Tag Archives: Lynn

First Pitch Fastball Watchers?

As former Cardinal Mark Reynolds stood in to lead off the fifth inning, Cardinal starter Lance Lynn fired him a four-seam fastball that Reynolds fouled off.  In six-plus innings last night, Lynn faced 21 batters.  Reynolds was the only one all night to swing at his first pitch.  Even Matt Carpenter doesn’t take that many first pitches.

Lance faced only 13 batters as he sailed through the first four innings.  Twelve of those batters saw first-pitch fastballs.  None of them swung at them.  Five of the twelve were out of the strike zone.  Three of the other seven were very inviting.  Beginning in the third inning, five consecutive batters – including Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado – took first-pitch fastballs for strikes.  Thirteen of the 21 batters took the first two pitches from Lynn.

If this was strategy, it didn’t work very well. Lance didn’t get the win, but he stopped Colorado on one run on three hits over his six-plus innings and set the Cards up for a 3-2 walk-off win (box score).

In so doing, Lance added another strong starting effort to the team’s latest streak.  Over the last 14 games, Cardinal starting pitchers have thrown 10 quality starts.  In the 87.1 innings they’ve pitched during those games, they have surrendered just 77 hits, including only 8 home runs and 15 walks (1 intentional).  It works out to a 2.27 ERA, a .231 batting average against, and a .266 opponent’s on base percentage.

The best hope that Cardinals have of being significant before the season ends is a continued string of strong starts.  And, hopefully, at some point a bullpen that can hold a late-inning lead.  St Louis is only 8-6 in its last 14 games, in spite of the excellence of its starting pitching.

Lance Lynn

Lance – who I am hoping will survive the trade deadline and remain with the team for the rest of the season – has been a pillar of the great recent run of starting pitching.  He has started 4 of the last 14, all of them quality starts.  He is 2-0 with an 0.71 ERA and a .193/.228/.273 batting line against.  After previously allowing 8 home runs over a 4 game span, Lance has allowed just 1 in his last 4.

Last night was the fourth time this season that Lynn left a game with a lead, only to watch his bullpen give it up.

For the game, Lance didn’t throw a lot of first-pitch strikes.  He threw ball one to four of the first five batters he faced, and ended his evening missing with the first pitch to each of the last six batters he faced.  At the end of the evening, only 9 of the 21 batters he faced saw strike one.  But when he did throw that first pitch strike, those batters finished 0-for-8 with 4 strikeouts and 1 walk.

Throughout this month, Lance has only thrown first-pitch strikes to 61 of the 114 batters he’s faced (54%).  But when he does get that first pitch in, he has held batters to a .138 average (8 for 58).

Over the last 14 games, batters getting a first-pitch strike from a Cardinal pitcher have gone on to hit just .199 (56 for 281).

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist pitched for the second consecutive day for the first time since he came off the disabled list.  That might be a reason he wasn’t quite as dominant as he had been in his first four games (he walked a batter and got no strikeouts).

He was plenty good enough though, considering the situation.  Kevin came on in the seventh, with Rockies at second and third and no one out while clinging to a precarious 2-0 lead.  One run scored on a fly ball, but Kevin successfully de-fused what could have been a damaging inning.  Siegrist has thrown 4.2 innings since his return and has allowed only one hit.

Matthew Bowman

It wouldn’t be a Cardinal game without a blown save.  The honors, last night, fell to Matthew Bowman.  Recently, Matthew had pitched 11 straight games without allowing a run.  After serving up the game tying home run to Trevor Story in the eighth inning (lately the blown save has come in the eighth inning, instead of the ninth), Bowman has now allowed runs in both of his last two games, getting blown saves in both of them.

For the month of July, batters facing Bowman are 6 for 20 (.300) in the at bat if Matthew throws them a first-pitch strike.  Story’s home run came on such an at bat.

Trevor Rosenthal

Yes, I admit it.  When Colorado blooped two hits with two out in the ninth inning against Trevor Rosenthal – working his second inning – I pretty much assumed that all was lost.  That’s just the way it’s gone lately.  But this time, Rosenthal wrote a happier ending by striking out Story to end the inning.

Trevor was in a little trouble there, but again, no walks from Rosenthal.  That seems to be the key.  As long as he is forcing them to hit the ball to beat him, Trevor does all right.

And, his lapse against Chicago aside, Trevor has been throwing the ball much better.  His July shows 9.1 innings with a 1.93 ERA and 13 strikeouts.

Don’t Fall Behind the Cardinal Hitters

Colorado pitchers did a better job of throwing first-pitch strikes to the Cardinal hitters.  Twenty-two of the thirty-six Cardinal batsmen saw strike one.  It didn’t bother them too much – those 22 went on to go 7 for 20 (.350) with 2 sacrifice hits.  But the 14 batters who saw ball one had an even better time.  They went 5 for 13 (.385).  For the month of July, the Cards are hitting .307/.418/.582 when the opposing pitcher starts them off with ball one.

Paul DeJong

The runs didn’t hold up, but Paul DeJong got the offense started with a two-run, first-inning homer – his thirteenth in just 178 big league at bats.  Paul added a single later.  DeJong has now put together a five-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .381 (8 for 21) and slugging .857 (1 double & 3 home runs).  Paul has driven in at least one run in all five games, and has 7 for the streak.  Paul also has two hits in each of the last 3 games.

For the month of July, DeJong’s average has risen to .312 (24 or 77) and his slugging percentage to .688 (8 doubles and 7 home runs).

His home run came on the first pitch thrown him by Rockie starter Jon Gray.  His single cam in an at bat that began with Paul fouling off the first pitch.  The two times that he took the first pitch for a ball, he struck out and flied out.

I suspect that pretty soon pitchers will stop challenging him with first-pitch strikes.  For the season, Paul is a .311 hitter (33 for 106) and a .613 slugger (5 doubles and 9 of his 13 home runs) when pitchers throw him first-pitch strikes.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina added two hits for the second straight game.  He is now up to .275 (19 for 69) for the month.

Kolten Wong

Although neither hit made it through the infield, Kolten Wong pushed his season average back up to .303 with a 2 for 4 night.  With his second consecutive two-hit game, Kolten is now up to .313 (10 for 32) since returning from the disabled list.

The only time Wong saw a first-pitch strike last night, he fell behind Gray 0-2 in the fourth.  He ended up with an infield hit.  For the season, Kolten hits .324 (36 for 111) when he is thrown a first-pitch strike.

Living and Dying With the Fastball

Lance Lynn closed out the season’s first half with a nifty seven innings of 3-hit shutout ball against the Mets.  He pitched pretty well the game before against Miami. Although he ended that game with a loss, he surrendered only 2 earned runs in 5.1 innings.

These two games merit a little closer examination.  Lance is a first-pitch fastball pitcher pitching in a fastball hitting league without that over-powering fastball.  Complicating matters even more is the fact that Lance isn’t one of those pitchers with pinpoint control.

So how does a guy like Lynn survive and sometimes thrive?  The best answers are always the simplest.  Over the 12.1 innings that Lynn has thrown over his last two games, he has been very consistent at keeping the ball away from the middle of the plate.

In those 12.1 innings, Lance has pitched to 45 batters.  Six of them got first-pitch changeups, and one got a curve.  The other 38 got some flavor of a first-pitch fastball (4-seam, 2-seam or cutter).  Some of these were strikes, many weren’t.  But almost all of them were in the vicinity of the plate, and of the 38 first-pitch fastballs thrown, there were only two that swerved back over the plate where more aggressive hitters might have taken a cut at them.

One thing about the fastball – everyone wants to hit it.  So a lot of times your command doesn’t have to be pristine.  If the fastball is a tad inside, or just a smidge off the outside corner, there is a pretty good chance that someone will chase after it anyway.

Surprisingly, though, that didn’t happen with either the Marlins or Mets.  They must surely have been looking for that fastball, but both teams showed no interest in fishing for it.  And so they took.  And took.  And took.

At one point over the two games, 16 consecutive batters that faced Lance took his first pitch.  Of the 45 batters to face him in the two games only 4 swung at his first pitch.  Only 18 of the other 41 first-pitches were called strikes, but falling behind in the count didn’t bother Lance.  For the season, his 60% strike ratio is the lowest on the club.  But the simplified version of his game plan was not to give in.  To trust that eventually the hitters would come out to where the fastball was.

