During the All-Star Break, we looked at Cardinal batting leaders in less common categories. Today, I thought we would do those same categories for the pitchers.
Highest Percentage of Hits Allowed as Infield Hits
While the team overall has only allowed 78 infield hits (just 9.8% of all hits), Carlos Martinez has been particularly bedeviled by them. Thirteen of the 78 have come with Carlos on the mound (16.9% of his hits.)
Infield hits account for 4 of the 25 hits off of Alex Reyes. At 16.0%, he has the highest percentage for the bullpen.
Hard-throwing reliever Junior Fernandez has allowed 22 hits to this point of the season – none of them of the infield variety. Among starters, Adam Wainwright has been nicked for only 8 infield hits among the 112 he’s given up (7.1%). None of the 21 hits off him in the season’s second half have ben infield hits.
Highest Percentage of Double Play Grounders in DP Opportunities
Fernandez leads here, too. In 20 double-play opportunities (a runner at first with less than two outs), Junior has made that DP happen 4 times (20%).
Among starters, the best has been Kwang Hyun Kim. In 66 chances, he has gotten that DP 7 times (10.6%). This was a primary asset during his outstanding July when he got 5 double plays in 15 opportunities (33.3%).
Among the many things that went wrong for Tyler Webb this season was his inability to get that double play. Thirty-four batters faced him in a double-play circumstance, but none obliged him. Among season-long members of the bullpen, Alex Reyes has one double-play in 48 opportunities (2.1%).
None of the season-long members of the rotation have had too much trouble getting that double-play. Wainwright at 6.5% is the lowest (6 in 92 chances). The team average is 7.0%.
Highest Percentage Allowing in Runner from Third with Less Than Two Outs
Kwang Hyun has faced 364 batters so far this season, and only 10 of them have been up with that runner at third and less than two outs. That being said, the batter produced that run 8 times. Of pitchers who have faced that situation at least 20 times, Jake Woodford has had the greatest difficulty – allowing 15 of 23 (65.2%). This includes allowing 2 of 3 against Minnesota on Saturday night.
A footnote on this number: The statistic only applies when the batter drives the runner home. Seven times already this season, the Cardinal pitching staff has wild-pitched that runner home. Ryan Helsley has done it three times, Reyes twice, and Jack Flaherty twice.
Johan Oviedo – now working through his issues in Memphis – was the teams’ best in this situation. Only 5 of 19 runners made it in (26.3%).
Highest Percentage of First Pitch Strikes
In spite of the fact that he’s not a hard thrower at all, Wade LeBlanc has been all business when it comes to throwing a first-pitch strike, doing so 63.9% of the time (99 of 155). Among qualifiers, the team leader is Wainwright. Facing 542 batters already this season, Adam has tossed 339 first pitch strikes (62.5%). In his four starts since the Break, Waino is throwing that strike to 73.1% of batters (76 of the last 104).
Giovanny Gallegos has the best rate among the relievers. He has delivered a first-pitch strike to 126 of the 204 batters he’s faced (61.8%). The team-wide average is just 57.9%.
Jordan Hicks’ season ended before he could really get comfortable being back on the mound. He only faced 44 batters before arm miseries removed him from the roster, but only 18 of those batters (40.9%) saw a first-pitch strike.
Among season-long members of the pen, this has been Genesis Cabrera’s principle struggle. Only 50.2% of the batters he faces see a strike on the first pitch (102 of 203).
John Gant – traded at the deadline – spent more time in the rotation than out. Throwing first-pitch strikes was also a challenge for him. He threw 178 first-pitch strikes to the 345 batters he faced (51.6%). This includes just 7 of the 22 he faced (31.8%) in the second half before his trade.
Highest Percentage of First Pitches Swung At
Fernandez, again. Of the 84 batters faced by Junior, 36 have chased after that first pitch (42.9%). Of pitchers facing at least 100 batters, Gallegos is the one the hitters are most aggressive against. They chase his first pitch 34.3% of the time (70 of 204).
Reyes – over the entirety of the season – has only seen his first pitch chased 28.4% of the time, but this number is on the rise. Since the Break, 14 of 32 batters (43.8%) have come out swinging against Alex.
Brandon Waddell pitched to 22 batters before being sent down by the Cardinals. Only 2 of those batters (9.1%) offered at his first pitch.
Among pitchers facing at least 100 batters, Andrew Miller is the one that they want the least to do with on that first pitch. Only 26 of the 115 batters to face him have offered at that first pitch (22.6%).
Wainwright has the lowest percentage of the starters, but at 24.4%, that figure is only marginally lower than the team average (27.8%).
