Better in 2019

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    The Cards won 88 games in 2018.
    Despite the failure of Fowler, the injury to DeJong, Ozuna’s sore shoulder and slow start, the injury to Reyes, and the fiascos of Holland, Gregerson, Cecil, Bowman, Lyons, etc. With the pickups of Goldy, Miller, and the invaluable experience that guys like Hicks, Flaherty, Hudson, Ponce, Gant, and Gomber received, shouldn’t we be pretty optimistic about 2019? Shouldn’t the rotation be better? The bullpen better? The starting 8 better? The bench better? A better hitting coach?
    Would appreciate thoughts and analysis. What’s the probable 25 man and how does it compare to last season?

    AvatarBob Reed


    “Shouldn’t we be pretty optimistic about 2019?”

    Absolutely, cranny! After the midseason purge, the club went 41-28 despite playing 50 of 69 games against winning teams. (First half only 43 of 93 games versus winning teams.) Moreover, they played at 100-win pace after Fowler finally left the lineup for good. And there’s this:

    In the seven seasons since LaRussa retired the Cards have beaten the Vegas number by an average of 4 wins per year, the Baseball Prospectus PECOTA total by 6 wins per year, and Clay Davenport’s computer model by 5 victories per season. So if we “translate” this year’s over/under predictions, we get:

    Vegas 88.5 = 92.5 wins
    PECOTA 86 = 92
    Davenport 85 = 90

    So I expect somewhere from 90-93 wins this year.

    “Shouldn’t the rotation be better?”

    Not realistic, I don’t think. Mayyybe as good, but not better. The starters were 5th in the majors in ERA, and not in a flukey way; numerically they were closer to 3rd than 7th. I’d say 10% chance to get better, 50% chance to stay roughly the same, and 40% to be worse.

    “The bullpen better?”

    Yes, for sure. It would almost have to be, because last year was the worst in modern Redbird history. But will it be better than merely below average? Much will depend on rookie and second-year arms. I hope they protect Reyes by having him pitch every 5-6 days, 2-3 innings at a time, then gradually stretch him out in August/September, so that he could throw 5-6 innings in a playoff start if necessary. This would obviously limit bullpen flexibility — but it would also mean Reyes logging more innings than any other reliever in the sport, perhaps as many as 110 in the regular season, but with lots of rest between appearances, a starter’s rest, and never throwing more than 75-80 pitches. So I think it’s worth the tradeoff.

    “The starting 8 better?”

    Including offense, defense, and baserunning, if generally healthy it should be the best Senior Circuit everyday eight this side of the Dodgers. If Fowler runs away to be a pro golfer or something, they could perhaps be even better than the Dodgers. Here are the ZiPS projections, per 550 at-bats:

    Carp 4.6 WAR
    Goldy 4.4
    Wong 3.0
    Yadi 2.8
    Ozuna 2.8
    DeJong 2.7
    Bader 2.7
    Fowler 1.6

    “The bench better?”

    The bench was great in 2018, and should remain so. More ZiPS projections, per 550 AB’s:

    Gyorko 3.1 WAR
    O’Neill 2.6
    Jose Martinez 2.3
    Knizner 2.0
    Ramon Urias 2.0

    OK, I gratuitously added that last one just to illustrate how good Ramon might already be; I do not really expect him to play in the majors this year. At least not until September. As for the others, a strict RF platoon of Martinez/O’Neill would probably generate something like 5 WAR if Jose continues to mash LHP’s at a .968 OPS rate. But that would make Dexter Fowler sad. I mean, depressed. I mean, he would likely suffer from depression. (I believe the very latest re-write of reality, via Fowler and his unofficial mouthpiece, Mr. Goold.) And above all else, Cardinal fans, Mike Shildt must NOT make Dexter Fowler suffer. He must compose and conduct a symphony of sympathy for Dex, whatever the on-field results. So that platonic ideal platoon ain’t happening.

    “A better hitting coach?”

    What? There’s a new hitting coach?

