Tag Archives: Adams

Offense, Bullpen Continue to Fade

It was, in many way, the kind of game that Mike Matheny would have felt right at home in.  It was, in fact, a microcosm of the season’s first half.  The blueprint went like this: a more than credible effort from the starting pitcher, undermined by an overmatched offense that spent the game waving at breaking pitches out of the strike zone, with any hope of victory dashed at the end by bullpen shenanigans.

In particular, Jack Flaherty gave the Cardinals – struggling to cling to a playoff spot – all that the team could ask for.  After six excellent innings, Jack left the game having allowed just one run.

It would be more than his offense would manage all night – and almost more hits that his offense would garner in the game.  The close game then slipped away as two more runs scored over the last three innings, and the Dodgers finished erasing St Louis’ wildcard lead with a 3-0 victory (box score).  The game featured two Cardinal singles and 10 Cardinal strikeouts.

Throughout the amazing month of August (during which the bullpen posted a 2.82 ERA and a .214 batting average against), Cardinal relievers worked a total of 92.2 innings, allowing a total of 30 runs and 6 home runs.  The two runs allowed by the pen last night, bring their September total to 31 runs allowed, and the home run launched by Yasiel Puig off of Tyler Webb was the eighth allowed already by the bullpen this month in just 50.1 innings.

The St Louis bullpen now boasts an ERA of 5.01 in September, with a .289/.374/.489 slash line  If you are looking for the biggest difference between the 22-6 Cardinals of August and the 5-8 Cardinals of early September, the bullpen would be where you would start.

Flaherty

The inadequacies of the team, though, cannot dim another excellent performance by young Jack Flaherty.  Not quite to his 23rd birthday, Flaherty, at least, has come down the stretch pitching like a champion.  With 6 more innings of 4-hit, 8-strikeout ball, Jack has reduced his second half ERA to 2.42 over 63.1 innings in 11 starts.  Opponents have hit .167 against him since the break, while he has piled up 81 strikeouts – 11.51 per 9 innings.  While the Cardinals seem to be fading fast, the future is still very bright for this organization – and nowhere more bright than the right arm and competitive nature of Jack Flaherty.

With those strikeouts, it should come as no surprise that Jack has the team’s best swing-and-miss ratio.  Last night, the Dodgers missed on 18 of the 47 swings they took against him (38.3%).  Since the All-Star break, batters miss 32.8% of the time that they swing against him, and 30.3% of the time this season.

A point of improvement for the young right-hander could certainly be pitch efficiency.  As good as Jack has been, he has managed quality starts only 10 times in his 25 starts, mostly because his pitch counts haven’t allowed him to work past the fifth inning in many of these games.  Even as Flaherty finished six last night, he did it at the cost of 103 pitches – a hefty 4.48 per batter faced.  For the season, Jack is throwing 4.22 pitches per batter.  Of Cardinal pitchers who have faced at least 100 batters, only Daniel Poncedeleon (4.37) throws more.  The team average is just 3.88 pitches per batter.

Dominic Leone

When Dominic Leone walked Justin Turner with one out in the eighth inning, Manny Machado came to the plate in a double-play opportunity.  It was the twenty-third time this season that Leone faced a batter with an opportunity to get a double play.  He is still looking for his first – although this one was close.  Dominic got the ground ball he needed, but could only get the out at first.

Leone also threw first-pitch strikes to all four batters he faced – in spite of the fact that he walked two of them.  Walks are a rarity from Dominic, who has walked just 7 (3 intentional) in 21 innings this year.  A lot of this is due to the fact that Leone isn’t afraid to throw strike one.  Since his return from the DL, 63.2% of the batters Dominic has faced have seen first-pitch strikes.

In general, batters have been willing to play along with Leone.  Last night, 2 of the 4 he faced offered at that first pitch.  For the season, 37.6% of the batters that Leone has faced have chased after that first pitch.  It is the highest ratio of any pitcher on the team that has faced at least 50 batters.

Bud Norris

Bud Norris was called on in the eighth to face Yasmani Grandal with a couple runners on.  His first pitch was a fastball – up but just a bit away.  Grandal took it (for a strike).  Increasingly, batters are not offering at Bud’s first pitch.  During the season’s first half, 35.5% of the batters to face Norris chased after his first pitch.  Since the break, that ratio has dropped to 27.4%.

