Cards Earn Consecutive One-Run Wins in Milwaukee

After losing 16 of their first 23 one-run games, the Cards continued a remarkable reversal in this trend as they outlasted Milwaukee 2-1 in ten innings (box score) last night.  They have thus begun their penultimate road trip of the season with consecutive one-run wins against the Brewers.  They are 7-2 this month, and have now won 13 of their last 16 one-run games.

One-run games begin with pitching, and it was great to see the first eight innings dominantly handled by two pitchers who have been struggling lately: Adam Wainwright and Kevin Siegrist.

Siegrist has been right in the middle of the activity all year when the Cards have been involved in one-run games.  Kevin has pitched in 24 of the 39, posting an 0.82 ERA over 22 innings in which he has allowed 9 singles, 2 doubles and 1 home run.   He has held batters to a .164 batting average and a .233 slugging percentage.

Over the course of his career, Siegrist has found his way into 92 games that were ultimately decided by one run.  He has a 2.41 ERA and a .208 opponent’s batting average in 78.1 innings pitched in those games.

Seung-hwan Oh was touched for a couple of soft hits, but pitched out of trouble to force extra-innings.  Oh is working on a 14.1 inning scoreless streak covering his last 12 appearances.  He has allowed 8 hits (all singles) and 2 walks in those innings.

Oh has contributed substantially to the rebound in one-run games.  He has pitched in 13 of the last 16, winning 2 (including last night’s game), losing none, and saving 8 of 9 with a 0.61 ERA in 14.2 innings.

Zach Duke came to the rescue of the struggling Matt Bowman after Matt had loaded the bases in the bottom of the tenth.  This is more than a little scary, as Duke has issued 7 walks and hit a batter in his first 12 Cardinal innings, but he nailed down the save.  His control problems aside, Duke has stranded 11 of the 14 batters he’s inherited (including all three last night) and allowed just 1 run of his own (0.73 ERA).

Duke has been involved in 6 one-run games since joining the Cards.  He lost one of them (on that bases loaded walk against Chicago), but has allowed only that 1 run in his 5 innings in these games.  Last night’s save was his first as a Cardinal.

The Cardinal pitching staff has responded to the challenge of the last 16 one-run games with a 2.90 ERA and a .232 batting average against.

They came to the rescue last night, and have had to with some frequency lately.  The sometimes high-flying Cardinal offense has stubbed its collective toe over the last two series as they have run into the feared pitching staffs in Oakland and Milwaukee.  They have scored just 17 runs over these last 5 games (3.4 per) and are hitting .228 in those games.  They have drawn 10 walks and struck out 54 times in that span.

This doesn’t apply to Yadier Molina, who just keeps hitting.  With a single and a double last night, Yadi has hit in 6 of his last 7 games (with multiple hits in 3 of the 6).  Yadi is 11 for his last 29 (.379).

Since the All-Star Break, Molina has been hitting .345 (49 of 142).

The last 16 one-run games haven’t been distinguished by a lot of offense – they rarely are – but Molina is one who has been a consistent presence.  He has played in 15 of them, hitting .300 (18 for 60) and driving in three runs – one of them a game-winner (his walk off hit by pitch against Cincinnati on August 8) and another was a late-inning game-changer (his game-tying, ninth-inning double against the Mets and Jeurys Familia on July 27).

Stephen Piscotty has been particularly stung by the As’ and Brewers’ pitching staffs.  He is now 3 for 19 (.158) with 10 strikeouts in the last 5 games after striking out all four times up last night.  Piscotty has struggled more in the second half than expected with a .238 average, but he does have 9 home runs and 25 RBIs since the Break.

Piscotty’s struggles have been amplified in the recent one-run games.  He has played in all of the last 16, hitting just .145 (9 for 62) in those games.  Stephen hit .329/.375/.534 in the one-run games he played in last year.

Tommy Pham was 0 for 4 and stretched his hitless streak to 14 at bats.  He has struck out in 12 of them (three times last night).  He has also seen a first-pitch strike in 12 of the 17 plate appearances covered by this streak.  Of the last 81 pitches thrown to him, Tommy has swung at just 28 (35%) and has missed on that swing 15 times (54%).  Of these last 12 strikeouts, Pham has been caught looking 5 times.

Since the All-Star Break, Pham has struck out 43 times in 96 at bats and is hitting .229 (with 22 hits).  He does have 6 home runs among those hits.  Pham has played in 14 of the last 16 one-run games with marginal success.  He carries a .200 average (8 for 40) with 0 runs batted in and 18 strikeouts.  In 42 career one-run games (of which he’s started 26), Pham is a .237 career hitter, but a .447 career slugger as he has hit 5 home runs in those games.

The team-wide season-long batting average in one-run games is .228, while they score an average of 3.87 runs per game in these contests.

After amassing just 7 hits in 10 innings last night, the Cardinal’s team batting average has faded to .249 in the second half.

Last night’s win gives St Louis the series victory, regardless of what happens tonight.  They have now won 20 series, lost 18, and split 5.  After struggling to win the opening game of a series for much of the year, the Cardinals have suddenly gotten fairly proficient at it.  They have opened 10 of their last 13 series with wins, which makes the fact that they’ve only won 6 of those series all the more disappointing.  For the season, the Cardinals are 15-4-1 in series when they win the first game.  The record in the games of those series is 44-17.

On The Road Again

On the road again.  We just can’t wait to get on the road again.

When last we left our heroes, they were wrapping up a 9-0 victory in Philadelphia that finished up the last road trip at 6-3 (after an 0-2 start).  Again, the team was starting to feel pretty good about itself.

One frustrating 2-4 home stand later – composed of series losses to both a Met team that they could have helped themselves a lot by beating, and an Oakland team that is one of the worst in the American League – and all the old concerns begin cropping up again.

But not to worry.  It was time to go on the road again.

The 2016 Cardinals began their penultimate road trip of the season – a three-city, nine-game affair – in Milwaukee last night, where they opened up a 3-1 lead behind Carlos Martinez, gave it all back and then some as Matthew Bowman and Kevin Siegrist struggled, and then finally rallied late from a 5-3 deficit to wrest the game away from the Brewers, 6-5 and give Miguel Socolovich his first victory of the season (box score).

With the victory, St Louis is now 39-24 on the road and 30-37 at home.  The only thing more puzzling than this disparity is trying to explain it.  Almost without fail, anomalies like this leave a statistical footprint.  This one is uncommonly difficult to find.

You start with the offensive run differential.  This is the most visible difference.  In 67 home games, the Cardinals have put 295 runs on the board (4.40 runs per game).  In 63 road games, they have scored 352 runs (5.59 per game).  So, this certainly seems like the smoking gun.  But accounting for those extra runs is a puzzle.

At this point of the season, St Louis is hitting .256 at home and .260 on the road.  Their on base percentage at home is .325 against .332 on the road.  They slug .433 at home and .466 on the road.  All of these numbers are modestly better on the road than they are at home.  They OPS .798 away from home and .758 at Busch III.  It’s a difference all right, but not a 1.19 run per game difference.

The prevailing theory has to do with the relative difficulty of hitting home runs in Busch III.  The Cards, they say, have re-invented themselves as a fly ball hitting team in a ballpark that doesn’t really reward fly ball hitters.

And there is something to this.  In 67 home games, the Cards have 86 home runs (one every 29.3 plate appearances), and 101 home runs in 63 road games (one every 25.0 plate appearances).  A difference, but how much?  Given that this difference is spread over 5000 plate appearances, it works out to the difference between someone who would hit 17 home runs in 500 PAs at home hitting 20 home runs in 500 PAs on the road.

So, I’m going to say that the home run factor is about half of the run differential.  St Louis has scored 57 more runs on the road (352-295) and the runs resulting from home runs have accounted for 31 more runs on the road (160-129).  So where is the rest of it?

There are two other things that decidedly distinguish the road Cardinals from the home Cardinals.  First is their ability to sustain big innings.  The Cards have scored in 166 of their 589 home innings (28.2%) and 172 of their 576 road innings (29.9%).  But the Cards have scored just 1 run in 93 of those 166 home innings (56%), while they were held to just 1 run in only 80 of the 172 road innings (46.5%).  They scored two runs in an inning 43 times on away as opposed to 38 times at home.  Three-run innings are 25 on the road and 19 at home.  Four-run innings are 12 each.  Five run innings have happened 9 times on the road and 3 times at home.  And six-run innings are three on the road and one at Busch.

