It is important to note that the word “you” means “you”. St. Louis Cardinals You can find out more about this by clicking here. baseball’s biggest, most perplexing disappointment so far in 2023, and as of this weekend, the club’s leadership appears to be in total panic mode. They called up a third catcher on Saturday. announcing that marquee offseason addition Willson Contreras He would be removed from his position as the starter catcher. After some confusion, the management clarified that Contreras would not be moving to the outfield. Instead, he will take a few more weeks as a designated-hitter in order to prepare for his return to catcher.
It’s not a joke. Contreras is not a rookie learning a new position — a la fellow early-season Cardinals scapegoat Jordan Walker, an elite hitting prospect who was sent down to Triple-A After a rough outfield. He is not being benched as some sort of disciplinary measure, a tact manager Oli Marmol took with outfielder Tyler O’Neill last month. No, having caught more than 650 games in the majors, Contreras now seems to be failing mostly at the impossible challenge of “being Yadier Molina” while the Cardinals thrash about at an unfamiliar 11-24.
John Mozeliak, the organization’s long-tenured and heretofore wildly successful president of baseball operations, and Marmol, the second-year skipper, spent most of the weekend attempting to explain the move, to make it seem like something softer than what it was: a loud, public rebuke of the catcher they anointed as Molina’s replacement with a five-year, $87.5 million deal this winter. In an interview with The Athletic, Mozeliak declared that he still has confidence in Contreras — whom, again, the team signed about six months ago and less than six weeks’ worth of baseball ago — but said his time as the St. Louis catcher has “certainly gotten off on the wrong foot.”
Undoubtedly alarmed by the Cardinals’ horrendous run prevention thus far, Mozeliak and Marmol focused on Contreras’ defensive preparation — his work with the beleaguered pitching staff — as a reason for the team’s abysmal start. Their overall park-adjusted ERA was sixth-worst in MLB heading into MondayStarting pitching has been especially brutal. It’s allowed more baserunners in an inning than every other rotation except for those that are rebuilding Cincinnati Reds The following are some examples of how to get started: Oakland Athletics.
While they claim they aren’t pointing fingers, the Cardinals’ leaders have directed a lot of blame toward players through just over a month of bad baseball. But the more they attempt to talk about the team’s problems — and potential solutions — the more they highlight just how poor (or delusional) their own planning seems to have been.
Does the Cardinals secret for catching go beyond “being Yadier molina”?
MLB teams do make serious demands of catchers. They essentially operate on double duty: They have to work on their hitting and prepare for the arms they’re going to face and also work with the pitching staff to plan for the opposing hitters and understand each hurler’s roadmap to success. Every catcher is required to perform this juggling.
Contreras has spent the entirety of his career up until this point with the rival Chicago Cubs, has never been viewed as the league’s best juggler — at least not in the pitching-first way Molina operated for the Cardinals. Contreras’ value comes from his ability to catch and also hit better than other backstops. Reports about Contreras’ time in Chicago were well-known, and Cardinals officials said that they were impressed by his work ethics and his willingness to improve on defense after a wonderful meeting in the Winter.
This weekend, though, Mozeliak referred to confidence lost but didn’t provide a subject for the verb. Who lost confidence? The front office staff? Who lost confidence: the front office? The pitchers, then?
Molina, whose defensive record will most likely lead him to the Hall of Fame, or at least a high level of consideration, has inspired Cardinals pitchers. It’s not surprising that Contreras hadn’t reached that pinnacle in a couple of months of work; in fact, it would have been absurd to view that as a possibility. The Cardinals appear to be stunned.
Mozeliak brought up the pitch timer’s effect on compressing communication and claimed that spring training didn’t offer a true test of pitcher-catcher relationships. That doesn’t do much to elucidate why, say, the Atlanta Braves haven’t had similar issues with Sean Murphy What is the best way to get in touch with us? Milwaukee Brewers It has helped William Contreras — Willson’s brother — improve his defense behind the plate.
