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Shildt's slow play of Carlson has been his only major misstep this season

Shildt's slow play of Carlson has been his only major misstep this season

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During our weekly chat with Post-Dispatch readers, we look at the outfielders who got away, the turmoil in Colorado and Mozeliak's changing stance on Matt Carpenter.

Q: How would you rate Cardinals manager Mike Shildt's performance so far this season?

Milwaukee Brewers vs St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt watches the action on the field during a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cardinals. Photo by David Carson

A: Dylan Carlson's placement in the order is pretty much my only gripe. I'm 99.9 percent sure I said in these chats back in spring training that he looked like the best option for the No. 2 hitter, and I've always been a fan of the Paul Goldschmidt third and Nolan Arenado fourth look. I don't understand slow-playing Carlson, the guy who hit cleanup in the postseason, and did it well. I don't knock Shildt for trying to get Matt Carpenter going. The outfield was thinned by injury, and the front office didn't give him a better option for a left-handed bat. What I don't get was hitting Carpenter fifth for the bulk of those chances. That didn't make much sense to me.

I saw some people were mad about Shildt sticking with Wainwright on Monday. Really?

Wainwright was rolling and it is late April. Let him eat, and live with the consequences. I can't imagine what the tone of the chat would have been if Shildt went to Jordan Hicks or Alex Reyes, both of which have been walking too many batters lately, and the decision to take out Wainwright blew up on the Cards. There would be accountability demanded, for sure. And it's a different story, too, if that Arenado ball clears the walk at the end. It was a great baseball game. The Cardinals came out on the wrong end. Sometimes, that's the story.​

Q: Is something going on with Paul Goldschmidt? He was averaging .230 with a .272 on-base percentage and .333 slugging percentage entering Tuesday night's game?

A: Officially, no.

But I'm not fully convinced he bounced back from the back tightness that kept him out of the home opener as quick as he wanted us to believe.

He was right back in there, but his swing has looked a little limited at times.

More groundballs. Fewer line drives. Very little opposite field action.

He just didn't quite look right for a bit.

He's not going to make excuses or blame anything, and he operates under the idea that he's good to go if he's in the lineup, but the guy missed the home opener, and that's no small thing. He's been on the injured list one time in his career. Fractured hand in 2014. That means he's played through a lot of uncomfortable stuff. I don't rule that out here, and he seems to be coming around now.

Q: Is it time to add Adolis Garcia's name to the list of outfielders (Randal Grichuk, Randy Arozarena) the Cardinals underestimated and traded away for too little?

A: How the tune has changed on Grichuk among some fans is truly interesting to me. He's no different in Toronto than he was here. Same player. He's just getting steady playing time and Toronto is stomaching the strikeouts. Grichuk's adjusted on-base plus slugging percentage with the Blue Jays is 107, seven points above league average. During his time with the Blue Jays he's exactly the same, at 107. No one was wailing for Grichuk's departure when he left, and no one would be singing his praises if he was still here. He's a streaky power hitter who strikes out a lot. Cardinals fans were not happy with that. Could they have made a better trade for him? Sure. The Cardinals didn't think Dominic Leone was going to have the trap door of health problems derail him. He was decent when healthy but couldn't stay healthy. No debate there.

Adolis Garcia is not a Grichuk-like situation to me. He's an Arozarena-type situation. Both were outfielders the Cardinals deemed as not the answers without much of a chance to prove otherwise. If those guys turn out to be long-lasting answers elsewhere, that's different than giving Grichuk a lot of chances before moving on. With Garcia and Arozarena, the key is going to be continuing to mash when pitchers adjust. Neither will be getting fastballs for long, unless pitchers are not paying attention.

Garcia would bite worse than Arozarena if he proves to be a star. He was traded for cash considerations. The Cardinals at least got Liberatore in the Arozarena swap.​

Q: What was your reaction to Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich stepping down so soon after trading Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals? Could Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, a Colorado native, be on the Rockies' radar?

A: Yeah, how about that whole thing?

It's pretty wild that Rockies owner Monfort watched his GM (Bridich) and under-long-term-contract superstar (Arenado) get into a public feud and sided with the totally replaceable GM instead of the generational talent and future Hall of Fame third baseman -- ESPECIALLY WHEN HE LACKED THE CONVICTION IN THE GM TO BACK HIM THROUGH THE OBVIOUSLY INCOMING BACKLASH!