Home runs account for only a piece of this difference.  The Cards have 27 home runs in their 43 two-run innings on the road, but have hit 24 in their 38 two-run innings at home.  The 25 times they’ve scored three runs in an inning on the road have included 14 home runs.  The 19 times they’ve done this at home have involved 12 home runs.  In the four-run innings (which are 12 each), the Cards have more home runs at home (10) than on the road (9).

Hits with runners in scoring position?  Like everything else, slightly better on the road (.279 to .271), but not enough to account for the difference.

The other element is late-inning lightning.  In 67 home games, St Louis has scored 239 runs from the first through seventh innings.  In their 63 away games they have scored a slightly higher 250 runs through those same innings.  They have scored 54 runs in the eighth and ninth innings of their home games and 95 in their road games in those innings.  Randal Grichuk hit the two-run homer to tie last night’s game in the eighth inning and the Cards won with a run in the ninth – a very familiar refrain when the Cards play on the road.

Again, more than a park factor is going on here.  If a park is easy to hit home runs in, it is as easy to hit a home run there in the first inning as it is the last.

All of this has the feeling of something that’s part real (a discernible difference in the ability to hit home runs) and part mental.  Sustaining big innings and late inning rallies aren’t connected to ballparks.  The Cards hit the same when they score three runs in an inning at home as they do anywhere else.  The same with scoring runs in the eighth inning.  They just do it more frequently on the road.

When you’re more confident that the ball will leave the park, your at bats are more confident.  If your home park is in your head, you will press more.  On some level, I think everyone accepts that this is a principally mental issue.

This is also true on the pitching side.

Here the home/road difference is all but invisible.  The ERA’s are identical – 4.02 at home and 4.02 on the road.  The unearned runs are also all but identical (23 allowed at home and 22 on the road). The batting line against the staff is actually better at home (.250/.309/.380 vs .256/.320/.412) – which adds credibility to the thought that Busch is significantly pitcher friendly.

But there is a fairly glaring difference in the bullpen, which struggles with a 3.85 ERA at home and only 3.06 on the road.  In fact, the Cardinals have pretty much hemorrhaged runs at home while depending on their set-up men to hold slim leads or maintain small deficits.  While the Cardinals are leading by no more than one run, tied, or trailing by no more than two, the Cardinal middle relief has served up 59 runs (53 earned) in 81.2 innings (5.84 ERA).  In that same situation on the road, the ERA is 2.85.

As problematical as the offensive brown-out has been at home, there have been far too many games lost when the set-up men have imploded before we could get the game to the closers.

Again, I’m not sure why these same pitchers should perform this function so much better away than at home.  When evaluating the truth behind a number, if there is no direct cause, the result is either coincidence or mental.  Mental can be fixed and coincidence will fade away.

In other news: your 2016 St Louis Cardinals wrapped up their 130th game of the season with three more home runs. They now have 187 for the season and are on pace to hit 233.  This was their eighteenth consecutive game with a home run, and the fifth time in that span that they’ve hit at least three.

For the season, they now have 53 multi-homer games, including 21 with at least three home runs.  They have now surpassed the season home run total of the 2006 team (185).  Next up will be the 214 home runs hit by the 2004 team, as this edition of the Cardinals moves toward becoming just the third St Louis team in this century to amass 200 home runs.  In multi-homer games they still have a ways to go to catch that 2004 team that did this 67 times.  Their three-homer games have tied the 2006 team.  The next time they do this they will tie the 22 achieved by both the 2002 and 2003 teams.

Cards Have Lost that RISP Feeling

With Matt Carpenter at third and two outs in the first inning, Stephen Piscotty looped a single into short left-center.  It would be the Cardinal’s only hit of the game (in six at bats) with a runner in scoring position (RISP).  Oakland jumped out in front with 5 runs in the first three innings and never looked back on their way to a 7-4 victory (box score).

On Friday, June 17, in the middle game of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers, the Cards were, nonetheless, 3 for 7 with runners in scoring position.  At that point in the season, St Louis was hitting .314 as a team in RISP situations.  They have hit .234 in those situations since.  They hit .195 (8 for 41) with runners in scoring position over yet another disappointing (2-4) home stand.

As a team, St Louis hit .286 and slugged .495 over the home stand, but scored just 27 runs during the 6 games (4.50 per) because they rarely managed to get that hit when it counted.

Carpenter was the offensive highlight yesterday.  He collected 3 of the 8 Cardinal hits – 2 doubles and a home run.  He, thus, pushed his average to .304 (7 for 23) and his slugging percentage to .652 (2 doubles and 2 home runs) in the just concluded home stand.  He drove in 2 runs in the six games.

Carpenter – back at leadoff – had no RISP at bats yesterday and had 3 for the home stand.  He went 0 for 3.  Carpenter hit .328/.460/.657 with runners in scoring position in the first half.  Between his injury and his spot in the batting order, Matt has only had 13 RISP at bats since then.  He has contributed 2 singles (.154) in those at bats.  Since 2012, Carp is a .322 RISP hitter.

Jedd Gyorko has one infield single in 11 at bats since his 2-run homer in the first Oakland game – a streak marked by a lot of awkward at bats swinging at outside pitches.  Jedd has swung at 57% of the pitches thrown him in his last 11 at bats – including the first pitch six times.

Jedd has hit 8 home runs this month and driven in 15 runs in 23 games.  He is, however, hitting just .227 (20 for 88) in August.

Gyorko also had no at bats yesterday with runners in scoring position, and went 0-7 in RISP situations during the home stand and 5 for 27 (.185) in RISP situations since the All-Star Break.

August’s dismal .206 team RISP average includes Kolten Wong’s 0 for 10 and Matt Holliday’s 0 for 11.

Of course, Oakland was also just 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position.  Their one hit, though, was Stephen Vogt’s third-inning, game-icing, three-run homer.  It’s also true that Oakland didn’t need to get hits with runners in scoring position.  Vogt’s last time up – in the eighth inning with a 6-4 lead and runners at first and third with one out – he dribbled the ball back to the mound and got the RBI when Zach Duke bobbled it two or three times.

And then there was Jaime Garcia.  With serving up a two-run home run in the first and Vogt’s three-run shot in the third, it was uphill all day for the offense.  Jaime is doing everything he can to be dumped from the rotation.  His last three times out, Jaime has given up runs early and often – 16 of them in the 16 innings he’s lasted in those games.  With Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes already in the rotation, St Louis has few options.

Since the All Star Break, Garcia has made 9 starts – 2 of them quality starts.  He is 4-4 with a 5.33 ERA in those starts.  He’s managed 52.1 innings in those games, serving up 10 home runs.

Garcia gave one hit (the home run) in two RISP at bats yesterday.  He pitched the first and last game of the home stand, and saw Met and Athletic batters go 4 for 7 against him (including a double and 2 homers) with runners in scoring position.  Up until this month, Jaime was doing OK with runners in scoring position, holding opposing batters to a .250/.317/.331 line.  In his five starts this month, that line rose to .320/.370/.720.  RISP batters went 8 for 25 against Jaime with 3 home runs.

Jonathan Broxton – after doing well in a few low leverage situations – was given a chance to hold the game at 5-4 when he came into the eighth inning.  He faced four batters retiring just one.  He left with one run in and runners at first and third – setting up Vogt’s dribbler.

Broxton has been scored on in 5 of his last 10 games, covering 9 innings.  In those innings, Broxton has given 10 runs (9 earned) on 16 hits – including 3 home runs – and 5 walks.  His ERA in those games is 9.00.  Jonathan’s second half has been mostly disastrous.  In 16 games and 14 innings he has seen opponents hit .339/.382/.565 against him while he’s struggled to a 7.07 ERA.

Duke’s outing was better than it will be remembered.  He faced three batters with runners in scoring position and got two strikeouts and a dribbler.  He faced 7 batters with runners in scoring position over the home stand and didn’t give up a hit.  He still allowed two runs on the error and a bases loaded walk that set up the Saturday loss.  As a Cardinal he has allowed one hit – an infield hit at that – in 15 RISP at bats against him.

The Cardinals begin the last series of the month weighed down by a 4.54 team ERA – with the rotation accountable for a 4.98 mark, with only 10 quality starts in the month’s first 24 games.

