All posts by Joe Wegescheide

Wacha Betrayed by Defense, Falls to Dodgers 8-4

While not his best outing by any means, Wacha’s night could have been better had he not been undone by a sloppy four-error night by his defense.  Some highs and lows:

Yadier Molina

Among the more frustrating aspects of the Cardinals’ offensive struggles last year was the inability of their right-handed batters to make a significant impact against left-handed pitchers.  Yadier Molina was a case in point.  Last year, Molina hit a soft .232 against lefty pitching, with no home runs and 14 runs batted in.  Even though he is off to a terrific offensive start this season (and he goes into tonight’s game against the lefty Kazmir with a .341 overall average), that still isn’t translating into much production against left handers.  Molina is just 7 for 29 (.241) with 4 singles, 3 doubles and 4 runs batted in against them.  Yadi has, however, managed 5 walks against lefties already this year (he walked only 16 times against them all last year) and currently owns a .353 on base percentage against them.

The bulk of Molina’s damage, then, has come at the expense of right-handed pitchers.  After his 2-for-4 last night, Yadi is now hitting .371 (36-for-97) against right handers.  Here is the note of warning, though.  In 2015 Molina maintained a .304 batting average against righties at the All-Star break.  In the season’s second half – as the workload caught up with him – his numbers against righties fell to .248.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz added a double and home run last night against Dodger right-hander Ross Stripling.  While Diaz has been plenty effective against lefties (.344/.364/.563 in 33 plate appearances), he – like most of the Cardinal right-handed hitters – has bedeviled right-handed pitchers.  Aledmys is now 32 for 79 against righties this season, with 4 home runs and 14 runs batted in.  His slash line against them is .405/.435/.734 as now 17 of those 32 hits have gone for extra-bases.

And, yes, there have been errors from time to time.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk is off to a slow start in general.  He’s actually been worse against left-handers (.161 on 5 of 31 hitting), but also hasn’t found his stroke against right-handed pitching.  After his 0-for-4 last night, Randal is now 18 for 81 (.222) when facing right-handers.  In 2015 he hit the All-Star break carrying just a .269 average against righties, but closed out the season with a .303/.398/.592 slash line against them in the second half.

Michale Wacha

Michael Wacha allowed no home runs last night, but he continues to be stung by extra-base hits by left-handed batters.  Lefties were only 2-for-7 against him last night, and are only hitting .237 against Wacha this season (14-for-59).  But both hits he allowed them were doubles (to Gonzalez and Pederson).  Of the 14 hits that left-handers have off of Wacha so far this season, 8 have been for extra-bases (3 home runs, a triple, and now 4 doubles).  Lefties are slugging .492 against Wacha thus far.

Tyler Lyons

The 192 right-handed batters that faced Tyler Lyons last year only hit .258 against him (a reasonably good number).  Then as now, the problem has been that when they hit him, they hit him hard.  He served up 9 home runs right-handed hitters (six of them after the All Star break), and surrendered his fourth to a right-handed hitter (Puig on his first pitch last night) in now just 45 at bats by right-handers against him.  Their slash line against Tyler is .289/.333/.622.

On the plus side, Lyons has gotten much better against lefties.  They are just 3 for 18 against him (.167) although one of those hits was a home run (off the bat of Jake Lamb in Arizona).

Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Broxton retired both right-handers to face him last night (one on a strikeout).  Broxton has had command issues (mostly against lefties, as he’s walked 7 of the 25 he’s faced so far this year), but he has been very strong against right-handed hitters.  They are now just 5 for 37 (.135) with 11 strikeouts against him this year.

Molina and Holliday Put On a Clinic For Old Friend

Perhaps is was just being on the field with him again, but ex-teammates Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday combined for seven hits as the Cards and Angels wrapped up their three-game series.

In outlasting Anaheim last night, the Cardinals secured their seventh win in their last ten games – and this one was a kind of a microcosm of the streak so far.  At the end of the ride, the Cards have come out ahead most of the time, but haven’t made any of it look easy.  For a team on something of a roll, they have looked all too mortal.

The offense has been at the center of this little run.  With 12 runs and 18 hits last night, they are hitting .289 and scoring 5.7 runs per game over the last ten.  They have added 16 home runs since the beginning of the Philadelphia series.  They were 5-for13 with runners in scoring position for the night and are hitting .297 (27-for-91) over the course of these games.  They hit .350 (41-for117) with seven home runs and 25 runs scored in the Angel’s series – fashioning a team slugging percentage of .590.

But the pitching staff is surrendering hits with runners in scoring position almost as fast as the offense can collect them.  Los Angeles went 5-for-11 last night, and the last ten opponents have managed a .289 average against the Cardinal staff (21-for-74) with ducks on the pond.

Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday wrapped up a bizarre series as he sandwiched Wednesday’s hitless game between a three-hit game Tuesday and last-night’s four-hit game.  He finished the series 7 for 14 (.500) with five extra-base hits (2 doubles and 3 home runs).

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina keeps on starting and keeps on hitting.  Three more hits last night brings him to .351 over the last ten games (13-for-37).  His season average now sits at .336. Molina has started all but three games behind the plate.

He did a little showing off for his friend in the other dugout, finishing the series against the Angels with 7 hits in 12 at bats (.583).