He ended the two games walking just 2 batters and allowing 9 hits (a .214 batting average).  He might have made it through both games allowing no runs had he not given in just once with a 3-2 fastball that Lynn put right into Christian Yelich’s wheelhouse.  That pitch became a three-run home run.

While mostly effective, this approach does come at a price.  Lance threw 100 pitches in his 5.1 innings against Miami, and 93 more in seven innings against the Mets.  For the two games, Lance averaged 4.29 pitches per plate appearance, and is averaging 4.15 for the season – the highest of any of the Cardinal starters.  Long counts lead to short outings.  In 7 of Lance’s last 9 starts, he hasn’t made it through 6 innings.  For the season, 10 of his 18 starts have ended without Lance making it through the sixth inning.

John Brebbia

John Brebbia is another of the Cardinal pitchers with a good, but not overpowering fastball.  John’s mindset is more of a pitch-to-contact approach.  As opposed to Lynn, Brebbia throws the fewest pitches per plate appearance (3.53) of anyone on the staff.  Fully 43.5% of the swings against Brebbia put the ball in play.  Of pitchers who have faced more than 20 batters this year, only Miguel Socolovich (45.6%) and Mike Leake (44.1%) have the ball put into play with higher frequency.

Sometimes batters want to take pitches against John.  When they do that they end up taking a lot of strikes.  Of the 268 pitches he’s thrown in the majors, 52 have been taken for strikes (37.4% of all pitches taken).

The BABIP enthusiasts have issues with the whole pitch-to-contact notion.  BABIP is Batting Average on Balls In Play.  These types will be keeping a close eye on Brebbia in the second half.  Of the 55 balls hit in play against John (and for this metric, home runs are not balls in play) only 10 have fallen in for hits – a .182 BABIP.  BABIP dogma holds that in the long run everybody’s BABIP trends toward .300 or so, so if – over the course of a few months or even a whole season your BABIP is significantly below that, then you have been lucky, and you should expect your luck to turn the other way at some point.

BABIPist don’t easily embrace the concept of inducing weak contact.  It will be interesting to see if Brebbia’s BABIP holds or changes significantly in the season’s second half.

Seung-hwan Oh

Batters have swung at 49 of Seung-hwan Oh’s last 76 pitches – an uncommonly high 64.5%.  Oh leads all Cardinal pitchers in having 52.2% of his pitches this season swung at.

Oh has had 48 batters come to the plate against him in a double-play situation.  He has gotten only one of those 48 to ground into that double play. Trevor Rosenthal also has just 1 double play in 33 chances.

Tyler Lyons

Through the end of June, only 1 of the 18 hits off of Tyler Lyons had been an infield hit.  Lyons has allowed 8 hits already in July – 4 of them of the infield variety.

Trevor Rosenthal

Batters miss with 32.5% of their swings against Rosenthal (the highest percentage on the staff).  Trevor also throws more pitches per batter (4.51) than anyone on the staff.  In between the swings and misses are an awful lot of fouls and a significant number of pitches out of the strike zone.

Recent Scoring Changes

In the eighth inning of the June 22 game in Philadelphia, Odubel Herrera reached second on what was originally ruled an error by left fielder Jose Martinez.  That has been changed to a double for Herrera.  Cardinal pitcher Kevin Siegrist gets a hit and a double added to his line for that game.  Additionally, the two subsequent runs that scored – originally unearned – have now become earned runs.

In the eighth inning of the July 1 game against Washington, Matt Wieters reached on a ground ball that deflected off of first-baseman Jose Martinez into right field.  Originally ruled an error, this is now a single added to pitcher Seung-hwan Oh.

In the second inning of the July 5 against Miami, JT Riddle rolled a groundball past first base for what was originally ruled an error.  That has been changed to a double – charge pitcher Mike Leake with an additional hit and another double.

Cardinals Rake Over Another Left-Handed Pitcher

So, I have to admit that yesterday’s game had me worried.  On the mound for New York was a lefty (Steven Matz) that no one but Dexter Fowler had ever faced before.  Ever since forever, this has been a team that has scuffled against left-handed pitching – even more so when that lefty was fairly unfamiliar.

But that would not be the script Sunday.  Beating a left-hander for the third time on the home stand – and batting one around for the second time on the home-stand – the Cards brushed past Matz and the Mets 6-0 (box score).

Six days earlier they had routed Jeff Locke.  This wasn’t exactly headline worthy stuff.  Locke has struggled all season (and was, in fact, released the day after the Cardinals beat on him).  Matz, however, is a much different story.  Carrying a 2.12 ERA and riding a 17-inning scoreless streak into the contest, Steven Matz is one of the rising stars in the National League.  Even though he wasn’t his sharpest on Sunday, driving him from the mound before he made it through five innings was an impressive feat.

In 94 plate appearances early in the month of July, St Louis is hitting left-handers at a .338/.415/.613 clip.  Something almost unheard of.  Usually, even marginal left-handers are more than enough to bedevil the Cards.

A Time of Coming Together

Early June was highlighted by a seven-game road trip through Chicago and Cincinnati.  The Cards lost all seven games.  They sat, at that moment, six games under (26-32), and were a team in quite a bit of disarray.  Very few of the pieces were fitting together.

In the 30 games since – beginning about a month ago with a June 9 game against Philadelphia – the Cardinals have been gradually coming together.  They are 17-13 – a decent .567 percentage – since that road trip, and have shown in flashes the team they thought they were going to be.

With 3 more home runs yesterday, the Cardinals have 49 over the last 30 games.  They have hit .268/.346/.475 over those games, and scored 170 runs (5.67 per game).

Meanwhile, the once-toxic bullpen has worked 103.1 innings over those last 30 games with a 2.61 ERA and a .238 batting average against.

Still a little spotty has been the starting rotation.  They have provided quality starts for 15 of the 30 games, with a 4.58 ERA and a .268/.329/.470 batting line against.  In their last 167 innings, the starters have served up 27 home runs.

Tommy Pham

Going back to the June 9 game, Tommy Pham is the only player to play in all of the last 30 Cardinal games – he has started 26.  He carries a .306 batting average through those games (33 for 108), and a .519 slugging percentage (3 doubles, 1 triple, and 6 home runs).  He has scored 23 runs and driven in 19 over that span.  He was 3-for-3 yesterday, and finished the Met series with 4 hits in his last 5 at bats.

All of Pham’s hitting yesterday (2 singles and the big home run) came off the left-hander Matz.  Throughout their recent history, St Louis has searched for that bat that could make a difference against lefties.  Pham has now had 58 plate appearances against left-handed hurlers this season.  They have resulted in 10 singles, 1 double, 1 triple, 4 home runs, 11 runs batted in, 10 walks, and 2 sacrifice flies – a .348/.448/.674 batting line.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler goes into the All-Star Break with the momentum of a 2-for-4 game.  He has missed a good part of the last 30 games – he has played in only 16 of them, starting 14 – but over that span has resembled the hitter they remember.  Dexter is hitting .339 (19 for 56) and slugging .714 (3 doubles, 6 home runs) since the beginning of the first Philadelphia series.

Fowler went 1 for 3 while Matz was in there.  He began the season batting .196 against left-handed pitching (11 for 56).  He is now 4 for his last 12 (.333) including a home run off of Baltimore lefty Vidal Nuno on June 20 (the only one of his 14 home runs hit off a lefty this season).

Fowler also singled of the right-hander Seth Lugo in the seventh.  He is now 15 for his last 44 against right-handers (.341), including 3 doubles and 5 home runs (.750 slugging percentage).

Paul DeJong

And then there was rookie Paul DeJong.  After going 7 for 8 in the first two games of the Met series (1 single, 4 doubles and 2 home runs), Paul finished off the series in good form with two more hits including another home run.  The game pushes DeJong’s overall hitting streak to 6 games, during which he has hit .600 (12 for 20) and slugged 1.300 (5 doubles and 3 home runs).

Paul returned to the big league team on June 15.  In 24 games since then (22 of them starts), Paul is a .345 hitter (30 for 87) and a .701 slugger (7 doubles and 8 home runs).  He has scored 15 runs in those games and driven in 16.

He sure looks like he belongs.

