The Cardinals have to be happy right now after a strong April showing. The team finished the month 15-6, good for a .714 win percentage and sole position of first place. The win percentage is the highest of the last 10 seasons, with the next closest at .696 in 2009. The 15 wins only ranks tied for fifth in that time, but they played fewer games this April than any in that 10 year period.
On top of that, they have scored 58 runs and allowed 29, good for a run differential of +29; when plugged into Bill James’ Pythagorean Expectation formula, the team should be 17-4, with a win percentage of .800. That too is the highest in the last 10 years, although 2012 was at .780.
Compared to the average April in those 10 years, the Cardinals are in good shape; the average April since 2006 is 15-10 (.606 win percentage). The team averages 112 runs scored and 86 allowed; these are much higher than the 2015 numbers due to the fact this team has played only 21 games when the average is 25. Still, the team is scoring less than in the past, but also allowing less.
Offense has been a concern for the team for a few seasons now, and this year is no different. The team has the pitching to off-set that though, but there are concerns with Adam Wainwright out for the season with an Achilles tendon injury.
Top 5 hitters for the month:
- Matt Carpenter (1.6 WAR, 96 PA) – What hasn’t Carpenter done? He’s hitting (.403 BABIP) for power (.279 ISO), getting on base (.438), playing above average defense. He’s been moved to the #2 spot in the lineup, where he has the potential to be more dangerous than leading off.
- Matt Holliday (0.9 WAR, 84 PA) – Holliday has the best slash line of the team (.379/.500/.485) and he’s doing it without hitting the ball out of the park (1 homer). He’s also stolen 2 bases. His defense his holding him back, but that’s to be expected.
- Jhonny Peralta (0.7 WAR, 87 PA) – Peralta is continuing his fantastic 2014 by adding hitting for average to the mix. .316 average, 2 homers, 12 RBIs is a good start to the season. Not only that, but his defense is above average so far.
- Jon Jay (0.6 WAR, 78 PA) – The surprise of the list, since his bat his been pretty bad (slasing .261/.346/.290). His defense has pretty good according to the numbers; he’s saved 4.5 runs in centerfield. This is coming off a season where he save his defensive metrics improve from the previous few years. He may not look like Jim Edmonds in center, but he’s getting the job done.
- Kolten Wong (0.4 WAR, 82 PA) – Wong was a finalist for rookie of the year, but people were worried after his slow start in spring training. Once the season started, those concerns were gone. He hit close to .300 during the first month, scored 10 times, and swiped 2 bags. He could be the perfect leadoff hitter for this team.
Bottom 5 hitters for the month:
- Jason Heyward (-0.3 WAR, 88 PA) – Those fan calls for an extension have died down. Heyward has struggled with his bat so far; he could be pushing because of the pressure that’s been put on him to be the offensive savior. Whatever the case, Heyward needs to get going.
- Tony Cruz (-0.1 WAR, 16 PA) – Everyone has known for a while that the team is in trouble if Yadier Molina goes down for an extended period. Cruz got a few extra starts when Yadi missed some time and didn’t do much to give anyone faith that he’s improved over the off-season. If Yadi is healthy, then Cruz won’t do much.
- Pete Kozma (0.0 WAR, 10 PA) – Kozma is a defensive replacement, but his defense has pretty much been below his normal level. He’s got to improve on that if he wants to remain on the roster.
- Cody Stanley (0.0 WAR, 3 PA) – It gets hard to say a guy with 3 plate appearances is on the bottom 5 of the team, but almost everyone else has a positive WAR. Stanley could see a little more MLB action later in the season to help this.
- Dean Anna (0.0 WAR, 1 PA) – See Stanley. Anna was a last minute roster and could see some additional playing time later in the season.
The top 5 pitchers in April:
- Adam Wainwright (0.8 WAR, 4 G) – Ugh…he was off to a good start before he went down running to first base. The team will need to figure out quickly what they want to do here, with the internal candidates getting the first change.
- Lance Lynn (0.6 WAR, 4 G) – Lynn has been one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball for a couple of seasons now. The problem this year for him is run support; in his 4 April starts, the team has scored a total of 8 runs, or 2 per game; he has allowed 9 in that span, and 6 of those came in one start. He deserves better than that.
- Jordan Walden (0.4 WAR, 12 G) – Walden has been one of the top relievers for the team, but he’s now out with a shoulder strain. He’s been worked pretty hard early on (appearances in 12 of 21 games), which is a Matheny staple on good relievers. The problem is they tend to wear down later in the season; Walden got it early though.
- John Lackey (0.4 WAR, 4 G) – Lackey is almost the anti-Lynn. He’s 1-1 in 4 starts, but he’s not as effective (3.88 xFIP). He’s given up 12 runs in 4 starts (including a game with 0), while the team has scored 16 in those games; that’s 2 full runs better on average than Lynn starts. Lackey is showing his typical home road splits though, which is where 3 of the runs have been allowed in 2 starts.
- Michael Wacha (0.3 WAR, 4 G) – Wacha has been healthy so far, so that is a plus. He’s sporting a low ERA (2.42) and xFIP (3.79) early on, but his K/9 is down to 5.54 early on. That should increase as he pitches further into the season; it could be he’s not going after hitters to preserve his arm for later in the year.
Bottom 5 pitchers for April:
- Tim Cooney (-0.1 WAR, 1 G) – Cooney should get a pass here, since it was his MLB debut. He’s a soft tossing lefty with impeccable control, normally; his debut was probably more nerves than anything else. If he gets another start, it should be better.
- Randy Choate (0.0 WAR, 9 G) – Choate may not have hurt the team in terms of WAR, but he’s sporting a nice 6.75 ERA; granted, it’s not supported by his 3.76 xFIP. His peripheral numbers are not good (6.75 K/9, .455 BABIP), so we should see that xFIP increase as the season wears on.
- Carlos Villanueva (0.0 WAR, 5 G) – His numbers are better than Choate’s for the most part, but we could be seeing a mirage with Villanueva. His 0.96 ERA is not supported by his xFIP (4.65) and his K/9 is low (6.75). His .048 BABIP is also unsustainable over a full season.
- Mitch Harris (0.0 WAR, 3 G) – Harris is right with Choate and Villanueva, but he’s a good player to pull for; having your career delayed by 5 years for Navy service will make for a good story. He didn’t let up an earned run in April, but his xFIP sits at an unsightly 6.56. If he can lower that to 3.00 or so, he’ll end up having a good season.
- Carlos Martinez (0.1 WAR, 5 G) – Maybe this is unfair, since he’s not hurt the team, but it’s hard to pick a pitcher on a staff that only has one negative WAR. Martinez is a little under in K/9 than we’d hope (8.31), but his ERA (1.73) and xFIP (3.37) are both respectable. As long as he continues to average over 6 innings per start and keep these numbers, he’ll be one of the better number five starters in baseball.
The Cardinals had plenty of transactions for the month of April.
Released: P Logan Billbrough, RHP Seth Blair, LHP Dylan Hawkins, P Kyle Helisek, P Michael Holback, IF Rafael Medina, OF David Popkins, P Drew Reidt, C Dante Rosenberg, P Joe Scanio, 2B Michael Schulze, LHP Isaac Silva, SS Ildemaro Vargas, OF Brian Vigo-Suarez
None of these are that notable. Blair was a supplemental first round pick that never panned out; he couldn’t find control and didn’t throw extremely hard. He could catch on with another organization, but will most likely end up in independent ball. Vargas is the only player on the list with an organization; he’s playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League.
Claimed on Waivers: OF Gary Brown (San Francisco Giants)
Lost on Waivers: OF Gary Brown (Los Angeles Angels)
Brown was a former first round pick and top prospect; at this point, he’s roster depth at Triple A. The Cardinals claimed him for that reason. When they promoted Harris, Brown was claimed on waivers by the Angels and assigned to their Triple A affiliate.
Added to 40-man roster: LHP Tim Cooney, RHP Mitch Harris, RHP Carlos Villanueva
Villanueva made the team as a long-man out of the bullpen out of spring training; he’s going to probably stick with the team for the year. Cooney was called up to take Wainwright’s turn in the rotation, but the results were not what the team was hoping for; he’s been sent back down and the team will use Tyler Lyons in the next start. Harris has stuck with the team since being called up and is looking to work himself into a regular relief spot; that could happen now that Jordan Walden is on the DL and Harris gets more MLB exposure.
Notable Injuries: RHP Jack Flaherty (Lo A, back), LHP Jaime Garcia (MLB, shoulder), LHP Marco Gonzales (AAA, shoulder), OF Randal Grichuk (MLB, back), OF Tommy Pham (MLB, quad), RHP Adam Wainwright (MLB, achilles), Luke Weaver (Hi A, arm)
Wainwright’s injury is probably the worst for the team; he’s out for the remainder of the season after rupturing his achillies tendon in his XX ankle. While the Cardinals have rotation depth, they don’t have another ace waiting to take over for Wainwright. Talks have already started about Cole Hamels again, but that’s a temporary fix as the Phillies are still asking for Carlos Martinez in return. You’d have to find a new fifth starter, and Martinez has been good in that role so far.
Flaherty and Weaver were the team’s two first round picks from last year; neither injury is serious, but rather precautions for their investments. Garcia missed the end of spring training as he was returning from off-season shoulder surgery; if he gets healthy soon, he could be the third man in line for Wainwright’s rotation spot. Gonzales should have been first in line though, but he’s sidelined with shoulder discomfort; the team was being cautious here to.
Grichuk started the season on the bench and could have had an opportunity to wrestle the centerfield role from Jay; that was until Grichuk went on the DL with a back strain. There isn’t a timetable yet on his return. That also goes for Pham, who left an early spring game with a left quad strain. The team was hoping he’d be further along at this point.
Former Cardinal News: Righty Mitchell Boggs continues to hold on to affiliated baseball. After being cut by the Red Sox at the end of spring training, he’s latched on with the Atlanta Braves. Boggs was a key piece of the 2011 World Series team, but struggled since then. He’s bounced around a little bit since then, so hopefully he’ll have a better time with the Braves.
Maikel Cleto never got a long stint with the Cardinals, but the White Sox appeared to be a little more patient. That was until they designated the righty for assignment and outrighted him for assignment. He can throw hard, but lacks control to be a Major League pitcher for an extended period.
Many were upset when the Cardinals traded lefty Sam Freeman to the Rangers for a small chunk of cash. Freeman can throw hard, but he doesn’t always know where it will go. He was penciled into the Rangers bullpen to start the season, but was designated for assignment shortly after games begun. He cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple A.
Jason Marquis could be the biggest surprise on this list; the former Cardinal starter surprised everyone by making the Reds rotation as a minor league free agent. It didn’t stop the Cardinals from hitting him around on 4/xx.
Former closer Chris Perez was released by the Brewers; he was released after spring training so the team could avoid paying him a retention bonus, but signed him back quickly. Perez has struggled to maintain his high velocity from early in his career and is looking to latch on with a team.
Adam Reifer never made to the big leagues with the Cardinals, but he was a once promising relief prospects. Once he couldn’t stay healthy, the team released him. He’s bounced around a little bit, and is back on the market after the Philadelphia Phillies released him.
Reliever Jorge Rondon made it up to Colorado, only to be designated for assignment at the end of the month; he’ll probably clear waivers and stay in the Rockies organization. Rondon has great velocity, but has problems with command.
P.J. Walters continues to move from team to team. The soft tossing, right handed control artist hasn’t seen the success at the majors that he had early in him minor league career. The Phillies are the latest team to cut the pitchers.