Yadi was also 1-for-2 with two strikes on him.  Over the last ten games, Molina is hitting .438 (7-for-16) with two-strikes on him.  Molina was also 2-for-2 with two-outs, and is now 6 for his last 12 batting with two outs.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter’s resurgence continues.  Two more hits, including another home run, brings him to 12 hits in his last 37 at bats (.324).  Eight of those hits have been for extra-bases (including four home runs in his last ten games), giving him a recent slugging percentage of .757.  He hit three of those home runs in the three games against the Angels.

Carpenter has led off an inning 19 times over the last ten games, and hasn’t drawn a walk in any of them.  He does have 9 hits (3 singles, 4 doubles and 2 home runs) so he carries a .474 on base percentage while leading off those innings.  Matt was 1-for-3 leading off last night.  During those same games, all Cardinal leadoff hitters are carrying a .296/.352/.531 slash line and are coming around to score 58% of the time they reach base.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz isn’t hitting .400 anymore, but he isn’t exactly slump-ridden, either.  A 2-for-5 night last night brings him to .333 (11-for-33) over his last nine games.

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright – after showing marginal improvement in his previous two games – took a step backwards last night.  Among the situations plaguing him are those at bats with runners in scoring position.  The Angels had hits in four of their eight RISP at bats against Adam, and over his last three starts he has surrendered hits to 8 of 18 (.444) such batters.

General Trends

Over the last ten games, St Louis has been held under 4 runs only twice, while scoring at least 5 runs in 7 of the games.  Last year, the Cardinals failed to score four runs in almost half of their games (79 games), while scoring five or more slightly more than a third of the time (53 games).  So far in 2016, the Cards have been denied a fourth run only 10 times (29%) while scoring at least five runs in 21 games (60%).  Last night’s explosion marked the eighth time already this season that St Louis has scored in double figures – a feat they managed only 9 times all year last year.

On the other hand, the Cardinal pitching staff held opposing teams to less than four runs 101 times last year (62% of their games) and surrendered five runs or more just 47 times (29%).  This year, so far, only 15 opponents have been held below 4 runs (43%), while 13 other games have seen 5 or more runs scored against them (37%).  After allowing 10 or more runs in a game only four times in all of 2015, that has already happened three times this year.

Last year, St Louis never lost a game once the fashioned at least a four-run lead, and only lost once when they led by three runs.  Conversely, they only overcame deficits of four runs or more twice last year – and only overcame 3-run deficits four times.  Already in 2016 they have surrendered a 3-run lead (the April 25th game where Arizona scored 9 runs in the sixth to win 12-7) and a four-run lead (the 9-8 loss to Cincinnati on April 16th).  On the other hand, they have already come back once from three runs down (a 10-3 win May second against Philadelphia) and twice from four-runs down (April 8th against Atlanta, 7-4; and May 4th against Philly, 5-4).

Better buckle in tight.  Looks like it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The slugging Cardinals had yet another 3-homer game last night.  Through 35 games and 1,226 team at bats, St Louis has already amassed 51 home runs.  They needed 67 games and 2,233 at bats last year to hit 51 home runs.  Yadier Molina hit that home run on June 19th (a 2-run, second-inning shot against a Philadelphia right hander named Phillipe Aumont that broke a scoreless tie and sent St Louis on its way to an eventual 12-4 win.  That team was 44-23 and five games ahead in its division.

Last night was also the 14th multiple homer game and the sixth time they’ve hit at least three in a game.  In all of 2015, St Louis managed 36 multiple home run games, hitting as many as three in a game only eight times.

Position Wars – Through 34 Games

With wins in the first two games of the road trip – and the team back to two games over .500, let’s look at the position wars for the first time this season. This is something we’ll do every month or so.

Position wars looks at the players starting at each of the defensive positions and develops the team trends associated with that player in that position.

Position: First Base

First base has been the most contested position on the team through the first 34 games.  As the season started, it was thought that erstwhile left fielder Matt Holliday might edge out the other contenders to take the majority of the starts here.  Tommy Pham’s opening day injury re-wrote that plan, sent Holliday back to left field, and opened up a straight-up competition between Matt Adams and Brandon Moss for playing time there.

As of right now, both have made 14 starts at first.  St Louis is 8-6 when Adams starts and 6-8 with Moss.  Defensively, the team has been better with Adams – posting a 2.90 ERA in his games there vs the 4.52 ERA when Moss starts.  However, the offense has been as noticeably better with Moss (5.93 runs per game) as opposed to Adams (4.29 runs per game).

Holliday has started four games at first, with a 2-2 record.  Matt Carpenter and Yadi Molina have each started once at first, with the Cards winning both of those games.

First base was a messy position for the team last year, too.  Mark Reynolds ended up leading the team is starts there with just 72 – leading the team to a 47-25 record in those starts.  Adams – the presumptive starter there last year – saw his starts limited to 42 games by an injury, but also saw the team win 27 of those starts (.643 percentage).  Moss, coming off his own injury, only made 24 starts at first last year – St Louis winning only 11 of those.

At the moment, Adams seems to have the upper hand.  He’s started 5 of the last 9 games, with Moss starting 3 of the other 4.  The Cards have won 4 of Adams’ 5, but just 1 of Moss’ 3.  This is a back and forth that looks like it will last the whole season (unless some circumstance pushes Holliday back into the picture).

Position Second Base

Second base is the only other position that is at all contested.  Kolten Wong has started 20 of the 34. But only 5 of the last 9 as both he and Jedd Gyorko are struggling to find any consistency at the plate.  At this point, St Louis is 11-9 when Kolten starts, scoring 5.4 runs per game with a 3.31 team ERA.  With Gyorko at second, the record is 7-7.  The scoring is a bit higher (5.71) but the team ERA significantly higher (4.31).  The momentum, however, may be turning in Jedd’s direction. They have won 3 of Gyorko’s last 4 starts scoring 21 runs.  They are 3-2 in Wong’s last 5 starts, scoring 24 runs in those games.