Additionally, DeJong looks like he could also be an impact bat against lefties.  He was 2-for-2 against Matz yesterday and is 9 for 26 (.346) against left-handers over the season.  His 2 doubles and 2 home runs against them are good for a .654 slugging percentage.

Stephen Piscotty

With outfield starts becoming a coveted commodity, Stephen Piscotty isn’t really making a compelling case for himself.  Hitless in 3 at bats yesterday, Stephen is 3 for 21 (.143) over his last six games with no extra base hits, no runs scored, and 2 runs batted in.

Piscotty has played in 29 of the last 30 games (starting 25).  He carries a .212 average (21 for 99) with 2 home runs and 14 runs batted in.

During his first two seasons, Stephen hit .301/.390/.536 against lefthanders.  After his 0 for 2 against Matz, Piscotty is down to .195 against lefties (8 for 41) this year.  The hits have been 5 singles (one an infield single) and 3 doubles – a .268 slugging percentage.  Stephen has 3 runs batted in against left-handed pitching all season.

More recently, Stephen has been struggling against right-handers as well.  He is now 17 for his last 86 (.198) against them.

Lance Lynn

After back-to-back starts where he gave up 7 runs to Baltimore and then 7 more to Pittsburgh, Lance Lynn has bounced back a bit.  Over his last three starts, Lynn has tossed 18.1 innings with 2 quality starts and a 2.45 ERA.  The last 68 batters to face him are hitting .203.  Most of Lance’s outings have been very good, but haven’t lasted very long.  In fact, yesterday was only the second time in his last 9 starts that Lance has made it through 6 innings.

Up until this year, Lance had always been good, but not dominant when facing right-handed hitters.  Since he became a member of the rotation back in 2012, righties had hit .241 against him.  This year – after the Met right-handers were held to 1 infield hit in 11 at bats against Lynn yesterday, they are hitting .177 (34 for 192) against him for the year.

Trevor Rosenthal

In his perfect eighth inning, Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side.  He has now struck out the last 5 batters to face him.

Two of last night’s strikeouts were right-handed batters.  When he first arrived in the majors, Trevor dominated right-handers.  In 2012 & 2013, right-handed hitters hit .201/.281/.308 against him.  Through 2014 & 2015, righties found themselves better able to cope with Trevor.  Their batting line those years was .266/.346/.377.  Last year, an injured Rosenthal was taken advantage of by all hitters, including right-handers.  They hit .293/.381/.404 against him.

But this year, Rosenthal has taken a sort-of step back to the dominance of his first two years.  With yesterday’s strikeouts, right-handers are now just 10 for 58 (.172) with just 2 extra-base hits (.259 slugging percentage) and 29 strikeouts against him. The problems, though, are the walks.  None yesterday, but 8 of the 67 right-handers he’s faced have walked (with 3 of them coming around to score).

John Brebbia

John Brebbia was touched for a damaging unearned run in the first game of the Met series, but – after his 1-2-3 ninth yesterday – John has gone 8 games (8.1 innings) without giving up an earned run.  The last 35 batters to face him are hitting .194 (6 for 31) and slugging .258 (4 singles, 2 doubles).  John has given earned runs in only 1 of his last 13 games (15 innings).  He has a 1.20 ERA and a .182 batting average against in those games.

All three batters he faced (and retired) yesterday were left-handed batters.  Lefties are now hitting .214 (6 for 28) against Brebbia.

Two Paragraph First Half Summary

The season began with 9 losses in the first 12 games.  At the moment they had overcome that start and moved into first place on May 14, they immediately lost 22 of their next 32 games.  Over the first 88 games, both the everyday lineup and the bullpen have undergone multiple shakeups.  While the starting rotation has remained intact, they have been wildly inconsistent.

And through all that, the St Louis Cardinals hit the All-Star Break just 2 games under .500, and – and this is huge – tied with the defending World Champs.  Last year, we entered the break 4 games over (46-42) but already 7 games behind the Cubs.  If anyone had offered us a deal at the beginning of the year that we would hit the break tied with the Cubs, I think most of us would have been happy to accept it.

NoteBook

The Cardinals’ first opponent after the break will be the Pittsburgh Pirates – who are coming off winning two of three from the Cubs, and finished the first half winning five of six.  In an April 24 game, the Pirate pitching staff surrendered the most runs it has all season when they were savaged by a 14-3 score.  The opponent that day was the Chicago Cubs.  Yesterday afternoon – playing the Cubs again – the Pirates scored their most runs of the season so far, beating Chicago 14-3.

Yesterday’s win puts St Louis at 5-6 this season in rubber games.

Of the 17 series where the Cardinals have lost the first game, this is now the fifth time they have come back to win one of those series.  (They have also come back to tie one.)  After losing the first game of these series, St Louis is 20-16 in the remaining games.

Jedd Gyorko suffered through an 0-for-4 afternoon, but his first-inning RBI on a ground-out did stand up as the game winner.  Jedd has tied Yadier Molina for second on the club with 5 game-winning-RBIs.  Fowler still leads the team with 7.

Pieces Starting to Come Together

With three runs in the seventh inning and five more in the eighth, the Cardinals broke open a tight game yesterday afternoon, and finished up with a 10-4 conquest of Arizona (box score).  St Louis now finds itself the victor in 4 of its last 5 games.  While this might not be front page news, it’s enough to lighten the mood of the team and its followers, and fan the flames a bit.  In this recent turnaround, most of the mostly malfunctioning parts of the team have seemed to come together a bit.

Offensively, the team has been much more consistent all month than in April and May.  With the 10 runs last night, the Cards have scored 139 in 28 June games (4.96 per).  Thirty-five of those have now come during the last five games, in which the team has hit .275 (47 for 171).

Randal Grichuk

It may or may not be coincidental that the Cardinals’ mini-surge coincides with the day that Randal Grichuk returned from Memphis.  He did suffer through a short 0-for-9 stretch through the first two games of the Arizona series, but broke out of it decisively with 3 hits – including the game-winning three-run home run in the seventh.  He is now hitting .318 (7 for 22) since his return.  Even better, the hits haven’t been soft.  They include a double and 3 home runs – a .773 slugging percentage.  Randal has driven in 9 runs over his last 5 games.

In his first 24 post-Memphis plate appearances (yes a very small sample size), Grichuk has shown some early ability to battle deeper in an at bat.  Before his demotion, if his at bat lasted more than three pitches, his average fell to .160 (15 for 94).  He slugged just .255 with only 1 home run in those at bats.

Since his return, Randal has already stretched 13 plate appearances past the third pitch.  He is 4 for 12 (.333) with a walk.  More impressive, three of the four hits were for extra-bases – including 2 home runs.  The home run that turned yesterday’s game came on the fourth pitch of that particular at bat.

Jedd Gyorko

The Cardinal resurgence also coincides with Jedd Gyorko’s emergence from a slight slump.  Jedd had 2 hits and a walk yesterday as his contribution.  Jedd has had 20 plate appearances over the last five games, leading to 2 singles, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 8 runs batted in and 4 walks – a batting line of .400/.500/.800.  Jedd has pushed his season-long average back up to .298.

Jedd jumped on the first pitch thrown to him twice yesterday, drilling Patrick Corbin’s second-inning fastball down the left-field line for a double, and then bouncing to third on a first-pitch changeup in the sixth.  For the season, Gyorko puts the first pitch in play 16.1% of the time (among Cardinals, only Yadier Molina at 16.5% hits the first pitch more frequently), and no one on the team does it better.  Gyorko is hitting .405 and slugging .929 on the first pitch this season.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter was issued an intentional walk in front of Grichuk’s home run.  It was the only time he reached base, as he finished another 0-for-4 evening.  Matt is now 4 for 36 (.111) over his last 11 games – although those games include 15 walks, so his on base percentage is a healthy .373.  Matt’s average for the season is now down to .230, but with a .371 on base percentage and a .457 slugging percentage.  Similarly, he is now hitting .247 for the month of June (23 for 93), but with a .391 on base percentage and a .505 slugging percentage.  He has hit 5 home runs this month.

Not Just About the Runs

But more than just the offense has gotten healthy lately.  The bad base-running decisions have stopped.  The defense has been solid and sometimes spectacular.  The bullpen hasn’t been as terrible (most of the time), although it’s clearly still a worry.

