Everyone knows who leads the team in batting average and home runs, etc. As we count down the hours to the start of the second half, let’s look at the Cardinal leaders in a few less visible statistical categories.
Highest Percent of Hits Being Infield Hits
Edmundo Sosa only has 4 hits thus far in July, and 3 of them have been of the infield variety. For the season, 10 of his 37 hits have been infield singles. That’s 27% of his hits – the highest ratio of any regular or semi-regular on the team. In general, these are fairly softly hit – the ten have an average exit velocity of 71.88 mph. By expected batting average, Edmundo should only have 1.88 hits from the batch – so there’s been more than a bit of luck involved. But also credit Edmundo for his hustle.
Yadier Molina is on this list – as you might expect. Among regulars, though, he is only third lowest at 6.3% – just slightly higher than Dylan Carlson, who has only 5 infield hits this year (6.0% of his hits).
But the lowest on this list is Paul DeJong. In the second inning on April 16 DeJong beat out a dribbler down the third-base line for his only infield hit so far this year (2.6% of his hits).
Andrew Knizner – who is still looking for his first infield hit of the season – leads this category if the prominent bench players are included.
For the purposes of this stat, I’m not counting bunt hits – as that shows more intent to keep the ball in the infield. I have made them a category of their own.
Bunt Hits as a Percentage of All Hits: Highest
Among the regulars, Carlson is the leader at 1.2% (1 bunt hit among his 83 hits), but the real leader here is Matt Carpenter, who has beaten the shift 3 times with bunts up the third base line. They account for 11.1% of his 27 hits this season.
Most of the team doesn’t have a bunt hit – so by pure percentage, it’s a many way tie. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado both hit the Break with 89 hits – tied for the most hits without a bunt hit at this point.
Hardest to Double Up
Carpenter throughout his career has been very difficult to double. Matt hasn’t grounded into one yet this year, and his 26 double-play opportunities are the most of any Cardinal who has yet to bounce into a DP.
Among regulars, Tommy Edman has hit into 2 in 47 opportunities (4.3%).
Arenado leads the team with 11 double-plays grounded into, and his obliging on 15.1% of his DP opportunities is considerably higher than the team average of 9.0% – but it’s not the highest on the team. That “honor” belongs to Molina. Yadi has bounced into 2 double plays already this month in just 5 opportunities, and has now hit into that double play 6 times in 39 chances – a team leading 15.4%.
Most Likely to Deliver that Run
So far in 2021, St Louis has had that runner at third with less than two outs on 140 occasions – delivering that runner just 71 times – a rather disappointing 51%.
Among regulars, Tommy Edman has brought home 71% – but that’s in only 7 opportunities. Of the 6 Cards who have had at least 10 opportunities to deliver that runner, Goldschmidt – at 59% leads the team (he’s brought in 13 of 22).
Nolan Arenado has produced that run just 7 times in 14 opportunities – his 50% being the lowest of the starters.
Highest Percentage of Plate Appearances Seeing a First Pitch Strike (And Highest Percent Swinging at First Pitch)
Yadier Molina has long been as aggressive at the plate as any Cardinal hitter. Through the season’s first half, Yadi is seeing a first pitch strike a team-leading 70.8% of the time (team average is 60.5%). This is aided in no small part by Yadi’s swinging at a team-leading 44.7% of the first pitches he’s been thrown (team average is 27.7%). Of the 264 first pitches thrown to him, 118 have been out of the strike zone. Yadi has chased after 35 of them (29.7%).
The lowest percentage of first-pitch strikes belongs to DeJong. It hasn’t been (so far) Paul’s best offensive season, but through the first half, he’s consistently frustrated pitchers’ efforts to get him to chase a first-pitch ball. Fully 54.3% of the first pitches thrown him (127 out of 234) have been out of the zone – with 63 of the 127 being some form of low and away. Paul has chased only 8.7% of non-strike first pitches, and only 4 of the 63 low-and-away pitches.
It’s good discipline from Paul that hopefully predicts better things for him.
