STL sports chat with Ben Frederickson

STL sports chat with Ben Frederickson

Bring your Cardinals, Blues and St. Louis sports questions, and talk to Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson in a live chat starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

    Folks: My apologies for the inconvenience of a very late notice. The chat will have to start at 1 p.m. today because of an interview BenFred is conducting for his Wednesday newspaper column. Hope to see everyone back here at 1 p.m.
    Hey everybody, thanks for your patience today. I'm ready to roll, and will be here for a few hours. Away we go . . .
    Hey BenFred....I didn't know Mario Mendoza had a set of triplets starting in the outfield for the St Louis Cardinals.
    Yes, the outfield "experiment" has been quite underwhelming so far, hasn't it? Makes you wish the Cardinals would have been in it to win it when it came to competing for Bryce Harper, or even Luis Robert, who is turning into a force -- no surprise -- as predicted for the White Sox. Combined, Cards outfielders are averaging .213 with a .302 on-base percentage and a .390 slugging percentage. That adds up to a pitiful .692 OPS, which is fifth-lowest in MLB among a team's outfielders, and trailing all NL teams but the Marlins and the Pirates. That's a tremendous anchor on a team. I'm ready to see a lot of Lane Thomas. Tyler O'Neill has had his shot, and did not do enough with it. I think Dylan Carlson will be good, but I tried to warn folks expecting him to be The Answer as a rookie was expecting a lot. Bader has shown an uptick in pop but the average and on-base are similar to last year. Dexter Fowler is really the only outfielder who has been clearly better than he was last season. And the experiment rolls on.
    Ben, while the Cards will surely make playoffs under this strange format, the team is badly flawed to advance through four rounds and would likely be bounced quickly. Seems like they missed a good opportunity to send out Carlos, Dexter and perhaps a few others in return for some prospects. Or was the return just pitifully bad forcing the front office to remain status quo?
    I can't imagine there were teams clamoring for either Fowler or Martinez. Dexter is having a better season, but he's owed $16.5 million next season and is past his prime. Martinez, no one knows what to think. He's not interested in being a closer, which is what he's been best at as of late. He wants to prove he can be a dominant starter again, but his first outing didn't go all that hot this season, before he exited temporarily due to COVID. The Cardinals have been willing to trade him before, but never got an offer they felt like was worth it, and there's no reason those offers would have been better this time around. Another thing, the prospects you mentioned. How are the Cardinals, or any team, supposed to have an updated read on prospects? They can't have scouts at alternate sites. They have no updated info on any of these players who are not in the minor leagues. That's risky. The Cardinals made it very clear they weren't going to do much, if anything, at the trade deadline. I tried to explain why. It was not well-received. But at least they didn't lead people on, like they have at times in the past. They're going to get through this season, for better or worse, with what they have. Depending on what they find out, there will be some big questions to answer after it ends.
    I’m usually more of an optimist when it comes to the cardinals, and I didn’t think they’d make any significant moves at the deadline anyway. But I’m wondering when will the time come where Dewitt, Mo, and Girsch all sit down and decide that now is the time to make this team better? I’m not saying go all in, but just improve the team. The goldschmidt deal obviously falls under that category but after winning the division last year I thought that would be a good time to add some thump to the lineup and build off that momentum.
    The offense was the question last season, over the offseason, and again now.
    This team pitches well, defends well, runs well. 
    Well, at least usually.
    But when you are scraping by with a bottom-10 MLB OPS (.710), or whatever other stat you prefer to define team offense, it makes it pretty hard to win.
    You have to be perfect or close to it in a lot of other areas to be successful like that.
    This season, the Cardinals said, was about finding answers for that offense from within.
    The quest is not going great to this point.
    The notion that hitting coach Jeff Albert was going to unlock something that really improved this offense is not going great to this point.
    It's also been a bizarre season, in general, with a significant wrench thrown in it thanks to COVID.
    The Cardinals are still hoping some answers emerge, but I completely understand the pessimism about the offense.
    I share it, and have for some time.
    It seems the longer the Cards wait on Carlos Martinez and Harrison Bader, the less likely they are going to get any significant return in a trade. It's time to move on.
    Considering how Ponce struggled, the Cards could use Carlos to make some starts. Some good ones. After this season, who knows what could happen. But the Cardinals were not going to deal those guys at this trade deadline. Not while they're still in decent shape to make the postseason crapshoot.
    Dakota has looked really good lately and really overall since his call up. I’m curious as to what other people are looking at because he gets a lot of criticism and being billed as a bust. I don’t get it.