Wong made 140 starts at second last year, with St Louis winning 91 of those games.

Position: Shortstop

Jhonny Peralta held this position for 147 games last year, leading the Cards to a 93-54 record in those games.  His backups were Pete Kozma (4-4) and Greg Garcia (3-4).  Of all of those players, only Garcia has seen starts at shortstop this year.  He has two (both Cardinal wins).  Kozma is elsewhere and Peralta has missed the entire year so far with an injury.  Reuben Tejada was acquired as a stop-gap, but his season has been curtailed by an injury of his own.  Jedd Gyorko was supposed to make some starts there as a back-up.  Those two players have combined to make 7 starts at short. St Louis is 2-5 in those games.

In spite of all these injuries, Aledmys Diaz began the season at AAA.  For one day.  Tommy Pham’s opening day injury not only shuffled the plan at first base, but opened the roster spot that finally went to Diaz.  The injury to Bobby Bonilla that opened the door for a rookie named Albert Pujols is one of the great injury-opportunity stories in Cardinal lore.  For Diaz to get his chance, three other players had to go down.

Now Diaz is here, hitting .382 at this moment, and has taken over at short.  In his 25 starts there, the team is 14-11, scores 6.24 runs per game with a 3.77 ERA.

Position: Third Base

Third base is the only current position (other than catcher, which we discussed yesterday) on the team where last year’s uncontested starter is also this year’s uncontested starter.  A 141-game starter there last year (91-50), Matt Carpenter has made 31 of the first 34 starts there this year.  Reynolds was the primary backup there last year.  In his absence, Carpenter may play 150 games there.  Gyorko was thought to be a useable backup at third – and he may turn out to be.  So far, he has only started there once.  Tejada has made the other 2 starts there.

St Louis is in an unusual position at third, as none of their first base candidates (Adams, Moss, Holliday) can double as a third baseman.  All most every other team has at least one “corner infielder” on their roster.

Position: Left Field

Matt Holliday – his injury notwithstanding – still made the most starts of anyone in left field last year.  That number was just 64 starts (41-23).  Seven different players made starts there (Piscotty – 40, Grichuk – 37, Moss – 9, Pham – 5, Reynolds – 4, and Jon Jay – 3).  Thirty-four games into this season, and already four different players have started in left.  But mostly (for 23 games, anyway) it has been Holliday.

The results, however, with the season now more than a fifth over, are a cause for some concern.  St Louis is 9-14 (.391) with Holliday starting in left, scoring 4.78 runs per game with a 4.32 ERA.  The numbers for the others: Jeremy Hazelbaker – 6 starts, 5-1 record, 8.67 rpg, 2.67 ERA; Brandon Moss – 4 starts, 4-0 record, 6.25 rpg, 1.75 ERA (although 5 unearned runs have scored against the team in those four games); and Tommy Pham, who started the season-opening 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh.  In the 23 games that Holliday has started in left, the pitching staff fashioned just 9 quality starts.  They have 8 in the 11 games that someone else has started in left.

Is it too early to draw conclusions from these numbers?  I think so.  But it is a little jarring to note that we have as many wins without Matt in left as we do with him (in less than half the games).  This is a trend we will keep an eye on.

Position: Center Field

Randal Grichuk has made 25 of the first 34 starts in center field.  He would probably have five or six more starts there, but his early-season offensive struggles have bought him a few more days off than he would have liked.  Standing in for him have been Hazelbaker (7 games) and Piscotty (2 games).  Even though Randal has yet to find his hitting groove, the numbers still show that he is the best option in CF.  The Cards are 14-11 with him and 4-5 without.  They score 5.72 runs per game with Grichuk in center and 5.00 with someone else.  The team ERA is 3.51 with Grichuk in center.  When the other two are out there, it rises to 4.33.  Randal – though off to a slow start – is a big-time talent.  The plan is for him to be in center field in St Louis for a long time to come.

Position: Right Field

Stephen Piscotty started the second most games in right field last year.  He started 11 there.  Over the off-season, his name was floated as an option at first base (where he started 9 times last year).  But with the defection of last year’s starting right fielder, it was clear that the talented Mr. Piscotty would be ticketed for the right field position.  Stephen has started 29 there already this year, with the Cards winning 16 of them.  Other right fielders have been Moss (1-2) and Hazelbaker (1-1).  Stephen has some versatility.  He can play first as well as all the outfield positions.  But for the foreseeable future, expect to see him in right field pretty much every day.

Last Night

Meanwhile, last night’s victory added more credibility to the recent Cardinal turn around.  Yes, yes, it’s mostly against Philadelphia and the Angels (although I remind you that the Phillies are 19-15), but encouraging nonetheless.  In winning, now, six of their last nine, St Louis has fashioned a 2.89 ERA and pitching-wise is starting to resemble a little the staff we saw last year.

Stephen Piscotty

With two more hits and an RBI last night, Piscotty is now hitting .421 (16-for-38) over his last nine games, with seven RBIs.

Stephen was also 1-for-2 with runners in scoring position.  He now has 6 hits in his last 10 RISP opportunities.

Moreover, Piscotty added a couple more two-strike hits.  Over the last 9 games, Piscotty is now 6-for15 (.400) with two strikes on him.

