At .500, the Cardinals are categorically average -- and just look that way out there, too.
But here are some potential sparks for the rest of the season:
Historically, Fowler bats better in the second half of seasons, and his recent July jolt could serve as a harbinger for that at the plate.
In his career, Fowler's second-half slash stats are a .273 batting average, a .373 on-base percentage and a .424 slugging percentage. That makes his second-half OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) essentially .800 (.797 to be exact).
Meanwhile, in first halves, Fowler slashes .254/.352/.417 with a not-as-nice .769 OPS.
Even last year, the lost year, Fowler showed some oomph in the second half under then-interim manager Mike Shildt … until an injury put Fowler out for the rest of the season. From July 22 until his last game of August 3, he had a .386 OBP.
The Cardinals' bullpen is bullish. John Gant and Giovanny Gallegos are studs. Carlos Martinez can sure make a splash. And John Brebbia with new “dad strength” is basically a pitching Paul Bunyan. But here's looking at a guy that was supposed to be a bullpen anchor – and is showing signs that he could be in the second half.
Consider this about Miller, who started off awful. Since May 22, he's allowed just three runs in 18 appearances (2.31 ERA). And even in that respectable period, opponents' batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was an unsustainable .368.
And in those 18 final games before the break, Miller had 21 strikeouts and only three walks. In his first 21 games, he had 22 strikeouts and nine walks.
Last season, Miles was a maestro, seldom walking guys (or even getting behind in counts). His walk rate was a National League-best 1.30 – and best by quite a margin. This year, his walk rate is fifth in the league, 1.54 walks per nine innings, still pretty great. But it's the homers that get him. He allowed 16 all last year … and 16 in the first half this year.
Last season, his 0.72 homers per nine innings was fourth-best in the NL. This year, he's No. 36 in the NL with at 1.45 homers per nine innings (Cards teammate Jack Flaherty is dubiously tied with Chicago's Yu Darvish with 1.86 homers per nine, worst among NL starters who statistically qualify).
But for Miles, three of his past four starts heading into the break were impressive. And in only one of the four did he walk a batter (actually two Angels on June 23).
And Mikolas has a 2.48 ERA this season at Busch Stadium, where he pitched exemplary last year. Here's thinking his home outing on Sunday against Arizona will be a strong start – and a strong start to his second half.
If you look at the baseball season in four quarters, DeJong's first quarter was like Paul Goldschmidt over previous years … and DeJong's second quarter was like Paul Goldschmidt of this year. But DeJong still made the All-Star team, and there's something to be said for the psychological aspect of that. DeJong had made that a personal goal, and he accomplished it. He got to play in the game – and made an impact with his glove and legs. He felt like he belonged in that company – and was part of it. A feeling of calm and confidence could carry him into the Cards' second half.
The Cardinals play the Pirates in seven of their next 13 games. This season, DeJong has a .379 on-base percentage against Pittsburgh (five walks). Small sample size of six games, but encouraging.
The 24-year-old outfielder is the ultimate Cards' “wild card” since he isn't even on the team. Or even the 40-man roster. But his play at both Class AA Springfield and Class AAA Memphis has popped off the page. With Harrison Bader flailing at sliders and failing at the plate, giving Arozarena a chance in center could pay dividends.
On June 12, Arozarena was promoted to Memphis. In 110 plate appearances with the Class AAA club, his OPS was 1.007, thanks in part to three homers and eight doubles.
His Memphis slash line is .388/.445/.561, following 116 plate appearances for Class-AA Springfield – and for that club he slashed .309/.422/.515 (.938 OPS).
He also has 10 total stolen bases, which could fit into manager Mike Shildt's version of the Runnin' Redbirds, though Arozarena has also been caught stealing seven times.