And the starting pitching – the team’s albatross for most of June – is also starting to turn the corner.  Yesterday afternoon marked a full turn through the rotation with everyone throwing a quality start.  The rotation has put together a 3.26 ERA over the last five games, allowing just one home run (hit yesterday by Paul Goldschmidt).

Pitchers Surviving the First Pitch

According to baseball reference, across all of baseball batters hitting the first pitch thrown to them are hitting .349 with a .590 slugging percentage.  Whether through luck or some element of design, Cardinal pitchers have avoided first-pitch damage recently.  The Diamondbacks were only 1 for 4 yesterday when they hit the first pitch (Jake Lamb took the first pitch thrown him by Mike Mayers in the ninth over the wall).  The last 28 Cardinal opponents who have hit the first pitch thrown to them have just 4 hits (.143).  The other three hits have been singles.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn has been surprisingly good all season when batters hit his first pitch.  Arizona was 0 for 3 against his first pitch yesterday (albeit with help from a big defensive play by Stephen Piscotty in right).  This month, batters are just 1 for 10 against Lance when they hit his first pitch (Scott Schebler began Cincinnati’s comeback from a 3-0 deficit with a first-pitch home run off Lynn on June 7).  Of the now 19 home runs that Lance has given up, that is the only one hit off of his first pitch.  For the season, batters are hitting .214 (6 for 28) and slugging .321 against Lynn’s first pitch.

MatthewBowman

Matthew Bowman added a 1-2-3 seventh that included a strikeout.  Bowman – who has pitched better than his ERA all season – is wrapping up a pretty good June.  In 13 games and 12.1 innings he holds a 2.19 ERA and a .238 batting average against this month.

Bowman’s seventh was highlighted by the longest at bat against him this year, a ten-pitch struggle against Chris Iannetta. Bowman won the battle when Iannetta took a called strike three.  Yes, it was definitely a good couple of inches off the outside corner, and Chris was understandably upset.  Of course, the earlier 2-2 fastball that was called ball 3 was also clearly a strike, so the at bat evened out.

NoteBook

Yesterday’s win gave the Cardinal’s only their fifth series win in the 12 they have played on the road.  The overall road record is 17-21.

Arizona had six hits yesterday afternoon, but no singles.  And the only walk they received was intentional.  The Cards opened the fourth inning with four singles and a walk from their first five hitters of the inning.

A Little Tired, Frankly, of the Home Run Derby

If it seems to you that there have been an inordinate amount of home runs hit against the Cardinal pitching staff lately, you are not alone.  The Baltimore series ended with the Orioles bopping 9 home runs over the last two games.  It was just the fifth time this century (and the first time since 2015) that the Cards allowed 9 home runs in back-to-back games.  They have served up 16 home runs over the last 6 games for the first time since 2003.

The four hit yesterday afternoon sparked Baltimore to an 8-5 victory (box score) that sent the Cardinals to their twenty-second loss in their last thirty-two games, dropping the once-first-place Cardinals to a season-most 5.5 games behind the “high-flying” Brewers.

When Scooter Gennett touched off four home runs against this team, it began a 13-game stretch in which Cardinal pitchers have served up 25 home runs – a home run barrage that hasn’t been seen in St Louis since 2008.

For the month of June, the Cardinal starting rotation has contributed 4 quality starts in 18 games.  They have managed just 93 innings in those games, during which they have served up 19 home runs (1.84 hr per 9 innings).  This has all led to a 6.29 ERA for the month for the rotation, accompanied by a .279/.360/.510 batting line.  Subtract Carlos Martinez’ numbers out of those totals, and the rest of the Cardinal rotation has limped along in the month of June with a 7.53 ERA and a batting line against of .306/.390/.582.  Martinez has accounted for 2 of the 4 quality starts the Cardinals have this month.

Of the 10 home runs served up by Cardinal hurlers over the three games in Baltimore, 7 were solo shots.  Even at that, though, Baltimore feasted yesterday (3 for 10 including a home run), and for the series (13 for 39 with 4 doubles and 3 home runs) when they hit with runners on base.  In this, the Cardinal pitching staff continued it’s month long struggle with runners on base.  In spite of the horrific overall numbers this month, opposing batters are still hitting just .247/.310/.436 with the bases empty.  But once a runner reaches, that line rises to .300/.375/.561. Even after the carnage of the Baltimore series, St Louis pitchers have still allowed just 16 home runs this month in 393 plate appearances with the bases empty, but 14 in 265 plate appearances with at least one runner on.

Lance Lynn

From April 17 through May 5, Lance Lynn seemed well on his way to a big free-agent paycheck.  It isn’t enough to say he threw four consecutive quality starts – these were dominant starts.  He pitched 25 innings over those starts, allowing 2 runs (0.72 ERA) on 16 hits (11 singles, 4 doubles, and just 1 home run).  He was 4-0 through that run, got ground balls on 53% of the balls hit in play against him, and held opposing hitters to a .188 batting average and a .271 slugging percentage.

Beginning on May 10, everything changed for Lynn.  The Cards beat Miami that day (7-5) but Lance lasted only 4 innings serving up 4 runs on 5 hits – including 2 home runs and 4 walks.  A blip?  That’s what we thought at the time.  But over his last 8 starts beginning with that game, it has rained home runs on Lance Lynn.  With the 4 that he served up in 4.2 innings yesterday, Lance has now had 12 hit against him in his last 43 innings.  He has lost 3 of his last 4 decisions, with a 4.40 ERA.

Yesterday, 15 of the 17 batters who put the ball in play against Lance, hit the ball in the air.  Over his last 8 starts, he has seen 63% fly balls.

For the season, 12 of the 16 home runs against Lance have come with the bases empty.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist came into yesterday’s game in the fifth inning trailing by five runs.  This was both the earliest in a game and the farthest behind that Kevin has been brought in to pitch this season.  It may mark the beginning of a role re-shuffle in the bullpen.  It could also have been a decision caused by a series of short outings by the starters.

For whatever reason, Kevin Siegrist has been a recurring theme in this month-long dry spell.  Kevin has appeared in 12 of the last 32 games, and has given up his own runs in 4 of them, and allowed two inherited runners to score in another.  Yesterday’s run – considering the Cards already trailed 7-2 – was probably the least damaging of the set.

He was the loser in the thirteenth inning of the May 20 game against San Francisco that was scoreless after 12.  He came in in the seventh inning of the June 5 game against Cincinnati with the score tied at two and allowed both inherited runners to score – sending Cincinnati home with a 4-2 victory.  He allowed the last run in the June 14 game against Milwaukee that left the late rally just short, 7-6.

Since mid-May, Kevin has pitched 10 innings over 12 games, serving six runs on 14 hits.  The last 42 batters he has faced are hitting .350 against him.

The only batter Kevin faced last night with a runner on base was Manny Machado, who hit with Seth Smith at third and one out.  Machado singled sharply up the middle to drive in the run.  For the season, batters are hitting .232 against Kevin (13 for 56) when they face him with the bases empty.  They are now hitting .333 (14 for 42) when they face Siegrist with a runner on.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil pitched an efficient 13-pitch eighth inning.  He, too, has had some bad moments over the last 32 games.  But Brett has had more good moments than bad.  Cecil has pitched in 13 of the last 32 games.  Over 11.2 innings in those games, Cecil holds a 3.09 ERA with a .190 batting average against.

Keeping the bases clean is a key for Brett.  So far this year, opposing hitters are batting .245 against him with the bases empty.  But once runners get on, that average leaps to .308.

Trevor Rosenthal

“Good” Trevor Rosenthal pitched the seventh in 1-2-3 fashion, striking out 2 along the way.  Trevor has now faced 66 batters this season with the bases empty.  He has struck out 33 of them.

Matthew Bowman

Eighteen games into the month, only two members of the pitching staff have ERAs under 3.  One, of course, is Carlos Martinez (2.11).  The other?  Matthew Bowman.  At 1.93, Matthew is something of a surprising answer because – as with most other members of the pen – his moments of struggle stand out more than his solid moments.  After retiring both men he faced yesterday, Bowman has pitched 9.1 innings this month, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 7 hits with 3 walks and 8 strikeouts.  He has also stranded all four of the runners he’s inherited.

Runs Without Hits?