Piscotty’s hits last night came in the fifth and seventh innings.  Through his last nine games, Piscotty is only hitting .167 (3-for-18) through the first four innings.  From the fifth inning on, Piscotty has 13 hits in his last 20 at bats (.650)

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina shows little signs of slowing down, in spite of his heavy early season work load.  Two more hits last night raise his season average back up to .325.  He has hits in 10 of his last 32 at bats (.313).

Molina also added a 2-strike hit.  He is now 6 for his last 14 (.429) with 2-strikes on him.

Yadi’s third-inning double was his only 2-out at bat of the game.  Molina is 4 for his last 10 (.400) with two-outs.

Randal Grichuk

Grichuk’s bat continues to heal.  His two hits last night raises his average to .308 (8-for-26) over the last 9 games (including 2 home runs and 6 RBIs).

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter is 5 for his last 8 first-inning at bats.  Thereafter, he is 5 for his last 24 (.208).

Matt Holliday

Holliday still can’t seem to put together any kind of streak.  After a 3-hit game yesterday, Matt went 0-for-4 last night.  He has just 7 hits in his last 33 at bats (.212) and is now down to .243 for the season.

Jaime Garcia

Jaime Garcia was in charge again last night.  Over his last two starts (both wins), Jaime has allowed 6 hits and no earned runs in 14 innings.

Mike Scioscia loaded his lineup with right handed batters against the lefty Garcia.  Thank you Mike.  All his righties went 3-for-22 against Jaime (.136).  Garcia – who always has dominant reverse splits – has now held right handed batters to a .173 average this season (22-for-127).

Jaime is also a nasty pitcher to hit when you have to protect the plate.  Last night, batters with 2 strikes on them were 1-for-14 (.071) against Garcia.  Over the two starts, batters are just 2 for 25 (.080) when hitting against Jaime with two strikes on them.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal needed 22 pitches to get out of the ninth inning.  He has now thrown 76 pitches in his last three innings.

Inherit the Wind Entry 6: Interview with Erin Struckhoff

Erin Struckhoff is back at CCT for Inherit the Wind.  She most recently headlined our production of The Women playing Mary and before that was nominated in the inaugural Theatre Mask Awards for her performance as Mrs. Scottish Person in the Scottish Play (footnote: I am not superstitious myself about the name of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy set in Scotland, but I know some people are, so . . .).  Erin gave me a few minutes during a break in a recent rehearsal.  Here are her responses to a few general questions:

Mrs Krebs (Erin Struckhoff) gets religion during a rehearsal of the “prayer meeting” scene in Inherit the Wind.

Joe: So, “The Scottish Play” was your first show with Clayton.  Is that what brought you here?  Was Mrs. Scottish person a bucket-list role for you?

Erin Struckhoff:  It was Clayton’s solid reputation that attracted my attention.  By the summer of 2014, it had been eight years since I had been on stage.  I had set theatre aside after the birth of my second daughter, and my husband’s work schedule being mostly evening shifts.  But that summer, theatre was calling me again.  Children were older, and schedules set. I searched for companies with solid reputations, and then waited for auditions to be announced.  “Macbeth” is definitely a siren song to actors who love Shakespeare.  I had played Lady Macbeth before, but I think it is role and a show an actor can do several times and always find it thrilling.

Joe: After Mrs. Scottish person and a transcendent performance in The Women, here you are as Mrs. Krebs.  Is your process the same?  How is it different creating Mrs. Krebs from the other prominent roles you’ve done for us?  And how is it similar?

Erin Struckhoff:  I think the process is always the same.  You start with the text, because it gives you all of  your information on how your character is to be constructed, and how you’re going to find the character within the context of the play.  The major difference is when your character has fewer lines and little said about them, you have less information to guide you.  So, in that respect, I would say creating Mrs. Krebs is a little more challenging.  I have to come up with everything about her, beyond the hints from the text, and Mark’s vision for character.

Joe: Do you like Mrs. Krebs?  

Erin Struckhoff: I admire her ability to – she has a clear sense of what she believes in and she sticks to it.  I’m not particularly fond of her.  If she were a person I probably wouldn’t be friends with her, and would probably avoid interaction as much as possible. But that doesn’t make it harder to play her.  It’s more fun.

Joe: Will the audience like her?  Should they like her?  Will they see themselves in her at all?

Erin Struckhoff: I think there will be moments when they see themselves in her – as with all the characters.  I doubt they will like her, though.  

Joe: You are here with basically your whole family.  Does that change the experience?

Erin Struckhoff: Yes, of course.  My husband, Jeff, and I actually met doing a show. This is the first play for both of my daughters.  To get to be on stage with all of them is a unique experience.

Joe: Have your daughters done anything in audition or rehearsal that have surprised you? Reminded you, maybe of yourself?

Erin Struckhoff: Well, Kellann cracked me up at the auditions.  I wanted to see how the girls did without any guidance, so we had never rehearsed it or gone  over anything beforehand.  And she was so into playing the scene– and so much bigger than I expected – and she was the one who, in the beginning, was afraid to be up in front of all those people.  And Delaney has made some wonderful observations during the rehearsals.  They’re very happy to be in the show.  They love coming to rehearsals.  And I truly thank Mark for making it such a happy, fun, and creative process.  