    Avatar1982 willie

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    I think the cardinals have a lot of questions to be answered. can the starters or all pitchers for that matter stay healthy. that has been a huge problem the past few years. if carpenter is gonna continue to leadoff, he needs to hit better and more consistently over the full season. can their core players stay healthy, a big question for some of those guys. can bader improve at the plate far as recognizing pitches and laying off the bad ones. to me he doesn’t have to be a 300 hitter, just needs to learn how not to give away at bats. to me one of the biggest questions, is can their defense improve to an acceptable level. since they don’t hardly give errors anymore, just making less errors isn’t enough. its about making the plays major league players should make which greatly helps your pitchers as opposed to continually not completing the play and not getting the outs. a lot of question marks with fowler, he should be gone but cardinals management don’t want to own up to their mistake, maybe by some miracle he does better. overall I always hope for the cards to do great but im not optimistic. goldy was a great pickup but im not sure he can offset an aging carpenter and Molina especially if our pitchers fall prey to the injury bug which happens a lot. I expect Milwaukee to be better than they were last year and though the cubs haven’t done a lot this past offseason I still expect them to be there though that pains me to say in the hardest way possible. so if I had to pick, im saying third place again but I hope im wrong.


    Was surprised to see that Gomber started 11 games for the Cards in in 2018. Ponce started 4. Weaver started 25. And Waino started 8. Waino and Gomber both had ERAs in the mid 4s. Weaver’s ERA for those 25 starts was almost 5. Maybe we do have a chance of improving in the rotation area.


    Starts in 2018 –

    Mikolas – 32 (2.83 ERA)
    Flaherty – 28 (3.34 ERA)
    Weaver – 25 (4.95 ERA)
    Gant – 19 (3.47 ERA)
    Martinez – 18 (3.11 ERA)
    Wacha – 15 (3.20 ERA)
    Gomber 11 (4.44 ERA)
    Wainwright – 8 (4.46 ERA)
    Poncedeleon – 4 (2.73 ERA)
    Ross – 1
    Reyes – 1

    Who slots in if Waino stumbles in 2019? Gant? Ponce? Hudson?
    Gomber? Reyes in the 2nd half?

    Euro DandyEuro Dandy


    I’m mildly optimistic they’ll be better. Pitching is so hard to forecast, so many variables. Also, there is a fine line between patience and stubbornness in managing lineups and the roster — hope they don’t lose sight of the fact that losses in April, May and June count one each just like they do in September.


    Some bullpen ERAs in 2018 –

    Lyons – 8.64 (27 games)
    Holland – 7.92 (32 games)
    Gregerson – 7.71 (17 games)
    Cecil – 6.80 (40 games)
    Sherriff – 6.35 (5 games)
    Bowman – 6.26 (22 games)
    Leone – 4.50 (29 games)

    And we won 88 games? A better bullpen alone this year may put us into at least the low 90s, all things being equal.


    I think we’re a much better team on paper than last year and I expect significant improvement from our bullpen. That said, the division also looks like it will be more competitive this year. Last year everyone on the Brewers seemed to have career years and they may be due for some regression, though the Grandal pickup should be big for them. The Cubs were pretty unlucky last year and I expect them to improve even though they didn’t add anyone interesting.

    What will be interesting to see is how many wins the Reds are able to steal from the top three teams in the division. Unlikely that it will be enough to make the Reds contenders but it could still have a big influence on the final standings.

    On a side note, I am really excited about our new hitting coach. I’ve read a few articles on him and he seems like just what we need, especially guys like O’Neil and Bader.

    Brian WaltonBrian Walton

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    Solid points, dac8b9. This is the time of year that almost every fan base has legitimate reasons to feel optimistic.

    In the case of the Cardinals, there is one other factor not yet mentioned in this thread – the new leader. Though I understand not everyone is behind that, I am already hearing there is the feel of less tension in camp, which could be one of many factors that may contribute to better results.

    The intra-division games in the NL Central will be extremely important. In March/April alone, the Cards will play the Brewers 10 times, Reds five and Pirates two.


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    I dont think there is evidence to support that less tension results in better performance. The last academic study I saw on this indicated the opposite. That was business not sports though. However, I think most elite athletes thrive under tension and my guess would be even more so than in a business environment. (Not anti- Schildt, just addressing the probable non link between tension and performance.)