Overall, DeJong swings at the first pitch just 22.2% of the time. But the leader here – among starters – is Carlson. Dylan is only offering at that first pitch 20.0% of the time (74 of 370). This trend has been exaggerated during the first part of July, as Carlson has only offered at 5 of 42 first pitches (11.9%).
Dylan, certainly isn’t chasing after pitches out of the zone (only 14 times all season). But he also takes a good many first pitches in the zone (130 out of 190). This includes 23 of 35 first pitches that have been right down the middle.
If you are going to be that “patient” hitter who tries to work the pitcher, you may find yourself being taken advantage of from time to time. Some of that is starting to happen to Carlson.
Carpenter – of course – has spent his career not swinging at the first pitch. Including prominent bench players, Matt would be leading in this category – he has swung at the first pitch just 16.5% of the time. Unlike Carlson, though, most pitchers don’t challenge Matt with first pitches right down the middle. He has only seen 7 of those so far this season, taking 5 for strike one and fouling the other two off.
Of the 84 first pitches out of the zone he’s seen, Carp has swung at just 2.
Highest Percentage of Strikeouts on Called Third Strikes
Tommy Edman isn’t a guy who takes a lot of two-strike pitches. He leads the team in this category at 28.6% (14 of his 49 strikeouts on called third strikes), but that’s mostly because it’s fairly difficult to get him to swing and miss that third strike. Of the 427 two-strike pitches he’s seen this year, 201 of them have been in the zone. He has put 50.7% of those in play, and fouled off another 35.3%. Only 11 times (5.5%) has he been fooled and taken that third strike. That is one more strikeout than his combined swinging strikeouts (on pitches that are actually in the strike zone). Tommy only has 7 swings and misses and 3 foul-tip strikeouts on two-strike pitches in the zone.
Of the 226 two-strike tosses that have been out of the zone, Tommy has taken 46.9% of them, fouled off 26.5%, and hit 13.7% into play. He has missed the swing on 23 of those pitches (10.2%), including 13 that he chased in the dirt, and foul-tipped 2 others for strike three. He has been called out on 3 pitches of borderline quality.
Molina, again, is close on this list. Only 8.7% of his strikeouts are called (4 of 46), but the lowest here is Arenado. Of his 48 strikeouts only 4 have been called (8.3%). The team average is 21.9%.
Highest Percentage of Pitches Swung At
Molina – again – is the most aggressive. Yadi wants 57.2% of all pitches thrown to him. The other members of the 50+ club are Sosa (54.0%) and Tyler O’Neill (51.5%)
Carlson among regulars (42.8%) and Carpenter (38.1%) overall.
Highest Swing-And-Miss Rate
This has been the question that has followed O’Neill around all of his career. Having the best year of his career, Tyler is still leading the team in swings and misses at 33.3% as 160 of his 480 swings this season have come up empty. An encouraging note here is that through the early part of July, Tyler has only missed on 6 of his 30 swings (20%).
Justin Williams (if the bench players are included) is missing on 34.2% of his swings.
Carpenter is relatively high on this list – he is missing on 29.3% of his swings – but has been trending down in July. He has missed with 11 of his first 23 swings this month (47.8%).
In 725 swings this season, Tommy Edman has only missed 98 times (13.5%) to lead the team in this category.
Highest Percentage of Swings Resulting in Foul Balls
Much of the bat control that has put Edman at the top of the hardest to swing and miss category has him leading the team in fouling pitches off – which he does with 43.2% of his swings. DeJong also fouls off a lot of pitches (40.9%).
O’Neill among starters (34.4%) or Williams (32.9%) if you include the bench. Again, with the big swings, they don’t spoil a lot of pitches.
Highest Percentage of Balls Put in Play
Nolan Arenado is among the best at not swinging and missing (16.5%) and doesn’t foul very much (37.9%). Thus, Nolan puts the ball in play on 45.6% of his swings – the top mark on the team.
O’Neill (32.3% – lower than his swing-and-miss rate). Carpenter (31.4%) if the bench is included.
Most Pitches Seen Per Plate Appearance
This is what the batters who take those first-pitch strikes are trying to do – run up the pitch counts of the opposing pitcher. And Carlson (4.26) and Carpenter (4.53) are doing this better than the rest of the team.