After briefly being back up to scoring five runs a game, the Oakland series (9 runs in 3 games) dropped the Cards offense back down to 4.97 runs per game for the season.

Weaver Wins First

Making his very first start in front of his home crowd, the night belonged to Luke Weaver, who gave six great innings in the best of his three starts to date.  His arm, near-perfect bullpen work, and just enough offense brought the Cards a 3-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics (box score).

In so doing, he helped send the Cards – who have looked recently like they are thinking about maybe going on a hot streak – to their eighth win in their last 11 games.

Weaver mentioned a few things that he did differently this time around – not giving the hitters too much credit, not nibbling, slowing the game down, etc.  A few of these are reflected in the numbers, comparing last night to his first two starts.

In his first two starts, he only got 10 ground balls from the 29 batters who put the ball in play against him (34.5%).  Last night, 9 of 15 hit the ball on the ground (60%).  In his first two starts, he threw 4.41 pitches per batter and faced 4.56 batters per inning.  It took him an average of 20.11 pitches to get through each of his first nine innings.  He threw 3.96 pitches per batter last night while facing just 4 batters per inning.  His six innings last night only cost him 15.83 pitches per inning.

Weaver is a work in progress.  I think, ideally, they would have liked to give him a few more AAA starts before bringing him to St Louis.  Last night was a step forward.

Much scrutinized throughout the year, as the Cardinals are now looking like they are putting things together it is the bullpen that has been one of the principle success stories of the last 11 games.  With several short outings by starters, the pen has shouldered 37 of the last 100 innings, posting a 1.95 ERA and stranding 13 of 14 inherited runners.

Matthew Bowman gave us a good seventh inning.  He walked a batter, but has only given up one hit to the last 12 batters who have had at bats against him (.083).

With three ground ball outs, Bowman has gotten ground balls from 23 of the 31 batters who have put the ball in play against him in August (74.2%).  He is the team ground ball leader for the month – and for the year, too, for any pitcher who has worked more than 10 innings.  He has induced 105 ground balls and just 60 fly balls – a 63.6% ratio.  Zach Duke has a 65.2% ratio (15 of 23), but that is in only 10 innings as a Cardinal.  Among rotation members, Jaime Garcia is slightly more likely to get a ground ball than Carlos Martinez (57.93% to 57.86%).

It took Bowman only 13 pitches to navigate through four batters (3.25 per).  He has needed just 138 pitches to account for the 39 batters he has faced this month (3.54 per).

The walk does highlight one area of concern.  Bowman threw only 6 strikes among his 14 pitches last night (46.2%).  Before the All-Star Break, Bowman was throwing strikes 64.6% of the time (332 of 514).  Since the break, Matthew has tossed 312 pitches, getting strikes with only 184 (59%).  They have been trying to find him some extra rest, so maybe the inconsistent work load is affecting his control?

Kevin Siegrist threw an encouraging inning – he has been scuffling a bit lately.  While he’s created a few stressful situations for himself his last few times out, his three-up-three-down eighth was reminiscent of his first half performance.  Before the break, Siegrist would face just 3.87 batters per inning.  Up until last night, he had been pitching to 4.30 per inning.

Where Bowman gets ground balls, Siegrist gets fly balls.  Both batters who put the ball in play against Kevin last night, hit it in the air.  Since the All-Star Break, 31 of the 45 batters who have put the ball in play against Kevin have hit the ball in the air (68.9%).  For the season, Siegrist has given 42 ground balls and 83 fly balls.  His 66.4% fly ball ratio is the team’s highest for pitchers with more than 15 innings.  Tyler Lyons was a distant second at 59.4%.  Adam Wainwright – at 54.9% – has the rotation’s highest rate (not really good news for Adam).

Even though the inning was clean of baserunners, most of the troubling trends that have haunted Kevin recently were still present.  It took him 18 pitches to work his way through three batters.  This month, Kevin has made 83 pitches to 17 batters.  His 4.88 pitches per leads the team this month, with Alex Reyes a distant second at 4.47.  Before the break, Kevin was clipping through his innings at a reasonable average of 15.37 pitches per inning.  In the season’s second half, his 18.49 pitches per inning is the highest for any pitcher with at least 10 innings in that span.  Luke Weaver is now second at 18.40.

Seung-hwan Oh – who wrapped up the ninth – is working on another string of scoreless innings.  He is up to 11.2 now over his last 9 appearances.  He has allowed 6 hits and 2 walks in that span while striking out 16 (although he has no strikeouts in his last two outings).  Since the All-Star Break, Oh has saved 11 of 12 with a 2.14 ERA.  In those 21 innings, he has struck out 27 and walked 3 (1 intentionally).

In nailing down the save, Oh faced only three batters.  Seung-hwan cycles through innings more efficiently than anyone on the staff.  For the season, he only faces 3.84 batters per inning – slightly better than Tyler Lyons, who was working to only 3.90 per inning before his knee injury ended his season.  Carlos Martinez is the best in the rotation, but his 4.11 batters faced per inning is quite a bit behind Oh.

Oh has been even better in the second half, facing just 3.62 per inning.

While the offense was more muted than it has been recently, Jedd Gyorko got the obligatory home run, and Brandon Moss did collect two hits and extend his hitting streak to 5 games – getting two hits in each of the last three.  Brandon has 8 hits (5 singles and 3 home runs) in his last 21 at bats – a .381 batting average and a .810 slugging percentage.

Moss is putting together a seriously strong August.  He is now 27 for 88 this month (.307) with 5 doubles and 8 home runs.  He is slugging .636 this month with 20 runs batted in in just 21 starts.

For quite some time, pitchers have been throwing a surprising number of first-pitch strikes to Brandon.  As this continues to happen, Brandon is beginning to swing at that pitch more and more often.  Through the All Star Break, Brandon was swinging at a fairly low 36% of the first pitches thrown to him, and seeing first pitch strikes 60.4% of the time overall – about average.

In the season’s second half, Moss has been offering at 44.8% of the first pitches thrown him and is getting strike one in a team-leading 71.9% of his plate appearances.  Over the last 11 games, this trend has only amplified.  Brandon is seeing first pitch strikes 76.6 % of the time and swinging at them 57.4% of the time.  He swung at the first pitch three of his four times up last night.

In spite of the fact that Moss has swung at a very high 56.6% of all pitches thrown to him over the last eleven games (including 8 of the 11 he saw last night), Brandon has been hitting .349 (15 for 43 with 6 home runs) and slugging .767 in those games.

No one else had much success last night.  Stephen Piscotty saw his five-game hitting streak end as he went 0 for 3 with a walk.  Stephen had hit in 10 of his previous 12 games, going 15 for 50 (.300), with 5 home runs, 11 runs batted in, and a .660 slugging percentage.

Stephen only swung the bat 4 times in 4 plate appearances, but didn’t swing and miss.  He put the ball in play with three of the swings and fouled the other pitch off.  The last 120 times Piscotty has swung the bat, he only has 20 misses.  With the other 100 swings, Stephen has 66 fouls and 34 swings that put the ball in play.

Piscotty took 10 pitches last night, but only 2 were called strikes.  No one on the team hates to let a good strike go by more than Stephen.  For the season, only 26.3 percent of the pitches that he takes are called strikes.  For the month of August, only 23.9% of the pitches he takes are called strikes.

Everyone knows that Matt Carpenter rarely chases the first pitch of an at bat.  In the second half of the season, though, he’s actually been a bit more aggressive, swinging at the first pitch thrown him 19.8% of the time (up significantly from the 13.1% he swung at in the first half but still well below the 35.3% team average in the second half).  He swung at two of the four last night.

Since the break, he has been the second-most selective Cardinal when it comes to swinging at the first pitch.  Jhonny Peralta (who didn’t offer at the first pitch in any of his three plate appearances yesterday) has only swung at 19.1%.

Like Piscotty, Peralta didn’t miss any of his four swings.  He also put the ball in play with three of his swings and fouled the other.  Peralta rarely misses when he swings – just 19.9% on the season and 17.6% of the time in the second half.  Last year he missed somewhat more – 22.1%, which was about average.  I wonder if someone with a thumb issue might be a little more cautious with his swing.

Peralta’s RBI came on a sacrifice fly.  Over the last 11 games, the Cards have been presented with a runner at third and less than two outs 19 times.  They have scored that runner on 11 of those occasions.