Through parts of this disheartening 10-22 streak, the Cardinal offense struggled profoundly to score runs.  Through the latter end of it, the offense has been more forthcoming.  Throughout, though, they haven’t managed an impressive amount of hits.  Yesterday, the Cards furnished 4 home runs of their own, but managed only 2 other hits.  Since the beginning of the Boston series in mid-May, the Cardinals have hit .244.

That number includes just a .235 batting average (155 for 659) with the bases empty.  Yesterday, they hit three home runs with the bases empty, but added only one other hit in 24 at bats (.167).  Twenty-nine of the thirty-six Cardinals who came to the plate yesterday did so with the bases empty (80.6%).

Dexter Fowler

Much improved since moving into the second slot in the lineup, Dexter Fowler has been simply scorching since last Sunday.  Hitting in 7 of his last 8 games, Dexter is 13 for his last 28 (.464) with a 1.036 slugging percentage (5 of the hits have been home runs).  In fact, after collecting a single, a home run, a walk and 2 runs batted in yesterday, Dexter now has 6 multi-hit games in his last 8, has hit a home run in four consecutive games and has driven in 9 over his last four games.  Much has been made of the fact that Fowler already has as many home runs this year (13) as he did all last year.  It is also true that after driving in 48 runs all of last year (and having never driven in more than 53 in any year), Dexter already has 35 this year.

Even while the Cardinals are doing their best to fade from contention this month, Dexter Fowler has established himself as a legitimate player of the month candidate.  Through 18 games in June, Dexter has 6 home runs, 16 runs batted in, and a .333/.433/.702 batting line.  What started out as one of his worst years may yet end up one of his best.

While batting leadoff most of the first two months of the season, Dexter was up with the bases empty 67.2% of the time.  Thus far in June, that ratio is down to 58.2%.  For the season – after his 2 for 3 yesterday – Dexter is hitting .311/.424/.608 with runners on base.  His 13 home runs include two 2-run shots and three 3-run homers.

Jedd Gyorko

Cleanup hitter Jedd Gyorko is trending the other way.  A .340 hitter as late as May 12, Jedd is hitting .241/.286/.328 for the month of June after his 0 for 4 last night.  He has 1 home run and 6 RBIs this month.

Jedd is at .182 this month (6 for 33) when batting with the bases empty – as he did in all four plate appearances yesterday.

Tommy Pham

After his 0 for 4 last night, Tommy Pham is now hitless in 7 at bats since his fourth-inning double off of Wade Miley in the second game in Baltimore.  Overall, Tommy’s numbers are still very good – he still carries a .277/.373/.462 batting line, but his June is opening the door for Randal Grichuk – reportedly heating things up, now, in AAA.  Tommy is just 12 for 55 this month (.218), with 2 doubles, 1 home run and just 4 runs batted in.  His June slugging percentage is .309.

One of the game’s turning points came in the top of the third inning.  Cards trailing 2-1 with two quick outs.  Then Matt Carpenter draws a walk and Fowler follows with a single.  This would be the only time in the game that the Cards would have a runner in scoring position – and the only time in the game they put two runners on base (except for Fowler’s two-run homer).  Swinging on 3-0, Pham rolled to second, ending the inning.  A statistical curiosity.  So far this season, Pham is hitting .297 with a .409 on base percentage when he hits with the bases empty.  He is hitting .368 (14 for 38) with a .789 slugging percentage with 1 runner on base.  Four of his six home runs have been two-run blasts.  With more than one runner on base, Tommy is 0 for 18.

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia is another hitter that June has been mostly unkind to.  After his 0 for 4 yesterday, Greg is now 1 for 19 (.053) for the month.

NoteBook

Coming off a series sweep at the hands of Arizona, Philadelphia becomes St Louis’ sixth straight opponent to have not won its previous series (5 had lost and one had split).  St Louis has lost four of those previous five series – with the first Philadelphia series being the only exception.

Unknown Lefties Still a Mystery

It doesn’t seem to me that other teams struggle that much against pitchers that they don’t know very well.  Perhaps the first time through the order, but thereafter most teams seems to adjust.  And when that unknown pitcher is a lefthander, well, even after all these years and with a handful of very talented right-handed hitters in the lineup, lefties are still mostly a mystery to this team.

Take nothing away from Eduardo Rodriguez – who is a quality pitcher – but last night’s 6-3 loss to Rodriguez and the Red Sox (box score) could have been a replay of any of a number of dominating performances by various left-handers at the expense of the Cardinals over the years.

The early returns this year aren’t encouraging, either.  After going 5 for 22 (.227) against Rodriguez and lefty reliever Robby Scott, the Cards are now hitting .240 this season against left-handed pitching.

Tommy Pham

Since it’s never too early to mention things like this, Tommy Pham, batting second last night, was 0 for 3.  He is now 1 for 11 in his three starts hitting second.  Toss in an 0-for-3 in a start where he batted sixth, and Pham is 1 for 14 (.071 batting average and slugging percentage) when he bats higher than seventh.  In his 6 starts hitting seventh or eighth, Tommy is 12 for 24 (.500) with 4 doubles, 3 home runs, and 8 runs batted in (a 1.042 slugging percentage).

Randal Grichuk

After getting three hits Sunday afternoon against the Cubs, Randal Grichuk suffered through another 0 for 3 last night.  His average for the year is back down to .241, and his average for the month of May is right there, too, at .240 (12 for 50).  He has 1 home run, 3 runs batted in, and 15 strikeouts for the month, so far.

One of the most encouraging parts of Grichuk’s promising second half last year was his proficiency at hitting lefthanders.  From the All-Star Break through the end of the season, Randal was 17 for 50 (.340), with the hits including 7 doubles and 5 home runs (.780 slugging percentage) against left-handed pitching.

To this point of 2017, that punch against lefties has been absent.  With his 0 for 3 last night, Grichuk is now 3 for 22 (.136) against lefties so far his season.

Pitchers Struggle Some Against Lefties As Well

Although Boston’s left-handed hitters didn’t have the success that most lefties have had against Cardinal pitching this year (they are hitting .274/.368/.452 against us), the pitching staff did continue its trend of thriving against right-handed hitters.  Boston’s righties managed only 4 hits in 21 at bats (albeit one of those hits was a home run).  For the season, right-handers manage just a .226/.280/.359 batting line against the Cardinal pitching staff.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn served up two home runs for the second straight start and now has three multiple home run games this season.  It has been about the only blot on an otherwise impressive season that has seen Lance reach 4-2 on the season with a 2.78 ERA and a .205 opponents’ batting average.  The home runs bring Lance’s total to 8 allowed so far this year in 45.1 innings.  His career high is the 16 he allowed in 176 innings in 2012.

Jackie Bradley’s second-inning home run was the third home run this month and the sixth home run this year that Lance has given up to left-handed hitters.  He also walked one lefty and hit another.  For the season, left-handers have troubled Lance to the tune of a .566 slugging percentage and a .393 on base percentage.  Over his three starts in May, those numbers are .680 and .438.

Right-handed batters have been another story.  The righties in the Red Sox lineup were only 2 for 14 against Lynn (.143).  Over his three starts in May, he is holding right-handed batters to a .147 average (5 for 34) and to a .133 average (12 for 90) on the season.  Prior to Mookie Betts’ leadoff home run, Jayson Werth’s fourth-inning home run against Lance on April 11 in Washington was not only the only right-handed home run he had served up this year, but the only right-handed run batted in against Lance this season.

Jonathan Broxton

Jonathan Broxton pitched the seventh inning and gave up a hit.  Over his last 7 appearances – totaling 6.1 innings – Broxton has allowed 11 baserunners (3 walks to go with the now 8 hits).  None of them have scored.  In addition, Broxton has stranded his last two inherited runners.

Bradley’s leadoff single to left makes left-handed hitters 9 for 18 (.500) against Broxton so far this season.

That being said, Broxton hasn’t allowed an extra-base hit to anyone (right or left) since Milwaukee’s Manny Pina homered off him in the ninth-inning of their April 23 game.  That was 29 batters ago.

Sam Tuivailala

Sam Tuivailala was charged with his first run allowed since his return from Memphis.  In Sam’s two previous games, all seven batters who put the ball in play against him hit the ball on the ground.  Last night, the only two he faced both hit it in the air.