Of the 5 swings he took, Grandal only missed once.  This has been another notable drop-off for Norris as the season has worn along.  In the first half, batters missed connections on 30.4% of their swings.  That number is down to 17.8% swung-and-missed since then. (Only 15.6% in September, as Bud has only 5 swinging strikes all month.)  Since the break – among Cardinal pitchers who have faced at least 20 batters – only Tyson Ross (16.3%) has missed fewer bats.

Tyler Webb

The first 29 batters that Tyler Webb faced as a Cardinal saw 19 first-pitch strikes (65.5%).  This includes 11 who swung at the pitch (37.9%).  Last night, none of the 5 Dodgers he faced offered at his first pitch, and only 2 of the 5 were called strikes.  Through the month of September, so far, Webb has now faced 22 batters, throwing only 10 first-pitch strikes (45.5%) and having only 4 batters swing at them (18.2%).

Did I Mention the Cards Had Only Two Hits?

After pushing all year to get the team batting average up to .250, the Cardinals are working hard to get it to fall from there.  They are still hitting .250 as a team (.249503 to be precise, which is about as narrow as you can still be hitting .250), but have put that mark in jeopardy hitting just .229 (99 for 433) this month.

Matt Carpenter

The league’s leading home run hitter, Matt Carpenter is fighting through a harsh September.  After 4 hitless at bats (during which he struck out 3 times), Carpenter is hitting .208 for the month (10 of 48).  He has just 2 doubles and is still trying for his first September home run.  Carpenter has 2 home runs over his last 29 games.

Matt Adams

In his second tour wearing the birds on the bat, Matt Adams has had some nice moments – most recently a big home run against Pittsburgh.  Overall, though, Matt has been less than torrid in his return.  With his 0-for-4 last night, Adams is hitting .167 (8 for 48) as a Cardinal.

Marcell Ozuna

One of the casualties of last night’s loss was the end of Marcell Ozuna’s impressive 9-game hitting streak.  While this has not been the season envisioned, in Marcell’s previous 9 games he was every bit the offensive force the Cardinals were hoping for.  He had multiple hits in 5 of the 9, hitting .410 (16 for 39) during the streak.  It wasn’t a quiet .410 either, as Ozuna’s 16 hits included 2 doubles and 5 home runs.  He drove in 13 runs during the streak, while slugging .846.

Kolten Wong

Amidst the recent offensive struggles, Kolten Wong has returned to the lineup from the disabled list.  He has yet to re-discover his stroke.  Hitless in 2 at bats last night, Wong is hitting .211 (4 for 19) since his return with 1 run batted in and 1 extra-base hit.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina’s September has been interrupted by an elbow injury, and he has yet to find the range either this month.  He was hitless in 3 at bats last night, falling to .235 (4 for 17) for the month.

Lost Opportunity

As I was finishing this up, the Dodgers were wrapping up the Saturday afternoon contest against the Cardinals with a message-sending, 17-4 humiliation of the home-town team.

While starting pitcher John Gant didn’t deliver his best game, the game (once again) got away when manager Mike Shildt went to the bullpen.  St Louis actually held a 4-3 lead at that point (one out in the fifth), but LA had the bases loaded, and Gant was scuffling – having made 75 pitches already.  So Mike played the bullpen card.

In addition to allowing all 3 of Gant’s inherited runners to score, the bullpen outdid themselves the rest of the afternoon, finishing their 4.2 inning adventure allowing 11 runs of their own (7 earned) on 10 hits – including 3 home runs.

September’s bullpen line now reads 11 home runs allowed in 55 innings, a 5.73 ERA, accompanied by a .305/.394/.531 batting line.

This tumble (and the Cards have now lost 4 straight – tying their longest losing streak of the season) represents a sizeable lost opportunity.

Back on September 5, the Cards had just overcome Washington by a 7-6 score.  At that point, they were 78-62.  They were a manageable 4.5 games behind Chicago for the division lead (considering there were 22 games to go).  They held the second wild-card spot over the Dodgers by 2 games, and were only a half-game behind Milwaukee for the top spot.

