Saturday, June 15, 2024

Vote of No(lan) Confidence


Right now there is only one team in the NL Central that is over .500. Due to the Cubs slumping for a bit, the Reds' come-up sputtering, and the Pirates still just being mediocre, the other four teams have entered a tight race for 2nd, where everyone is within a game or a game and a half of each other.

And y'know who's in second? The team that's been steadily rising since mid-May without many major mishaps, the damned St. Louis Cardinals. 

I got in trouble a while back for saying the 2014 Orioles were leading the division by default when they actually had a really nice team that should have won it all. So I think saying the Cardinals are in 2nd by default is a lot less controversial. Yes, they're winning games, and they're keeping runs down, but they're not a good team, at least not entirely.

The fundamental issue with this Cardinals team, as it has been, is that two of its biggest stars, Goldschmidt and Arenado, are past their prime, and the other, Willson Contreras, is hurt. That leaves a lot of lesser pieces left to pick up the slack, and while some have, like Masyn Winn, Nolan Gorman and Sonny Gray, there are too many fundamental issues with many of these guys for there to be unilateral success. Alec Burleson is a flawed player, because he's decent enough in both the hitting and fielding categories, but he's spotty. He doesn't show up consistently. He does make contact and it goes right for Ranger Suarez's hand. He's not the consistent, impressive contact hitter that should drive a team, like Winn, but more the streakier, less consistent clutch guy that only gets something done when it's most inconvenient. 

Nolan Gorman is a little better than that, though. He's succeeded as a power hitter, and has 15 home runs and 33 RBIs. He also has 83 strikeouts and only a .760 OPS. Clearly there are limits. Gorman was one of those mega-prospect types the Cardinals brought up expecting big things from, and while he has been very good, I don't think he's as well-rounded as people predicted. Winn is pretty well rounded, he can hit and play great defense. Gorman is missing a few pieces, honestly.

And while Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn and Miles Mikolas are pitching well, they all have higher WHIPs and ERAs than they should. In my opinion, you really should only have one of this type of pitcher, the 35+ veteran who can eat innings and get by without overexerting himself, who may be slightly past his prime but still smart and controlling enough to be trusted. The Cardinals are almost all guys like this. Sonny Gray is still in his prime but even he's had more moments of humanity than last year. The only guy under thirty in this rotation is Andre Pallante, who's been given the go to start again and is doing...alright with it.

And yet the team is still winning games, close ones as well. There's definite flaws with this Cardinals team, not just on the field but organizationally, as many people are overhearing how exhausting it is to play for this team from current and former players. And yes, it's still only a matter of time before Oli Marmol loses his job. But right now they're in 2nd and playing better than their competitors. This is the kind of luck that only shines upon this kind of team, and hopefully they make the most of this moment and start fixing the fundamental issues they have before it runs out.

Coming Tonight: One of the most even trades of the last few years sent this guy to LA, and it's gone great for him. 

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