There is no lack of effort. Perhaps that’s what is most frustrating and befuddling as the St. Louis Cardinals continue to search for consistency and production from all areas of their game to start this young season.
Last night was a prime example as Mike Matheny and his coaching staff were on the field before the game, running players through various defensive drills.
“I think the guys have seen the need and agree,” said Matheny in yesterday’s pregame. “It’s just not going to get better on it’s own. As long as they agree and have buy-in, let’s put the hammer down and get to work. Figure out what are the things we can–you know, not eye-wash garbage, but significant work.”
Besides PFPs (Pitcher Fielding Practice) the pitchers also worked on their pick off moves. Before that, the outfielders had worked on their relay throws. All part of the extra work the Cardinals have incorporated most days to their normal pregame warmups.
“There’s a fine line, because the grind of this season is the reason why most teams don’t do that,” continued Matheny. “I know it doesn’t sound like much, but you I think you do see teams that continue to push too hard and you can do too much and it catches up with you. So we’re trying to find that nice balance.”
In addition to Matheny and his coaching staff, the Cardinals picked up some bonus instruction from Willie McGee. The Cardinals Hall of Famer is in town this series to help out–part of an effort to help involve several key alumni in the process this season.
— Brian Stull (@StullySTL) April 25, 2017
“I keep encouraging him–everything he sees, I want him involved with,” explained Matheny. “He’s just a great baseball mind and a great resource for our club. He loves teaching and I think he’s more hesitant to do it here than when he goes and stops at our other spots. Just like at the Triple-A, you tend as a roving instructor same way, you give guys some leeway as they get a little older.
“But just keep reminding him how many young players we have here and how much work needs to be done–and how the guys are asking for it. They want to get better at certain things, so let’s use a resource like Willie to help us.”
Yet despite the extra work, the Cardinals committed four errors just a couple of hours later in the loss to Toronto. One of them excusable, as Stephen Piscotty’s throw hit the sliding runner.
That kind of bad luck only adds to the frustrations–which has also taken place on the basepaths. The Cardinals were picked off three times in a recent game.
“You’re looking at three completely different situations that just happened to happen in one game,” said Matheny. “You also have to be careful what you wish for, right? We’re talking about trying to be more aggressive, trying to be better on the bases, which means we’re scoring more often from second, we’re reaching third after we are at first, and with that comes stronger primary and stronger secondary leads. You are going to be susceptible.
“We’re looking at tried to time up a base steal as one, the second was a play that’s very susceptible when you see a bunt through as a bunt for a base hit. When you’re at second base, you’re always a step off when you see the ball actually bunted through. The catcher came up and made a perfect throw, and Diaz got picked off by a plus move. Three completely different things–two of the three aggressive. The third was lack of education. Tried to prepare him for that move, but just an extraordinary move.”
All is not lost.
After a slow start at the plate, the Cardinals have scored 26 runs in their last five games. They have won 6 of their last 8 games. But the errors and other mistakes have slowed the momentum from building and climb within the division.
The starting rotation has allowed just 49 runs (43 earned) in 116.2 innings this season and looks to be the anchor the team needs to rely on. However, that rotation will also need support moving forward. Both in run support and plays being made behind them.
Again, the effort is there. Now it’s about execution.
photo credit: Jasen Vinlove, Jeff Curry, Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports,