I'm posting this well aware that St. Louis can still win the steaming pile of cow dung division. Most of the projections systems think they're still our biggest competition for the division (I'm not sure about that myself, but their roster talent on paper is probably second-best, at least). So, I'm getting that out of the way before they go on a run and make this thread seem pointless. Before some asshole like Paul DeJong starts challenging for the Triple Crown.
But what if this is what they are? What that currently is, is a team five games under .500. I know, the Cubs could soon be there themselves etc etc. I don't care about that for the purpose of this post. This is about the Cardinals, and regardless of what the Cubs do this year, we know they're set up to be good for a long while. The Cardinals aren't.
The Cardinals entered this season as probably an 83-85 true talent team, and they're playing significantly worse than that.
The scary thing for them is that their starting rotation has actually been great, and they're five games under .500.
Carlos Martinez has been one of the five best starters in baseball. Mike Leake has been greatly overachieving (3.14 ERA). Michael Wacha is probably overachieving. Lance Lynn is eighth in the majors in ERA (2.69)... and his 4.74 FIP is 22nd-worst in the majors. He seems to usually outpitch his FIP, but that's a ridiculous difference that can't keep up. The Cardinals' rotation ERA is 3.66, fourth-best in the majors.
It's a fine rotation, but it's not top-five ERA good, especially when you consider this team's defense is a train wreck, which is another issue of course (far better than last year, but still bad). And their bullpen has been crap.
Offensively, they've been bad, with the exception of Jedd friggin' Gyorko and Tommy friggin' Pham. Those are two players that should regress. You're probably thinking, "Well Dexter Fowler hasn't been as good as last year," and he may be underachieving a bit. But he currently has a .785 OPS, which is actually even higher than the rest-of-season projections have him at. It's up and down the lineup like this. Matt Carpenter has probably peaked already (and is exceeding projections). Yadier Molina is far away from his best years. Who knows if Aledmys Diaz is actually any good after he came out of nowhere last year, and he's sucked this year. Randal Grichuk is playing in the California Penal League or something. Stephen Piscotty is probably good, but he entered play tonight worth -0.1 fWAR and figures to put up pretty average production as a corner outfielder.
So their rotation has been great, when it's probably just good. Their offense has been bad, and is probably not better than average. Their defense is bad. Their bullpen has been bad and doesn't seem like it will get much better.
Most of their core players are aging, veteran players. They have zero regulars among position players that are under 26 years old (Diaz is about to turn 27 for example which shocked me).
And in the last week, before the Cardinals lost 3 of 4 at home to the Brewers, GM John Mozeliak hinted at the team potentially becoming sellers:
Mozeliak said he intends to give the fourth-place team another four to six weeks to rise in the standings and to meet expectations. If it does not, the Cardinals will, for the first time in a generation, consider being sellers at the trade deadline July 31.
“Obviously, I think what today represents is people are being held accountable for what we need to do,” Mozeliak said. “If (in July) it’s not to the point of where the next level of investment makes sense for this year, then we may have to start thinking about the following year. Not prepared to go down that path today, but from where we sit we have to be open-ended for that.”
Add it all up, and it sure seems like the Cardinals are getting dangerously close to becoming sellers and possibly even considering significant changes when looking long term, right? They know that they're a level below the Cubs when talking long term (if not this stupid season), and it sure seems like the Brewers have caught up to them as well (and with more young talent on the way).
Like, if the Cardinals are hanging in there still in a few weeks, maybe they stand pat. As I detailed in the other thread, if you just get in the stupid tournament you have a shot, as the 83-win Cardinals' WS team knows more than anyone. But if they keep playing like this and the Brewers (and Cubs, hopefully) keep the separation up, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cardinals do some serious selling and accept what they are. And that would probably be in their best interest moving forward.