And the 22 games before them couldn’t set up any better.  They started with 3 in Detroit against a Tiger team that had already lost 83 games and sat 22.5 game out in their division.  Following that, the Cards would play 13 of their next 16 at home, ending the season with 3 in Chicago against the Cubs.  If during the preceding 19 games they could manage to strike a couple of games off the Cubs’ lead, those last three might well be for the division title.

To this point, the Cards have done their best to waste that opportunity.  Including today’s loss, the Cards have lost 6 of the first 9 of those games.  They have lost their entire lead over LA –and in fact now trail them – also losing 2 games to Chicago, and 4 games (at the moment, pending the result of their game) to the Brewers.

Since management removed the “interim” tag from Shidt’s title, the Cards are 8-10 and fading fast – being dragged down by the same flaw that doomed Matheny – an ineffective bullpen.

Lots of Early One Run Games

Last year, through the course of their 162-game season, the Cardinals played in 47 one run games – 29% of their contests were decided by one run.  They were 24-23 in those contests.

Although last night’s 6-5 loss to Toronto (box score) was their first extra-inning game of the season, it was their eighth one run game of the season already (they are 4-4).  Should they continue at this pace, they will end the season having played in 65 such contests.

One run games are the predictable result when a team combines mostly excellent pitching with a sluggish offense (as the three 2-1 games we played against the Pirates earlier this month attest).  They are also a barometer of the team’s character.  Once in a while throughout the season, I glance at the numbers from these games.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko remains the hottest of the Cardinal hitters.  Since the beginning of the Pirate series, the Cards have been averaging 5.2 runs per game and hitting .303 as a team.  Gyorko, who has played in four of the five games, has been at the forefront of the offensive surge.

Jedd now has multiple hits in three of the last four games, including two three-hit games.  He is now 9 for 16 against Milwaukee and Toronto (a .563 average) with five of the hits for extra-bases (3 doubles, a triple, and a home run).  He has 3 RBIs and a 1.063 slugging percentage during this recent action.

Gyorko clearly needs to be in the lineup (even though he is clearly not the best defensive choice at any of the positions he plays).

Jedd is also just one of two Cardinal hitters to be hitting above .250 in one run games so far.  He has only played in 5 of the 8 (starting just 4), but is off to a 4-for-13 start (.308) that includes a double and a home run – a .615 slugging percentage.  The only player hitting better in these games is Jose Martinez (who hit his first major league home run last night).  Playing in all 8 one run games so far (starting 4), Jose is 7 for 16 with 2 doubles and the home run – a .438 batting average and a .750 slugging percentage.

Dexter Fowler

Of the regulars, Dexter Fowler has the highest batting average so far this season in one run games – although at just .242.  After last night’s 2-for-5 game that included the hit that drove in the tying run in the ninth, Dexter is now 8 for 33 in one run games.  Half of his hits are for extra-bases (including the two home runs he hit in one game in Pittsburgh).  Dexter is slugging .515 through the Cards’ first 8 one run games.

The team is averaging .216 (56 for 259) and is scoring 2.63 runs per one-run game.

Stephen Piscotty

With his two hits last night, Stephen Piscotty is the early leader among the regulars in on-base percentage during the eight one run games.  He is still hitting just .231 in these contests (6 for 26), but has drawn three walks and been hit by two pitches – a healthy .355 percentage.

Yadier Molina

After an indifferent start, Yadier Molina is starting to have the ball fall in for him.  With two more hits last night, Yadi has 5 in the last 2 games, and a baby hitting streak of five games – during which he’s hit a very soft .364 (8 for 22, but with only one double).  We talked a little about Yadi’s patience (or lack thereof) yesterday.  Yadi hasn’t drawn a walk since April 8 against Cincinnati’s Robert Stevenson.  That was 48 plate appearances ago.

Like Piscotty, Molina is 6 for 26 so far in one run games (a .231 average) with all of those hits being singles.

Aledmys Diaz

Last night was not Aledmys Diaz’ best performance of the season.  He capped his 0-for-5 night with the throwing error that brought home the winning run (albeit a more experienced first baseman would have probably saved Diaz the error).

