The Cardinals Are Beating Themselves




Yes, last night really happened. It was every bit of ugly as you remember. This June has been the proverbial kick in the head for the fanbase and the natives are getting understandably restless. The club's playoff probability has gone from as high as 63% on June 5th and has sunk to 37% as of today.



Playoff Odds graph courtesy of FanGraphs.com


The rotation's wheels are falling off with Wacha hitting the DL and Carlos's recent case of the yips. The bullpen is still basically a mess, and for some weird reason the lineup can't seem to do much of anything other than run into the occasional solo home run. But probably the worst thing to watch is the team's steady stream of brain farts.


Examples can be multiplied, but recent samples have been Fowler's TOOTBLAN against the Cubs last Saturday, Ozuna's costly dive in the 10th inning against Philly, whatever the heck he was doing last night (pictured above) and last night's weird wild pitch by Carlos. It's like the team collectively has lacked the ability to just play normal, sound baseball. As Keith Hernandez might say, this team lacks the Good Fundies. The ballyhooed Cardinal Way is being tarnished by this brand of ugliness, and due to that fact, you can't jump on Twitter too long before seeing a " RAGE RAGE FIRE MATHENY RAGE RAGE" type of tweet.


I always like to run some numbers just to see if the mood matches the actual numbers, and yep, it's ugly. Inspired by Scott Lindholm of Beyond the Boxscore's "Mistake Index", I wanted to see where the Cardinals stand in comparison to the rest of the league on beating themselves, and sure enough they are in full Ken Giles self-punch mode.


Let's start with baserunning:


The Cardinals have been caught stealing 22 times on 48 attempts. They lead the league in being nabbed. As a rule of thumb, you want to have at least two times as many steals to CS to break even in terms of run value, the Cardinals are -5 runs below average and dead last in the league in weighted stolen base runs. (Fancy stat alert, click on the hyperlink if you're not sure what that means.)


They've been thrown out on the bases while trying to advance 29 times, tied for 6th in the league. The Cards are not the kings of the TOOTBLAN, but they're in the upper percentile of the league's offenders.


They are also tied for 6th in being picked off with 6 times being caught napping. So far, the trend is not looking good with mental mistakes when it comes to baserunning. The team is in the upper third in the league in all these categories.


What about fielding mistakes?


Welp, you've already heard announcers and beat writers harp on this, and deservedly so. The Cardinals are tied for 1st in the league with 61 errors. While errors aren't all there is to defense, it does show that they are definitely not doing themselves any favors and it makes for some facepalm worthy moments.


The one thing they do well is not allowing passed balls ... because...well, Yadi. The team has allowed only 7, which is the 2nd lowest mark in the league.


What about pitching mistakes?


The team has had 30 wild pitches, that's tied for 8th in the league.


They've plunked 35 batters for 5th in the league.


They're tied with 4th in the league with 3 balks. So again, the Cardinals are in the upper third in the league in goofs as it pertains to pitching. The cringyness continues.


So where do the Cardinals rank in comparison to the league in total brain farts? 


So in every category I looked at with the exception of passed balls, the Cardinals are in the bottom third in the league across the board. I ran some numbers and the league average sans the Cardinals is 2 of these types of mental errors happening per game. No one wants to be average, but you might say a HBP and an error (or a similar event) in a game is par for the course.


But the Cardinals average 2.6 goofs per game, which is a bit lower than I anticipated based on how it feels, but is still well above league average. Considering the run value that each of these events can cost the team per game, that can make a huge difference over the course of a season. And the timing of when these things can happen (think Ozuna's wild dive in the 10th) can obviously make an even bigger difference. So the Cardinals are indeed beating themselves in 2018. Yes, I'm being Captain Obvious here, but now you know a little more in detail as to how bad the mental mistakes have really been.


I've seen a "Miss Me Yet?" meme with LaRussa's face on it, and I think it would be fascinating to look at these type of numbers in the Matheny-era vs. the TLR era. Maybe that's another blog post for another time, but for now, the fans are rightfully annoyed at their team's collective flubs. At this present time, the Cardinal Way appears to be dead.