Erin Struckhoff and her daughters, Kellann (L) and Delaney (R)
Erin Struckhoff and her daughters, Kellann (L) and Delaney (R)

Leake and Cardinals Trying to Turn the Corner

It’s fairly difficult to think of the Cardinals on any kind of “roll,” but last night’s 8-1 victory was their fifth in the last eight games – and the first of the season for Mike Leake.  The “streak” includes two humbling losses at home against the Pirates and a 1-0 loss to Aaron Nola and Philadelphia, but there have been hopeful moments in between.

Let’s point out, first of all, that half of the Cardinals last eight games (including last night’s) have come following a loss.  St Louis has won all four of them, scoring at least five runs in each game and allowing no more than 4 runs in any of them.  In these “response” games, the offense has contributed a .322/.393/.644 slash line with 11 home runs and 7.25 runs per game while the pitching staff has contributed 3 quality starts and a 2.75 ERA.

Among the most hopeful developments is the progress of the pitching staff.  Believed to be the team’s greatest strength coming into the season, they have been less than hoped for so far.  But, since the end of the Washington series, there have been positive signs.  Two quality starts from Adam Wainwright, dominant starts from Jaime Garcia and – finally – Mike Leake last night, and a well-pitched effort by Michael Wacha in the tough loss to Nola have all been very encouraging.

After managing just eleven quality starts through the first 25 games of the season, last night’s effort was the fifth QS in the last eight games (and the first for Leake in seven starts).  The team ERA over that span is a very serviceable 3.25.

Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday was in the middle of most of the offense last night with 3 extra-base hits.  Even better is that Holliday went 2-for-3 against left-handed pitching.  He is now 5 for his last 12 (.417) against lefties.

Matt Carpenter

One of the recent catalysts has been leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter.  Matt provided the ninth-inning home run that claimed our only victory over Pittsburgh this season, and was one of the big bats in last night’s win – hitting two more home runs.  In what has been an uneven season so far, Carpenter may finally be rounding into form.  He now has 10 hits in his last 30 at bats (.333), and seven of those hits have been for extra bases.

In his last plate appearance of the night, Carpenter finally got to hit against a right-hander.  He jumped AJ Achter’s errant pitch and drilled it for his second home run of the night.  Carpenter now has 7 hits in his last 16 at bats against right-handed pitching (.438).  Five of those hits are for extra-bases (3 doubles and 2 home runs).

Yadier Molina

In 2015, Yadier Molina started 131 of the 162 games behind the plate.  One of the goals heading into this season was to lighten the load on the veteran catcher.  The difficulty here, though, is that St Louis went 85-46 when Yadi started and just 15-16 when he didn’t.

In the “best laid plans” department, the Cards acquired a quality backup in Brayan Pena to help keep Yadi’s work-load to 120 games or less. Pena, of course, went down in spring training with an injury and hasn’t seen the field yet.  Eric Fryer has found himself thrust into the backup catcher role – and he hasn’t done badly.  St Louis is 2-1 in the three games he’s started.  The problem is he’s only started 3 games.  With St Louis scuffling a bit in the early going (and still trying to keep in sight of the steam-rolling Cubs), Eric hasn’t been trusted with too many opportunities.  At his current pace, Yadi will start 147 games.  Pena is expected to be back at some point in the semi-near future, so that pace will certainly lighten.  But St Louis has still lost the opportunity to give Yadi early season rest.

Yadi’s double last night came on a 2-2 pitch (in the eighth pitch of the at bat).  Molina now has 5 hits in his last 12 at bats when hitting with two strikes on him (.417) and his fourth hit in his last 7 at bats that have lasted more than four pitches.

Jeremy Hazelbaker

As Jeremy Hazelbaker has cooled off after his impressive start, he has found at bats more and more scarce.  His 0-for-4 last night still leaves him at .282 for the season, but only 2 of his last 14 (.143).  It’s starting to look like Jeremy’s will be the roster spot that Tommy Pham will claim when he is deemed ready to return.  Hazelbaker, I expect, will profit from more regular playing time.

Mike Leake

During his shaky first six starts for St Louis, considerable discussion centered around Mike Leake’s struggles pitching with runners on base.  Last night, the Angels managed two hits (both singles) in 13 at bats (.154) against Leake with runners on base.

Leake also did a more than adequate job of putting hitters away once he put them in 2-strike counts.  Those batters went 1-for-14 (.071) against him.  Over his last two starts, batters with 2-strikes are only 3-for-25 (.120) against Mike.

Leake is the only starter to have worked more than once with Fryer as the catcher.  In those two starts, Leake threw 12 innings, serving up 4 home runs and lost his only decision.  His ERA in the games Fryer started is 6.75.  Last night was his fifth start with Molina behind the plate.  Mike Leake is now 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA in those games.  He has pitched 30.1 innings in those games allowing just 2 home runs.

Tyler Lyons

Batters were 0-for-3 against Tyler Lyons last night once they got two strikes on them.  Lyons has now put 25 batters into 2-strike counts this season.  They are 0-for-24 with one walk.

The Cardinals punctuated their victory with four more home runs.  They now have 48 after 33 games and 1150 team at bats.  It took them 63 games and 2,119 at bats to hit 48 home runs last year.  Matt Reynolds hit that home run in the fourth inning of a June 15th game off of Minnesota’s Trevor May.

Last year they never hit more than 4 home runs in a game (and only did that once), while managing multiple home runs in a game just 36 times.  They had 7 other games where they hit three home runs.  Last night’s game was the Cardinal’s 13th multiple home run game of the year, the sixth time already this year that they have hit at least 3 home runs, and the fourth time that they have hit at least four.  They also have had a five home run game and a six home run game.

