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BenFred: What if DeJong doesn't rebound? And what does demotion say about Cardinals' offense?

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Check out the highlights from sports columnist Ben Frederickson’s weekly chat with readers.

Q: What happens if Paul DeJong doesn’t rebound?

A: Full disclosure, I went back and updated this answer after the Cardinals announced Tuesday afternoon they sent DeJong back to Class AAA Memphis for a reset.

I’ve wondered as DeJong’s as-bad-as-possible season start has progressed if there could be some sort of fresh-start-needed-for-both-teams trade to be made here.

The trade value of DeJong drops now that he’s been demoted.

That’s a signal to other teams that something is off when a guy with as much service time as DeJong gets sent down.

His glove provides value — believe it or not he's still a 0.4 WAR guy right now even during this offensive collapse — so the Cardinals could, in theory I suppose, make him a bench guy for shortstop defense late in games if his bat can’t start. That could, in the future, let them shift Tommy Edman from shortstop to second base and pull a less experienced second baseman — Nolan Gorman, for example — from the game if they’re trying to hold a lead.

That would be a big role change, and it’s worth wondering if DeJong’s elite defense would be as sharp coming off the bench in that very reduced role.

That’s why I wonder if a fresh-start scenario could be best if there is a team out there that thinks it can solve what has gone wrong with DeJong’s swing. It’s something the Cardinals have not been able to figure out.

Most concerning from president of baseball operations John Mozeliak’s comments Tuesday was the mention of DeJong dealing with conflicting feedback on what he needed to do to get right at the plate.

"He's had a lot of voices in his ear,” Mozeliak said at one point. “We need to simplify that. We need it to be where, whatever he decides to do, he believes in it, and it's not us having 5-6 people tell him what to do.”

This is bad news, because the Cardinals were supposed to iron out differences within the hitting instruction as they committed to the Jeff Albert method and got rid of anyone and everyone who did not agree.

DeJong now has an outside hitting coach too, after once being one of Albert’s biggest champions in the clubhouse.

Lots of guys have outside hitting help these days, but when messages are conflicting, that’s not good.

I have a hard time not connecting some dots between Albert and the trend of young Cardinals hitters not being able to get right in the majors.

Call that blaming the hitting coach, if you like.

He has the job, and the job comes with expectations, just like shortstop.

Here's how the Cardinals offense ranks in the NL entering this home stand...

Average: .239, seventh

OBP: .313, ninth

SLG: .368, ninth

Strikeouts: 208 (fewest)

Homers: 23, 12th.

Now check out some of these advanced metrics.

Last in average exit velocity: 87 mph

Last in hard-hit percentage: 32.9 percent

Third-to-last in barrel percentage: 5.8 percent

The Cardinals lead the majors in launch angle (15.8 degrees) but it's not producing good results.

"It's not too early (to read into those numbers), I don't think," Marmol said. "And I don't think you think that either. I would go with not too early. I would also say, at this point, I would like to think it's more individual than collective. If your Tylers (O'Neill), or (Dylan) Carlsons, and even if Paul (DeJong) was at an average level, those (numbers) look very different. So, at the moment, I would like to think that it is more individual than collective. I like where certain guys are. I like where Edman is at, Areando, Goldy, Yadi is looking better with his at-bats. Knizner has done a decent job. So, for me, it's how I'm looking at it. I dove into them quite a bit as well. Are there conversations to be had? Yes. But I don't think it's a group thing at the moment."

Q: Is it a good or bad thing for the Avalanche that they swept the Predators?

A: Rust is real, right?

Rest is nice, but only to a point.

Colorado will have likely gone a week-plus before starting round two.

Meanwhile the Blues or the Wild will have emerged from a dang hard first-round with a full head of steam.

Momentum matters in the postseason.

Q: With all this talk from the Cardinals about being resistant to move Tommy Edman off second base, are they setting up a trade of Nolan Gorman?

A: The Cardinals trading Gorman would be a surprise. They have promoted him aggressively and been excited — almost gleeful — about his success during his rise. They have rebuffed other teams’ interest in him. The arrival of the designated hitter makes it that much easier to benefit from his bat.

I really think all of this talk from the Cardinals about not wanting Edman to shift off second base is, in part, just to slow things down on the calls for Gorman. I don't think they had the guy learn second base so he could be forever blocked by Edman, who can play multiple positions and played a lot of shortstop in the minors, which people seem to forget.

Gorman can also get DH reps if the Cardinals decide Corey Dickerson cannot help them as much. They’re buying time, more than anything — for Edman to get up to speed at shortstop, and for Dickerson to get going, if he can. They’re also understanding that Gorman alone can’t save the offense, and getting him regular work at second base, where he needs it.

