Although the Cardinals are five games under .500, they’re certainly not out of it in the National League Central. No one is running away with that division; Milwaukee is one game ahead of Chicago, with St. Louis 3.5 games back.
And with a playoff spot definitely attainable, the Cardinals aren’t going to sit on a static, stale lineup. That message was delivered loud and clear Wednesday.
The first shift came before the game, when slumping sophomore Aledmys Diaz was optioned to Triple-A. Diaz’s OPS has dropped almost 200 points from last year’s surprise breakout; he’s slashing .260/.293/.396. Fantasy owners didn’t mind the category juice (seven homers, four steals). Diaz graded out as a plus defender, after recording negative defensive metrics in 2016.
Paul DeJong could be the new, everyday shortstop; he made Wednesday’s start. He goes up to the plate hacking — one walk, 29 strikeouts — which is why his OBP is just four points higher than his .283 average. He does have five homers in 92 at-bats.
Things got more interesting at the end of St. Louis’s 4-3 victory over Arizona. Mike Matheny is ready to open up his closing options; Trevor Rosenthal got the call Wednesday. Rosenthal wasn’t at his sharpest — three baserunners, one run, 29 pitches — but when you shake hands at the end, everyone’s happy.
If you look at the secondary metrics, Rosenthal (2.36 FIP) has been a lot better than incumbent closer Seung Hwan Oh (4.53 FIP). But we can’t be sure if the Cardinals still live in a simplistic, ERA world — that’s where Oh has the lead, 3.75 to 4.25. Matheny isn’t going to name one single closer, so we could see some mix-and-match saves with other names entering the mix. The team’s mediocre bullpen has a 4.43 ERA, ranking 19th in the majors.
If you need to fight for every possible save, Rosenthal is available in 74 percent of Yahoo leagues. He recorded 93 saves in 2014-2015, and at leas this strikeout rate (37 percent) is worthy of a closer. Wildness is occasionally an issue; he’s walking 11 percent of his batters, almost twice as high as Oh’s rate.
• The Giants have a bullpen in flux, too. Mark Melancon (elbow) went on the DL before Wednesday’s game. Sam Dyson, who was last seen coughing up a closing gig in Texas, is expected to be the Melancon stand-in, but Dyson needed a day off Wednesday. Hunter Strickland wound up getting the last out in the victory over Colorado.
Not everyone will have the stomach for a Dyson addition. He was beyond awful in the Texas stint (ERA over 10, six homers allowed, more walks than strikeouts), and although the K rate has been good in his eight San Francisco appearances, he nonetheless has a 4.91 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. How badly are you chasing those saves?
• Josh Reddick’s ownership tag hasn’t made sense for some time. He’s settled into the No. 2 slot in the Houston lineup — the top scoring team in the American League — and yet he’s rostered in just 23 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Reddick can be injury prone, of course, but he’s doing a little bit of everything when he’s on the field. He had a nifty 4-2-3-3 line in Wednesday’s slugfest win over the A’s, with a couple of stolen bases. You’re getting a .305 average here, with eight homers and six steals over 66 games. You know Reddick is controlling his at-bats expertly when you see 22 walks against 34 strikeouts.