On Deck: The Cardinals So Far
Oh, hey there! Been a while, eh? Yeah, I still write for ReviewStl. You’re stuck with me for a while longer, I suppose. Don’t worry, I’ll be trying to write a little bit more than the zero I’ve done recently.
But you don’t want to listen to my ramblings, eh? Me neither. You want to discuss the Cardinals, and rightfully so.
What’s Gone Right with the Cardinals so far
I don’t think there’s any doubt remaining that Marp’s taken the reins as the best position player on the team this year. In this still-nascent season, Carpenter’s leading the team in average (.366 before tonight’s game), slugging (.634 thanks to a league-leading 10 doubles), home runs (3), and RBI (11).
Is it sustainable? Unlikely. Carpenter’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is 50 percentage points higher (.390) than his career average, and that’s likely to regress a bit. It doesn’t mean he won’t be more successful than he was last season. He’s taken a bit more of an aggressive approach at the plate (4.03 pitches per plate appearance this season, compared to 4.37 last year). He’s cut down on his walks, but he’s also cut down on his strikeout rate, and his isolated slugging (slugging percentage minus batting average) is so far a career-high .268. It’s still very early in the season, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t get a third consecutive All-Star nod.
Through 17 games last year, Peralta’s slash line sat at .183/.258/.433. He did have four home runs in that span, but I think it’s safe to say he (and the team) much prefer this year’s .343/.384/.522 start. His walk rate is down and his strikeout rate is up, but he’s hitting the ball harder more consistently (31.5% of the time) than ever. The Cardinals signed him to boost the offensive production they’ve been missing from shortstop, and so far he’s been more than sufficient. His defense, too, has been excellent. He reminds me of a shortstop version of Troy Glaus in a way; he won’t get to every ball, but those he does get to, he generally fields very well.
Right up until Saturday (more on that later), the Cardinals rotation and bullpen were running on all cylinders. Even with the season-ending injury to Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals’ rotation has been solid, and at times downright spectacular.
Lance Lynn had a rough outing Sunday, but in his three previous starts, he had a 1.56 ERA and a .589 OPS (on-base plus slugging) against. His walk rate can still be an issue, but he is a true number two in the rotation, and the team’s going to have to lean on him even more in Waino’s absence.
Beyond him, both Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez have been incredible. Both of them have a WHIP (Walks/Hits per Inning Pitched) of under 1, which is very, very good, and likely unsustainable, but there’s no reason to believe they won’t build upon their 2014 numbers. Wacha in particular looks like he’s recovered from his shoulder injury, as his velocity’s returned to roughly his career numbers, and so far he’s done a much better job at issuing fewer walks. His strikeouts are down, and his FIP (fielding-independent pitching ERA) is up, though.
So, too, has the bullpen been efficient. Trevor Rosenthal is second in the NL in saves with seven, and he’s been nearly unhittable, with just two hits allowed in 8.2 innings. He’s still issuing a lot of walks, but it’s likely this will be persistent with him for his entire career. Beyond him, newcomer Jordan Walden (0.96 ERA, 1.179 WHIP) has been phenomenal as well. Matt Belisle has yet to surrender an earned run, and Kevin Siegrist has been much more effective so far than he was last season.