In an alternate universe, Monfort sides with Arenado and ships out Bridich, makes Arenado happy and probably winds up hiring a better GM anyway, perhaps one who can get Trevor Story to agree to an extension as well.

Just brutal, and while Bridich is the punching bag it's on Monfort as much as anyone. So, to answer your question, why would Mozeliak want to go work for the Rockies? They should want him, but I don't see how they could or would get him. He's being paid handsomely here. He has great job security under DeWitt Jr. He's not itching to go back home, because St. Louis has become his home. Arenado wanted to leave the Rockies for the Cardinals. It's better to be the president of baseball operations of the Cardinals.

Q: How solid is the job security of Cardinals hitting coach Jeff Albert?

A: Some of you will be disappointed to hear the front office is still very sold on Jeff Albert.

Could that change?

Anything could depending on how the team performs.

Entering Tuesday's game the Cardinals were averaging. 220 with a .299 on-base percentage and a .380 slugging percentage. That's a team OPS of .679. I bring that up because that OPS, if it holds, would be the lowest the team has had since Jeff Albert came on board.

And we all know the numbers weren't so hot in 2019 and 2020 either.

Now, it's been 22 games. Balls should be flying better as the weather gets warmer. The Cardinals have finally gone with a top five of the lineup that makes the most sense, and Matt Carpenter's struggles are not weighing things down as often.

We just heard John Mozeliak say at the end of the day results matter when talking about Carpenter.

At some point that's going to have to apply to the hitting coach, too.

Q: Were John Mozeliak's recent comments about Matt Carpenter disrespectful to the player?

Washington Nationals vs St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter legs out a bunt single in third inning against the Washington Nationals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Monday, April 12, 2021. David Carson photo.

A: I would say they were blisteringly honest and frank. Mozeliak said as spring training neared its end that he can't keep giving the same optimistic answers regarding Carpenter moving forward if he results don't change, and the results didn't change, so he is changing his answers. It's clear to me that he's seen enough to decide he doesn't want to see Shildt bending over backward to find starts for Carpenter. Some will interpret that at assuming Shildt was, and maybe that's fair. But again, it wasn't Shildt who gave Carpenter the contract extension, and I would venture to guess that if you injected Shildt with truth serum he would have preferred an upgraded left-handed bat for the bench this offseason in addition to the trade for Nolan Arenado. So, Shildt kind of winds up taking the heat as Mozeliak removes himself from the pro-Carpenter camp. That's how it read to me. But most importantly, it was a clear change in tone from the leader of the front office that it's time to put Carpenter on the bench for at least a while. I said as Tyler O'Neill neared his return that the team was going to have to decide what it wanted more -- to really sort out which outfielders can and cannot be trusted, or to keep finding ways to try to get Carpenter going. Both could be juggled when O'Neill and Bader were out. Not when both are back, or even one. It's clear now that the outfield experiment is going to be the priority.

Q: Is hoping Matt Carpenter becomes a successful bench contributor a fruitless hope? Should the Cardinals have just pressed fast forward to a release?

A: It's always easier to write off a player when you're not the one paying his contract, a contract that was handed over in part because of how much you believe in the player. A lot of you guys have followed the Cardinals for a very long time to be ignoring the fact we're talking about a lifelong Cardinal here. Snort at that if you like, but these guys are handled differently by the team. Clearly. They really want Carpenter to have some sort of a role, even if it's a small one.

But if he can't grab one, something will have to be done. The Cardinals don't seem all that interested in fielding their best possible bench at the moment, and it's not just a Carpenter conversation, either.

Edmundo Sosa, for example, has five at-bats and one start. Is there not a better bat somewhere in the organization that could spend some time at shortstop if needed? What happened to Jose Rondon?

Did you know Cardinals pinch hitters entered Tuesday's game with the National League's lowest OPS among pitch hitters? They were slashing .118/.279/.118. That's an NL-low OPS of .397. The other night I was watching the Dodgers-Padres game and the Dodgers broadcast was talking about how unreliable the pinch hitters have been for the defending champs. The OPS of Dodgers' pinch hitters is .484.

Q: Am I crazy, or can the Blues give the Avalanche or Vegas a scare in the playoffs -- if they get in?

