The 2011 edition of the St. Louis Cardinals is not exactly a defensively sound bunch. Ok, let’s behonest, they’re pretty awful in the field. As frustrating as it is to see throws sail into the stands and easy infield pop ups most of us could corral by the 4th grade dropped (yes, I’m talking about you, Ryan Theriot and Tyler Greene), perhaps the most frustrating part of it all is how often the Cardinals are burned by the errors they make.
It seems like the majority of errors should be harmless. Though the proverbial “4th out” is about as big a baseball sin as swinging on 3-0 with the bases loaded, most hurlers can pitch around an error without any damage done. Cincinnati, for instance, only lets an unearned run score 44% of the time it commits an error. But for some reason, the Cardinals’ seem to pay for their errors every time.
Take Sunday’s loss to the Reds for example. Cardinals leading 1-0, runner at 1st, 1 out. A high chopper to 2nd leads to a rushed flip from Skip Schumaker… a throw errant enough to elicit a safe call from the umpire. Officially ruled E-4, the Reds had runners at 1st and 2nd with 1 out. Jaime Garcia struck out the next batter with a 3rd strike in the dirt, allowing the runners to move up 90 feet. Then before he got the inning ending ground ball, he threw another wild pitch to allow the tying run to score.
An error. A wild pitch. A second wild pitch. Tie game. The game eventually went to the Reds, 3-1.
It isn’t the first time an error has cost the Cardinals critical runs. A dropped 9th inning pop up led to a loss in Atlanta in early May. Another 9th inning error cost the Red Birds a game in Houston. It was driving me crazy, so I had to look it up. The results are not pretty.
For starters, the Cardinals have committed 66 errors in 95 games, good for 3rd worst in the National League. The only worse teams defensively are Houston and Chicago, who have combined for 154 errors and 123 losses. Not the best of company to be keeping.
Of the Cardinals 66 errors, they’ve allowed 42 unearned runs to score. That’s a 63.6% clip, and averages out to nearly 1 unearned run every other game. Further translation: that’s 1-2 unearned runs every series… and with 9 series remaining against the Reds, Brewers, and Pirates, many of those runs are certain to come back to bite the Cardinals.
So what can they do about it? I don’t really think there’s an answer. It’s not like a series of trade deadline moves will be geared towards shoring up the defense when the bullpen is as rocky as it is. They might just need some better luck. The good news is: The Cardinals have made it this far, playing the way they’ve played, and they’re still in the thick of the NL Central race.