  • I don't see much criticism of him being a bust, but I do see a lot of people talking themselves into thinking he's overrated or not as "good" as his numbers suggest. He walked too many guys last year. Some of his "expected" stats trailed his real ones. I'm not against advanced metrics, but I think leaning on those stats too much have caused people to overthink Hudson. He's 25 years old. He's great at getting groundballs, and he pairs that with a really strong defense. He handles himself in the way that it's easy to expect he can cut back on the walks, and increase the strikeouts. Instead of picking at the things he doesn't do, I have encouraged people to look at the things he does well, and the things he can get better at as he continues to progress. He's 17-9 in 37 MLB starts with a 3.29 ERA over 200 innings. He's cut his walk rate by two walks per nine innings this season, too. See what I mean? He's good, and getting better, with lots of years to go.
    I'm assuming we're going to hear...again from MO that Carpenter and Bader's poor display of hitting is due to the shortened/stopped and started season and everything will be peaches and cream in 2021?
    That would be a tough sell for the front office.
    Especially for Carpenter.
    Bader? At least he has shown some positive signs this year. His on-base percentage has creeped up a bit, and his slugging is up significantly, to .467 as of today. Fair to question if that kind of power can hold, of course.
    As for Carpenter, his numbers are worse this season than they were last season, and that was supposed to be his career-worst, outlier season.
    He's now slashing .181/.344/.264 over 72 at-bats in 2020.
    That's after a line of .226/.334/.392 last season.
    Between the start of last season and now, he has a line of .219/.336/.373, and we're talking about a span of nearly 500 (488) at-bats.
    How bad is that?
    Let's take a look.
    A total of 168 MLB players have had as many at-bats as Carpenter (488) since the start of the 2019 season.
    When that list is sorted by on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), Carpenter's .709 OPS ranks 154th.
    This is not where you want a player who is supposed to be an impact hitter, let alone one making $18.5 million per year, to be.
    The Cardinals can say what they want, but the numbers are there.
    This is a bad situation, and Carpenter's contract goes through 2021 before a vesting option kicks in.
    I know some fans want the Cardinals to come out and say the extension was a mistake. They're not going to do that while Carpenter is on the team. They just don't and won't say something like that about a current player.
    But again, the numbers are right there -- and they're not exactly getting better.
    I’ve heard some talk about a “bubble” idea for college basketball non-conference games, which would, as I understand it, gather together a group of similar level college teams for a period of time and have them play games with each other. I guess they would test everyone before hand, keep them in an isolated environment during the week or so, no live spectators, and play. This does seem a reasonable idea during Covid-19 realities, as a way to minimize risk. Have you heard anything about this? Maybe this would be what it takes to get SLU and Missouri to play one another in basketball.
    There's been talk of that kind of setup, yes. The first I heard mention it was SLU coach Travis Ford. He's interested. Other coaches are as well. It's a credit to college hoops for being more dynamic than their football peers, who seemed to just wait and twiddle thumbs more than get creative. I don't think anything is official at this time, and I think a lot of this conversation is going to hinge on how football works, or doesn't. YES about the SLU-Mizzou game. I'm all for college basketball, even without the pandemic, putting an emphasis on regional non-conference games of interest as a way to draw attention toward the sport before conference play begins. The best way to get people talking about your season before March is to play games that get people talking. For our area, SLU-Mizzou would be a good one.
    Every game that I listen to Jim Edmonds I learn something about both pitching and hitting. He both understands what happening and understands how to express it to the viewers.
    He's a baseball savant. Has been. Continues to be. I think he'd make a great hitting coach if he ever decided to dedicate himself fully to that line of work.
    Hey Ben Fred, I know Mo made a lot of excuses for not playing at the deadline and, granted, there were a lot of moving parts to consider, but other clubs dealt with some of the same issues (like the Marlins). Don't you think the nonaction was based upon the Cards new standard of "make the playoffs and see what happens" rather than the older and prouder standard of "we play every year to win the World Series"? They calculated that with the expanded playoffs they could likely make the playoffs standing pat and therefore did not want to make any risky moves. It is also that they do not have to worry about filling the seats this year, either. Put another way, does the Cardinal brass see 2020 as sort of a "free year" to see where they are, hopefully to lay the groundwork for future moves in the offseason or after the 2021 season, when the payroll is reduced? That, considering the pandemic and how it has impacted the team, that just getting into the playoffs is successful enough?