Randal Grichuk hit one ball hard, but finished 0 for 3.  Trying to climb out of a deep batting average hole, Grichuk’s season average fell back to .232 while his second half average slipped back to .247. Randal, however, has 7 second-half home runs contributing to a .607 slugging percentage.

Randal was called out on strikes twice last night.  I would have to check, but that may be a first.  In his first 91 plate appearances of the second half, Grichuk had only been caught looking 5 times.

While by no means is he our most aggressive hitter, Randal still profiles as aggressive.  He swung at 8 of the 15 pitches he saw last night and swings at 52% for the season – which ranks him third behind Yadier Molina (who swings at 53%) and Piscotty (who swings at 52.2%).  Catching Randal looking twice in the same game is some trick.

Tommy Pham got a start in left and 3 plate appearances.  He walked once and struck out the other two times.  Since the All-Star Break, Tommy has had 106 plate appearances.  He has hit home runs in six of them, walked in 14 of them, and struck out in 38 of them.  His second half batting line is .244/.358/.500.

I frequently have a hard time imagining what goes on in Tommy’s head when he’s at the plate.  Last night, in 3 plate appearances, he saw 16 pitches (5.33 per).  He took 13 of the 16 – even though 5 were strikes.  Selectivity is fine, but the three times he swung, he didn’t necessarily swing at strikes.  He missed on two of his three swings.

Over his last 19 plate appearances he has seen 88 pitches (4.63 per).  He has taken 56 of them even though 21 of those pitches were strikes.  He then missed on 17 of the 32 swings he did take, frequently at that slider off the plate and in the dirt.  He has struck out 11 times in those plate appearances, 7 times swinging and 4 times looking.

Wainwright Has no Answers for the Mets

Adam Wainwright will go back to the drawing board.  His struggles – dating from the last time he faced the Mets – continued in a 10-6 loss (box score).

On July 27 in New York, Wainwright was sent out to pitch the seventh inning, holding a 3-1 lead.  Thirty-one brutal pitches later – with no relief in sight – Adam served up the two-run homer that sent him from the game on the downside of a 4-3 score.

Up until that game, Adam had been on a terrific roll.  He had given us 10 quality starts out of his previous 12 games, and had gone 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA, allowing 23 runs on 68 hits (just 3 home runs) in 80.1 innings.  He walked 18 batters in those games.

Beginning with that inning, Adam has lasted just 24.2 innings over his five subsequent starts, allowing 28 runs (23 earned) on 37 hits (6 of them home runs) and 11 walks.  He is 0-3 with an 8.39 ERA and a .349/.412/.651 batting line.

Is Adam broken?  Giving up on him is the easy answer.  But the 12-game run before his recent struggles is compelling evidence that there is still a quality pitcher in there.  But things are different for Adam.  Considering how long it took for him to find his command, how easily it escaped him, and how difficult it’s been for him to regain, it’s fair to say that Adam at almost 35, may have to do some things differently.  Perhaps some aspects of his preparation will have to change.  Maybe he’ll have to monitor himself more closely on video.  Some things that he might have been able to take for granted before may make a huge difference now.

My point is that I don’t think his last 24 innings are as representative as the 86 previous innings.  Something is going on with Wainwright, but, unless there’s an injury that we don’t know about, this is more about adjustment than ability.

The traffic on the bases gave Adam the opportunity to pitch to seven batters with a double-play in order.  He got two of them to oblige.  Some aspect of his game have improved in the second half, and this is one of them.  Up until the All-Star Break, Wainwright was getting that double-play ball only 13.6% of the time (the team average is 13.0%).  Since the break, he has gotten that DP 21.1% of the time (8 of 38 opportunities).  This is the highest percentage on the team for any pitcher facing at least 10 double play opportunities since the break.

Carlos Martinez has the rotation’s best rate over the course of the season.  Carlos gets that DP 20.9% of the time (27 for 129).  Of the Cardinals who have pitched significant innings, Tyler Lyons had the best rate at 26.1% (6 of 23).  Mike Leake hasn’t been nearly as proficient at this as I would have suspected.  He is at 10.1% for the season (10 for 99) and 6.1% (2 for 33) since the break.  Mike, of course, has been betrayed more than a few times by his defense.

Adam also saw 2 of the 3 runners that made it to third against him with less than two outs come home to score.  For the season, Adam has now surrendered that runner from third 60% of the time (24 of 45).  Of the rotation members, the only one surrendering that runner more frequently is Leake, who has seen 27 of 39 come home (69.2%).

Jaime Garcia is the only rotation member who gives up that run less than 50% of the time (17 of 35).  In the pen, Seung-hwan Oh has allowed only 43.8 % (7 of 16) and Kevin Siegrist 46.2% (6 of 13 – although he allowed 1 of 2 last night).  The team average is 52.4%.

The entire staff has been much better at this since the break.  Of the last 98 opposing runners to reach third with less than two outs, just 44 have come home (44.9%).  Matthew Bowman – who has done a couple of Houdini acts lately – has been a significant part of this number.  He has allowed only 3 of the last 10 such runners to make it home.

Reduced to low leveraged situations, Jonathan Broxton contributed two excellent innings, allowing no runs.  Along the way he struck out Asdrubal Cabrera and Curtis Granderson – both swinging.  All of his last 9 strikeouts have been swinging.  During the season’s first half, 11 of Broxton’s 28 strikeouts went down looking (39.3%).  Since the break, only 2 of his 14 strikeouts (14.3%) have been called third strikes.

Called third strikes can be seen as one indicator of Martinez’ growth as a pitcher just this year.  Through the first half of the season, only 24 of Carlos’ 91 strikeouts was a called third strike – about the percentage you would expect from a high-octane fastball pitcher.  Since the break, Carlos has just 33 strikeouts, but 16 of them have been caught looking (48.5%).  This ratio leads the staff since the break.  Wainwright is second at 41.7%.  Leake is at a team-leading 41.7% for the season.

Alex Reyes has 13 major league strikeouts – 10 of them swinging.  Matthew Bowman (23.1%) and Oh (24.4%) are the other two who’s looking strikeouts are less than one fourth of their total strikeouts.

Jonathan threw 16 of his 20 pitches for strikes and moved through the 7 batters he faced at a clip of just 2.86 pitches per.  In the first half, it took Broxton 4.09 pitches per batter.  He has trimmed that to 3.74 pitches per batter in the second half.

Whether his start is good or not so good, Jaime Garcia has been our most efficient pitcher all season needing just 3.47 pitches per batter faced.  Leake is second at 3.49.

Kevin Siegrist still looks shaky.  He was tagged for a run last night, and now has given up runs in four of his last nine appearances.

Siegrist – more of a fly ball pitcher – doesn’t help himself out with double plays the way other pitchers can.  Neither of the batters who could have hit into a double play for him last night did so, and for the season Kevin has gotten only 3 in 34 opportunities (9.1%).

When he is pitching well, Jaime Garcia is among the best in this category.  In his four August starts, Garcia has induced 1 double play from 15 potential candidates (6.7%).

Last night, the Mets swung at only 8 of Siegrist’s 24 pitches.  In the first half of the season, batters swung at a healthy 46.7% of Kevin’s offerings.  Since the break, they are only swinging at 39.8%.  Only the recently arrived Zach Duke is having a lower percent of his pitches swung at (38.3%).  Over the whole season, of pitchers who have thrown at least 250 pitches, Adam Wainwright has seen batters offer at only 43.9% of his pitches.  Kevin threw strikes 65.9% of the time in the first half and only 58.1% of the time since then.

Oh is our most tempting pitcher.  Batters are swinging at 52.3% of his offerings – 58.9% this month.  He is the only pitcher we have that batters are swinging at more than half the time.

Kevin’s control issues have taken a toll.  The four batters he faced last night cost Siegrist 24 pitches.  He has averaged 4.78 pitches to the 33 batters he has faced this month, the highest average on the staff.  In the first half, he dispatched batters with an average of just 3.99 pitches.  As his control has eroded, that number has risen to 4.37 pitches in the second half.  Of the pitchers who have faced at least 15 batters this half, only rookies Luke Weaver (4.41) and Reyes (4.40) are throwing more pitches per batter.

Of pitchers facing at least 100 batters, Trevor Rosenthal is still the highest on the team, averaging 4.44 pitches per batsman.  Oh throws 4.21 per.  Michael Wacha at 3.83 leads the starting rotation.