From Wacha to Siegrist: Random Pitching Observations

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha struck out 175 batters last year.  Only 32 went down looking at strike three.  This year, Wacha already has caught 16 batters looking (out of 38 strikeouts).

Wacha is also getting the double play at an accelerated rate compared to last year.  Of the 144 batters he faced in DP opportunities last year, he only got the DP from 9 of them (6.3%).  This year, he already has 6 ground-ball double-plays in just 27 chances (22.2%).  The team ratio has been pretty consistent – 11.6% last year and 11.7% so far this year.  Jaime Garcia’s 18.3% lead the team last year.

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright has already faced runner-at-third-less-than-two-out situations 18 times in his first 40 innings.  The run has scored 11 times (61.1%).  Michael Wacha has already allowed 5 of 6 to score, and Mike Leake has allowed all five of his.  These three pitchers have allowed that runner in from third 21 of 29 times (72.4%).  The entire rest of the staff has only allowed 14 of 36 to score (38.9%).

Jaime Garcia

Of the 253 swings batters have taken at Jaime Garcia’s pitches this year, they have missed 63 (24.9%).  He currently holds the starting staff’s highest swing-and-miss percentage.  Carlos Martinez is second, getting misses on 20.2% of the swings against him.  Carlos led the staff last year, getting 23.4% misses.  Garcia was at 19.9% in 2015.

Mike Leake

Mike Leake has the fewest strikeouts of any of the starters with 22 in 34.1 innings over 6 starts.  Thirteen of those strike outs have been looking.  His 59.1% is the highest percent on the team, with Wacha ranking second at 42.1%.  Of course, Leake is only carrying an 11.3% swing-and-miss ratio, so his strikeouts would almost have to be looking.  Leake also leads the rotation in percentage of pitches that are strikes (67.1%) and fewest pitches per plate appearance (3.46).

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh has faced 65 major league batters in his first 32 team games.  Their approach to him has been cautious at the start as only 15 of those batters have swung at the first pitch (a team-low 23.1%).  It hasn’t seemed to help them too much yet.  Of the 136 of his pitches that they have swung at, they have missed 58 – a team-leading 42.6%.  The next highest on the staff is Kevin Siegrist, who is missing bats at a 30.1% rate.

Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Broxton has faced the most double-play opportunities on the staff without getting a double-play.  He is 0-for-14 thus far on the season.

Tyler Lyons

Opponents have come up swinging against Tyler Lyons so far this season.  24 of the 57 batters he’s faced (42.1%) have swung at his first pitch – a more aggressive rate than anyone else on the staff.  Only 25.1% (64 of 255) swung at his first offering last year.  Trevor Rosenthal is next highest at 38.6%.

It does make for faster at bats, though.  Tyler is throwing a team-low 3.32 pitches per plate appearance.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist has been the most enticing pitcher on the staff so far.  Nobody is getting batters to swing at half of their pitches, but Siegrist is closest at 49.3% (103 of his 209 pitches).  Siegrist, not coincidentally, also throws the highest percentage of strikes overall (68.4%).  You would think, therefore, that his pitches per plate appearances would be relatively low, but he checks in third highest on the team at 4.02 (behind Rosenthal’s 4.77 and Oh’s 4.43).

Perhaps no number conveys the unsettled nature of the pitching staff (and, in fact the team) than this.  Last season, Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal ranked sixth and seventh on the team in batters faced (just behind the guys in the rotation) with 312 and 287.  Through 32 games so far this season, they rank eleventh and twelfth – the lowest totals on the staff – with 52 and 44 respectively (Matt Bowman is tied for eleventh with 52).  So high a percentage of our games have been relatively noncompetitive (on one side or the other) that our presumptive back-of-bullpen weapons have become the least used pitchers on our staff.

Resting Martinez and Other Observations

Scanning through the numbers from the first 32 games, and noticing quite a few pitchers (Martinez, Garcia, Siegrist, Oh) who seem to profit notably from extra rest.

Carlos Martinez was much better on five days last year.  In eleven starts on 5-days’ rest, Carlos threw 9 quality starts, won 6 while losing only 2 with a 1.82 ERA. In 15 starts on 4-days, Carlos contributed 9 more quality starts.  His record: 8-2 (with 3 lost wins) but the ERA just 4.01.  Last year, Martinez received 6.29 support runs per game on four days, but only 2.80 on five.

It’s very few starts, but the same pattern seems to be developing.  Two starts on 5-days has yielded 2 quality starts, a 2-0 record and a 1.80 ERA.  His ground ball ratio is 65.1%.  Three starts on four days have brought 1 quality start, a 1-2 record, a 3.18 ERA and 43.8% ground balls.  The only notable early difference is run support.  12.00 runs per game on five days, 2.12 on four.  Martinez already has 20 support runs in his first two starts on five days.  In his eleven such starts last year, he was granted a total of 23 support runs.

Last year Jaime Garcia also pitched substantially better on five days of rest (instead of four).  The 10 times he pitched with 5-days of rest, he contributed 8 quality starts, throwing 66.2 innings.  His record was 7-2 (with one other lead blown by the bullpen) and his ERA 1.22 with an opponents’ slash line of .190/.233/.248.  He got ground balls out of 64.7% of the batters who made contact against him.  On four days, his numbers were ok.  Four quality starts of 8, 3-2 record (also with a lead coughed up by the pen), a 3.78 ERA and a .270/.310/.344 line, with 59% of the batters hitting the ball on the ground against him.

