2020 MLB Preview: St. Louis Cardinals
Is A Goldschmidt Offense Enough To Make The Playoffs?
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt was obviously pressing in his first full year with a new club in 2019 and the only thing he did better than in Arizona was hit fly ball outs. Many modern metrics seem to be useful only to find reasons to dispute was is obvious with the naked eye. But in his case, the ground ball to fly ball out ratio (go/ao) was down 26 percent compared to 2018 and it’s significant because everything was down: average, walks, hits, on base plus slugging (by 100 points). That one stat tells me he was trying to lift everything out of the yard instead of do what he does best which is hit the ball where it’s pitched.
Yadier Molina is coming to the end of a hall-of-fame career at 38 and St. Louis has to find someone to take his place. Julio Rodriguez and Ivan Herrera are in the low minors and are hitting well. Andrew Knizner hit .303 on his way through the minor leagues. He is now third on the depth chart behind capable veteran Matt Wieters. Knizner has thrown out 40 percent of the runners who have tried to steal against him, which is better than Wieters. With pitchers on the bench in favor of the designated hitter during the season coronavirus, and with 30-player rosters for the first two weeks of the season, Knizner should get his chance to get at bats and leapfrog Wieters. Knizner obviously has some learning to do. Fortunately for him, he has two veterans from which to learn and perhaps the best staff in baseball, at least on paper. Julio Rodriguez (.275 career in mostly A and A+ ball) has thrown out 41 percent of runners attempting toi steal. Ivan Herrera has hit .309 against the same level of competition and has thrown out 35 percent of would-be base-stealers. They are also possible replacements for Molina some day. They’re in the low minors and are hitting well.
One of those starters is Jack Flaherty who’s an absolute stud: 2.75 ERA in nearly 200 innings last year, followed by Dakota Hudson (3.35 ERA) Carlos Martinez — a solid number three— Daniel Ponce de Leon (3.75) at number four. Former ace Adam Wainwright (14-10, 4.19 ERA) is still a hell of a number five.
Offensively, infielder Kolten Wong is OK, as is Paul DeJong. Outfielder Tyler O’Neill is as well. Matt Carpenter is too, though he seems to be on the downside. But the guy who makes this team go is Goldschmidt. If he doesn’t have help or tries to do too much and fails, then that lays the team’s fortunes at the feet of the pitching staff. If they fail to duplicate last year, they’re a .500 club. If they produce again, they’re looking at 93 wins.
Coronavirus 60-game prediction: 32-28
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