A trend I have mentioned a few times over the last part of the season reached – I hope – its nadir last night. A Cardinal team that seems increasingly unwilling to swing the bat watched pitch after pitch go by last night. Of the 173 pitches delivered over 11 grueling innings in a game the Cardinals desperately needed to keep alive their faint playoff hopes, the Cards swung at only 62 (36%). They did grind – averaging as a team 4.22 pitches per plate appearance (for context, Matt Carpenter averages 4.45 pitches per plate appearance for the season). But 40.5% of the pitches they took were called strikes, leading to 17 strikeouts and only 4 walks. Eight of the 17 Cardinals who struck out were called out on strikes
Meanwhile, St Louis finished the eleven-inning fiasco with 1 run and only 6 hits. The team batting average falls to .239 for the month.
Tommy Pham was about the only offense the Cards had going for them last night. With 2 singles and a walk, Pham added 2 stolen bases and scored the team’s only run. Tommy is still finishing strong. He is now up to .306 with a .444 on base percentage for the month. Since the All-Star Break, Pham is hitting .321 (75 for 234) with a .437 on base percentage (Tommy has walked 43 times, been hit by 6 pitches, and has stolen 14 bases in 17 attempts in the season’s second half).
Of the 29 pitches tossed to Tommy last night, he only swung at 7. All season, Pham has been one of the most selective of the Cardinal hitters. For the season, he only swings at 38.1% of the pitches he sees. As the season goes on, though, Tommy is getting even more selective. This month, his swing percentage is down to 33.4%.
Struggling with a balky shoulder off and on all year, Matt Carpenter’s season came to an ignominious end with an 0-for-4 that featured 4 strikeouts. Matt finishes September hitting .230 (but with a .420 on base percentage as he drew his twentieth walk in his twenty-one games).
When Carpenter came to the plate in the third inning with a runner at first and one out, it would be the 97th and final opportunity for Matt to ground into a double play. He struck out. One thing about striking out and hitting fly balls – they keep you out of double plays. Matt bounced into only 5 all year. Among season-long regulars, his 5.2% was the lowest on the team.
After the game, Matt admitted to taking pitches he might otherwise have swung at. The evidence is in the statistics. Over the course of the season, Carpenter swung at the first pitch just 13.2% of the time. In the second half of the season, that ratio dropped to only 9.2%. In 82 September plate appearances, Carpenter swung at the first pitch just 3 times.
Dexter Fowler couldn’t break out of his late season swoon in time to extend the Cardinals hopes. He was also 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts. Fowler welcomes Milwaukee hitting just .185 (5 for 27) over his last 7 games.
Fowler swung the bat 13 times last night, missing on 6 of the swings. During the month of September, Dexter is missing on a team-leading 30.6% of his swings – higher even than Randal Grichuk’s 30.1%.
Dexter also saw 29 pitches last night (5.8 per). For the month of September he trails only Carpenter in pitches per PA with 4.24.
As he returned from Memphis, Piscotty expressed the hope that he could get hot coming down the stretch. That didn’t happen. Piscotty went hitless in 3 at bats last night, and is 0 for 13 over his last 5 games. It has been 15 games since Stephen has driven in a run – a span during which he has hit .191 (9 for 47) with only 2 extra base hits. His September average is down to .231, and for the second half it’s down to just .229 (25 for 109).
Piscotty also had an opportunity to bounce into a double play. In the fourth inning he had Jedd Gyorko on first with one out. Stephen didn’t bounce into the double play. He struck out into it instead. Still, this month, Piscotty has bounced into just 1 DP in 17 such opportunities.
Carson Kelly made his fourth start in the last five games last night. He is 1 for 15 (.067), and is 0 for 11 since Yadier Molina went on concussion protocol. Carson is the top rated catching prospect in baseball. It would help, though, if he would get a hit once in a while.
All four first pitches to Carson last night were strikes – although he only swung at one of them. In his 30 plate appearances, Carson is seeing first pitch strikes 76.7% of the time. No other non-pitcher on the team is getting challenged with the first pitch as often as Kelly.