Again, it’s very early this year, but that trend is developing again.  It’s only 3 starts on four days and two starts on five days, but the results are 1-2, 2.95 and 1-0, 1.93 respectively.  His ground ball percentage is 72.7% on five days and 57.4% on four.

Kevin Siegrist made 58 appearances out of the pen last year with at least one day of rest.  Over those 57.2 innings, he allowed just 39 hits and recorded a 1.56 ERA.  So far this year, his ERA is 1.04 when pitching with at least one day off.  Four times this year, Kevin has pitched on consecutive days.  The results, 3.1 innings, 3 runs, 5 hits (including a home run) and an 8.10 ERA.  Last year the drop off wasn’t quite as severe, but still notable.  With no rest in between appearances, Kevin pitched 17 innings over 22 games with a 4.50 ERA.

It’s still a little early to form any real opinions about Korean import Seung-hwan Oh, but the very early data suggests he’s another reliever who profits from a few days off in between appearances.  So far, he’s only pitched 3 times on consecutive days, allowing 2 runs in those 3 innings with 1 strikeout.  Five times he’s gotten one day off.  In those appearances he has provided 4.2 innings.  He has allowed 5 hits in those innings, but has struck out 6 and allowed just 1 run.  In his 7 appearances on 2-days’ rest, Oh has been quite dominant – 0 runs, 2 hits and 11 strike outs over 7.2 innings.

Thirty-two games into the season and Trevor Rosenthal has only had the opportunity to save 6 games.  At that pace, he would only get 30 chances all season.  Nine of St Louis’ first 16 wins have been by more than five runs and two have been won on the last swing of the bat.

Last year, Rosenthal threw 50.2 innings as a closer and 18 innings in non-closing situations.  He struck out 66 batters in his closing innings and only 17 when not closing.  This year, so far, Trevor has 13 strike outs in the 6.1 innings he’s been used as a closer, and 5 in his 3.2 non-closing innings.  He has given up a couple of runs, but still has a 0.00 ERA as a closer as both runs against him were unearned.

Rosenthal still has not pitched on consecutive days this season.

Some Random Observations on Diaz and Others

Aledmys Diaz, with his infield hit in the seventh was his team-leading sixth of the season.  Stephen Piscotty is second with five.

That same at bat – with Randal Grichuk at first and one out – was the 17th this season that Aledmys was up in a double-play situation.  Diaz is one of three Cardinal hitters with more than 10 double-play opportunities that still hasn’t yet grounded into one.  Brandon Moss (16 opportunities) and Jeremy hazelbaker (13 opps) are the other two.

Diaz was thrown a first-pitch strike in three of his four plate appearances.  Of his first 94 big league plate appearances, Aledmys has seen a first-pitch strike in 64 of them – a team-leading 68.1% of the time.

In his four plate appearances, Aledmys swung the bat just once each time up, putting the ball in play all four times.  For the season. Aledmys has only missed on 18.7% of his swings – quite low considering the way the ball jump off his bat.  Additionally, he has fouled the ball off with only 28% of his swings (the lowest rate among starters) and puts the ball in play, now, 53.3% of the times he swings – the highest of all regulars.

Brandon Moss struck out three times last night, twice looking.  He has now taken a called strike three 8 times this season – tying him with Grichuk for the team lead.

Oh, Brandon did some swinging, too, hacking at 8 of the 14 pitches thrown him.  He missed 5 of his 8 swings, and has now missed on 58 of his 170 swing for the season (34.1%).  He is far and away the team leader, with Grichuk a semi-distant second at 28.5%.

Only one of his swings put the ball in play last night.  For the season, he is tied with Matt Adams for the team low as only 30.6% of their swings put the ball in play.

Pirate pitchers threw first-pitch strikes to 27 of the 37 Cardinal batsmen (73%).  For the season, the Cardinals are only seeing first-pitch strikes in 60.7% of their plate appearances (716 of 1179).  On 17 of those occasions, the Cardinal batter swung at the first pitch (45.9%).  For the season, the Cards are only chasing the first pitch 31.8% of the time.

For the season, Cardinal hitters are only swinging at 46.5% of the pitches thrown them and putting the ball in play on 39% of those swings.  Last night, they offered at 53.1% of Pittsburgh’s pitches (69 of 130) and only put the ball in play with 31.9% (22) of those swings.

Again, for the season, 37.1% of the pitches thrown to Cardinal hitters are called balls.  When they take pitches, only 30.6% of them are called strikes.  Last night, Pirate pitchers missed the strike zone with only 35 pitches (26.9%) and 42.6% of the pitches that Cardinal hitters took were called strikes.

Last season, Tyler Lyons was among the pitchers having the most difficult time keeping the ball on the ground.  Among pitchers who worked more than 50 innings for us, only Kevin Siegrist saw fewer ground balls (33%) than Lyons (41.9%) – a contributing factor to the number of home runs he allowed.  Last night, five of the eight batters who put the ball in play against Tyler got the ball in the air – one of them a home run.  For the season, Lyons’ ground ball percentage is just 35%.

Inherit the Wind Entry 5: Skeleton Crew for the Crowd Scenes

Thursday May 5, 2016

One of the challenges of an ambitious project like this on a community theatre level is balancing everyone’s schedule.  With a cast this large. not everyone is going to be able to be at every rehearsal.  Tonight we have sort of a skeleton crew as we work through the crowd scenes.

That means Darrious to the rescue.  Darrious Varner, our AD pictured below, reads for all of the absent players – the Reverend Brown, Meeker, Cates, Rachel (for awhile) and a few others.

