It was supposed to be a huge boost for the St. Louis Cardinals when they landed Mike Maddux to be their new pitching coach two off-seasons ago.
But I’m starting to wonder if Maddux is doing a great job and the Redbirds pitchers are just such a lost cause that this is as good as they’re going to get or if Maddux might be a tad overrated.
The Cardinals have a rich tradition of excellent pitching coaches. It’s one of the things that has given them an edge through their decades of success. But this edition of the team sure doesn’t seem to have much edginess when it comes to its pitchers.
Miles Mikolas, who was supposed to be the find of the year when St. Louis plucked him from Japanese baseball two winters ago. But, after signing a lucrative new contract, he’s seemed excessively ordinary. Former top prospect Michael Wacha is supposed to be healthy, still he’s not getting much in the way of results on the field and youngsters Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson give some reasons for Cardinals fans to be optimistic. But they also seem to be good for at least one major meltdown a game that keeps their earned run averages where the Cardinals’ winning percentage ought to be.
I’m not pushing for Maddux to get the ax. But what gives here? It’s become a rarity for St. Louis pitchers to make it through five innings these days. And, when it does happen, the hurler in question probably gave up at least four runs. While the bullpen has been pretty good so far, how much longer can the relievers continue to pitch five innings a game?
Last year the Cardinals had to completely overhaul the bullpen mid-season. This year it looks like they’re going to have to get crafty with the starting rotation.
If it was up to me, as bad as the starters have been, I would have told Carlos Martinez to stretch it out in Class AAA Memphis with the goal of returning to the rotation instead of the relief corps. I’d send Hudson back to the minors to get his mojo back and install Martinez in his place. If St. Louis doesn’t start to see some results from Wacha, I’d seriously think about either sending him to the ‘pen or else cut ties with the pending free agent. It’s not as if the Birds are going to offer him a one-year tender worth around $18 million. Bring up Austin Gomber to take his place. If that doesn’t work move John Gant from the bullpen to the rotation.
St. Louis ALMOST pulled the marshmallow out of the fire last year, but the front office waited too long before it made a move. I hope the front office paid attention to how that panned out and that it’s prepared to make a move while there is still time to turn things around in 2019. There are limited options about what can be done in the middle of a season to revamp a starting rotation. So if changes are needed, it’s time to move on to Plan B sooner rather than later.