    I don't know that this team is assuming it's going to make the playoffs. I think it would celebrate that outcome if it happens, considering the two-week shutdown and the crusher of a schedule that emerged after it. The bottom could drop out on this group any time. I thought it might be happening, honestly, and then Adam Wainwright lit a spark with his complete game on his birthday. The Cardinals' tone shifted pretty clearly after the COVID outbreak. They didn't try to tiptoe around their outlook. They are going to play who they have, hope to get answers on the things they want to get answers on moving forward, and hope they can catch a run somewhere along the way and see where it takes them. That's the unofficial motto. I realize many won't like it, but analyzing this season without considering the larger circumstances in play doesn't make a lot of sense to me, either. No, the pandemic does not mean Matt Carpenter's contract is not a problem. And no, the outfield is still one of the most meager hitting in the entire league. These are not COVID-related issues, and should not be explained as such. But yeah, I can understand why a team that was paused for two weeks and emerged from it still in decent shape in the playoff picture is going to shrug and roll with it -- until it's time to sort through the bigger problems that might have a chance to answer themselves along the way. For example, the outfield. Lane Thomas has not had his chance. Now, he'll get it. If he doesn't perform, add it to the list of stuff that needs to be sorted out. But no, I didn't think the Cardinals were going to try to sort that out at the trade deadline that, when you zoom out, was pretty quiet because many teams are feeling the same way as the Cardinals about this season.
    Status Quo Mo scurried into his Boring Bunker for the 6th trade deadline in a row. Kidding of course (except about '15-'19) because we all knew nothing was happening this year. Speaking of nothing happening this year, where are those "internal options" with that outfield offensive production... you know the ones that would easily replace/surpass that of Ozuna? For the record Ozuna has 8 Hrs and 23 RBIs, Bader/O'Neil/Fowler/Carlson have combined for 9 Hrs and 28 RBIs.
    I tried to have and share realistic expectations for Dylan Carlson, but I know some did not share my caution.
    I think he's going to be good, maybe really good, but some had convinced themselves he was going to be Pujols 2.0.
    Tall order.
    I have yet to be convinced that Tyler O'Neill is more than a Class AAA slugger. I know some of his projections drive people wild. And he's a good athlete. Fast. Decent defender though there are times he puts his teammates at risk with his approach. But, he got this chance because of his power, and he just has not shown enough of it at this level to be a middle of the order force on a good team. Maybe that can still change. But he's slugging .429 through 338 MLB at-bats.
    I do want to see what Lane Thomas can do. The hand injury tripped him up last season. The COVID caught him this season. He's back now, and I think he deserves the chance to play regularly for a while.
    We talked here often about the hope the Cardinals were baking into an already hopeful offense by letting Ozuna walk and not adding proven production into the lineup as a replacement.
    We are seeing what happens when the hope doesn't immediately produce results.
    As I said to Commish yesterday, Voit 12 HRs, over .300, Grichuk 9 HRs and .300 average, Ozuna 8 HRs, .282, Lance Lynn 4-1, 1.93.

    Cardinals outfield, 10 HR, .207 average.

    Perhaps it was smart for Mo to take a breather and try his trade hand over the winter or next year. Could probably field a team of ex-Cardinals who would challenge our current team.
    Seems like the Cards need someone in the cleanup spot who is a consistent run producer. I know they do not grow on trees, but there are some out there that may be available in 2021 or after our payroll goes down--Gallo, Joc Pederson, Correa, and, of course, Arenado. (Correa and Arenado batting 3rd and Goldy in the 4 spot). What, in your opinion, is the chance the Cards make a play for any of these players (or others), or has the loss in revenue this year foreclosed any possibilities in this area? They really need a slugger to compete for a championship. And I will take high strike outs for a 30-40 HR a year player who has 100+ RBI.
    Part of letting this season play out is seeing what Paul DeJong can do there.
    He's only had 17 at-bats at cleanup so far this season.
    Thanks, COVID.
    We know how the Cardinals feel about mega contracts for players in their prime. Many examples suggest they're not going to go that route.
    They have been more comfortable trading. Arenado's name will come up again, but he's owed nearly $200 million through 2026 -- if he does not opt out after the 2021 season. 
    Knowing what we know about how the Cardinals conduct business, it's hard for me to imagine they will be comfortable making a trade for a player who a) could opt out after one season and b) comes with a six-year, $200 million contract if he doesn't after c) a season that was not as profitable as traditional seasons due to the pandemic.
    I agree they are lacking proven thump. And I agree they are going to have a hard time selling fans on an offense that doesn't move forward with a better sense of proven power. But how they do that, I don't know. I would be surprised if taking on a contract that comes close to doubling the biggest one the team has ever had is the answer.