Nonetheless, Diaz has hit better in recent days.  His hitless game last night broke his little five-game streak, during which he had hit .375 (6 for 16) and slugged .625 (his hits included a double and a home run).  He walked only once during the streak, but also struck out just once.

Aledmys was a solid bat in the 32 one run games he played in last year.  He hit .256 with 4 home runs and 19 runs batted in in those games, including 2 game winning hits.

This year, though, Diaz’ bat has been the most absent during one run games.  After last night, Aledmys is just 5 for 30, with 2 doubles, no walks and no RBIs in the eight one run games he’s played so far – a batting line of .167/.167/.233.  His batting average and on base percentage are the lowest on the team among starters in one run games.

Matt Adams

With Matt Carpenter serving a one-game suspension, Matt Adams got the opportunity to earn himself more playing time.  But his frustrating start continued.  He started and went 0 for 2 with two strikeouts.  Matt is hitting .172 on the young season (5 for 29) with no extra-base hits and 13 strikeouts.

Michael Wacha

After being blessed with an abundance of run support in his first start (a 10-4 win over Cincinnati), each of Michael Wacha’s last three starts have been decided by one run – a 4-3 loss in New York to the Yankees; a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh and Gerrit Cole; and last night’s loss.  Only Carlos Martinez (who has had two of his four starts decided by one run) has started more than one one-run game.

The Starting Pitching Counts in One Run Games

The eight starting pitchers in these one run games have an aggregate ERA of 1.99 and a batting line against of .219/.291/.310.  Last year, the starters in the one run games scuffled to a 3.75 ERA with a .269/.321/.396 batting line against.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist threw an eventful, but scoreless inning last night.  He gave up two hits, but didn’t walk a batter for the first time in seven appearances.  The only other game he’s pitched in this season in which he didn’t walk a batter was game #2 against the Cubs – and he hit a batter in that inning.  He also struck out two batters for the second straight time.  After managing just 2 strikeouts over his first 5.1 innings, he has 4 in his last 2.  Kevin’s ERA still hovers at 8.59, but by degrees he’s starting to resemble the Kevin Siegrist we are used to seeing around here.

Kevin has now tossed 4 scoreless innings in the 4 one run games he’s participated in – even though he’s walked three and hit one in those games.  The 21 batters who have faced Siegrist in one run games hit .176/.333/.176.

The first eight one run games of the season have been – more or less – a microcosm of the Cardinal season.  The offense has provided opportunities that have not been capitalized on.  With runners in scoring position, St Louis is 8 for 48 (.167) in its one run games.  With RISP and 2 outs, they are 4 for 22 (.182) in those contests.  Three of the four one-run losses the Cards have incurred have seen the winning runs scored on an error.  We’ve also lost four runners on the bases in those eight games.

But the pitching in general – and the starting pitching in particular – has held us in the contests.  Yes, it is still early, but the pitching is starting to look like it will be a consistent force for good for the whole season.  If this club wants to stop hovering around the .500 mark, it will need to clean up the mistakes and hit when the opportunities present themselves.

Final Notes from Spring Training 2017

A couple final thoughts as Spring Training 2017 comes to a close.

Matt Adams

Matt Adams has been a tease his entire Cardinal career.  A big guy, capable of generating substantial power, Matt has shown all this talent and ability only in short bursts.  After an uninspiring April, Adams was one of baseball’s best hitters in May.  He hit .364 that month (24 for 66) and slugged .652.  This was part of an even longer stretch that began with 2 hits – including a home run – against Stephen Strasburg on April 29 and ran through a pinch-single against Cincinnati on June 9.  He was 37 for 95 (.389) with 7 home runs, 28 runs-batted-in (this was only 31 games of which he’d started just 25) and a .684 slugging percentage.

And then, abruptly, it all went away and never came back.  Over the last 164 at bats of his season, Adams hit .177 (29 of 164) – albeit with 8 more home runs.  This is not the first time that Adams had done this.