Highest Percentage of Strikeouts on called Third Strikes
The soft-tossers mostly lead out in this category. Many batters will take that curve on the outside corner and hope it gets called a ball.
Since joining the Cards, LeBlanc has struck out just 21 batters – 11 of them looking (52.4%). Of the 56 batters he struck out as a Cardinal, Gant got 25 of them looking (44.6%). Among qualifiers, the team leader here is Wainwright. Of his 124 strikeouts, 48 (38.7%) were called out.
Between his nearly-100-mph fastball and his wipe-out slider, everyone is swinging against Alex Reyes when they get two strikes on them. Alex has 59 strikeouts so far this season, and only 8 (13.6%) have gone down looking.
Kim leads the starters, with only 14 of his 67 strikeouts (20.9%) being called. In July, 16 of Kim’s 17 strikeouts went down swinging.
Highest Percentage of Pitches Swung At
There are times when I think Gallegos throws his fastball too often – to the detriment of his slider. But one thing the uptick in his fastball usage has done is it has gotten batters to swing the bat. Gio has thrown 814 pitches so far this season, and the hitters have swung at 423 of them – a very aggressive 52.0%.
Few things discourage swinging the bat like poor control. Once you develop a reputation for throwing balls, batters are more inclined to wait you out. Seth Elledge – one of many Cardinal relievers who struggled with control issues – stayed in the majors long enough to throw 221 pitches. Batters only offered after 87 of them (39.4%). John Gant saw a similar trend, with batters offering at only 577 of his 1394 Cardinal pitches (41.4%).
Highest Percentage Swings that Miss
Luis Garcia has earned little notice since joining the team, but in his few opportunities, Garcia has exhibited some swing-and-miss ability. So far, 19 of the 45 swings taken against him (42.2%) have come up empty. Reyes (34.3%) and Gallegos (31.2%) lead the team in swing and miss.
Before going down with his injury, Carlos Martinez was attempting to transition into a pitch-to-contact style – with the result that he induced only 112 swinging strikes from the 596 swings against him – just 18.8%.
Highest Percent of Swings Resulting in Fouls
Tyler Webb (46.2%) on 171 swings against him. At more than 250 swings taken, the leader is Cabrera. Batters managed to foul off 157 pitches with their 374 swings (42.0%).
Only 10 of the 45 swings taken against Garcia (22.2%) have resulted in fouls. Andrew Miller is only getting 33.0% of the swings against him to lead to foul balls (58 of 176).
Highest Percentage of Swings to Put Ball in Play
LeBlanc (46.3% of 257 swings) and Wainwright (43.3% of 866 swings). Getting the ball in play quickly isn’t always a bad thing. The team average here is 38.2% of swings.
Gallegos (29.1%) – principally because 31.2% of the swings against him miss.
Highest Percentage of Pitches Taken Called Strikes
Wainwright (39.3%). In four starts in the second half, 41.9% of the pitches that batters take against Waino (principally that curve) have been called strikes. When you can throw that curve in the zone, it puts the batter in quite a bind.
Fernandez (21.6%). Without much deception to his breaking pitches, batters are rarely in a quandary whether to swing or not. If it’s close to the zone, they will be swinging.
Highest Percentage of Strikes (of all kinds)
Garcia (67.4% of 92 pitches), Gallegos (66% of 814 pitches) and Wainwright (65.4% of 2017 pitches).
Hicks (52.9% of 204 pitches) and Gant (57.8%) of 1394 pitches.
Fewest Pitches per Plate Appearance
Carlos Martinez (3.53).
This is an area the Cards have been doing much batter in lately. Since the All-Star Break, they are only making 3.65 pitches per plate appearance. In the three games against the Twins, they needed only 382 pitches to dispatch with 113 Minnesota batters (3.38 per).
Adam gave seven innings on Sunday for his third straight quality start. He has walked just 3 batters in those 21 innings. It is his ninth quality start in his last 11 games. Adam is 6-2 with a 2.96 ERA over 73 innings of those last 11 starts.
Since the only blown save of his career (on July 20), Alex Reyes has faced 17 batters over 5 innings covering 5 appearances. Those batters have scored no runs on no hits. One has walked and another was hit by a pitch. Alex has thrown 37 of his last 52 pitches for strikes (71%).
The bullpen in general made something of a comeback against Minnesota, allowing just 1 run in 11.1 innings (0.79 ERA) with a .190/.209/.190 batting line against.