Kelly swung the bat 4 times last night, fouling a pitch off and putting the ball in play with his other swings. Kelly has only missed on 16.2% of his swings since joining the team. He is also putting the ball in play with an impressive 49.5% of his swings.
If this was, indeed, Lance Lynn’s last start as a Cardinal it ended on a fairly ironic note. Noted early in his career for the consistency of run support that he received, Lance will exit seeing no runs scored for him in his last game. Moreover, this will be the third time in his last 5 games that St Louis was kept off the scoreboard while he was the pitcher of record. In fact, over his last 27 starts, the Cardinals averaged just 3.00 runs per start for him.
Lance, nonetheless, finishes with an excellent 3.43 ERA – which was 3.21 in 15 second half starts in his first season returned from Tommy John surgery.
Brett Cecil delivered a scoreless seventh in the tie game, and continues to show incremental improvement in the season’s dying days. His September ERA drops to 2.25 in 12 innings. He had them three-up-and-three down on 9 pitches last night. In his September innings, Brett is only facing 3.42 batter per inning, and throwing just 12.08 pitches per inning. Over the course of the whole season, Cecil has thrown just 3.58 pitches per batter.
Eight of his nine pitches were strikes. He spent almost the entire first half looking for the strike zone, as only 63.5% of his pre-All-Star Game pitches were strikes. Between the break and the beginning of September, his percentage jumped to 69.4%. This month, 73.1% of his pitches have been strikes.
Juan Nicasio kept them off the board in the eighth, but it took him 20 pitches to work through the inning. Since he has been a Cardinal, Juan has averaged 17.5 pitches per inning, and 4.38 pitches per batter. Only Tyler Lyons (18.45 and 4.41) has thrown more pitches per inning and per batter this month than Nicasio.
Sam Tuivailala kept the game tied through the ninth. Sam has been having a very solid September. He now has a 2.00 ERA in 9 innings this month. He faced only 3 batters last night, throwing 7 strikes in just 9 pitches. This month, Sam is averaging just 3.56 batters per inning, just 12.00 pitches thrown per inning, just 3.38 pitches per batter, while throwing strikes with 73.1% of his pitches.
John Brebbia dispatched his 3 batters in the tenth (including one who struck out) on only 8 pitches. Even though Brebbia has struck out 17 batters in 10.2 innings this month, he has done so throwing a surprisingly economical 3.36 pitches per batter. Seven of last night’s eight pitches were strikes. John throws strikes 68.5% of the time over the course of the season.
Matthew Bowman faced 5 batters in last night’s decisive eleventh inning. One of them struck out, and the other four hit ground balls. It resulted in two hits and the run that eliminated the Cardinals from playoff contention. That’s the way the ball bounces sometimes.
Matthew has gotten ground balls from 14 of the 21 batters he’s faced this month, and 56.2% on the year – the highest ratio of anyone on the staff with more than 20 innings pitched.
Elimination Season Almost Ended
For all their warts, the Cardinals were the second to last team to be eliminated from playoff contention this year. Milwaukee or Colorado will be the last. Everyone else is already in or out.
With the loss, the Cardinals fall to 43-35 at home. Of the 25 home series they have played, they have won 12, lost 10, and split the other 3.
With Milwaukee having won two of three from Cincinnati, the Cards will play no more teams this season that have either lost or split their previous series. So the final tallies on those situations are:
St Louis finished just 37-36 against teams that had lost their previous series. Those games averaged 3:06, and drew a total attendance of 2,563,414 (an average of 35,115.3) and were played in average temperatures of 78.5 degrees. We went 11-10-2 in those series, sweeping 3 of the 5 we had a chance to sweep, and being swept in 3 of the 4 that we were in danger of being swept in. We were 4-5 in rubber games against teams that had lost their previous series.
We only played 6 teams this season that had split their previous series, and we beat them up in good order, going 13-4 in those games. Those games averaged 2:58.8 and drew a total attendance of 726,554 (an average of 42,738.5). The average temperature of those games was 79.4 degrees. We won 5 of the 6 series, including sweeps in 3 of 4 opportunities while avoiding the sweep in the only such series lost all season. We won the one rubber game played in these series.