A: I tend to agree with you, about the Avalanche especially.

If they play with the buy-in they had their last time out, no one will want to see them.

It's more about the Blues than it is their opponent.

Especially with Colorado.

Simply staying out of the penalty box greatly increases their chance of beating the Avalanche. They put themselves in those positions more times than not.

Another thing: The Blues still haven't won more than four games in a row all season. That speaks to their inability to keep a good thing rolling.

Q: Have we learned anything about if the new MLB baseballs are decreasing home runs?

A: Nothing definitive yet that I've read or researched. So far this season MLB games are averaging about 1.14 home runs per game. Last season the average was 1.28, but that was the pandemic season with all kinds of crazy.

In 2019 MLB teams averaged 1.39 homer per game, but in April that average was 1.32.

Q: How will old friend Albert Pujols be remembered when all is said and done?

A: He should go down as one of the best right-handed hitters of all time. His peak was as great and long as some of the best to ever do it. The slide he's been on for a while has dented some of his average statistics while helping his counting numbers. But this part should not be overlooked. For a span of a decade and a half (2001-15) he led baseball in home runs (560) by a margin of 62 and extra-base hits (1,159) by a margin of 134. He spent at least 15 years as one of if not the most feared bat in the majors. Never connected in any meaningful or proven way to doing it in a non-clean fashion. He's an instant Hall of Famer and one of the all-time greats.

Q: Should the Blues move Torey Krug this offseason? Who is the most surprising player you would be OK with the Blues leaving unprotected for the expansion draft?

A: I don't think they should dump Krug. Give him some time to settle in. Depending on how Tarasenko plays down the stretch, I would consider leaving him unprotected. This trend of Berube having to call him out to play in a motivated manner is getting tiresome. If he fires up here and keeps putting in pucks at the net by using his body on the power play, I'll change my tune.​

Q: How much can the climbing strikeouts in baseball be blamed on the increased leaning on analytics. Launch angle. Hard-hit rate. Exit velocity. Players need to worry about spraying the ball where defenders are not, and worry less about "launching" it.

A: Turning analytics into the buzzword for what you don't like about baseball is intentionally warping the definition to fit an agenda.

Launch angle, hard-hit percentage and exit velocity are nothing but measurements.

That's it. That's all.

Players have been interested in launching the baseball long before launch angle was measured.

It was just called something else: give it a ride, let it rip, whatever.

Yes, hitters should be better about adjusting to defenses. No debate there. But blaming analytics is trying to take it out on an independent tool. If a builder makes a wall and it falls down, he doesn't rush to blame his level. He realizes he did bad work with his tools. You're blaming the level.

Q: Should baseball lower the mound? I hear people say they are tired of only strikeouts and home runs.

A: I rarely hear complaints about home runs. Strikeouts, sure. The Atlantic League is moving the mound back a foot in this season's second half to give hitters more time to adjust. That will be a fascinating experiment. With so much velocity, maybe that's the answer? But did baseball get more popular since Bob Gibson forced baseball to lower the mound? Don't think so. This notion that baseball is going to make one change that grabs people who don't love baseball is not going to come up with an answer. What baseball should be just as afraid of is driving off the people who do care. I hear from people who can't watch games and want to because of streaming service disagreements. That's a bigger problem for the health of baseball than the mound placement, I think.

Q: More and more people are starting to speak out against the shifts and call for them to be banned. Do you agree?

A: Nope. Shifts have been going on in baseball for years.

The have become more prevalent and extreme lately not just because of the defensive analytics available and the technology that generates them rapidly, but because a generation of hitters simply stopped adjusting. There are power hitters whose best bet is to hit over the shift because the damage done over the top of it justifies the times they hit into it. There are a lot of other hitters who try this approach but don't hit enough home runs to justify it. Instead of changing they just keep doing it. And complaints about the shift grow instead of complaints about hitters not changing. "It's hard to hit," is not an excuse. That's the reason most who play baseball don't make the majors. I'm sorry, and maybe it's cruel, but I don't weep for players who are being pushed out of the majors because the game has evolved and they either can't or won't. That's baseball. I don't want to see shifts limited or banned. I want to see hitters fight back. That's how baseball is supposed to work.

Ben Frederickson

@Ben_Fred on Twitter

bfrederickson@post-dispatch.com

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