The Pendulum Continues To Swing in St. Louis

cardsJoe Morgan would have put the Cardinals on his bad list in June, because they’ve been pretty inconsistent during the month.  A pitching staff that is lit up against the Rockies early in the month settles down to some better pitched games, with hiccups along the way.  An offense maligned as inept is able to put up four double digit scores in 10 games.  What, exactly, are the Cardinals, besides a first place team as of this writing?

CHICAGO - APRIL 22: Albert Pujols # 5 of the S...
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Maybe a look at some June splits will help us see just exactly what this team is.  Of course, no specific numbers are needed to know that carries this team.  For just one sliver of statistical backing, so far in June Pujols has hit 10 home runs.  The next four in line (Rick Ankiel, Khalil Greene, Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina) combined hit 10.

When you look at the bottom line numbers for June, it’s hard to say that the offense has been an issue, what with the team average hitting .270 and the OPS at .756.  However, these numbers come after the shelling of Kansas City, where the Cardinals piled up 39 runs in three games.  The last seven days have seen the Cards, as a team, hit .318 with a .925 OPS, numbers that have definitely boosted St. Louis out of the offensive malaise that haunted them in May and the first half of June.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 20:  Pitcher Ryan Frank...

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On the pitching side of the equation, Ryan Franklin has been a revelation in the closer role.  I was one that was not excited about this, given his results in the past, but apparently knowing that it was his to keep has been a motivating factor for him.  He’s notched five saves without allowing a run this deep into June.

The rest of the bullpen hasn’t been quite as successful.  The ERAs of Jason Motte, Chris Perez and even Kyle McClellan for June would be listed here, but this is a family website and such horrific things should not be shown without viewer discretion.  While ERA is never the defining statistic for a reliever, a high ERA is much more indicative of performance than a low ERA may be.  An examination of WHIP is at least more favorable for Perez and Dennys Reyes, but Motte still lags behind there as well.

This flammable bullpen hasn’t caused the angst that it did in 2008 throughout Cardinal Nation, though, because the bullpen has so rarely been in a position to influence a game, and when it is, it seems to come through for the most part.  The Cardinals have rallied only twice this year from a deficit of three runs or more, while the Cardinal starters have been piling up innings.  In June, the six starters—counting Brad Thompson, who slid into Kyle Lohse‘s role when Lohse went down with a forearm issue—have pitched 121.2 of the 177 innings, right around 69% of the total.  Many of these runs allowed by Motte, Reyes or McClellan have come when the Cards were already trailing or had padded their lead so as not to be affected by a solo home run or two.

Chris Carpenter has continued to be a joy to watch.  A 0.71 WHIP for the month does not even include the perfect game he took into the seventh in Milwaukee on Memorial Day.  He’s struck out 15 and walked only 4 in his four starts.  While the rest of the rotation has been hit or miss, even the expected co-ace Adam Wainwright, Carpenter has lived up to his billing.

In the field, Khalil Greene has returned from his stint on the disabled list, where he dealt with his anxiety issues.  The Cardinals decided that not only was he ready to return, but that he’d move over to third base to try to alleviate the black hole of offense that has been there.  So far, so good, as Greene homered in his first three games back and has gone 5 for 10 since his return.

Rumors continue to swirl about the Cardinals getting into the trade market, looking for a third baseman or maybe trying to pry Matt Holliday from the A’s.  However, as inconsistent as this team may have been during June, they have moved into first place, which may keep GM John Mozeliak from making a rash move and let him wait to see if the price will drop closer to the trade deadline.  If this recent surge in offense is for real, he may be able to do that.  If it drops off again, though, the pressure from the fan base will be strong for a deal.

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