Sam has had issues with walking batters in his few innings this season, but that has only been a problem when facing lefthanders.  He has walked 3 of the 10 lefties he’s faced, while walking only 1 of the 20 right-handers who have been up against him.

Brett Cecil

Troubles continue for Brett Cecil who came on the eighth inning of a one-run game with a runner at first and one out.  He proceeded to walk the only two batters he faced (both lefthanders) to set up the final two runs of the game.  Although the run charged to him was ultimately unearned, the outing marked the fifth consecutive game that Brett has allowed a run.

The 26 batters Brett has faced in his 7 games this month are slashing .476/.538/.857 against him.  Eighteen of the 26 have been left-handed batters.  Their slash line against him has been .538/.611/1.154.  For the season 36 left-handed batters have taken their chances against Cecil, and have done OK against him (OK in this context translates into a .464/.528/.929 batting line).

I do think that Brett will figure things out eventually.  He’s had a long track record of getting lefties out.  But I repeat my concern about continuing to bring him into critical junctions of close games while he’s struggling.

Miguel Socolovich

Miguel Socolovich – who inherited the bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth inning last night did as well as could be expected.  He allowed one run on a fly ball and should have had the last out of the inning on the fly that Pham dropped.  After a shaky April, Socolovich has allowed only 3 hits in his 6 innings this month.  He has pitched more than one inning 5 times in his 12 games this season – including his last two.

Like Tuivailala, Socolovich throws strikes to right-handed batters.  Of the 30 lefties he’s faced so far, Miguel has walked 2 and hit 2.  He has walked only 2 of the 41 right-handed batters he’s faced (hitting none).

Marlins Grind but Cardinals Conquer

All major league victories are hard won – even if they don’t necessarily seem so.  Last night’s 7-5 conquest of the Miami Marlins (box score) – after a grueling 3 hour and 46 minute struggle which began with the Cards trailing 4-0 in the first inning – was, I think, one of the more difficult of the season, so far.

Nonetheless, with the conquest, the Cards have now won six in a row and 16 out of 21.  Last year’s team never won more than five in a row and never managed more than 13 wins in any 21 game span.

The Marlins are currently trending the opposite way, losing 12 of their last 15.  They need some answers in the bullpen – two of the losses they suffered in this series were due to bullpen meltdowns.  But take the Miami hitters lightly at your own peril.

They finished with 5 runs on 9 hits – 2 of them home runs – and 8 walks.  But just as impressive were the at bats, whether they resulted in hits or not.

After almost four hours of baseball, Miami ended the evening having sent 43 batters to the plate and exacting 208 pitches from the Cardinal staff – an impressive 54 of which were fouled off.  The Cardinal pitching staff came into the game averaging 3.83 pitches per batter faced.  They threw 4.84 per batter last night.  Whatever else you may say about Miami, they are a difficult offensive team.

The Streaking Cardinals

In addition to the six-game streak, St Louis is now 7-2 in the month of May – even though the rotation hasn’t been as solid as they were through most of April.  Over the last 9 starts, the rotation has given us 5 quality starts and a 4.10 ERA.  Surprisingly, it has been the bullpen to the rescue to this point of May.  They have a 1.31 ERA in their first 34.1 innings of the month.

Offensively, the Cards enter the home-stand on a significant roll.  As a team, they are hitting .290/.366/.467 scoring 6 runs a game in the early part of May, and over the last 21 games the batting line is .288/.359/.470 while scoring 5.29 runs per game.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko led the offense again with three more hits and two important RBIs that helped the Cards get back in the game.  Jedd extended his current hitting streak to seven games, and now has hits in 10 of his last 11 games.  Over those games, Jedd is hitting .400 (18 for 45) and slugging .689 (4 doubles & 3 home runs) with 10 RBIs.

Jedd is 27 for 69 (.391) with 7 doubles, a triple and 4 home runs (a .696 slugging percentage) since the sweep at the hands of the Yankees.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz broke out of his hitless skid with two hits last night, and hit a couple of other balls hard.  Although it’s been a very streaky ride, Diaz is still hitting .375 (12 for 32) with 6 runs batted in in 7 games since he was re-settled in the sixth slot in the order.  Aledmys has struck out just once in those games.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk hit a couple more long fly balls that stayed in the park and struck out two more times as his 0-for-5 evening extends his hitless streak to 16 at bats and his homerless streak to 51 at bats.  Grichuk’s average is back down to .228 for the season.  Randal has also gone 6 games now without drawing a walk.

Since re-locating to the second slot in the order four games ago, Randal is 2 for 19 (.105).

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn’s streak of four straight quality starts came to a crashing halt in the first inning last night.  He served up two first-inning home runs.  Lance has had 6 hit off him already – 5 of them in just two games.  He served up 3 to Washington on April 11.  Those are also the only two games this season that Lance has walked more than two batters.

The story here, though, was more than the home runs.  In general, the Miami hitters put Lance through the ringer in all of his four innings.  They exacted 104 pitches from Lynn in those innings as they refused to chase pitches out of the zone (43 of Lance’s 104 were ruled balls) and extended at bats by fouling off his pitches.  They drove 22 of those pitches foul, while only missing on 7 swings.

Lance intermittently has the problem of long at bats.  After averaging 4.95 pitches per batter faced last night, Lynn’s season average sits at 4.16 per batter – the highest on the staff (higher even than Adam Wainwright’s 4.07).

Nine of the 12 batters who put the ball in play against Lance hit the ball in the air.  At times over his quality start streak, Lance looked like a groundball pitcher.  When he beat Milwaukee (4-1) on April 22, his ratio was reversed – 9 grounders and 3 fly balls.

Groundball pitchers do have the virtue of getting the double-play ball.  Lynn had four batters at the plate last night in double-play situations and got double-plays from none of them.  For the season, Lynn has induced 2 double plays in 28 such opportunities.  You would think that his 7.1% would be the lowest percentage of any of the starters, but you would be wrong.  To this point of the season, Mike Leake has faced 20 batters in double-play situations and hasn’t gotten one yet.  He has gotten 8 ground balls, but three have found their way through the infield for hits and the defense has been unable to turn any of the other five into double plays.

Lance has also had intermittent problems throwing first-pitch strikes.  Only 11 of the 21 batters he faced last night saw strike one.  For the season, Lance is throwing first-pitch strikes just 54.8% of the time.

Sam Tuivailala

Sam Tuivailala picked up his second win in the last four games.  He pitched the fifth, giving up no hits but walking a batter.  Sam has appeared in 3 games since his recall.  In 4 total innings, he has allowed just 1 hit, but has now walked 3.

I didn’t see Sam pitch down in Memphis, but one notable difference in his game in the few innings since his recall is the frequency of his first pitch strikes.  In his limited appearances last year, only 57.4% of the batters he faced saw that first pitch strike.  He was better at the beginning of the year, throwing 61.5% first-pitch strikes before being returned to AAA.  He threw first-pitch strikes to 3 of the 4 batters he faced last night, and has thrown 11 first-pitch strikes to the 15 batters he’s faced since his recall (73.3%).

This approach compliments his pitch-to-contact style.  Although Sam can throw with good velocity, he doesn’t generate many swinging strikes.  Last year, only 15.3% of the swings against him missed the ball.  Last night he caused only one swinging strike, and is at 12.8% for the year.

Brett Cecil

After being on quite a good roll, Brett Cecil is scuffling again.  Three of the five batters he faced last night got hits.  He has now surrendered hits in 6 straight games, totaling 10 hits (and 3 runs) in his last 4 innings. He has surrendered 2 leads in those 6 games.

With the hits, the batting average against Brett rises to .333, and his BABIP (a number I almost never reference) is a rather stunning .452.  The people who embrace BABIP will take this as good news, as it suggests that Brett has been mostly unlucky.  But not too many of the hits against him have been softly hit.

Derek Dietrich made it a 6-5 game when his one-out, sixth-inning single against Cecil drove home Dee Gordon from third.  Brett has had runners at third with less than two out 12 times this season – and has given up the run 9 times, including all of the last 5.

Brett’s best moment of the night came on a strikeout of Christian Yelich.  Behind on the count 1-2, Christian had no choice but to try to catch up to that slider that started at his knees and was almost in the dirt when Yadier Molina caught it.  Of Cecil’s 18 strikeouts this year, 16 have been swinging strikeouts.  That 88.9% is the highest percentage on the staff.