But even taking them at face value, the complicating factors don’t point to a move this drastic. If the Cardinals were worried about the game-calling aspect, they could have asked veteran pitchers to do it themselves via PitchCom. While younger pitchers were cycled in, Adam Wainwright’s absence, the Cardinals rotation features five pitchers with more than five years of MLB service time. The Cardinals’ rotation is not made up of naive rookies. They have both spent time in other clubs with non-Molina catchers.
As it stands, the Cardinals’ prescription for getting Contreras up to speed is puzzlingly vague and seems to discount the value of him actually working with pitchers in those situations Mozeliak apparently found so difficult to simulate. In the immediate aftermath of the position-switch announcement, Marmol told reporters that “there are certain things and ways we operate that Willson is still taking to and learning.”
“It’s a difficult thing coming from a different organization and learning all of it,” he said. “We have an internal strategy to help with that, that will start moving in that direction over the next several weeks.”
It’s safe to say that taking weeks or months off from the daily demands of the catcher position is not how teams usually break in a new catcher. Reading into Marmol’s words, you might rightfully wonder what is so complicated about the Cardinals’ internal strategy? Do you keep it in a safe vault, like Coca-Cola recipes or classified information? Contreras only have access to the required material at certain times and certain places?
Presuming that the process doesn’t involve accessing vaults or memorizing secret codes, you might conclude that the Cardinals need their catcher to have the baseball equivalent of a nuclear physics degree to field even a halfway competent rotation, which simply drives home an observation anyone — degree or not — could’ve made before the season.
The Cardinals’ pitching staff just isn’t very good.
John Mozeliak, Oli Marmol and others point fingers at all but the pitchers
A bad pitching staff was always on the table as a possibility for the 2023 Cardinals. The Cardinals, lacking a top-of the-rotation pitcher, opted to bolster an already-crowded lineup rather than go on the market in the offseason. They hoped that health and prosperity would return for Jack FlahertyAdam Wainwright’s continued defiance of the time, or perhaps an upgrade from the summer 2022 acquisition Jordan Montgomery.
Montgomery, at least, has done well. He has a 125-park-adjusted ERA+ which is a bit higher than his career average. Everything else has been a disaster. Steven Matz In all but one season, he has had trouble with homers (1.73 in nine innings). Flaherty’s struggles to find his zone have continued since he returned from injury in last season. Miles Mikolas’ tumble to a 5.79 ERA in the first year of a $55.75 million extension was unforeseen, but the decline of a 34-year-old pitcher can’t ever truly be surprising.
Overall, the numbers reveal a team that is giving up an incredible amount of line drives. Statcast data shows that only three teams allowed an average exit velocity or higher expected batting mean. A steep decline in the quality of the Cardinals’ defense — mostly because of poor play by a jumbled, ever-shuffling outfield — is probably allowing for more extra bases than the pitchers deserve, but there’s no external variable that would make these pitchers good with the flip of a switch. Contreras being pushed to DH might actually worsen the situation by reducing the amount of time that bat-first players, such as Nolan Gorman, Alec Burleson The following are some examples of how to get started: Juan Yepez.
The Cardinals seemed to be relying on their strengths to start the season by adding Contreras and hoping that their pitchers could deliver just enough. In less than a year, it became clear that something had gone wrong in St. Louis’ usual alchemy. Maybe Molina was behind far more of the Cardinals’ success than we could see. The team may have been terribly bad at assessing their needs this winter. Either way, thrusting Contreras — on a fresh, five-year contract — into the spotlight to absorb the anger and frustration weeks after the team made similar, if more minor, scapegoats of O’Neill and Walker can’t be a winning strategy with the clubhouse (unless you’re a pitcher, in which case giving up a boatload of runs and getting to blame your catcher seems like a great deal).
Contreras appeared to have been set up to fail. Coaches, front offices and players are there to help them succeed. If Molina’s status was so all-consuming that the organization forgot how to teach game-planning, perhaps the offseason wish list should have included more than a new catcher.