Tag Archives: Wieters

The First Inning Blahs

Going into this afternoon’s contest against the Cubs, you would have found the St Louis Cardinals ranking twenty-second in all of baseball (30 teams) in first inning batting average (according to baseball reference).  They were hitting .224 in that inning.  That number has actually now dropped to .221 as they began the game in Chicago going down in order in the first.

You don’t have to look very far to figure out why.  Yesterday’s game against Cincinnati began with Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong striking out against the Reds Anthony DeSclafani.

In Mike Shildt’s almost unchanging lineups, Carpenter and DeJong have been first inning automatics.  Matt Carpenter has hit leadoff in 48 of the first 60 games.  DeJong has hit third in 51 games, and second in 6 others.  DeJong has 58 first-inning plate appearances, and Carpenter has been to the plate in the first inning 51 times.  Their combined 109 first-inning plate appearances is just under half of the teams’ 259 total plate appearances.

Almost as automatic as having Carpenter and DeJong up in the first inning, is having them out in the first.  Matt is 7 for 42 (.167) in the first.  Paul is hitting .188 (9 for 48).

The curiosity here is that both warm up notably as the game goes on.  Carpenter is a .157 hitter (13 for 83) through the game’s first three innings, and then a .269 hitter with a .477 slugging percentage from the fourth inning on (35 for 130 with 6 doubles and 7 home runs).  DeJong is even more extreme.  Through the first three innings, Paul is 15 for 82 (.183).  From the fourth inning on, Paul slashes .329/.403/.579.  He is 46 for 140 with 8 of his 9 home runs. (Note: in the just ended Chicago game, Paul hit his tenth home run – in the ninth inning).

It was Paul’s 2-run home run in the seventh that decided yesterday’s game, 3-1 (box score).

Even though they won yesterday’s game, they failed to score at least four runs for the third straight game, and for the eleventh game in the last 18.  The longer the struggle to score runs, the more you find yourself wondering if maybe someone else shouldn’t take the first two at bats of your games.

(Further Note: DeJong’s home run was the only run St Louis scored in a 3-1 loss.  That makes 4 straight and 12 of the last 19 in which the Cards have failed to score at least four runs.)

Marcell Ozuna

With two more hits yesterday, Marcell Ozuna is looking more confident at the plate.  Marcell has hits in 7 of his last 8 games, with four of them being multi-hit games.  Ozuna is hitting .414 (12 for 29) in those games, with a double, 2 home runs, 6 runs batted in, and a .655 slugging percentage.

Matt Wieters

It’s been a tough last four games for Matt Wieters, occupying Yadier Molina’s position while the indispensable Cardinal is recovering.  Hitless again yesterday, Wieters in 1 for his last 16 (.063) with 7 strikeouts.

Dakota Hudson

Twenty-four year old Dakota Hudson is rapidly becoming the story of the pitching staff this year.  A dark horse to earn a rotation spot in spring, and looking un-prepared for the opportunity through his first five starts, Mr. Hudson has been St Louis’ most consistent starter ever since.  Although he couldn’t make it through the seventh, he still nailed his fifth consecutive quality start, and his sixth in his last seven starts.

Over his last 41.2 innings, Dakota has surrendered 1 home run, while 65% of the batters who put the ball in play against him have hit it on the ground.  Dakota holds a 2.59 ERA over his last 7 starts.

John Gant

The beneficiary of the DeJong home run was John Gant, who retired all four batters he faced and was granted the win (he is now 5-0).  John is on another streak of scoreless appearances.  Over his last 7 games and 8.1 innings, John has given no runs on 3 hits and 2 walks.

NoteBook

Although Cincinnati scored the tying run in the next half inning, St Louis did score first again in this one.  That’s three games in a row, and 7 of the last 9.

Although they did give up the tying run, St Louis never trailed in this one, and haven’t trailed in four of their last six.

John Gant’s appearance yesterday afternoon was already his twenty-eighth this season.  That is already a career high.  His previous high was the 26 games he pitched for St Louis last year.

With yesterday’s steal, Kolten Wong is in double figures for steals for just the third time in his career, and the first time since he stole 15 in 2015.  His career high is the 20 he stole in 2014.

No One Comfortable Facing Castillo

It all started much too comfortably for the Cards.  The first five pitches out of Cincinnati starter Luis Castillo’s hands were all fastballs (averaging 97.3 mph).  Matt Carpenter launched the second one over the centerfield wall.  Paul DeJong collected an infield single on the fourth.  The fifth was ball one to Paul Goldschmidt.