Q: Does Juan Yepez need to be in the lineup every day?

A: Until or unless he cools off, yes. The Cardinals can’t really afford to sit guys who are hitting right-handed pitching, and he is, at least for now. Play the hot bat until it cools. Pitchers will adjust to Yepez. See how he responds. But he’s more than just a swing-away guy. I like that he has a two-strike approach. Hope he doesn’t lose it.

Q: Could Tommy Edman be an All-Star this season?

A: Big time. He has the NL's 12th-highest OPS entering Tuesday, and he’s doing it as a leadoff hitter. He’s on track to win his second consecutive Gold Glove at second base — unless he winds up shifting to shortstop. Sounds like an All-Star to me, if he keeps this up, or something close to it.

Q: Everything I read about the upcoming Mizzou football season suggests this will be a tough season. Most have the Tigers at 5-7, with just two SEC wins. Is hoping for seven wins a stretch?

A: I tend to agree with the preseason publications. The Tigers spent the offseason courting transfer QBs but did not land one, suggesting this season could be about someone growing on the job, whether it's Brady Cook, Tyler Macon, Sam Horn or someone else.

Running back Tyler Badie is gone, and his versatile production will be hard to replace. Those are two massively important positions on offense that have question marks and potential answers instead of sure things.

The conference schedule is tough. Going to be tough sledding, I'm afraid. But Drinkwitz has provided reasons in recruiting to suggest brighter days are ahead. Especially if he can keep Horn from picking MLB over baseball and football at Mizzou.

Q: How impressive has Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner been so far this season? What’s the reason behind his success?

A: More than anything he's just getting some time to play, and play regularly. That can work wonders. He's also more comfortable defensively and with the pitch-calling, so he can focus on his offense when he's at the plate. He said earlier this season that as late as last year, he was thinking about what pitches to call in the next half-inning while he was walking to the plate to hit.

That showed in his lack of production.

Now he pauses that part of his brain to focus on his at-bat, and that is showing in the numbers, too. In a good way.

Q: One way to get Nolan Gorman to the majors would be to cut ties with Corey Dickerson. Are the Cardinals not going to do that because of his contract?

A: It wouldn't cripple the Cardinals to eat Dickerson’s $5 million contract.

It would take them admitting they misread Dickerson’s game, and they don’t like admitting those things, especially in early May.

They want to give him some more time to click.

But Dickerson is not doing much to help himself besides the occasional single or walk.

He's here to hit right-handed pitching, and his batting line against it entering the home stand reads .191/.235/.213.

While the Cardinals have baseball's best OPS against left-handed pitching (.832), they have the National League's second-lowest OPS against right-handed pitching (.644), and their designated-hitter OPS against right-handed pitching is second-lowest in the NL (.547). 

Q: Does Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. have an infinite timeline for getting another World Series championship? Should the Cardinals have done more this offseason? And is it fair for Cardinals fans to appreciate this sustained-success model but also want more?

A: DeWitt is never going to go into "win at all costs" mode.

It's just not how he operates and it's not what he thinks is best for the business, or for baseball.

Sustained success is the game he plays, and there are a lot of fans who appreciate that fact.

They just don't make it to The Chat very often, or get tired of being shouted down when they do.


DeWitt was about as pointed as he gets this spring when he said Albert Pujols was not brought back for feel-good story alone. He said he thinks this team should compete for the chance to win a championship. I think there's more pressure on the front office than there has been for a long time, because of recent moves — like the surprise change at manager — and lack of deeper runs as of late.

The managers have changed. The coaches have changed. There's not much else to change except for a front-office shakeup if the Cardinals don't succeed now.

Getting to the expanded playoffs only to get booted early should not cut it this season.

As for the offseason, I thought they stopped short. Max Scherzer wanted to come here. They pulled themselves out of the shortstop sweepstakes before they even started, betting on DeJong and that has not worked out so far. They ignored a chance to swing big on a big-hitting DH. They made some good under-the-radar pickups that have helped, but their biggest addition was Steven Matz, who has been great sometimes and bad at other times, which was his track record with the Mets for years before he had a good season in Toronto.

No championship since 2011. No NLCS win since 2015. One first-place NL Central finish since 2016. First-world problems, sure. But the Cardinals have taught their fans to want parades, so fans can't be knocked for wanting parades.

Q: What’s the deal with Torey Krug’s injury? Is that an out-for-the-series kind of thing, or out-for-the-playoffs kind of thing?

A: Best guess is it's his left knee. It took a hit when he laid that check on Matt Boldy and he was favoring it as he came off the ice. He has dealt with knee injuries in the past, including this season. If it was a small thing, he would be out there. There's been no timeline given by the team, which is just calling it a lower body injury.

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