Matt Adams 2017 has come to camp 30 pounds lighter, significantly more athletic, and hitting with the relaxed confidence that characterized his May spree.  Understandably, many Cardinal fans are hesitant to buy into it – and I confess that I have reservations, too.  A lot of them are hoping that Matt’s strong spring catches the eye of some other team leading to a trade of Adams elsewhere – and that may well happen.

But before that happens, pause and consider.  The Cards are opening the season with Jhonny Peralta at third base.  Jhonny will turn 35 at the end of May.  Like Adams, Peralta looks more athletic and seems stronger than last year.  But Peralta is still turning 35.  He may have a strong season left in him, but he is not the future.  The Birds do have a couple of promising third-basemen working their way through the minors – but neither are quite major-league ready yet.

Because Peralta is playing third, Matt Carpenter is pushed to first base.  It may become necessary – either this year or next – to move Carpenter back to third (depending on what Peralta has left in the tank).

What all this means is that Matt Adams may be a more important part of the team’s future than otherwise thought.  I don’t preach endless patience with Adams, but I think there have been enough flashes of potential in the past to warrant another long look.  Between now and the time that Patrick Wisdom and Paul DeJong arrive, the Cards will need to know what they have (or don’t have) in Adams.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal burst on the scene in 2014 and took over as the Cardinal closer.  Featuring his 100-mph signature fastball, Trevor proceeded to save 93 games over the next two seasons with a 2.65 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 139 innings.  In addition, Trevor has 7 postseason saves and a 0.69 ERA in post-season play over 4 different seasons.

Rosenthal staggered to a disappointing 4.46 ERA in an injury marred 2016 and lost his closer’s responsibility.  It has now been announced that Trevor will begin this season on the disabled list – courtesy of the lat strain that interrupted his spring.

So things seem to be low-ebbing for the talented Mr. Rosenthal.  Again, though, pause and consider.  Trevor won’t turn 27 until the end of May.  Assuming his injury is no more serious than it seems, there are a lot of fastballs still left in that arm.  The talent that made him an elite closer is still there.

Seung-hwan Oh, on the other hand, turns 35 in July.  I don’t question Oh’s designation as closer.  He more than earned that with a great season last year.  But, again, he is not the future.

Rosenthal – once he’s healthy – is.  It would behoove the Cardinal organization to keep Trevor very invested in the season.  If not the closer, they should at least carve him out a prominent bullpen role.  Trevor is arbitration eligible next year and free-agent eligible the year after that.  If the Cards allow Trevor to become disaffected and filter his way out of the organization, they will come to regret it.

Michael Wacha

There are a lot of good things that came out of the Cardinal spring training.  I believe that the best thing that could happen for the organization is the return of Michael Wacha.

It’s been so long since Wacha was really good that it’s almost impossible to remember the kid who – 16 starts into his 2015 season – stood at 10-3 with a 2.66 ERA.  Through his first 101.1 innings, he had allowed just 7 home runs and was holding batters to a .228 average.  When healthy, Wacha is a special pitcher.

Factor the Wacha of old into a long-term rotation that could include Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes and Sandy Alcantrara, and the very-near future could be very bright.

Now, spring training is not September, and, as the song says, it’s a long long time from May to December.  Michael has a long way to go and many innings for his strengthened shoulder to bear – so this is all far from a done deal.  But this becomes one of the most important storylines of the season.

Spring Training in Review

So, Spring training ends with 20 wins and a lot of enthusiasm.  It’s a little hard not to get carried away.  Again, pause and remember.  Spring Training is just Spring Training.  The tortuous 162-game marathon lies before us.

That being said, the hot spring was – in an important sense – just what the doctor ordered.  After a disappointing season, an uncertain off-season, and the early loss of wunderkind Alex Reyes for the season, this is a team that kind of needed to feel good about itself.  Especially as the teams spring strengths (starting pitching and defense) were areas of weakness last year.

I don’t usually put a lot of stock in hot Aprils.  Too often I have seen teams bolt out of the gate only to fade in the heat of August.  But this is one year that a fast start could go a long way toward healing the angst of 2016 – which began with three straight losses and never really got on track after that.

A good April – especially if it includes a couple of wins against the Cubs in the season opening season.  The psyche of the team and the fans took a significant hit last year when they were never a factor in the division race and ended up out of the playoffs.  A good start will go a long way toward washing the bad taste of one of the worst years in recent US history out of our collective mouths.