Brett would certainly walk more batters than he has, but batters love to swing the bat against him.  Last night, 14 of his 24 pitches were swung at (58.3%).  In 5 games so far this month, batters have offered at 48 of the 80 pitches he’s thrown.  At 60%, Brett leads the staff so far this month.

Since the end of the Yankee series, Brett is also the most missed pitcher on the staff.  His swing and miss rate over his last 12 games is 31.4%.  Last night, 5 of the 14 swings against him came up empty.

Kevin Siegrist

In last night’s seventh inning, Kevin Siegrist may have looked like Kevin Siegrist for the first time this year.  He pitched a 1-2-3 inning, throwing 10 of his 14 pitches for strikes (68.1% of his pitches this month have been strikes) and striking out 2.

The narrative on Siegrist seems to suggest that his Spring Training injury compromised his readiness for the season.  In his first 7 games, Kevin lasted 6 very eventful innings (7 runs, 5 hits – including 2 home runs, and 10 walks with only 4 strikeouts).  His last 8 times out, his numbers have been a lot closer: 7 innings, no runs, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts.  Still 8 hits allowed, but even that is getting better – he’s given none in his last two outings.

It hardly needs to be mentioned how important an effective Siegrist will be to a sometimes shaky bullpen.

First-pitch strikes is another of the principle differences between Siegrist in April and Siegrist, so far, in May.  Of the 21 batters he faced in April, only seven (33.3%) saw strike one.  Of the first 19 he’s faced in May, 12 have been started off with a first-pitch strike (63.2%).  He threw first-pitch strikes to 2 of the 3 he faced last night.

Trevor Rosenthal

Trevor Rosenthal added a stress-free eighth.  His season ERA is down, now, to 2.19, and he has been very sharp during the team’s 21-game run.  Trevor has pitched in 11 of the 21 games, earning 3 saves and 3 holds with a 1.64 ERA and a .175/.233/.250 batting line against.  Rosenthal has 21 strikeouts in 12.1 innings this year.

Possibly the principal reason that Trevor’s strikeouts are significantly higher than previously is his ability to throw his secondary pitches for strikes.  Last night, after throwing 4 four-seam fastballs that ranged from 100.1 to 100.5 miles-per-hour, Rosenthal paralyzed J.T. Realmuto with an 86.6 mph slider.  Rosenthal now has 8 strikeouts this season on called third strikes (38.1% of all his strikeouts) – all of them, probably, on breaking pitches.

The three Marlin hitters that he faced combined to foul off 7 of Trevor’s pitches.  It took him 16 pitches (5.33 per) to make it through the inning.  This has been a little bit of a recent pattern as well.  Over his last 11 innings, Trevor is throwing 4.51 pitches per batter and seeing 49.5% of his pitches fouled off.

Seung-hwan Oh

Closer Seung-hwan Oh invited some ninth-inning drama as he surrendered a double and 2 walks (1 intentional). But he got out of the inning with no damage and sent the Cards back to St Louis with the winning streak intact.

Oh has been in the middle of the Cardinal resurgence.  He has been called on 12 times in the last 21 games and has responded with 9 saves in 9 opportunities and a 0.69 ERA.  He has allowed no earned runs in his last 12 innings.

The highlight of his inning was the double-play that he got off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton that took the steam out of the inning.  It was the first double-play grounder that Oh has coaxed this year.

Last season, batters missed on 34.6% of the swings they took against Seung-hwan.  Last night, Oh got no swinging strikes from any of the 9 swings they took against him.  This month, so far, Seung-hwan has generated just 8 swinging strikes from the 47 swings against him (17%).  Of the bullpen regulars, Oh has the lowest swing-and-miss ratio this month.

NoteBook

St Louis had scored first in seven straight games.  The Marlins put an emphatic end to that streak with their four-run first inning.

When the Cubs open the home-stand tomorrow evening, they will be the fifth consecutive team that the Cards have played that had lost its previous series.  The Cubs were just beaten 2 of 3 in Colorado.

Cards Finally Discover the Virtue of Add On Runs

Add on runs are those very important runs a team scores after they have taken a lead.  They are the runs that embolden the pitching staff and dishearten the other team.  Teams that stop scoring after they’ve gone ahead keep the other team in the game and invite late game catastrophe.

Through the season’s first 15 games – up through the Pittsburgh series – the Cards averaged only 3.2 runs per game.  Through those 15 games, the Cards scraped together a total of 19 add on runs.  Once they went ahead in the game, the offense usually came to a crashing halt.  In their first 214 plate appearances of the year with a lead, the hitters struggled to a .213/.311/.284 mark.

The offense took a decided upswing with their visit to Milwaukee.  In the 12 games beginning with the first Brewers series and ending with the most recent, the Cards scored 5.17 runs per game and hit much better once they forged a lead – better in this case being a .295/.374/.417 batting line – but again – this equated to only 19 more add on runs over the 12 games.

Last night – admittedly with the assistance of some unremarkable Atlanta pitching – the Cardinal offense discovered the virtue of add on runs.  From the moment they took a 1-0 first inning lead, the Cardinals hit .378/.465/.649 as they added on 9 runs in that game alone – pulling away from Atlanta for a 10-0 win (box score).

Aledmys Diaz

After his 4-for-4 night, Aledmys Diaz is 7 for 9 in the two games since he’s slid to the sixth slot in the order.  He is suddenly up to .264 for the season.

Diaz has been a frequent contributor to the recent offensive surge.  He has played in 12 of the last 13 games (starting 11) and hitting .302 (16 for 53).

The Cards had their first lead of the game before Diaz made his first trip to the plate, and all five of his plate appearances (Aledmys also drew his third walk of the season!) came with the Cards in add on mode.  Aledmys has seemed his most comfortable when hitting with a lead, hitting .314 (11 for 35) on the season.

Jose Martinez

With Stephen Piscotty on the disabled list and Dexter Fowler a little ouchy, Jose Martinez made his first start since the first game of the Toronto doubleheader.  With his two hits, Jose has now hit safely in all 9 of his starts, going 11 for 34 (.324) in those games.  After striking out just 4 times over his first 38 at bats, Martinez – who whiffed 3 times last night, has struck out 5 times in his last 9 at bats.

Only two of his at bats came before the Cards built a lead of at least five runs.  Jose went 1 for 2 in those opportunities – it was, in fact, his first-inning double that set the stage for the first run scoring of the game.  Throughout the season, Martinez has hit particularly well when the score is close (defined here as within three runs).  Martinez is now 13 for 35 (.371) in close games.

Jedd Gyorko

With two more hits last night, Jedd Gyorko has had multiple hits in 4 of his last 6 games, hitting .423 (11 for 26) and slugging .846 (2 doubles & 3 home runs) during those games.  Gyorko enters tonight’s game with a .346/.400/.679 batting line.  Over the course of these last 13 games, Jedd leads the Cardinals in batting average at .426 (20 for 47) and slugging percentage at .830 (5 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs).  I had always thought Jedd would only be a part-time player, and that he would be over-exposed if he played on an every-day basis.  Twenty-eight games doesn’t disprove that opinion, but it certainly calls it into question.

Like Martinez, Gyorko had two at bats before the Cardinal lead ballooned to 7 runs.  In those at bats, Jedd doubled home the game’s first run and singled in the third to start the rally that pushed St Louis’ lead from 1-0 to 3-0.  Jedd has been nearly impossible to get out in close games.  With these two hits, he is now 13 for 35 (.371) when he hits with the Cards either even or ahead by just one run.

While the scores of the games have been within three runs, Gyorko is a .333 hitter (22 for 66) with 5 of his 6 home runs and a .682 slugging percentage.

Randal Grichuk

Randal Grichuk joined in on the fun with a single and a double.  Grichuk has played in all of the last 13 games, contributing a .292 average (14 for 48).  He is hitting .304 (7 for 23) in those games when batting with a lead.

Lance Lynn

While the offense was making up for lost at bats, Lance Lynn was busy leaving hints to the front office that they need to strongly consider keeping him in the fold.  With six innings of shutout, four-hit ball, Lynn has now put together four consecutive dominating starts – all wins.  Over his last 25 innings, Lance has only permitted 2 runs (0.72 ERA) on 16 hits.  Lynn’s season ERA is now down to 2.04.