One of Assistant Director Darrious Varner's several characters exchanges information with Judge Tom
One of Assistant Director Darrious Varner’s several characters exchanges information with Judge Tom

The crowd scenes have been an early focus.  Every time I drop in on rehearsal, we are working the crowd.  This would seem to be surprising, but with this show the town is pretty much on stage for all the important moments of the show.  Here is Mark helping us grasp the dynamics of the court room scenes:

Director Mark Neels explains the dynamics of the scene to the twons folks (not seen).
Director Mark Neels explains the dynamics of the scene to the crowd (not seen).

This is a semi-tedious process.  Where we are right now is a group of relative strangers trying to become a town and keeping a current of real life going on through the play.  So what happens is we rehearse a scene a couple of times and get the energy level up to where it needs to be.  Then we go home and kind of forget, so when we get back together – well, it’s a little like starting over.

As the rehearsal process goes on, this will lessen and we’ll stay more and more in the moment.  And Mark won’t have to work quite so hard.

Henry Drummond (Jim Danic) selects a jury member.  He'll do.
Henry Drummond (Jim Danic) selects a jury member. He’ll do.

The court scenes, I think, will be harder to get on top of that the town scenes.  Outside of the court, the crowd is pretty much the driving force of the scene and our responses are a little easier to connect to.

But in the court room, we are subordinate to the lawyers and witnesses.  Ir’s a delicate balance.  We have to keep that undercurrent of life going on, but we can’t overwhelm the center stage drama – and we can’t step on any of the moments.

Still, well on track for our opening in June.

Judge Tom Day prepares for the trial of the century.  The ping-pong paddle is the rehearsal version of his gavel.
Judge Tom Day prepares for the trial of the century. The ping-pong paddle is the rehearsal version of his gavel.

Lineup Data: Through 29 Games

With the Cardinals closing out the Philadelphia series with a 4-0 victory, and while awaiting the first visit of the Pittsburgh team to our fair community, let’s spend the morning sifting through the lineup data collected so far.

Carlos Martinez makes his sixth start of the season tonight.  The Cards are 4-1 when he starts.  In his 29 starts last year, they went 22-7.

With the left-handed Liriano pitching tonight, Jeremy Hazelbaker probably will not be in the starting lineup.  The Cards are, however, 8-5 when he starts, scoring 6.31 runs per game.  No other Cardinal (with at least ten starts) has seen the team win over 60% of the time his name appears in the lineup.  Hazelbaker has not started a game against a left-handed pitcher all season.

Brandon Moss also has a .600 winning percentage (9 wins in 15 starts) when he starts against right-handed pitchers.  He is 0-2 when in the lineup against lefties.  Last year, Brandon started 8 games against lefties.  St. Louis won 5 of the 8, while losing 14 of the 27 he started against right-handers.

Matt Holliday has the worst current winning percentage as a starter (at least ten starts).  St Louis has lost 14 of the 24 games Matt has started (.417).  St Louis has won all five games when Holliday has not appeared in the starting lineup.  Last year, Matt was only healthy enough to start 68 games.  The Cards won 44 of them (.647).

By Position in Lineup

Stephen Piscotty has hit second in the lineup 19 times so far.  St Louis is 10-9 in those games.  Piscotty spent 30 games in the second slot last year, with a 15-15 record.  Hazelbaker has the second most starts in the two-slot.  St Louis is 5-3, scoring 7.50 runs per game when Jeremy bats second.

Nobody has occupied the cleanup spot in the lineup more than ten times in the team’s first 29 games.  That player is Brandon Moss.  St Louis is 5-5 in those starts, scoring 6.10 runs per game.  Brandon batted cleanup just once for the Cardinals last year – and they were shut out in that game.  Two other players have hit cleanup eight times each – Randal Grichuk (5-3, 6.25 runs per game) and Matt Adams (3-5, 2.88 rpg).  Grichuk only hit cleanup five times all last year.  Adams, however, was the Cardinal cleanup hitter 30 times in 2015, with the team winning 20 of those games.

Batting fifth has mostly been either Yadier Molina (12 times) or Grichuk (11 times).  With Yadi in the 5-slot, St Louis is 5-7 scoring 4.50 rpg.  Molina hit fifth more than anyone else last year, although he claimed that spot in the lineup just 49 times.  The team was 28-21 with Yadi batting fifth, scoring 3.89 rpg.  With Grichuk batting fifth, the record is 6-5, 6.45 rpg.  Grichuk made 19 starts in 2015 as the #5 hitter in the lineup, leading the team to a 11-8 record in spite of the fact that St Louis scored only 2.84 runs per game in those games.

Molina has spent most of the season batting sixth, leading the team to a 9-6 record and 6.67 runs per game.  St Louis is 6-8 with someone else bats sixth.  Last year, St Louis was 34-14 (.708) when Yadi batted sixth.

Kolten Wong has had the most opportunity in the 7-slot in the lineup, making 14 starts there.  The results have been 8-6 with 5.36 runs per game.  St Louis went 17-10 last year in the 27 games that Wong batted seventh.  Jedd Gyorko has made the second most starts batting seventh.  St Louis has won only 3 of his 9 starts, although they have averaged 5.78 runs in those games.

Aledmys Diaz has occupied the eighth spot in the lineup 17 times so far this season.  The Cards have won 9 of the games, scoring 6.53 runs per game.  St Louis is 6-6 with anyone else batting eighth.