What’s Next?

With the regular season now on deck, we will be dark in this space for a couple of weeks.  That sounds a little counter-intuitive, I know, but since the concept here is the numbers and the stories they tell we have to let a few games pass to get enough numbers collected to mean anything.

So, while I will be watching intently these next few weeks, it’ll be about mid-April before we sit back and start sifting through the early numbers.

We will see you back here then.

Wacha Excellent in 1-0 Loss to Philly

Although Cardinal starter Michael Wacha was very, very good last night, the 1-0 loss was the fourth loss in the first five games of the home stand, and the fifth in the last six games.

The team batting totals over the last six games are a little deceptive.  St Louis has scored just 16 runs (2.67 per game) and is batting just .221.  The reality of the situation is significantly different.  It’s considerably worse.  Poor as these numbers are, they are substantially inflated by the 10-run outburst Monday night.  Remove that game from the totals, and St Louis is hitting just .186 (30-for-161) in the “other” five games, with only 2 home runs (they hit five on Monday), 6 runs scored and 54 strikeouts.  They have now been shut out twice in those other games.

Zero-for-three last night, St. Louis is just 5 for its last 26 (.139) with runners in scoring position.  They were also 0-for-7 with runners on base, and are just 12 for their last 74 (.162) with any runners on base.

In a bit of a departure, most of the recent offensive struggles have come against right-handed pitchers (Rubby De La Rosa, Joe Ross, Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola).  Over the last six games, they are hitting .308 (8-for-26) with a .615 slugging percentage against the lefty relievers they’ve faced.  Over that same span, they are hitting .208 (36-for-173) against right handed pitching.

Matt Carpenter led off the game with a double.  This would be the only time in the game that the Cardinals would put a lead-off man on.  That being said, production leading off an inning is on the rise this year.  In 2015, Cardinal leadoff hitters carried an uninspiring .318 on base percentage, scoring 44% of the times that they reached.  So far this year, that on base figure is .377, with the runner scoring 50% of the time.

Howard’s home run last night off Michael Wacha was the ninth served up by Cardinal pitching over the last six games.  During this span, the St Louis starters have held opposing hitters to a .209 batting average (31-for-148), but 14 of those hits have been for extra bases, including 8 of the home runs allowed by the staff.  The opposing slugging percentage against the last six Cardinal starters is .412, and their ERA – despite the low batting average – is 4.39.

This has, in fact, been the recurring image from the recent losses to Arizona, Washington and Philadelphia.  A very credible performance by a Cardinal starter that is decided by a game-changing homer.

Matt Holiday

Matt Holliday’s last walk came in the sixth inning of the April 23rd game in San Diego, 32 plate appearances ago.

Matt Adams

Matt Adams saw 18 pitches during his 4 plate appearances.  But grinding out at bats is still not Matt’s strong suit, as he went 0-for-4 in those appearances.  While Adams is 4 for his last 5 when he hits the first pitch, he is now just 2 for his last 14 (.143) if the at bat extends to a second pitch.

Aledmys Diaz

One of the significant features of this recent downturn is the first protracted slump by Aledmys Diaz.  Off to a record-setting hot start, Diaz was 0-for-3 yesterday with 2 strikeouts.  He now has just 2 hits in his last 18 at bats (.111).  One of the defining traits of major league hitters is the ability to work their way out of slumps.  The next several games will be very revealing about Aledmys.

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha has now been twice victimized by lack of any run support during the downturn, which started when he was shut out by De La Rosa in Arizona, 3-0.  Over his last two starts, Wacha has given the Cardinals 15 innings allowing just 4 runs on 10 hits (a 2.40 ERA), while striking out 17.  But, eight of the 10 hits allowed have been for extra bases, including three home runs, which have accounted for all the runs against him.

The most significant damage done against Wacha have come of the bats of the left-handers he’s faced in those starts.  Last night, lefties were only 3-for-12 (.250) against him, but that included Ceasar Hernandez’ double as well as the Howard home run.  Over his last two stars, left-handed hitters haven’t hit much against him (.238 on 5-of-21 hitting), but four of the five hits have been for extra-bases, including the game winning home runs by Howard and Chris Hermann.