Over the course of the season, Lance has pitched very well while the games have been close – 2.37 ERA, and a .216 batting average against in 30.1 innings.  He has been dynamic once he’s been given a lead.  In 20 innings with any kind of a lead, Lance has given just 16 hits and 2 earned runs – a 0.90 ERA and a .216 batting average.

Kevin Siegrist

Kevin Siegrist continues to allow more hits that someone with his stuff should.  The triple he served up to Ender Inciarte was the eighth hit he’s given up over his last 5 innings (covering 6 games).  But he has walked only one during those innings and has given up no runs.

Not Enough Fastball Not Enough to Subdue Cards

Many, many times in recent years, the Cardinals have gone down meekly to soft tossers who have teased their hitters with pitches just out of the strike zone.  It frequently doesn’t seem to matter if the pitcher they face falls into the “not enough fastball” category.

For a couple innings last night, it looked like this might be one of those games as a “not enough fastball” Cincinnati pitcher dispatched the first six Cardinals he faced with minimal effort.  But after an inning-opening error by Eugenio Suarez (who endured one of his most forgettable games – being famously picked off third later on) things began to unravel quickly for Tim Adleman who ended his evening allowing six runs (five of them earned) in 5.1 innings of a 7-5 loss to the Cardinals (box score).

Adleman didn’t necessarily make a whole lot of mistakes, but the aroused Cardinal offense – which now features lots of hitters emerging from their shells – made sure he paid the full price when he did mis-locate that less than dominating fastball.

Cards on a Good Roll

Noteworthy in the victory is the fact that St Louis has now won 9 of 11 games.  Last year’s team – in 162 games – never had an eleven-game stretch where they won nine times.  I referred to that team several times as the “wet powder” Cardinals.  A half a dozen times during 2016 that team looked as though they were ready to go on an extended run, only to have the fire go abruptly out.

I have much higher hopes for this squad which has already put together a longer sustained run than last year’s team was ever capable of.

I know that this run has been established against some teams of questionable virtue.  At the end of the year, how good will Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Toronto and Cincinnati be?  Will any of them end up playing .500 ball?  Maybe, maybe not.  But remember that the 2016 team played lots of bad teams, too.

In fact, one of the most frustrating aspects of the 2016 season was that this team would frequently get rolled over by sub-.500 teams.  Even if all this current club achieves is consistently beating the poorer teams, that by itself will be a noteworthy improvement over 2016.

This recent surge – which began with three 2-1 wins against Pittsburgh – has seen ample contributions from both hitters and pitchers.  With their 7 runs, 11 hits and 4 walks last night, St Louis has been scoring 4.82 runs per game while hitting .290/.353/.484 as a team during the run.

Meawhile, the rotation has turned in 8 quality starts over the 11 games with a 2.98 ERA and a .233/.2899/.353 batting line against.

It’s been a pretty good roll.

Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler’s season average still sits at just .236, but that number currently means nothing.  With two hits last night, Dexter has had multiple hits in four straight games, hitting .500 in those games (9 for 18) and slugging .944 (his hits include 2 doubles and 2 home runs).  All seven of his RBIs this season have come in his last 8 games.

Dexter has been very much the straw that stirs the drink over this eleven-game uprising.  Among the regulars, he leads the team with a .350 batting average (14 for 40) and a .750 slugging percentage (2 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs.)

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko pushed his season average up to .321 with two more hits last night – including his fourth home run of the season.  Since the second game of the Milwaukee series – when Jedd was moved into the clean-up slot in the lineup – Gyorko is hitting .364 (8 for 22).  He has one double, one triple, and last night’s home run in that span – a .636 slugging percentage.

Jedd doesn’t qualify as a “regular” during the 9-2 streak the Cardinals are on.  He falls two plate appearances shy.  But his .393/.469/.786 batting line would lead the Cards in all those categories.  Over his last 32 PAs, Jedd has 5 singles, 3 doubles, a triple, 2 home runs, 6 runs scored, 4 runs batted in, 3 walks, and a hit by pitch.

The first two times up last night, Gyorko took the first pitch of the at bat, getting ahead in the count 1-0 both times.  He ended those at bats striking out and grounding out.

He swung at the first pitch his last two times up, missing once and fouling the other off – starting those at bats behind 0-1.  He went on to hit a home run and a single in those at bats.  So far this season – whether he hits the ball or not – when Jedd swings at the first pitch in an at bat he is 10 for 20 (.500) with 3 doubles and 3 home runs (1.100 slugging percentage).

Stephen Piscotty

Stephen Piscotty broke an 0 for 8 with a single and a double.  He also walked and grounded out in the second inning at the end of a 10-pitch at bat.  He has now gone three straight games without striking out, and has fanned just once in his last six games.  Piscotty’s season average is just .235, but he has been looking better at the plate.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter was in the highlight reels with his walk-off, eleventh-inning grand slam the other night, but Carpenter hasn’t been at the top of his game.  He is 0 for 7 since that home run after last night’s 0 for 4 left him at .224 for the young season.  Matt is also hitting .226 (7 for 31) since the beginning of the Pittsburgh series.

In last night’s third inning, Carpenter tried to bunt the first pitch thrown him by Tim Adleman.  He fouled the bunt off, but it was still only the third time in his last 37 plate appearances that Matt had made any kind of attempt at the first pitch thrown to him.

Lance Lynn

Lance Lynn authored his third straight quality start as he muffled the dangerous Cincinnati offense on just one run through six innings.  In his third start during this run that began with his 2-1 victory in the first Pittsburgh game, Lynn is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA and a batting line against of .185/.264/.262.  He has been as good as could be hoped for.

Brett Cecil

Brett Cecil continued his very productive run.  He pitched a 1-2-3 seventh with a strikeout.  He has now allowed just one run – unearned – over his last 9 appearances totaling 6.2 innings.  He has allowed only 2 hits to the last 24 batters he’s faced, while striking out 8 of them.

Kevin Siegrist

Nobody is swinging at Kevin Siegrist’s first pitch anymore – and very few are swinging at any pitch he throws.  Last year, batters swung at his first pitch 26.2% of the time, which was slightly below average (the average for all the major leagues was 28.4%).  Last year, batters offered at 43.8% of all of Kevin’s offerings.  Again, this was close to average – batters swung at 46.6% of all pitches thrown by the Cardinal pitching staff.

Last night – even though he threw a first-pitch fastball right down the middle to Scooter Gennett, Scooter just took it for a strike.  Then, even though he elevated a first-pitch fastball to Patrick Kivlehan, Patrick just watched it go by for a ball.  Both of those plate appearances lasted 8 pitches. Gennett took the first five pitches of the at bat before fouling off two and driving the eighth into left-center field for a two-run double.  Kivlehan ended up fouling off 3 pitches before drawing a walk.

Of the last 34 batters that Siegrist has faced, only 2 have swung at his first pitch.  They have only swung at 51 of the last 147 pitches that he’s thrown (34.7%).

Working theory.  As Siegrist’s velocity is down this year (for whatever reason) batters are less afraid that Kevin will throw it by him.  They are, therefore, content to take pitches early in the at bat and foul them off late while waiting for either a mistake that they can drive or for ball four.

None of Siegrist’s last 38 pitches has produced a swinging strike.  At the moment, Siegrist – like Adleman – is a “not enough fastball” pitcher.

Seung-hwan Oh

Seung-hwan Oh’s rebound continues.  He retired the last four Reds for the save – his sixth.  In his first six games this year, Oh allowed 6 runs on twelve hits – including 4 doubles and 2 home runs – to the first 35 batters he faced this year.  While hitting two batters and walking one, he managed only 3 strikeouts and was saddled with an 8.10 ERA.

In his five games since then, he has faced 19 batters, giving no runs on two hits (both singles) and one walk while striking out 7.

Rain tries to interrupt the Cardinal hot streak again as today’s afternoon contest was washed away.  If they get to play tomorrow – and if the Reds stay with Bronson Arroyo – the Cards will get more “not enough fastballs” to swing at.

NoteBook

All four of last night’s walks came on at bats that began with ball one.  Thirty-five of the last 36 walks drawn by Cardinal hitters have begun with first-pitch balls.