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Struggles, Strengths and Playoff Hopes

A conversation with Fangraphs writer and Viva El Birdos managing editor Craig Edwards

Jun. 12, 2017
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Photo Credit: Francisco Diez (Flickr CC)

A slow start for the Chicago Cubs should have been great news for the St. Louis Cardinals. In March they appeared to be the most likely threat to unseat the reigning World Series Champions atop the NL Central, but instead they’re off to a 29-32 start and needed both a win and a Cincinnati loss on Sunday to move back into third place in the division. On Friday they shook things up a bit when they designated veteran infielder Jhonny Peralta for assignment, reassigned third base coach Chris Maloney and announced hitting coach Bill Mueller is taking a leave of absence.

The Brewers face the Cardinals four times this week, and on Sunday we talked to FanGraphs writer and Viva El Birdos managing editor Craig Edwards about St. Louis’ struggles, strengths and playoff hopes.

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A season where the Cubs got off to a cold start would have seemed likely to be great news for the Cardinals, but in spite of that they're still lurking below .500. What happened?

The Cardinals have had difficulty in the bullpen and an inconsistent offense, which has kept them down despite strong starting pitching. They got off to a rough start, seemed to rebound for a bit and then struggled against a difficult schedule over the last month. They failed to take advantage of the Cubs' rough start and getting swept by their rivals a week ago is the difference between the two teams in the standings. Getting swept by the Reds caused a shuffling of the coaching staff.

Probable Tuesday starter Lance Lynn (who missed all of 2016) and Wednesday starter Mike Leake (who had a 4.69 ERA last season) both come into this week with an ERA under 3 through 12 starts. Which is more likely to sustain this run of success?

I'm not sure either one is equipped to quite live up to that standard, but both should be above average pitchers going forward. If I was to pick one, I'd go with Lynn. He's given up a lot of homers this season and has been a bit lucky they haven't done more damage, but if the homers come down, I think I'd give him the edge over Leake.

If I'd asked you two months ago, would you have been able to envision a world where Jedd Gyorko is this team's most valuable position player?

It's tough to consider that because as the season started, he didn't even have a starting job. Kolten Wong was at second and Jhonny Peralta was at third so a clear avenue to playing time wasn't even there. The Cardinals don't have a true star on the position player side of things with a bunch of players with relatively similar value, inlcuding Gyorko. He's really taken advantage of the opportunity he's gotten and his play likely played a role in the Cardinals decision to move on from Peralta. 

Who are the likely All Stars on this squad?

I think Carlos Martinez seems like the most likely choice, but if Lynn and Leake keep their ERA low, they might have a shot as well. Seung Hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal might be options, too. On the position-player side, Yadier Molina might be a sentimental choice though he's not having the best of seasons. Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter might have a shot, but they play at positions where they will be behind quite a few other stars. 

Despite a cold start the Cardinals are still just a handful of games back of the pack in the Central. Does it still feel like this team can make a postseason run?

The seven-game losing streak didn't provide much optimism that the Cardinals could get in the race, but the team still has a lot of quality players. If the Cubs keep giving everyone else a shot, the Cardinals might be able to stay in the hunt, but they are going to need some help after this poor start. 

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