Right-handers, by contrast, were 2-for-15 last night against Wacha (.133) and just 5-for-31 (.161) over his last 15 innings.

Seven of the eight extra-base hits he’s surrendered have come with the bases empty.  Over his last two starts, once a runner reaches base, the next batters are just 1-for-11 (.091) against Wacha, including 0-for-6 last night.  That lone hit, of course, was the Hermann home run.

Batters who hit Wacha’s first or second pitch went 4 for 12 (.333) with two doubles and the home run.  Batters that didn’t get him early, pretty much didn’t get him.  Everyone else went 1 for 15 (.067).  In Wacha’s starts against Arizona and Philadelphia, batters who reached him early were 5 for 14 (.357) with a .786 slugging percentage.  Thereafter, Michael allowed just 5 hits to the other 38 batters (.132).

De La Rosa Silences Cardinal Bats, Wins 3-0

So, all those excellent situational numbers I trotted out yesterday?  Rubby De La Rosa had an answer for all of them.  The road trip ends 4-3, and home we come to face Washington (who has been shutout in their last two games).  De La Rosa isn’t usually included among the “name” pitchers in the league, but he has been very good his last two times out.

Matt Adam’s 0-for-3, 1 walk night featured him hitting with two-strikes in two of those plate appearances.  Of his 41 plate appearances, Matt has hit with two strikes on him 27 times.  His 65.9% is far and away the highest on the team.  Brandon Moss has the team’s second highest rate, hitting with two-strikes 52.9% of the time (36 of 68).  The issue doesn’t seem to be a problem with passivity.  Of the 27 times this year that Adams has been in two-strike counts, he has swung at at least one of the first two strikes in 26 of them.  In 22 of the plate appearances, he has swung at the second strike, either fouling it off or missing it entirely.  His second inning, 8-pitch at bat last night against De la Rosa is more or less typical.  He fouled off four of the pitches before drawing the walk, including a fastball up and over the plate and a hanging slider.  Last year, he saw two-strike counts in only 46.8% of the time (87 of 186).

Twenty-two games into the season, Matt has only 41 plate appearances and 7 starts (including last night against the right-handed De La Rosa).  The problem could simply be something as simple as timing, aggravated by lack of consistent playing time.  But there is no simple answer for it.  You have to hit to play, so Matt is going to have to work his way through and take advantage of the opportunities that he gets.  Matt is 5-for-12 when he puts the ball in play before he gets two-strikes on him.  He is 3-for-26 (.115) once he sees that second strike.

Twenty-eight times, so far, in Aledmys Diaz’ rookie season he has hit with two strikes on him (including one last night against De La Rosa).  He has struck out in only 3 of those plate appearances (10.7%).  This makes him far and away the hardest on the team to get that third strike by.  The next closest is Yadier Molina who strikes out 25.6% of the time he gets two strikes on him (11 of 43).  In spite of his 0-for-1 last night, Diaz is still hitting .423 (11-for-26) with two strikes on him.

In all, 19 of the 33 Cardinals who came to the plate ended up hitting with two strikes.  Two of them worked walks.  The other 17 managed 2 hits and 11 strikeouts.

Even in defeat, Michael Wacha was very sharp.  Of the 27 batters he faced, he got two strikes on 18 of them (66.7%).  One walked, but only one of the other 17 hit the ball safely – Chris Hermann, whose game-winning home run came on a 1-2 pitch.

Cardinals Fight Past Cincinnati, 4-3, to Win Seventh of Last Nine

With Jedd Gyorko, Greg Garcia and Eric Fryer all starting, yesterday’s lineup looked like it was getaway day.  Continuing an early-season meme, the Cardinals’ bench players led the way.

Eric Fryer

Eric Fryer – thrust into the backup catcher role by Brayan Pena’s injury – put together a 3-for-3 afternoon and has started his Cardinal career with six hits in six at bats.

His second inning double that gave the Cardinals a short-lived 2-1 lead came on a 2-2 pitch.  He is now 3-for-3 in the early going with two strikes on him.  Fryer was also 2-for-2 yesterday and is 3-for-3 on the year with 2 outs.

