Three true outcomes fielding sinks St. Louis Cardinals?
When the 6-6 St. Louis Cardinals met the Philadelphia Phillies on April 16 at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies were apparently on the ropes after a 1-5 road trip. With two good early season streaks at home that had fading memories, the Fightin’s Phils were also 6-6 that night.
Reader’s Note: This is not a game story, or at least not as such. Rather, it is a game that first suggested to this MLB observer that a previously commented problem, the current three real problems of baseball, can be more than just a fan-bored problem. The question now arises: Is the increasing dominance of strikes, walks and home runs doing more (and worse) than boring fans?
Could current batting practice have caused a very poor St. Louis Cardinals inning on the field?
Spoiler note: The Phillies won this game 9-2, but the focus here is on the disastrous cause of the second inning for the visiting Redbirds.
With one hit in Philadelphia like that, the St. Louis Cardinals suddenly became a team apparently determined to set a record for gift-wrapped “hits” in an inning.
First, shortstop Paul DeJong was unable to set his right foot properly after Alec Bohm set a ground ball to his right, resulting in a single after that foot slipped out from under the infielder.
Then the second baseman Matt Carpenter, a veteran, muffled a Didi Gregorius grounder because he might have been thinking about a double game. (This was the view of John Kruk, the retired player turned announcer, and that looked more than plausible.)
Finally, rookie center fielder Dylan Carlson lost a Jean Segura flyball in the twilight, and the Phillies had a double and a run.
In other words, the Cardinals looked the whole world like a team that didn’t expect the Batters to do anything other than hit, leave, or hit Homer. Oh, surely it could be argued that the inning was a mix of bad luck and a seemingly bad decision, but the eyes said otherwise.
The infield wasn’t wet and yet DeJong didn’t set his foot well enough to make his throw. There was a retirement, and yet Carpenter apparently wasn’t thinking of simply getting one out after getting into the right field with a Phillies base runner on his way to second place. And Carlson looked like he’d never caught a ball in the fading light before.
In a flash, pitcher Carlos Martinez was on the way to losing focus, also because of the decision to run the next batsman from Philadelphia. Then he hit Zach Eflin, the Phillies mug, and made him run. After one more singles and one more (unintentional) walk, he handed Bryce Harper a hard-hit double to the right in the center, and the Phillies were 6-0 ahead.
Let’s circle back. Have some of the St. Louis Cardinals been on their heels because they just don’t expect so many balls to hit the ground? Does the current high number of walks and strikes keep the outfield players flatter than the infielder? This seems unlikely, but …
The rest of the game may have given some clues. Despite the wind blowing in what was reportedly 13 mph for most of the competition, many players swung at the fences and failed. Harper had knocked out two runs near home. DeJong had one too. Phillys Rhys Hoskins might have another.
In the sixth inning, Nolan Arenado swung for a home run rather than a single with two men and two outs.
When the wind eased a little, two home runs were eventually hit, but both were line drives. The first of these was hit by Philly’s catcher JT Realmuto (who, by the way, ended the six breakout in the second inning by falling – drum roll, please -).
Or maybe the St. Louis Cardinals really aren’t a very good field team. They had come into play with a field share of 0.981 teams, which finished 21st in Major League Baseball.
However, something may happen to MLB fielding because what is happening now to MLB batting is happening.