It was a less than dazzling start from a highly regarded young right-hander who would end up dominating the Cardinals and earning his sixth victory that night.

In fact, the Cardinals would never score again, and Cincinnati would break St Louis’ four game winning streak, 4-1 (box score).

With his sixth pitch, he threw his first slider of the night.  On his sixth pitch to Goldschmidt, Paul grounded out on a change.

Through the first batter in the third – Goldschmidt, again, who walked – it was Castillo who seemed uncomfortable.  His command of the fastball was inconsistent.  The slider and change also eluded him from time to time.

The first 12 Cardinal batters had 2 hits (including the home run) and 4 walks.  But only the one run.  After that, it was all Castillo.  He set down the last 12 batters to face him – six on strikeouts.

The difference was the growing confidence in and command of that slider (and especially that wipeout change) that allowed him to throw any of his pitches – and throw them for strikes – at any time.  Five of the last six strikeouts came on the change-up (all swinging).   After the first two batters hit the second pitch, only two of the last 22 he faced put either the first or second pitch into play.  DeJong grounded out on an 0-1 slider in the second, and Marcell Ozuna flew out on a first pitch slider in the sixth.

The Cardinals would get plenty of fastballs from Luis (mostly on the corners, and some of them as hot as 98 mph), but they could never tell when, and could never sit on it, even when they were ahead in the count.

Of the 24 batters that faced Castillo in his six innings, 13 got first pitch fastballs, and 5 others got the fastball on the second pitch.  Luis threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of those Cardinal hitters.  Nine of those first pitch strikes were fastballs – and 8 of those were taken for called strikes.

In fact, of the 13 first-pitch fastballs thrown by Castillo, only one was swung at.  That’s quite a trick against a team that’s looking to hit the fastball early in the count.  And evidence that not too many Cards enjoyed a comfortable evening at the plate.

Offensive Difficulties Extended

It was an impressive display from Cincinnati’s best pitcher, but it nonetheless continues St Louis’ on-going offensive struggles.  Since they rang up 14 runs on Atlanta on May 14, St Louis is hitting .215 and scoring 3.76 runs per game over its last 17 games.

Matt Wieters

Matt Wieters is hitting his first little dry spell after inheriting the catching job from the injured Yadier Molina.  In his first 3 games as the starter, Matt went 6 for 11.  But he was hitless in 4 at bats last night, and is now 1 for his last 12 (with 5 strikeouts).

Dexter Fowler

Red hot when he was promoted to the leadoff spot ten games ago, Dexter Fowler immediately plunged into an offensive tailspin reminiscent of 2018.  Hitless last night in 4 at bats, Dexter is 3 for 31 (.097) over his last 10 games.  He finished at .171 in May (12 for 70), and is just 7 for 53 (.132) over the last 17 games.

Michael Wacha

After being knocked around in his first trip out of the bullpen, Michael Wacha entered in the fifth inning of this one and settled things down, looking much more like the Wacha we expected to see this year.  He pitched 2.2 innings, giving no runs of his own (although he did allow an inherited run to score) and showing much improved velocity.

Wacha is still getting an awfully high number of his first pitches hit, and hit hard.  Two of the 7 he faced last night hit his first pitch, and both got singles.  In May, 24 of the 108 batters he faced hit his first pitch – a 22.2% clip that is about double the league average.   Those batters hit .500 (12 for 24) with 3 doubles and 4 home runs.

Tyler Webb

One of the low profile arms in the Cardinal bullpen, Tyler Webb has been throwing quite well of late.  He retired all four batters he faced last night, and over his last 8 innings has allowed just 1 run on 3 hits.  In 11.1 innings in May, Webb posted a 3.18 ERA and a .135 batting average against.

Tyler hasn’t allowed a home run since the last time Cincinnati was in town – on April 26.  That was 55 batters, 13.2 innings, and 227 pitches ago.

NoteBook

Matt Carpenter’s first inning home run meant that St Louis has scored first in 6 of the last 8 games.  They are only 3-3 in those games.

The Cards have now lost the first game of 5 of the last 6 series.  They went 0-3-1 in the previous 4.

With last night’s six-hit effort, the team batting average now slips to .249 for the season.

