The Cardinals' Defense Could Cost Them a Chance at the Postseason
Fresh off three consecutive National League Central titles and missing the postseason one time in the last seven years, the St. Louis Cardinals represent a proud franchise with a storied, rich tradition.
Outside of a fantastic Chicago Cubs team that is threatening to run away with the division by late August, what else plagues this mediocre Cardinals team that recorded their first three-game home winning streak yesterday? A 100-win team that recorded the best home record in baseball last year at 55-26?
Well, it certainly isn't offense. The Cardinals rank fifth in the Majors in Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) at .335 and second in runs scored (425). If the team wasn't hovering around the .500 mark, Matt Carpenter's incredible 2016 season may get him noticed in the MVP ranks.
So if it's not the offense, is it the pitching? Not particularly. Even losing Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery before the season (and before you dismiss him, that was 750 innings pitched the Cardinals lost over the last four seasons) and having to endure a clearly regressing Adam Wainwright (4.70 ERA and a career-low 17.6% strikeout percentage), the Cardinals still rank 10th in team ERA and team SIERA.
But it may be the defense, which is horrifically bad. The Cardinals lead the Majors in total errors (64) in 81 games played. What's even more staggering is that they've played some of the fewest innings in the league (22nd overall). Their fielding percentage, as you can imagine, also ranks last (.980).
An even more difficult pill to swallow is that it's virtually the entire infield that's struggled -- recently demoted Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, and the first base tandem of Brandon Moss and Matt Adams are all at nearly the bottom of their positions in the league:
|Cardinals Infield||Fielding %||Rank||Ultimate Zone Rating|
In terms of Ultimate Zone Rating, the Cardinals rank 26th out of 30 Major League teams.
As you can see in the video below, part of the problem is rookie Aledmys Diaz.
Diaz is a young shortstop who is putting up incredible offensive numbers but who also missed nearly two years of baseball after defecting and suffering an arm injury. Diaz leads the Cardinals (as most shortstops and third baseman do) with 14 errors, recording a .952 fielding percentage. As a point of reference, Diaz would rank 34th out of 35 qualified major league shortstops.
It's yet to be seen whether this problem corrects itself or not, but it is important to note that, as the team has assembled a juggernaut offense, the resemblance to your local slow pitch team will only take them so far.
The Cardinals rank 6th in our power rankings but own a 43.4% chance to reach the playoffs, the 11th-best odds in the Majors.