While the pitching staff continues through its season-long slog, it continues to waste good run support.  Down 7-0 at one point, the plucky Cardinal offense tried valiantly to make a game of it, finishing with 6 runs on 11 hits and 4 home runs.  Since Randal Grichuk launched that birthday grand-slam ten games ago, the Cards have scored 6.3 runs per game and hit .294 with a .542 team slugging percentage.  They have 24 home runs in the last ten games.  They also now have 38 in the 21 games in August, and 64 in the 38 games since the All-Star Break.

Jedd Gyorko contributed to the comeback attempt.  He had 2 hits including his sixth home run in his last 11 games.  He has 14 since the All-Star Break.

Brandon Moss added two home runs.  He has 25 now for the season.  In the last ten games, Brandon is 13 for 39 (.333), the hits being 7 singles and 6 home runs.  He has 12 runs batted in and a .795 slugging percentage during these ten games.

Stephen Piscotty contributed two hits – including his twentieth home run.  Stephen has a five-game hitting streak going, in which he is hitting .409 (9 for 22) with 3 home runs and 5 runs batted in.  He has a .325/.438/.675 batting line during this little hitting revival.

No home run for Grichuk last night, but he doubled and singled.  Since his return from Memphis, Randal is 15 for 44 (.341) with 5 home runs, 11 RBIs in 12 games, and an .886 slugging percentage.

Jhonny Peralta’s hitting streak came to an end after 6 games and a .393 average (11 for 28).

Of the 41 series played so far, St Louis has opened 23 of them with a loss.  This was the tenth of those series that they’ve come back to force a rubber game.   They are now 5-5 in those rubber games.  They are 26-21 in those series after losing the first game.

Last night yielded four more home runs.  Through 126 games, the 2016 St Louis Cardinals have slugged 181 home runs – a 233 home run pace.  They also have home runs in 14 straight games (12 of them with more than one).  This was the 52nd time they have hit more than one, the twentieth time they have hit more than 2 and the eleventh time this season that they have hit at least four.  The 2006 team was the last to hit more than 181 for the season (185) and to hit three in a game more than 20 times (21).  Fifty-two multi-home run games haven’t happened here since the 2004 team did it 67 times.  Eleven games of four or more home runs has not been done before by a Cardinal team in this century.

Cards Take Early Lead on Mets and Never Look Back

Everybody got a hit last night (St Louis ended with 19 hits) – with eight of the nine batters getting at least two.  This list included starting pitcher Carlos Martinez, who only allowed the Mets 4.  St Louis jumped ahead for good in the third inning, added to their lead throughout,  and rolled to a convincing 8-1 victory (box score).

With the win, St Louis has now won 7 of its last 9 and has done so in mostly complete game fashion.  Offensively, the Cardinals have hit .294 and slugged .532 over the last nine games.  They have hit 20 home runs in those games and have scored 57 runs (6.33 per game).  For their part, the pitching staff has contributed a 3.18 ERA to the mix.

St Louis went 7 for 10 last night while the game was still tied, and 11 for 21 (.524) while they still led by less than three runs.  Over the last nine games, this team is hitting .323 and slugging .556 when they are either tied or leading by less than three runs.

After hitting into some tough luck recently, Stephen Piscotty finds himself in the middle of the offensive revival.  With three hits last night, Piscotty’s last 43 plate appearances show 6 singles, 2 doubles, 3 home runs, 9 runs batted in – 3 of them game-winning RBIs – 4 walks, and 3 hit by pitches.  His nine-game batting line reads .306/.419/.611.

Yadier Molina has started the home stand off red hot.  He has three hits in both games, giving him a 6 for 10 start.  With the hits, Yadi pushes his second half average up to .358 (44 for 123) with 2 home runs and 12 runs batted in.

Yadi led off the second with a double (and was promptly thrown out trying to steal third).  The score was tied at one at the time, and was the only time last night that Yadi came up when his team wasn’t ahead in the game.  Since the break, Yadi is 31 for 77 (.403) when his team is tied or trailing in the game.

Molina (now 34 years old) has started the last 17 games behind the plate, and 24 of the last 25.  He is on pace to play in a career-high 148 games.

Brandon Moss didn’t hit a home run (it’s almost newsworthy when he doesn’t), but he had two sharply lined singles.  Over the last nine games, Brandon is hitting .324 (11 for 34) and slugging .676 (4 of the hits are home runs).  He has 9 RBIs in his last 9 games.

Jhonny Peralta had two hits last night, pushing his hitting streak to 6 games.  He has multiple hits in 3 of his last 4 games.  When the offense was plodding, Peralta’s was one of the bats that were prominently missing.  He now has hits in 11 of his last 28 at bats (.393).  Peralta is now hitting .319 for the month of August (22 for 69).

Jhonny’s two hits came after the Cards were already ahead by four runs.  He was 0 for 2 up to that point.  Since the All-Star Break, Peralta has had great success when batting while the Cards are trailing by 2 runs or more.  He is 12 for 26 (.462) in those at bats.  He is also 5 for 9 in the second half when he bats with at least a 4 run lead – those hits include a home run.  But in his last 47 plate appearances, batting when his team trailed by no more than one, was tied, or ahead by less than four runs, Jhonny is just 6 for 44 (.136).

In the fourth inning, with the Cards ahead 2-1, Randal Grichuk lofted a home run over the right-center field wall.  It is the stroke that we’ve been waiting for him to re-discover and that we hope he can hang on to.  Smooth, fluid, not violent – it was the natural swing of a slugger confident in his ability to hit it out of any part of any ballpark.  It was a thing of beauty.

It was also a microcosm of Grichuk’s season since his return from Memphis.  In 11 games (10 starts), Randal is 13 for 40 – a very respectable .325 average.  But only one of the hits is a single.  The rest are 6 doubles, a triple and 5 home runs.  Randal has 11 RBIs in his last 11 games and is slugging .900 in those at bats.  He has been the fulcrum of the re-vitalized offense.

While the game was still tied in the second, Grichuk doubled (nothing come of that as he was thrown out at the plate).  Two innings later, ahead by one run, he hit the home run.  He would later come up with a 4 run lead and draw a walk.  The only time he was retired last night was on a strikeout with the Cards already ahead by five.

During the month of August (which is mostly since his recall from AAA) Grichuk is 10 for 21 (.476) with a 1.333 slugging percentage (4 doubles, 1 triple and 4 home runs) when he is up with the Cards even, trailing by no more than one run or ahead by no more than three runs.

After two hits last night (and, at least for now they are hits), Carlos Martinez is a .333 hitter (6 for 18) when he hits with a lead of at least two runs.  Anything less than that, and his average shrinks to .207 (6 for 29).

The recent offensive surge has carried the Cards back over the five-runs-per-game mark.  After last night, they are scoring 5.01 per game.

From the mound, Carlos was dominant again last night, allowing 1 run on 4 hits in 8 innings.  Over his last two starts, he’s pitched 15 innings, giving 2 runs on 7 hits.  Nothing about what he’s doing looks accidental.  He’s the kid with the blazing fastball who can throw an array of unfair breaking pitches so you can’t sit on that fastball.  The better he commands the breaking stuff, the more dominant he becomes.

He also has a great competitive streak.  Carlos has pitched 54.2 innings this season while the game was tied.  His ERA in those innings is 2.47.  He almost always makes the other pitcher blink first.

Where he was frustrating in the first half was holding onto narrow leads.  Through the All-Star Break, Carlos pitched 11.1 innings with a one- or two-run lead.  In those innings, he walked 6 batters, gave 10 hits – including 2 home runs – and allowed 8 runs to score (6.35 ERA).

He’s worked with a one- or two-run lead for 13.2 innings so far in the season’s second half.  His 5 walks are still too many, but he’s allowed no home runs and only seen 4 runs score (2.63 ERA).  He’s very good now, but shows promise of being even better.  If he can close out the season as dominant as he’s been his last two starts, our chances of playing deep into October will greatly improve.

Three more home runs last night brings the season total to 177 through 125 games – a 229 home run pace.  The latest home run streak is 13 games, during which they have hit multiple home runs 11 times.  This was the third time during the streak that they hit at least 3, and they have totaled 28 in those games.