    After Waino's moving performance on Sunday, what are the chances the Cards sign him for another year or even two? He would be 40, but he is like a fine wine, getting better with age. Plus, he mentors the younger players. It would be great to see him and Yadi have a couple of more cracks at another ring.
    Another one-year deal with incentives would make sense for Wainwright, if he will continue to go that route.
    That has worked out well for both parties.
    Maybe Wainwright can talk Molina into doing the same.
    Lower guarantee. Plenty of incentives for performance.
    What is your opinion on what went wrong in Edmonton? I think it was a failure of leadership. For whatever reason, Berube, the coaching staff, Pietrangelo, O'Reilly, Schenn, Schwartz, et al could not get buy-in from the rest of the team. Yes, Tarasenko was really unavailable but he had been unavailable almost all year and Barbashev was not there. It just seemed no one beyond the number one line did anything offensively and the defense was completely disorganized. COVID-19, in my opinion, actually worked in the Blues favor because it gave them time to get healthy from their long previous post-season. I really think this was an opportunity missed. COVID-19, while unwanted, leveled the rink for all the teams. Thanks.
  • I think it was hard for certain teams, especially ones with a clear and recent memory of winning a championship, to get fully fired up for the format. The Blues were kind of groggy, and by the time they fired up, they were banged up. I think the bubble format was grinding on some guys. I don't think everyone was as focused as they needed to be, and they ran into a team that is young, energetic and doesn't have a deep postseason run in the regular playoffs to compare this lesser experience to. That's not an excuse. The Blues didn't get it done. But while they won't come out and say it, I'm not sure they all viewed this as the real deal, and I think that showed at times.
    You know when you go to a fair or carnival and they have the wood cut-outs with the faces missing? Everyone can put their face in the cut-out but the body is still the same. That is this offense other than Goldy. They are all the same hitter. Each will have a good game or a big hit here or there and the team and media insist that said player "is finally getting it" but inevitably it will be followed by a 3 for 26 mini-slump. Wash, rinse, repeat.
    Ah, general shots at the vague media.
    Please be specific or drop the crutch.
    Thanks.
    What should the Cardinals do with Andrew Knizner? It seems Yadi is going to play everyday and has every intention of playing next year. Once Wieters returns, maybe they can find some DH at-bats for Knizner, but otherwise it seems like he's stuck.
    He's approaching the Carson Kelly ceiling. If another commitment to Molina is coming, Cards should consider moving him in a deal that helps the major league team. Some of this will depend on what shakes out with Molina. Those conversations have not been happening, and don't seem to be of interest to the front office until after the season.
    How do you feel about moving Fowler up to #1 in the batting order? He seems to be one of the few who have an eye for the ball,and Wong isn't cutting it. And Carpenter and the kid have got to start hitting or be sat down.
    He's got four homers. That's most on the team at the moment. I think for that reason I'd like to have some guys in front of him when he goes to the plate. Carpenter has been dropped down to seventh in recent games, and could go lower. Fowler has been seventh or eight and is hitting well enough to go higher, certainly above Carpenter at this point. If the kid in your comment means Carlson, I disagree. Play him. I'd like to see more Lane Thomas, too. Tyler O'Neill had his chance and did not capitalize on it. Also, important to remember. Everybody's going to play. If you're breathing and don't have COVID, you have to. That's the schedule's demand, the byproduct of the shutdown.
    Who are these players the Cards have on the 40 man they are terrified of losing with upcoming transactions, seems to me not a lot of teams will be beating their doors down to claim them, that's a convenient excuse not to try and trade to improve the team. When you have a bottom third MLB offense, you telling me that Starling Marte wasn't an upgrade?
    No, I'm not telling you he would not have been an upgrade.
    I'm telling you the Cardinals were not going to make any moves to improve this team, for this season, at the deadline.
    I told you that before the deadline.
    My assumption is that most MLB teams are going to be looking to cut payroll this offseason (COVID related and with CBA related unknowns). It would seem a safe bet that the Cardinals will not be making any big free agency splashes this winter. That said, is there hope that next year's team will be better offensively. The team seems caught between an aging underperforming core (carpenter and Fowler) and a younger core (Bader, O'Neil, Wong, Carlson, Edman) that is not performing, and then an even younger group that has missed a lot of time and games this year (Gorman, et al). I fear that next year will be more of the same bottom half of the league offense.
    If that is the case, then I'm curious what the Cardinals do to sell this team to fans -- if fans can attend games.
    Seems to me that Cardinals fans are understandably hungry for an uptick in offense.
    Did MLB limit access to the Video room, this year, due to covid or the astros?
    Thoughts on the impact?
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