    Brian WaltonBrian Walton

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    I suspect there are different kinds of tension, some more motivating and less divisive than others.


    Don’t count on Knizner being the backup catcher. Better to use Pena’s numbers to be more accurate in these numbers games.

    I hope that the FO doesn’t destroy our chances of having another highly rated catcher play in Busch. They have screwed up this whole situation royally so far. I have little to no faith in their decision making.


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    Some random thoughts on the upcoming season.

    Rotation – Not comfortable that Wainwright can hold down a regular spot, but we have depth and I believe a couple of the younger guys will end up making a big difference here from mid-season on. I see some tweaking and adjustments over the first half, before we meld into a solid unit. Injuries could play inot that as well.

    Bullpen – Should be improved, but mainly because the bar is so low as Bob pointed out. Still a lot of questions marks. Need Miller to be healthy, and a young guy to be more consistent than last year. That could be Hicks or Reyes, but I am not counting on either one right now. Reyes looks to have a glass jaw in boxing terms, and may never be on the field enough to make a difference. Hicks really should be plying his trade as a starter in the minors, but because we are desperate at the top level he has had to adjust. Whether or not he can throw more strikes is to be determined.

    Lineup – I think Wong will take a big step and become an all-star this year. I expect Carpenter to decline some, along with Molina, but in addition to Wong, DeJong, Ozuna, Bader and Goldy will all be better (Goldy better than last year’s Gyorko/Martinez combo that is). Speaking of which, Jedd will likely be better as well.

    Bench – Solid, as it was last year. Unfortunately in today’s 13 pitcher world, teams limit themselves on what they can do off the bench, but it is the same everywhere as everyone plays it the same way. We have potentially the best 4-man group to call on in the league.

    Manager – I expect Shildt to be much better for the ball club than Matheny. My take on Matheny was that he tended to communicate a sense of strictness, to the point of diminishing returns. He was not real flexible with people, and was a bit too rigid, or ideological in such a way that players were tight. It hampered some of their ability to let the natural ability take over. I think Shildt is more likely to enjoy his place, and the team will feed off that and have more fun, and consequently play closer to their full abilities.


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    While I would like to think Albert as hitting coach will improve things history doesnt let me put too much faith in coaching changes. Last year it was almost universally stated that having Oquendo back would dramatically improve the defense. It didn’t. Most said Maddux as pitching coach would help improve the bullpem. It didn’t. Optimistic on Albert but also realistic

    Brian WaltonBrian Walton

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    Very fair concern, IMO, CC. Personally, I did not buy into either of the earlier story lines leading to huge benefits as some hoped.

    I am slightly more optimistic here because Albert is known most for one thing – preaching contact. And the Cards have at least three young hitters on the roster who need help there. Of course, the students need to take it and apply it successfully, so there are multiple links in the chain, all of which would have to hold.

    AvatarBob Reed


    “Hicks really should be plying his trade as a starter in the minors, but because we are desperate at the top level he has had to adjust.”

    I could not agree more, BikeMike. To recap, Hicks started his professional career at age 18, same as Waino, Reyes, and Carlos Martinez. The latter three pitchers logged an average of roughly 500 pro innings cultivating their stamina and skillset before making their MLB debuts. Hicks got just 166 before being shoved to the majors.

    Martinez, Reyes, and Wainwright got an average 220+ innings at Double-A/Triple-A to truly hone their craft. Hicks of course got zero.

    “I think Wong will take a big step and become an all-star this year.”

    Well there’s no disputing he was certainly much better off without John Mabry.
    2018, with Mabry: .213/.304/.361 with a 7% walk rate and 16% strikeouts.
    2018, post-Mabry: .317/.384/.439 with a 9% walk rate and 12% strikeouts.

    As you can see, he actually had a distinctly higher isolated slugging with Mabry (7 homers, to just 2 over the second half) but everything else was worse with Mabry. Quite a bit worse. Then, once Mabry was mercifully jettisoned, Kolten got some good coaching for the first time in his MLB career, and…well I’ll let Mark Saxon of The Athletic tell the rest.

