Not-so-pretty numbers from first week show a few areas for improvement as Cards head home
Even though they wasted a strong outing by Adam Wainwright in Sunday’s 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh, the Cardinals had more reason to be satisfied than disappointed with their season-opening trip.
The reason: The Cardinals headed home with a .500 record — 3-3 — even though they didn’t play all that well in Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. Their offense has had trouble getting started, their defense showed uncharacteristic lapses and the middle relief looks like it could be a real problem.
On the plus side, the Cardinals got two excellent starts out of Wainwright and one each from Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha, who is scheduled to start Monday’s home opener against the Reds. They also got two home runs from Yadier Molina, and Jhonny Peralta and Matt Carpenter will come home on a five-game hitting streak.
But that’s about it for standout weeks. Just look at some of the not-so-pretty numbers — and yes, I know, we’re talking about a small sample size:
.186: Team batting average. Matt Adams is the lone regular hitting .300, at .318. Newcomer Peter Bourjos (0 for 13) and Allen Craig (2 for 22) lead the slow starters, though Molina, Peralta and Matt Holliday all are hitting under .220. Holliday is the only one of the group to have hit in much bad luck, too.
.143 (6 for 42): The Cardinals’ batting average with runners in scoring position. Everyone figures there’ll be regression from last year’s majors-best .330 average with RISP, but dropping to the bottom five after one week was not what anyone had in mind.
7.88: Combined ERA of relievers Seth Maness, Pat Neshek, Randy Choate and Keith Butler. The number is inflated by one inning when Butler was roughed up for five runs, but the middle-relief corps still has had its issues. These other three all have allowed a run and looked shaky enough at times to leave Matheny seeking answers from outside the box.
He went to his eighth-inning man, Carlos Martinez, in the sixth inning of a tight spot Saturday in part because of a lack of confidence in other relievers, namely Maness. Continued struggles by last year’s double-play guy have the potential to really throw the bullpen out of whack, and perhaps speed up the timetable on Jason Motte’s return.
Neshek, however, seems to have turned around already and has looked sharp in his past two appearances.
0: Stolen bases. The team’s newfound speed is off to a very slow start indeed. Bourjos must reach base before he can start to create the havoc the Cardinals are seeking on the bases. Kolten Wong, on the other hand, has reached base seven times but has no attempted steals.
6: Errors. Perhaps most worrisome is the majority of the errors were unforced mistakes on routine plays. Jon Jay and Holliday bumped into each other on a routine fly to left-center, Adams dropped an on-target throw at first, and Wong let a grounder skip through his legs. Perhaps these gaffes are out of their system, though. The Cardinals did not commit an error in the past two games and they turned a couple of impressive double plays Sunday. Molina completed a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play when he nailed speedy Starling Marte after strike three to Jose Tabata.
7 hours, 27 minutes: Perhaps the ugliest number of all is the one that was completely out of the Cardinals’ doing. That would be the time of the three rain delays the Cardinals dealt with in their first six games.
More rain is expected Monday, especially early. The latest forecast rates the chance of rain at 10 percent for the 3:15 p.m. first pitch on FOX Sports Midwest.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.