This was also the 51st multiple home run game of the season and the nineteenth time they have hit at least three in a game.  They have now surpassed the home run total of the 2008 team and are 8 home runs shy of the 185 that the 2006 club hit.  The 2006 team also had 21, three-homer games. They were the last Cardinal team to achieve that more than 19 times.  Fifty-one multi-home run games hasn’t been done in St Louis since the 2004 squad did it 67 times.

In a side note, the Chicago Cubs yesterday became the first team in baseball to 81 wins – and by quite a lot.  The Texas Rangers with 74 are the next closest.  This sounds like a good thing, but history says otherwise.  It has been 7 years since the first team to 81 wins has won the World Series (that team was the 2009 New York Yankees).  In the Wild Card era that stretches back to 1995 (20 years ago), the first team to win 81 games has been the team that wins the last game of the season only three times.  The other teams to pull this off were the 1998 Yankees (they of the 114 victories) and the 2007 Boston Red Sox (after they had already broken their curse).  The year that Boston broke their curse, they were the fourth team in baseball to win their 81st game.

On the other hand, Wild Card teams have won 6 of the last 20 World Series, and of the 40 teams that have played in these series’ 12 have been Wild Card teams.  The dynamic of this is pretty straightforward.  As more teams are invited into the post season tournament, the higher the premium on playing hot at the end of the season.  In general, Wild Card battles go down to about the last day of the season, so the team that carries that off is frequently playing their best ball of the season.

If, however, you are the first of all the teams in baseball to achieve 81 wins, then you have probably had an extended hot streak (or two) somewhere along the way already and are unlikely to have another one.  This makes it extremely likely that you will be brushed in the playoffs by that hot team.

The first team to 81 wins last year was your St Louis Cardinals.  It was, in many ways, a magical regular season.  It ended, as you will recall, less than gloriously.

Shaky Garcia Battered by Mets

The much anticipated home stand began with a dud as the always unreliable Jaime Garcia struggled with his mechanics, served up 5 runs in the first two innings (a recurring problem the Cards have had since the break), and was gone after four.  Three relievers calmed the scoring and the offense had a few moments of its own, but couldn’t overcome the early deficit, falling to New York, 7-4 (box score).

Jaime Garcia

Coming off the most promising season of his career, Garcia was hot and cold for most of the start of 2016.  Sixteen starts into his season, he had thrown 7 quality starts, pitched 96 innings, allowed just 8 home runs, and held a 6-6 record and a 3.84 ERA.  Not overwhelming numbers, but acceptable.

But, beginning with his last start before the All-Star Break on July 6 against Pittsburgh (5 innings 4 runs and a loss), Jaime’s season started to unravel.  Over his last nine starts – in spite of the fact that this span includes two dominating eight-inning performances against Atlanta and Cincinnati – Garcia has only those 2 quality starts and has survived just 50.1 innings while serving up 10 home runs (5 of them in his last 2 starts).  His ERA over this span is 5.36, while he has scuffled to a 4-3 record.

Of the last 31 runs Jaime has allowed, only one has been unearned.  This (allowing a lot of unearned runs) has been a problem throughout most of his career, so here is a note of progress.

This was the second time this season that Garcia started on six days of rest.  It was also the third time that he had pitched on more than 5 days.  All 3 efforts have ended poorly.  He made a June 8 start in Cincinnati under similar circumstances (two off days falling in between his starts).  He lasted only 4.2 innings that day, surrendering 5 runs on 13 hits (2 home runs).  The Cards pulled that one out, anyway, 12-7.  On July 15 Garcia made his first start of the second half after an eight-day layoff.  He made it 6.2 innings, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits.

Toss in his abortive start on three-days’ rest, and Jaime – in four games of irregular rest – has lasted 18.1 innings total in those games, giving 21 runs on 35 hits (including 5 home runs).  He is 0-2 with a 10.31 ERA and a .412/.444/.706 batting line against.  In 20 starts with either four or five days’ rest, Garcia has thrown 9 quality starts, totaled 122 innings, and posted a 10-7 record, a 3.39 ERA, and a batting line of .237/.305/.373.  No one who has followed Garcia’s career can be remotely surprised by this pattern.

Jaime’s loss last night was his ninth of the season.  That sets a career high.  His previous high was the 8 games he lost in 2010.  He was 13-8 that year with a 2.70 ERA in 163.1 innings.

This is Jaime’s fifth, 100+-inning season in the major leagues (out of 8 total seasons over the last 9 years).  Garcia (whose ERA presently sits at 4.37) has never had an ERA higher than 3.92 (in 121.2 innings back in 2012) in any previous season in which he has pitched at least 100 innings.

In 151 career games and 870.2 career innings, Jaime holds a 62-41 (.602) record and a 3.48 ERA.

Cardinal starters now carry a 5.57 ERA through the first 19 games in August.  The team ERA this month is 4.84.

Alex Reyes

Alex Reyes made the fifth appearance of his young career, working 2.1 innings.  He threw 33 pitches, 22 for strikes.  Through the first 9.1 innings of his career, Alex averages 16.5 pitches per inning and throws 62% of his pitches for strikes (96 of 154).  Command and efficiency were the principle concerns when Alex was promoted.  It’s early, but so far so good.

Zach Duke

Zach Duke worked out of some seventh-inning trouble, keeping the deficit at two runs.  Zach has now made 11 appearances as a Cardinal, allowing 1 run in 10 innings (0.90 ERA).  He has allowed only 7 hits, but has walked 6 (including 1 last night).  The walks make me nervous. Only 11 of his 19 pitches last night were strikes (58%), and during his brief Cardinal career he has thrown just 93 of his 162 pitches for strikes (57%).

He is also getting ground balls at a healthy rate.  Three of the four that he faced last night hit the ball on the ground.  Through his first 10 Cardinal innings, he has induced 15 ground balls against 8 fly balls (65.2% groundball rate).

Sam Tuivailala

Sam Tuivailala needed 28 pitches to get through his one inning.  He has thrown 124 pitches in his 5 major league innings this season (24.8 per).

In a telling insight into the current condition of the Cardinal bullpen, the three relievers who worked the last 5 innings of last night’s game had combined to pitch a total of 3 innings for this team before August.

Yadier Molina

With three more hits last night, Yadier Molina has a team-leading 41 hits in 31 games since the All-Star Break.  He is hitting .347 (41 for 118) in the season’s second half, and .284 for the season overall.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko had a frustrating 0 for 3.  Up three times with runners in scoring position, Jedd struck out twice and flied out to center on a pitch that he just got under.  Gyorko has cooled a bit over the last three games, as he is now just 2 for his last 13 (.154).

Jedd, who thrives when he hits that first strike, has been mostly fouling them off recently.  In his last 14 plate appearances, he has taken the first strike 5 times (going 0 for 5 with 2 fly outs and 3 strikeouts), put it in play just once (the double he hit Sunday against Velasquez) and fouled off the other eight.  Twenty one of his last 36 swings have resulted in foul balls.

Jedd has seen his August batting average fade to .212 (14 for 66).  Of course, 9 of those hits are for extra bases – including 6 home runs.

Random Stats – Lineup Notes

Some lineup notes as we wait for the home stand to begin:

Since his return from Memphis, St Louis is 6-2 when Randal Grichuk starts, averaging 5.88 runs per game. In the 10 games this month that Grichuk hasn’t started, St Louis is 4-6, scoring 3.40 runs per game.  For the season, St Louis has won 42 of the 72 games that Grichuk has started (.583) and scored 5.49 runs per game in those contests.  He has not been in the lineup for 51 games this year.  The Cards are 24-27 (.471) in those games, scoring 4.29 runs per game.

When Randal is in the lineup against left-handers, St Louis is 14-11 (.560).  They have lost 9 of the 12 times they’ve faced lefties without Randal in the lineup.  The average runs per game is 5.40 runs with him and 4.00 without.

Greg Garcia has started 11 of the 18 games this month.  When he is in the lineup, the Cards are 8-3, scoring 4.82 RPG.  When he is not, the birds are 2-5, scoring 4.00 RPG.  Since the All-Star Break, St Louis is 14-7, scoring 4.67 RPG with G Garcia and 6-8, scoring 4.36 RPG without him.

The team has done especially well when Greg is in the lineup against right-handers.  Since the break, they are 11-5 with and 4-4 without.  This month they have faced a right-handed starter 11 times.  The 7 times that Garcia has started, St Louis is 6-1, scoring 5.29 RPG.  They are only 0-4, 3.75 when he hasn’t started.

