By Mitchell Goldenberg
Fourth of July Weekend has come and gone, marking the end of Major League Baseball’s first half. The St. Louis Cardinals are entering July 5th with a 41-44 record. Their play has been hard to watch, especially following such an exciting start.
The problems have stemmed from the injury of ace pitcher Jack Flaherty. His start saw him record an 8-1 record, with a 2.90 ERA. He also tallied 67 strikeouts through 62 innings prior to his oblique injury. Flaherty recorded the largest amount of run support on the Cards, yet following his injury, the bats have gone silent for the entire team.
Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are the two star players on the offensive side, and as they have been good at times this season, it is hard to not point a finger in the direction of the two sluggers. Arenado has been an All-Star caliber player, yet he has had multiple 0/18 or larger stretches. It is hard to win a series when the best player on the team is not reaching the bases throughout a four game stretch. Paul Goldschmidt has been even worse than Arenado, where he had one of his notoriously slow starts in St. Louis, and if he had not turned in on late, he would have received a lot more flack.
Some of the standout performers on the offensive side have been Tyler O’Neill and Yadier Molina. Both men have stepped up to carry a lot of the load through the inconsistent play of Arenado and Goldschmidt. Molina is recording his best offensive numbers since 2013, while O’Neill is playing plus baseball on Offense and Defense. Both O’Neill and Bader have shown a lot of potential this year, but their only issue is the lack of health on their side. Molina, Bader, and O’Neill have spent time on the IL this season, and it has been hard for the young outfield duo to get consistent time on the field together. Health is always a concern for MLB rosters, but injuries have derailed the team and their production this season, and this is why I believe the cardinals need to go out and aquire some depth for their rotation and their offense.
I purposely leave out the bullpen due to what I believe to be one of the very best four-man-groups in all of baseball. At the beginning of the season Jordan Hicks looked healthy and dominant as a high leverage, late innings pitcher. He had an injury around the same time as Jack Flaherty, and is expected to be back sooner, rather than later. Once the Cardinals can flex Gant and Helsley out of the spotlight and into a lower leverage role of the Bullpen. Our three biggest standouts of the season are Giovanny Gallegos, Genesis Cabrera, and Alex Reyes. Gallegos is what you have come to expect out of the bullpen, a consistent arm with excellent control, he gets the middle relief or starters out of a jam and keeps the cards in the game. On a less consistent basis, Genesis Cabrera has been a nasty lefty who comes out of the bullpen looking to strike you out. He is in his first season with a significant role, and I believe it is safe to say he has had a great season. There have been ups and downs, but he has shown up in some major spots this season, and I expect him to continue to grow into an excellent lefty. Finally is the All-Star himself, Alex Reyes. Cardinal fans have been waiting years to finally see what Reyes can do when healthy, and he has not disappointed. Reyes has been our closer from day one, and is yet to blow a save. Reyes has shown brilliance this season, and the only knock you can have on him is the amount of walks that he allows. His stuff is practically unhittable when he is on, and shows why he has been our top prospect for so many years.
All in all, I am still optimistic for the second half of the Cardinals’ season. Typically being down 10.0 games at the halfway point leads to bad news, but I am certain this team can close the gap with two acquisitions going into the deadline. If the Cardinals can add a starting pitcher like Kyle Gibson or José Berríos, it would take a lot of the pressure off of the rest of the rotation. Outside of Wainwright, there really has not been a consistent guy that we can rely on. I also think that the Cardinals are in desperate need of a Left-Handed Bat. It would be interesting to add the likes of Joey Gallo to the mix, but it will likely be someone closer to the role that Brad Miller played last season. Matt Carpenter has not been the Matt Carpenter that we know and love, and if the Birds can add one more lefty to the lineup that can be consistent, it would potentially open up better matchups for the rest of the team going forward.