two things went their way Sunday then they would have a win. Yes, they’ve had a difficult schedule. However, everyone is dealing with injuries, every game has a lucky or unlucky play and the schedule shouldn’t matter if you’re truly the better team. It’s still June and there is still a ton of baseball to be played, but this Cardinal team has underperformed in 2021.

This bullpen is taxed and is relying almost entirely on the “Big Three” of Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Alex Reyes. Outside of those three, every arm in the bullpen has been inconsistent and mediocre at best. The starting rotation has been widely inconsistent outside of Jack Flaherty and he is currently on the IL for a “significant” amount of time with an oblique injury. The offense is a mix of regulars who have not been consistent and players who should not be starting in an ideal situation. One could argue St. Louis still does not have a full-time right fielder and Edmundo Sosa, who has filled in admirably in Paul DeJong’s absence, has cooled off at the plate.

Here’s where the Cardinals sit in some statistical categories with their NL Rank:

            Bullpen ERA: 4.36 (9th)

            Bullpen BB/9: 5.79 (most)

            Starter ERA: 4.19 (8th)

            Starter BB/9: 3.78 (most)

            Team WHIP: 1.37 (12th)

            Team Average: .231 (12th)

            Team OBP: .302 (12th)

            Team Slugging: .391 (7th)

This team needs another starter, a bullpen piece or two and strong bench bat.

The problem is that the Cardinals have almost no leverage now that most teams know how badly they need help. In the Nolan Arenado deal, the Cardinals had almost all of the leverage. If Colorado kept him, he would most likely walk for nothing. The Cardinals were able to use that leverage to get Arenado on a weaker package. Now that the Cardinals are down starters due to injury, are calling up minor leaguers, they have no leverage. They need a change, whether that’s getting healthy or making a trade, because this current cast of characters is not getting the job done.

Mike Shildt and his staff have all the information at their disposal. They know their players better than we do. We have the luxury of watching the games from our screens, making these hypothetical decisions with little to no pressure. However, even Shildt and his staff should see this group needs a change. I’m not saying the Cardinals are done or this season is hopeless, but there is definitely cause for concern. 

Lucas Smith is the host of the Locked On Cardinals Podcast, part of the Locked On Podcast family affiliated with TEGNA.

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