    Mark Saxon
    Aug 17, 4:23pm
    @Luke M. I did a story recently highlighting his
    (Wong’s) relationship with hitting coach Mark Budaska. Last month, Budaska advised him to forget about launch angle and concentrate on getting on base, hitting line drives into the gaps, and running. Since then, Kolten is batting .321 with one home run, five doubles and an .851 OPS. Maybe I’m wrong, but that relationship seems to be a pretty good working theory.

    An additional curiosity: Wong was hit by pitch 13 times during the first half of the season, and just once after the managerial/hitting coach changes. Might be nothing, or might be that over the season’s second half he wasn’t crowding the plate so much, trying to pull the ball almost every time. I don’t know the underlying mechanics of it, but the results from July-September speak for themselves. Kolten clearly traded away the occasional homer to be better at everything else. More consistent sharp contact, more walks, fewer whiffs.

    “While I would like to think Jeff Albert as hitting coach will improve things history doesn’t let me put too much faith in coaching changes.”

    As crushingly terrible as Mabry was for young Redbird hitters, I agree with you in general, CC. I do not expect Albert to turn Bader or O’Neill or anyone else into something they aren’t. And in the cases of Harry & Tyler I really pray that he doesn’t try. The best to realistically hope for from Bader is an average around .280, and O’Neill maybe 20 points less. But with the glove and running advantages of Bader, and the extreme power of Tyler, they can still be outstanding 4 WAR players even with those batting averages. I just hope that Albert’s approach doesn’t result in sacrificing power in order to minimize strikeouts. Kolten Wong’s game is high average, with gap power. That’s not Bader and Tiny Kingman.

    Let’s think about it for a sec, about Tyler O’Neill’s power. Triple-A baseball has existed since 1946, and Tyler O’Neill just posted the second-highest isolated slugging in the history of Triple-A competition, at .382. Only Willie McCovey at .387 back in 1959 was ever better. In 73 seasons, across three different AAA leagues, Tyler O’Neill was one bloop double away from the highest isolated slugging ever recorded (min. 200 PA’s, age 23-and-under).

    By the way, based on Baseball America’s own publicly available scouting grades, Tyler should be every bit as good a major leaguer as BA’s #3 overall prospect Eloy Jimenez. I won’t bore you with the granular grade details, but in effect they have Eloy 60 points of OPS better as a batter, but Tyler counterbalancing that (and perhaps even surpassing it) through his substantial edge in both baserunning and defense.

    Again, not my grades, not contrived biased hyperbole. Baseball America’s grades, as displayed during their MLB Network program of a few days ago. If Eloy is #3, then based on their own grades Tyler should surely be in BA’s top 6 or 7, rather than down at #36. (Personally I’d have Jimenez in the 8-10 range and O’Neill in 14-17 territory. For me Eloy’s lower K rate makes him a safer pick, hence the higher slot. The upsides are more or less identical: slugging stardom.)

    Brian WaltonBrian Walton

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    A bit of counterbalance to the O’Neill excitement. Also factual – not contrived, biased hyperbole. 😉

    O’Neill’s K rate last season was 40.1%. The very worst qualifying hitters in all of MLB were in the 36% area. The two worst were Chris Davis (36.8), who plays only because he has a terrible, terrible contract, and Joey Gallo (35.9), who also walks at a 13-16% rate.

    On the other hand, O’Neill’s walk rate was 4.9%. With qualifying MLB hitters, that rate would have been among the worst dozen in the game.

    So, the highest K rate and one of the lowest walk rates in the game clearly indicate more work is required. He should be capable of improvement. Maybe Albert can help.


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    With such a small sample (and Tyler clearly being played, at least early on, as a “power” sort of player expected to hit the ball hard as a fill in), I’m not sure you can make full season projections for O’Neill. His minor league numbers were quite a bit better both on the Ks and walks. He could not progress at all and if given a full season worth of PAs, have both rates go quite a bit in the right direction just by random noise.

    That said, the point remains that there is room to improve, and I suspect that he will improve. How much and what other factors come into play regarding PT (his own health, Fowler’s play, Jmart, etc) will determine what the career trajectory starts to look like by later this year.