In the season’s first half, Matt Carpenter played in 76 of the 88 games.  The Cards were 37-39 with 5.09 RPG when he started and 9-3, 5.67 when he didn’t.  In the month of August, Matt has been in the lineup for 14 games and out of it for 4.  Even though hasn’t had the hitting success he would have hoped for so far, St Louis is nonetheless 9-5, 4.86 with him and 1-3, 3.25 without him.

Yadier Molina has made 30 of the 35 starts in the second half.  St Louis is 19-11 and scores 5.00 runs per game when he is in the lineup.  In the 5 that he’s been rested, St Louis is 1-4 and scored a total of 9 runs.

Tommy Pham has been in the lineup (20 games) more than he’s been out (15 games) since the All Star Break.  The Cards have won 12 of those 20 (.600) with him (scoring 4.70).  They are just 8-7 when he is not in the lineup, scoring 4.33 runs per game.

When he starts against right-handers this season, St Louis is 12-4.

Jhonny Peralta has started 43 games to this point of the season.  St Louis has won 21 of them (.488), while winning 45 of the 80 that he hasn’t started (.563).  They are also scoring more runs without him (5.15 per game) than with him (4.70).

Matt Holliday was making his 99th start of the season when his thumb was broken in Chicago.  In the 99 games he started, St Louis went 48-51, scoring 4.84 runs per game.  The Cards are 18-6 (.750) scoring 5.63 runs per game when he hasn’t been in the lineup.

Carlos Martinez has been matched against left-handed starters 7 times this season.  The Cards have lost 6 of the seven, averaging just 3.57 runs per game.  Carlos is scheduled to pitch game 2 of the Mets series against right-hander Jacob deGrom.

The Cards are 0-3 this month when Adam Wainwright is matched against right-handers.  They had won 10 of his previous 13 matchups against righties.

Carpenter is still leading the team in starts as the leadoff hitter.  He’s been there 81 times so far.  He also made 7 starts there in August before Holliday’s injury.  The Cards went 3-4 in those games, scoring 3.29 runs per game.   St Louis is 7-4 this month, scoring 5.27 runs per game when someone else bats leadoff.  The games and victories are mostly divided between Pham (3-1) and Greg Garcia (3-0).

Between the absences of Carpenter and Holliday, Garcia has landed in the leadoff spot 11 times since the All Star Break.  The Cards have done OK with him there, going 7-4 in those games.  They are also 6-2 when Pham hits leadoff this half.

For the season, the Cards are 39-42 in Carpenter’s 81 starts in the leadoff spot, 10-5 when Garcia hits there, and 8-2 when Pham hits there.

The injury to Aledmys Diaz has caused further lineup chaos, opening the second spot in the order.  This month, that spot has mostly been filled by Stephen Piscotty.  Stephen hit second frequently in the first half before Diaz settled in there.  The results have been OK: 7-6 this month, 23-20 for the season.

The Cards are 33-23 (.589) when Diaz bats second.

St Louis was already considering other options at the third spot in the lineup before Holliday’s hand was broken.  They just weren’t considering Carpenter as that option until Holliday went on the shelf.  The Cards 6-1 run coincides exactly with Carpenter’s move to the third spot in the lineup.

Since the All-Star Break, Piscotty has hit there more than anyone, the Cards going 10-5 in his 15 starts at number 3.  The team was 3-6 in Holliday’s last 9 starts there.  For the season, St Louis is 40-46 when Holliday bats third, 13-6 when it’s Piscotty, and 7-1 with Carpenter.

Now that he’s healthy, Brandon Moss is starting to see the bulk of the playing time hitting clean-up.  He’s hit there 10 times in the 18 games this month.  He had 16 starts at clean-up before the break, but those didn’t go all that well.  They scored runs in those games (5.31 per), but didn’t prosper (7-9).  The August narrative has been different as St Louis has won 7 of the 10 games that Moss has batted fourth in.  They are scoring 5.40 runs per game in those games.  They are just 3-5, 3.38 without him there.

Before Moss returned to the lineup, fourth was a spot they were considering for Holliday.  He has hit there 12 times with decent results (7-5 record).

Holliday thus becomes one of 5 different Cardinals who have hit clean-up at least 12 times this season.  Even though he has hit there just once since the break, Piscotty – with 43 starts – still leads the team with starts at clean-up.  St Louis is 21-22 in those games.  St Louis is 10-13 in Matt Adams’ 23 starts at clean-up.

Griuchuk also has only made one start at clean-up since the break, but the team is 11-3 in his 14 games there.

Molina’s hot bat has earned him a lineup promotion from sixth to fifth for much of the season’s second half.  Over the last 35 games, Molina has hit fifth 15 times.  St Louis scores 5.80 runs a game when he hits there as opposed to 3.60 when he doesn’t.  They have won 10 of the 15 with Molina hitting fifth and only 10 of the 20 without him.

Yadi has hit fifth the most this season, leading the Cards to a 22-20 record when he does.  There are four others who have also hit fifth at least 11 times: Adams (15-11); Peralta (9-11); Grichuk (7-6); and Moss (8-3).

Prior to this month, Jhonny Peralta had only hit sixth 8 times – with St Louis losing 5 of those.  The recent lineup shuffling has landed him at number six 12 times in August, with St Louis winning 7 of the 12.  Jhonny now leads at this lineup spot since the All-Star Break.  He has hit sixth 13 times with the Cards winning 8 of those.  St Louis is also 4-0 in the second half when Jedd Gyorko hits sixth.

Molina hit sixth for much of the first half. Up to the break, St Louis was 22-14 (.611), 5.58 when Yadi hit sixth, and 24-28 (.462), 4.88 with anybody else.  In the second half the team is only 4-4 when Yadi hits here and 16-11 when he doesn’t.  Eight other players have hit sixth this year in the other 59 games.  The Cards are 30-29 in those games.  At 8-3, Gyorko represents the best of these other six-hitters.

While the lineup might be better with him hitting sixth, for now Gyorko is spending more time batting seventh than anyone else – although with 12 different players getting some starts there, and four of them getting at least 15 starts in the seven slot – Gyorko’s team-leading number there is 36 unremarkable starts.  The Cards are 17-19 when Jedd bats seventh.  Of those others, the Cards are 12-11 when Wong hits seventh; 11-9 when Molina does it; and 9-6 for Grichuk.

In the 18 games played this month, we have already had 7 different eighth-place hitters.  Randal Grichuk has hit there the most – 5 times since his return – and has helped the team win 4 of those games.

Kolten Wong has only hit eighth 3 times this month – with the Cards losing 2 of them – but for the season he is the eighth-place hitter who has enjoyed the most success.  Kolten has hit there 32 times leading the team to a 21-11 record and 5.28 runs per game.  In the 91 games where someone else has hit eighth, the Cards are 45-46, scoring 4.89 runs per game.  Most prominent among those others are Aledmys Diaz, who batted eighth for 23 games early in the season (10-13), Greg Garcia (7-7), Grichuk (8-4), and Pham (6-4).

With 533 runs allowed so far this season, the Cards have already allowed more runs than they did all of last season when they surrendered just 525.

Cards Grind Past Phillies

As the St Louis Cardinal’s finished their nine-game road trip with one of their most complete games of the year – a 9-0 victory (box score) – they pushed their recent victory string to 6 of the last 7 games.  In this run of success, a lot of pieces are beginning to come together.

Of particular note are the number of grinding at bats this team is beginning to take.  Through the season’s first 116 games, only 54% of their plate appearances lasted more than three pitches.  Over the last seven games, that number had increased to 63%.  Yesterday afternoon, 26 of the 43 Cardinal batters pushed their at bats past the three pitch mark – 60.5%.  And they thrived in deep counts.  They hit .375 yesterday (9 for 24) with 3 of their 4 home runs and a .792 slugging percentage.

The home runs hit ran quite a gamut.  The last home run hit – Jeremy Hazelbaker’s – came at the culmination of the longest at bat of the game.  Jeremy short-stroked Frank Herrmann’s tenth pitch of the at bat deep over the right field wall.  Brandon Moss’ home run – the first of the night for the Cards – came off the first pitch thrown to him by Vincent Velasquez.