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia had the “other” pinch home run the night the Cardinals became the first team ever to hit three pinch hit home runs.  While there has been substantial attention paid to Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz (who have pushed their way into the starting lineup), Garcia has quietly been a part of the recent Red Surge.  He has 5 hits in his last 8 at bats, including that home run.

Matt Adams

All three of Matt Adams at bats yesterday came with the bases empty.  With his 0 for 3, Adams is now hitless in 7 at bats this season with the bases empty.  He is four for 12 with at least one runner on base.

Matt also lined out to right on a 1-2 pitch in the fourth.  Adams, now 0 for 12, is still looking for his first 2-strike hit this season.

Three pitches continues to be the dividing line in Adams’ at bats.  Hitless in 2 four-pitch at bats yesterday, Adams is now 0 for 13 this season in all plate appearances that have lasted more than three pitches.

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty’s 0-for-4 day included three at bats with no one on base and one with one runner on.  Over the last 9 games, Stephen is 5 for 27 with less than 2 runners on base (.185).  He is 4 for 7 including a home run with 2 runners on base.

Stephen, of course, had the big series in Atlanta (5 for 13 with a home run and 4 RBIs).  He hasn’t quite found the range during the home stand.  Playing in 5 of the 6 games so far, Stephen is 4 for 21 (.190) although he did hit a three-run homer against Cincinnati on Saturday that briefly gave the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.

He was also 0-for-2 hitting with 2-strikes on him yesterday.  Stephen is 1 for his last 15 (.067) once he gets two strikes on him.

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha added a second consecutive quality start since he struggled at Pittsburgh.  In beating Milwaukee and taking a no decision against Cincinnati, Wacha has been touched for one earned run over 12 innings (0.75 ERA).  Even with Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake still struggling, the Cardinals’ team ERA is still 3.56 since leaving Pittsburgh.

Jay Bruce’s infield single was the only hit that Wacha allowed to a left-handed batter yesterday.  Over his starts against the Brewers and Reds, lefties have managed 2 hits (both singles) in 12 at bats (.167).  Overall, Cincy’s left-handed batters went 1 for 9 against Cardinal pitching yesterday.  Since the Pittsburgh series, left-handers are hitting just .207 (24/116) against the Cardinal pitching staff.

Wacha has also excelled with two outs over his last two starts.  Cincinnati was 1 for 7 with two outs yesterday and over the two starts opposing hitters are 2 for 13 once Wacha gets two outs.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist retired all three right-handed batters that faced him yesterday.  Always a difficult at bat for righties, Kevin has held the 14 right-handers he’s faced so far this year to 0 for 14 with 8 strikeouts.

Siegrist has also been death to hitters once he gets them in 2-strike counts, which he did to all four batters he faced yesterday (and to 14 of the 19 he’s faced so far this year).  They went 0-for-4 yesterday and are 0-for-13 so far this season (with 9 of them striking out).

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal is also unsolved when he gets two strikes on a batter this year.  They are 0 for 12 with 11 strikeouts after he struck out two more in yesterday’s game.

Overall

With two more home runs yesterday, the Cardinals now sit at 21 through 12 games and 427 at bats.  Home run #21 in 2015 came in the third inning of the Cardinals’ 29th game – an 8-5 win in Pittsburgh on May 8.  Matt Holiday broke a 1-1 tie with a 3-run drive against Francisco Liriano.  It was the Cardinals’ 982nd at bat of the season.  Over the 9 games since they left Pittsburgh, the Cardinals are scoring 8.67 runs per game, with a team-wide slash line of .310/.391/.583.  They have 13 in the first 6 games of this home stand after hitting 6 in three games in Atlanta.

In losing 3 games in Pittsburgh, the Cardinals were just 3 for 24 (.125) – all singles – with runners in scoring position.  Since then (and in spite of the fact that they were 0 for 5 in RISP situations last night), the Cardinals have 38 hits (18 for extra-bases) in 99 at bats with runners in scoring position,  Over the last 9 games, the Cardinals RISP slash line is a jaw-dropping .384/.436/.758.