Molina (3.61) and Sosa (3.59).
We’ll throw in a few for the pitchers as well – although most of their categories we’ll leave for another day.
Fewest Batters Faced per Inning
Of the relievers who have pitched at least 10 innings and are still on the team, Junior Fernandez grinds through 4.74 batters per every inning he pitches.
Most Run Support Per Nine Innings (While Still the Pitcher of Record)
Helping Flaherty to his early 8-0 record was a bevy of run support. In 62 innings of work, Jack was rewarded with 68 support runs (9.87 per game). In his absence, some of that support is starting to go to Kwang Hyun Kim. In his first 13 July innings, the Cards have scored 9 runs for him (6.23 per). For the season now, Kwang Hyun is seeing 5.47 runs per nine innings.
Gallegos has been a good-luck charm out of the pen. In his 46.1 innings the offense has come up with 22 support runs. At 4.27 runs per nine innings, it is better than the team usually does.
The Cards are doing their best not to make a good impression on Wade LeBlanc. Through his first 19.2 Cardinal innings, he has been given just 3 runs of support (1.37 per).
Highest Percentage of Ground Balls Induced
The Cardinals have a few elite ground-ball pitchers. Unfortunately, all of them are on the shelf for the foreseeable future. Dakota Hudson (injured all year), Jordan Hicks (70.8% ground balls before he went on the list) and Carlos Martinez (51.7% before he suffered a similar fate) were all noted for keeping the infield busy. In their absence Oviedo leads the team with a 48.8% ground-ball rate.
Jake Woodford – who pitched 25.1 innings as a reliever and is stretching out in the minors to be a potential starter – got batters to put the ball on the ground 46.7% of the time – a thing he needs to do to succeed.
Gallegos and Flaherty – for all of their effectiveness – are decidedly flyball pitchers. Giovanny is getting grounders just 37.5% of the time, and Flaherty is right next to him at 37.7%.
Fewest Pitches per Inning
Gallegos reigns supreme in inning efficiency for the Birds. He is back in the dugout in an average of 14.78 pitches (the team average is a too-high 17.2). At 15.56, Martinez was the best of the starters before his season derailed. He had swept through his 3.1 innings on July 4 against the Rockies in only 44 pitches before he went down.
Kim has worked through his first 13 innings this month in just 182 pitches – a very good 14.00 per.
It’s Woodford (18.63) just ahead of Fernandez (18.48), with John Gant – who spent most of the year in the rotation – leading the starters with 18.21 pitches per inning.
Fewest Pitches Thrown per Batter Faced
He hasn’t gotten them all out, but over his first 19.2 Cardinal innings, LeBlanc hasn’t danced too long with the batter at the plate. He has thrown 307 pitches to 88 batters – 3.49 per. For pitchers who have been with a team a little longer, the leader is Martinez. Carlos was averaging 3.53 pitches per batter before his season was interrupted.
Before his injury, Jack Flaherty had labored to throw 1080 pitches to 255 batters – 4.24 per.
Highest Percentage of Strikes
As a team, the Cardinals threw just 61.4% of their pitches for strikes in the first half – an aspect they will hope to do better at in the second half.
The best of the group to this point has been Gallegos. Gio has thrown 455 of his 685 pitches for strikes (66.4%). At 64.4%, Adam Wainwright has been the best of the starters.
Closer Alex Reyes has thrown 717 pitches so far this season. Only 412 for strikes – a 57.5% rate that is a concern. A bright note here is that Alex leads the team in strike percentage for the month of July at an encouraging 67.3% (37 of 55 pitches).
John Gant – as you might guess – has the lowest percentage among the mostly-starters. Only 58.7% of his pitches so far this year have been strikes.
My Designated Hitter Rant
Every year now, baseball purists in the National League are continuously threatened with the permanent infliction of the designated hitter. Last year, I responded with an extensive rant against the DH. While trying to update that document, I managed to delete it. So, I have re-written it here. The hope is to set forth a reasonable argument for keeping the DH far, far away from National League parks. I encourage you to read it and pass it along to other like-minded fans of this great old game.