Tommy Edman saw his nine-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday. During the streak, Tommy hit .313 (10 for 32) and slugged .531 (4 doubles and 1 home run).
Nolan Arenado had a fine series, going 4 for 11 against the Twins with a run batted in. While Nolan didn’t get an extra-base hit during the series, he has been swinging the bat much better of late. He has hit safely in four of his last six games, with three of those games being multi-hit efforts. Over his last 24 plate appearances, Arenado has 6 singles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 3 walks and 1 hit-by-pitch. It’s a batting line of .400/.500/.650.
After fighting through a tough July, Yadier Molina also seems to be finding his stroke. He had two hits in each of the last two games against the Twins, and has 3 multi-hit games in his last four. Yadi is 6 for his last 15 (.400).
Paul DeJong’s season just will not hold a spark. He was hitless against Minnesota in 6 at bats, and will suit up against Atlanta tomorrow riding an 0-for-10 streak.
The Trade Deadline Comes and Goes
With a lot of big names (like Max Scherzer and the core of the Cubs team) available as the trading deadline approached, there is always anticipation. Who is my team going to get? With the Cardinals scuffling for pitching, there was hope that a rotation stalwart like a Kyle Gibson might don the Birds on the Bat. In that context, the names J.A. Happ and Jon Lester are a little underwhelming.
My expectations were modest. At nearly 10 games behind in the division, and 7.5 off of the last WildCard spot (at the time), St Louis’ odds at making a playoff run aren’t outstanding. Still, with injured pitchers just a few weeks away from re-joining the team, some softer competition ahead, and many games remaining with the teams in front of them, the playoff run isn’t as hopeless as the games behind make it sound.
As it turns out the market for impact pitchers never did normalize. Even for summer rentals like Scherzer – much less pitchers like Gibson who had a year of control after this one – the price in top level prospects remained very high. Management’s unwillingness to part with any of their top five prospects shows a faith in those prospects and in the future of this franchise.
After the explosion of Randy Arozarena on the playoff stage last year, you would think those connected to the Cardinal organization would be a little more respectful of the potential in our system. We will already watch the unfolding careers of Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen and Magneuris Sierra realizing that they packaged all of them for a player no longer with the organization. Three major league talents passed through our hands with nothing to show for them.
In the final analysis, I do feel that the pieces we gave away, we gave away cheaply. John Gant and Lane Thomas both have futures than make them more valuable than the last gasps of Happ and Lester. By as early as next year, I expect we will regret this. But I’m not disturbed by the fact that they didn’t wave top prospects for some short-term fixes in a year where a comeback is fairly unlikely.
There’s a thing that we’ve learned about some of the Cardinal prospects this year. Unlike the Jack Flaherty’s and other recent graduates of the minor league system, some of these guys are not quite ready to dominate as soon as they hit the major league scene. Last year alone, it would have been very easy to give up on Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and – at least early in the season – Dylan Carlson. All have been much improved this season.
It may be that our collective patience might be tested over the next couple of seasons. But I believe that there is enough potential in both the young players that we have already seen and the ones on the cusp (Matthew Liberatore and Nolan Gorman – along with others) that a little patience is warranted.
Friday’s game – played in a snappy 2:45 – was St Louis’ quickest since a 3-1 win against San Francisco on July 17. That game took only 2:36.
The entire series was rather quickly contested, the games averaging 2:54.7. That made this the quickest series by average time since a four game set in Atlanta from June 17-20 averaged just 2:29.8. Two of those games were only 7 innings.
That was a road series, of course. The last home series that was faster than this one was the three game set against Miami just before the Brave series. Those three games (a Cardinal sweep) averaged just 2:52.
When Minnesota scored first in the Friday game, it broke a streak of six straight games in which the Cards had scored the first run. The Twins proceeded to score the first run in all three games.
The 7-run loss on Saturday was St Louis’ worst loss since the Braves beat them 9-1 back on June 18. Max Fried (who will start against us tomorrow) was the starter and winner of that one as well. St Louis hadn’t been beaten like that at home since they were battered by Cleveland 10-1 back on June 8.
Up until the Saturday game, the Cards had led at some point in 12 straight games.
In the midst of a run of 80 degree days, Saturday’s game was a relatively cool 75 degrees – the lowest game-time temperature for a Cardinal game since a July 10 game in Chicago checked in at just 71 degrees. It hadn’t been this cool at home since it was also 75 degrees on May 22. They played the Cubs on that day as well.
Minnesota was the sixteenth team that St Louis has played that had lost its previous series. The Birds are now 5-7-4 in those series, although they are 25-22 in the games of those series.
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.