Including that home run, St Louis was 2 for 3 when hitting the first pitch.  This is one thing they have been very good at the entire month.  Across all of major league baseball (according to baseball reference) hitting the first pitch usually works out well for the hitter.  They hit .347 and slug .585 when they hit the first pitch.  In August, the Cardinals have taken this to the next level.  They are 36 for 84 this month (.429) with 7 home runs and a .810 slugging percentage when they can put that first pitch into play.

Jhonny Peralta definitely seems to be heating up.  He’s had consecutive three-hit games and has 7 hits in his last 10 at bats.  Jhonny’s August average is up to .322 with a home run and 4 runs batted in.

Jhonny hit the first pitch thrown to him in the sixth for an infield single.  Peralta has only hit the first pitch thrown him 19 times all season, but has done so 3 times in his last 10 at bats, getting hits all three times.  He is 6 for 8 this month when hitting the first pitch.

Other than that plate appearance, though, Jhonny was a kind of poster child for the kind of grinding at bats the Cards have been taking recently.  Over the course of the season as a whole, 63% of Peralta’s at bats are over in four pitches or less.  Last night, 3 of his 5 plate appearances lasted more than 4 pitches. Jhonny had hits in 2 of those at bats.

In his torrid first half, Greg Garcia was 21 for 39 (.538) when he hit one of the first two pitches of the at bat.  In the second half, he had been 1 for 18 (.056) when hitting one of the first two pitches thrown him.  He had 2 two-pitch at bats yesterday, lining a single into right on a 1-0 pitch in the first and grounding to second on an 0-1 pitch in the seventh.

But Greg, too, has turned grinder recently.  He saw at least four pitches in 3 of his 5 plate appearances, and now has lasted that long in 19 of his last 26 times up.

Jedd Gyroko’s two-hit night featured his twentieth home run of the season.  Jedd has 5 in his last 8 games; 6 in 17 games this month; and 13 in 33 games since the All-Star Break.

Up until seven games ago, Gyorko was hitting the first pitch thrown to him a healthy 15% of the time (40 of 267), and prospering when he did – as he hit .450 and slugged 1.075 in those at bats.  Jedd has only hit the first pitch thrown to him once in his last 31 plate appearances.

Up until the ninth inning of last Friday’s game, the latest in any at bat that Jedd had hit a home run was pitch five.  His home run yesterday was his second eight-pitch home run in his last 11 at bats.

The Cardinal’s recent resurgence has come largely without much contribution from Matt Carpenter.  Since his return from the disabled list, Carpenter (who was 0 for 3 yesterday) is hitting .218 (12 for 55).  He is 3 for his last 8 when he can hit one of the first two pitches.  If the at bat last longer than that, Matt has hit .191 (9 for 47) with a .277 slugging percentage.  Before his injury, Carpenter hit .279 and slugged .525 in his at bats that lasted longer than two pitches.

After setting a torrid pace since the All Start Break, Yadier Molina has started to cool a bit.  He has 1 single in his last 14 at bats (.071).  In those at bats, he has swung at the first pitch 7 times and swung at 65% of all pitches.  Yadi has also started 15 consecutive games behind the plate and 22 of the last 23.

Randal Grichuk’s revival took a step backward this weekend.  His 0 for 7 drops his average back down to .226 (.227 in the second half).  His 4 strikeouts yesterday bring him to 35 in 75 second half at bats.  This season, Grichuk is a .444 hitter (24 for 54) and a .926 slugger when he hits the first pitch.  He’s a .178 hitter if the at bats lasts two pitches or more (as all four of yesterday’s at bats did).

Before the All-Star Break, the 70 batters who hit Mike Leake’s first pitch managed only 26 hits (a .229 average).  In the second half, he has lost whatever magic he had.  The last 26 batters that hit his first pitch have 10 hits (a .385 average).

On the other hand, 9 of the 29 he faced yesterday pushed their at bats to more than 4 pitches.  They went 0 for 8 with a walk.  The last 13 batters that Mike has had to make more than four pitches to are 0 for 11 with 2 walks.  Over the course of the season so far, 96 batters have had at bats against Mike that have lasted more than five pitches.  They are hitting .163 (13 for 80) with only one home run.

In answer to seeing their nine-game streak of hitting at least two home runs in a game end on Saturday, the Cardinals began a new streak yesterday afternoon with four home runs.  The season total now reads 173 home runs in 123 games.  They have hit multiple home runs in 50 of those games, including 18 three-home run games and, now, 10 four home run games.

One more home run will tie the season total for the 2008 team.  The multi-home run games are the most since the 2004 team did it 67 times.  The 2008 team also had 18 three home run games.  The 2006 team did that 21 times.  No other edition of the Cardinals in this century had ever accomplished four home runs in a game more times than the 8 times achieved by the 2000 team.

Seventeen of the 40 series St Louis has played so far have gone to a rubber game.  The Cardinals have won 10 of the 17.  They have now won 5 of the 6 rubber games they’ve played on the road.  They are 5-3 when they’ve been forced into a rubber game after they had won the first game of the series.

Looking for Mr Leadoff Hitter

The question has been asked.  If Matt Carpenter is moving down in the order to the third spot, who will be the leadoff hitter to replace him?  It’s a good question.

It’s been pointed out that none of the other hitters who have hit leadoff have done much with the opportunity – which is true as far as that goes.

There have now been 40 games this season where someone other than Carpenter has hit leadoff.  These opportunities have been parceled out to 8 different players, 6 of whom haven’t had as many as five starts there – hardly a representative sample size.

Of the others, the player with the most starts there is Greg Garcia.  He’s hit leadoff 14 times.  I humbly submit that – in search of the replacement for your most dynamic hitter – you might look somewhere other than your slumping rookie shortstop who has hit .156 since the All Star Break.

The only other candidate that has had some opportunity to play the part is the guy who was cast in the role last night.  Tommy Pham has now made all of 10 starts batting leadoff, hitting .239 with a .271 on base percentage.  Not numbers to make you forget Carpenter, but then again, only 10 games and 48 plate appearances.  The Cardinals, by the way, are 8-2 in those games.

As the leadoff hitter leads off more innings than anyone else – and Carpenter has still led off 44 more times than anyone else on the club even though he’s been out a month with an injury and moved recently to the middle of the order – perhaps a place to look is at the batters who do well when leading off an inning.

With this as a factor, Pham’s status improves.  Tommy has led off 49 innings so far this year and hit .311/.367/.622 when doing so. This compares favorably with Carpenter’s .305/.399/.547.  Moreover, Pham does a better job scoring when he reaches to lead off an inning that Carpenter.  Pham scoots home 44% of the time to 39% for Carpenter.

If you take his whole season into consideration, then Garcia becomes a liable candidate as well.  He has 48 innings in which he’s led off, establishing a .417 on base percentage and scoring 40% of the times that he reaches.  He walked last night in his lone opportunity to lead off.

One of the most productive hitters we’ve had at leading off an inning is Brandon Moss.  The same dynamics that have encouraged the team to push Carpenter down in the lineup will keep Moss there as well.  But Brandon carries a 308/.366/.646 line as a leadoff hitter in 78 innings, scoring 54% of the times that he reaches.  Brandon has hit 5 lead-off home runs to help with that figure.

Aledmys Diaz – in his 65 innings of leading off – scores 65% of the times he reaches base.  That figure is the best on the team.  However, he hits only .262 with a .308 on base percentage when leading off an inning.  Diaz is also someone you want at the plate with a runner on board.

Of the options beyond Pham – who I like in the role – is the option that Mike Matheny seems determined not to look at.  That would be erstwhile second baseman Kolten Wong.

Kolten’s season hasn’t been magical – and he’s been passed on the depth chart at both second base and center field, so finding him a position is now a challenge – but you can see Kolten trying to re-invent himself as a leadoff hitter.  In spite of his mediocre overall numbers this year, Kolten is 20 for 56 with 5 walks and 2 hit-by-pitches when leading off an inning.  This translates into a .357 batting average and a .429 on base percentage.  He also scores 41% of the times that he reaches as a leadoff hitter.  In his very few second half opportunities, he has been even more dynamic.  With just 14 chances to lead off an inning, Kolten is 7 of 13 with a walk and a batting line of .538/.571/1.000.

If they gave Wong a home at second base, it would entail putting Peralta mostly on the bench.  Or playing Kolten in the outfield at the expense, perhaps, of Pham.

But it’s possible that our best team and lineup would have Kolten Wong leading off and playing second base.