Bernie: Cards Players Should Get Their Share of Blame

By Miklasz, Bernie | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Bernie: Cards Players Should Get Their Share of Blame


Miklasz, Bernie, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


With manager Mike Matheny and batting coach John Mabry hearing most of the static and feeling most of the heat for the Cardinals' middling start, I wanted to pose a question: Shouldn't the players be held more accountable?

Why are we so quick to dump the blame on the manager and coaches? I'm not trying to suggest that Matheny and staff should be immune to criticism. Those who read me on a regular basis should know that by now. I've expressed frustration with a Cardinals hitting philosophy that produces too many ground balls. I've gotten on Matheny for his curious handling of the bullpen.

Matheny and the coaches were given a talented roster, and it's their job to maximize it. That hasn't happened, though in fairness the Cardinals aren't terribly off course. According to the sabermetric formula that incorporates run differential and quality of opposition, the Cardinals should have had a 34-27 record going into the Toronto series. They were 31-30.

GM John Mozeliak, Matheny and the coaches are the leaders. And in team sports, the bosses are ultimately deemed responsible for a team's record in good times and bad.

But Cardinals players also warrant tougher scrutiny, which isn't customary here. Fans and media in St. Louis tend to pick on a couple of easy targets and give the others free passes.

In this case, I'm talking about the hitters. The pitching staff has had some problems, but through Thursday the Cardinals were ranked fourth in the majors in run prevention. A team should win a lot of games doing that, but a faulty offense has consistently brought the Cardinals down.

Heading into the weekend the Cardinals were ranked 25th in runs per game, 29th in homers, 27th in slugging percentage and 14th in on- base percentage. And no team had left more runners in base.

So I ask again: Shouldn't most of this be put on the hitters? They have track records that tell us their performance and production should be better than what we've seen over the first two- plus months of 2014.

Mozeliak said he looks at OPS combined on-base and slugging percentage as a point for evaluation.

Using OPS for a reference, only one Cardinal regular or semi- regular has an OPS that's improved over last season. That's outfielder Jon Jay. Everyone else is down, including new shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who had an .815 OPS for Detroit in 2013. Through Thursday he was 101 points down from that, to .714.

Here's the list of Cards' hitters who have experienced substantial drops in OPS from last year:

* Allen Craig, down 148 points to .672.

* Matt Holliday, down 134 points to .745.

* Matt Carpenter, down 88 points to .785. (But that's on the rise.)

* Yadier Molina, down 66 points to .770.

* Matt Adams, down 28 points to .811.

* Mark Ellis, down 227 points to .453.

Ellis played for the Dodgers in 2013. Another new Cardinal, outfielder Peter Bourjos, had a .704 OPS in his years with the Angels. It's .636 for the Cardinals. Backup infielder Daniel Descalso's OPS is down 233 points from last season, to .463. I didn't include Kolten Wong because he didn't play enough last season to warrant a 2014 comparison.

There are some massive declines on that list.

Is this all Matheny's fault? Has Mabry ruined all of those hitters?

The answer, unequivocally: No.

Don't be afraid to hold the players accountable. They're the guys swinging the bats. And just about all have been good major-league hitters.

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