Dakota Hudson and His Heavy, Heavy Sinker

From a mostly disastrous May, the St Louis Cardinals will have very few positives to carry with them into June.  One of those positives will be the re-discovery of Dakota Hudson.

Hudson wasn’t a favorite to win a spot in the rotation during spring.  Most thought he would end up in the bullpen.  In April, it looked like he should have started the season in Memphis.  None of his first 5 starts met the criteria for a quality start, he served up 8 home runs in 24 innings, and held a 5.63 ERA and a .327 batting average against.

The Dakota Hudson of May has been significantly different.  After dispatching Philadelphia, allowing 1 run on 4 hits through 6 innings of a 5-3 victory (box score), Dakota wrapped up his second month in the rotation with 5 quality starts in 6 games, a 2.80 ERA, and just 1 home run surrendered in 35.1 innings.

Differences?  There were a couple on display last night.  The recurring theme would be trust.

The April Hudson tried – I think – to be too fine.  Trying to locate his power sinker in the lower part of the strike zone, he had difficulty adjusting if the other team forced him to bring his pitches up.  He also didn’t show a lot of trust in his other breaking pitches.

The results were 11 unintentional walks – an average of 4.88 per nine innings.  More telling, Dakota missed with his first pitch to 48 batters in April.  They finished with 8 singles, 2 doubles, 6 home runs, 10 walks and 1 sacrifice hit.  Those 48 batters drove in 9 runs with a .432/.553/.973 batting line.

Last night, against a Philadelphia lineup that has bedeviled the Cards throughout the series, Dakota didn’t worry at all about elevating his sinker, and even if behind in the count, he didn’t hesitate to throw his entire arsenal – including a slider that has become particularly nasty.

Aside from the two intentional walks dished out to Rhys Hoskins, Dakota threw ball one to 10 of the 21 batters he faced.  Six of those misplaced first pitches were sinkers – three of them low and the other three inside.  Philadelphia did a credible job all evening of laying off the low sinker.  What they learned was that the sinker wasn’t necessarily easier to hit when it was up in the zone.

One of those batters (Jean Segura) did end up drawing a walk.  None of the other 9 reached base.  Dakota came back to strike out two of them (Bryce Harper in the first and Hoskins in the second) on that nasty slider.  Six of the other seven grounded out, four of them on sinkers up in the zone.

The seventh was Cesar Hernandez who smoked a high sinker right at shortstop Paul DeJong for the double-play that ended the sixth-inning mess.

For the month of May, Dakota allowed 11 unintentional walks (2.80 per innings), while batters hit .229 against him after he missed with the first pitch.  It is a much different Dakota Hudson.

There is a great benefit in having that heavy, heavy sinker – especially when you have this kind of trust in it.

What to Do About the Pen

Even deploying his presumed best arms, the bullpen almost let the game get away again.  With 2 more runs allowed last night, the St Louis relief corps enters the last day of the month with an aggregate 5.08 ERA.  The struggles of the starters and the offense have occupied significant attention, but a nettlesome bullpen has certainly contributed to the month’s woes.

Paul Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt continues hot.  With 2 more hits last night, Paul has hit in 5 of his last 6, with multiple hits in four of the five games.  He is hitting .476 (10 for 21) over that span.

Matt Wieters

An injury to Yadier Molina is never good news.  His backup, Matt Wieters has taken some advantage of the opportunity.  He has started 3 of the last 8 games and has had 2 hits in each of them – giving him 6 in his last 11 at bats (.545).  Moreover, half the hits have been for extra bases (a double and 2 home runs).

Wieters now has 3 home runs this month in just 20 at bats, while hitting .400 in May.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong hit a home run in the seventh inning of the last game against Kansas City.  He hasn’t had a hit since – his current hitless streak sitting at 21 at bats.  He has struck out in 7 of those at bats.

Over his last 10 games, Wong is 2 for 33 (.061).  He is down to .155 for the month, and .216 for the season.

Paul DeJong

In an even greater slump – if such a thing were possible – is Kolten’s double-play partner Paul DeJong.  Hitless in 4 at bats last night, Paul is 1 for his last 26 (.038).

DeJong is down to .207 in the month of May.

Harrison Bader

Add Harrison Bader to the list of the slumping.  He was also hitless in 4 at bats and over his last 5 games has 1 single in 14 at bats (.071).

NoteBook

Marcell Ozuna’s second inning home run was the game-winning RBI – the eighth this season for Ozuna.  No other Cardinal has more than 3.