    AvatarBob Reed


    I’m not worried, Brian. Oh, maybe a 2.5 on the 1-10 WorryScale.

    But maybe I’m too blasé about the whole thing. Let’s do a direct comparison of Joey Gallo & Tyler O’Neill, with a wide angle lens, and see what we find.

    Seems that Gallo’s ugly MLB strikeout rates are simply a continuation of his minor league numbers.
    Low-A at 19, 37% whiff rate
    Double-A at 21, 34%
    Triple-A at 22, 35%

    And now Tyler O’Neill.
    Low-A at 18, 32% K rate
    Double-A at 20, 26%
    Triple-A at 22, 25%

    As we can see, O’Neill’s professional track record bears only the slightest passing resemblance to Gallo’s, when it comes to contact conflicts. Not only that, but Tyler’s whiff rate was trending downward, from the lower to upper levels of pro ball. So I would opine that based on the entirety of Tyler’s past, there’s just no reason to think that his strikeout rate will remain remotely as bloated as it was in his brief MLB debut.

    More likely it regresses downward toward 30% or so, and soon. And I’m not alone in this belief. In point of fact, if we average the five publicly available forecasts (Steamer, ZiPS, Clay Davenport, ATC, and THE BAT) we find that Tyler O’Neill’s strikeout rate is indeed predicted to plummet all the way to a mildly irksome but acceptable 30.4% in 2019.

    So fret not, fellow fan!



    Every time I open up the forum page and I see this thread title I always read it as “Bitter in 2019”

    Brian WaltonBrian Walton

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    We have plenty of that, too! 😉


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    IMO, there is too much emphasis being placed on specific coaches and coaching, with next to nothing being said about a synergy that develops with new people working together under new leadership. When there is a different manager, and a new coach, and new players, there will be a different vibe throughout the organization. That different vibe will have an effect on everything, including personal stats such as strikeouts and striking out.


    IMO, there is too much emphasis being placed on specific coaches and coaching, with next to nothing being said about a synergy that develops with new people working together under new leadership. When there is a different manager, and a new coach, and new players, there will be a different vibe throughout the organization. That different vibe will have an effect on everything, including personal stats such as strikeouts and striking out.

    This is really true and is something that Shildt really seemed to do well last year. Frankly, though I can only speak as an outsider, but the clubhouse under Matheny seemed to have turned toxic for some players, whether that be Fowler or younger guys like Wong and Bader who didn’t feel like they had the confidence of their manager. I’ve also read stories about Matheny playing favorites and that causing some division.

    Thankfully, the clubhouse atmosphere seemed to stabilize under Shildt. Players felt heard and empowered. There was even talk about the assistant coaches being happier and feeling more involved. Shildt seems to have a real knack for communication and fostering a healthy and happy clubhouse. I look forward to seeing what he can do running his first spring training.


    But that would make Dexter Fowler sad. I mean, depressed. I mean, he would likely suffer from depression. (I believe the very latest re-write of reality, via Fowler and his unofficial mouthpiece, MR. GOOLD.) And above all else, Cardinal fans, Mike Shildt must NOT make Dexter Fowler suffer. He must compose and conduct a symphony of sympathy for Dex, whatever the on-field results. So that platonic ideal platoon ain’t happening.

    I think some fans would feel more optimistic seeing a lineup that included JoMartinez or O’Neill in RF going into Spring training. Going into ’18 many experts suggested that Fowler would return to the player he was in Chicago in 2016.

    Brian WaltonBrian Walton

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    Of course, some fans wanted Fowler thrown over the side months ago. But that is not happening. He will be given a shot in spring training to re-earn the starting RF job. Those fans need to accept reality instead of continuing to wish for moves the team has already said they are not doing.

    I would also suggest they remain patient, but I already know that will not happen. If Fowler goes 0-for-3 in the spring training opener on February 23, that will be used as validation he should lose his job immediately. If he goes 3-for-3, it will be either ignored or begrudgingly written off as lucky.

    That is how we roll when minds are already made up.

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