Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Game 20 Recap: Mets 2, Cardinals 0

April 22nd, 2014 by Pip

Quotable

“I think the bigger story is our offense.”

Mike Matheny

Players of the Game

  1. Jenrry Mejia: Mejia continued to mow down batters, striking out seven of 26 for a game 2.29 FIP. He now owns a 9.9 K/9 on the young season. Mike Matheny might be reasonably concerned about the Cardinal offense, but this isn’t the first time Mejia has dominated.  (Full disclosure: We have Mejia on both of our fantasy-baseball teams.)
  2. Tyler Lyons: For his part, Lyons struck out seven, too. He was a bit sloppier, walking four, but still finished with a 3.21 FIP.
  3. Travis D’Arnaud: Hit the longest ball of the game, an opposite-field double off the right field wall, and later singled in a run for a game-best .544 wOBA.

Plays of the Game

  1. David Wright singled, scoring Eric Young (-.134): The broken end of the bat went almost as far as the ball, but it was enough to drive in the only run the Mets needed, with the rabbit-like Eric Young running from second with two outs.
  2. Jhonny Peralta grounded into a double play to third (-.120): The Cardinals’ second GIDP of the game snuffed out any chance of a ninth-inning rally after Molina led off with a single.
  3. Allen Craig singled, advancing Matt Carpenter to 3B (+.117): Craig began a short-lived rally with his hit in the sixth.
  4. Matt Holliday popped out (-.117): With the team’s run expectancy for the inning at least one (with runners on first and second and only one out), Holliday popped out on the first pitch.

Notes

  • We appreciate the sentiment, but the Met colors just don’t look right with camo. Let the Padres have their thing. As for the other 29 teams, we surely have other ways to honor our military heroes.
  • David Wright‘s RBI hit was a broken-bat bloop that barely made it though the infield. Yet he is the Fangraphs three-star player of the game. Just shows that even the Fangraphs readership is fallible.
  • Shortstop Ruben Tejada robbed Yadier Molina, then later paired with second baseman Daniel Murphy to convert Jon Jay‘s would-be single up the middle into a double play. Shades of Rey Ordonez and Edgardo Alfonzo.
  • Lyons appeared to lose focus after committing an error that allowed the leadoff man to reach in the sixth.
  • Young bailed him out a bit by getting thrown out at third trying to advance on a pitch that got away from Yadier Molina.
  • For all his wildness in that inning, though, Lyons regrouped and limited the damage.
  • Has anyone in major-league baseball missed a pitch by a wider margin than Matt Holliday swinging near Carlos Torres‘s curveball?
  • The Cardinal offense now has a .298 wOBA, 23rd in baseball. Last year, they were .322, 10th overall.

Losing to Contact

April 21st, 2014 by Pip

Seth Maness is very adept at pitching to contact, which is to say, inducing batters to hit the ball into play. In 2013, 80% of the batters he faced put the ball into play.

Not all game situations call for a pitcher who gets batters to put the bat on the ball. To wit, the Cardinals took a 2-2 game into the bottom of the ninth Sunday against the Nationals. The Nats loaded the bases against Maness with one out. That brought up Denard Span. Now consider the game situation:

  • Span bats left-handed and runs very well.
  • The infield is playing in, so it’s trading the potential double play for a chance to prevent the winning run.
  • A run loses the game.

Given that pretty much any ball in play loses the game, you need to optimize your chance of not doing that, which is to say getting a strikeout. So that would augur for your best strikeout pitcher on the mound. Based on 2013, here’s the Cardinal staff by the rate at which they allowed balls in play (BIP% = Balls In Play %):

Pitcher BF BIP%
Seth Maness 249 80.3%
Jake Westbrook 523 80.1%
Edward Mujica 255 79.6%
Joe Kelly 532 75.9%
Fernando Salas 118 75.4%
Jaime Garcia 234 75.2%
Adam Wainwright 956 72.8%
Tyler Lyons 223 72.2%
Team 6104 71.0%
Carlos Martinez 124 71.0%
Randy Choate 141 70.9%
Shelby Miller 722 68.0%
Michael Wacha 260 67.7%
Keith Butler 85 67.1%
Lance Lynn 856 66.7%
Trevor Rosenthal 311 56.9%
Kevin Siegrist 152 54.6%

Having used Siegrist, Martinez, Choate and Pat Neshek, Mike Matheny had only Eric FornataroJorge Rondon and Trevor Rosenthal as bullpen options.

With Fornataro and Rondon raw rookies, Matheny’s best bet was his closer. If the Cardinal manager was reticent to use Rosenthal three games in a row, he could blame only himself, since he essentially wasted his closer in a low-leverage outing in a losing cause Friday. But it’s not clear Matheny is aware of the specific need. It’s true that in three such situations earlier in the season, Matheny gave the ball to strikeout artists (Siegrist, Martinez, Rosenthal), but it’s too small a sample to draw any conclusions about usage patterns.

So let’s go back a year. In the 23 occasions last year in which the Cardinals were either leading by one or were tied in the eighth inning or later — basically, in which one run would cost them a win (at least in the short term) — with an opposing runner on third base and fewer than two outs, Matheny had high-contact pitchers — Maness (three times), Edward Mujica (four) and Joe Kelly (two) — in the situation almost half the time. Not surprisingly, a run scored on seven of the 18 times the ball was put into play, nearly 40% of the time. Those aren’t healthy odds. Suffice it to say, a strikeout allows that critical run to score close to 0% of the time.

The Cardinals lost Sunday for multiple reasons; the last play of the game was merely one error of many. And Matheny had limited options, even if partly of his own doing. But bullpen management is more than roles for certain innings: It’s also about using the right type of pitcher in the right situation. Pitching to contact is helpful in certain situations. When the winning run is on third base, though, it’s more like losing to contact.

Center-Field Platoon Advantage?

April 19th, 2014 by Pip

Adam Wainwright’s most-complete complete games

April 18th, 2014 by Pip

After stymying the Nationals Thursday night en route to an 8-0 victory, Adam Wainwright has now pitched 17 complete games in the majors. The Cardinal righty is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he showed it again last night.

But he’s one of the game’s best-hitting pitchers, too, as he also demonstrated against the Nationals. He reached base three times in five plate appearances (the five plate appearances is an accomplishment for a pitcher in itself, being the first time a pitcher came to the dish that many times since Francisco Liriano last year on July 5). Waino rapped two base hits, including a double, and drew a walk, totaling 2.3 Runs Created by the original Bill James formula. On the pitching side, Wainwright held the Nationals to only two hits, both singles — in 32 plate appearances — and three walks. So he literally singlehandedly outproduced the Nationals.

Of the 16 complete games in which Wainwright batted for himself (he pitched a complete game at Oakland last year with the designated hitter), he has himself out run-created his opponent an incredible four times:

Pitching Batting
Rk Date Opp IP H BB SO HR BF TB RC AB BB H TB RC Diff
1 4/13/13 MIL 9 4 0 12 0 31 6 0.8 3 0 3 3 3.0 2.2
2 4/17/14 WSN 9 2 3 8 0 32 2 0.3 3 1 2 3 2.3 1.9
3 8/4/12 MIL 9 5 0 7 0 30 6 1.0 3 0 2 3 2.0 1.0
4 4/18/10 NYM 9 4 2 9 0 33 4 0.8 3 1 1 2 1.0 0.2
5 5/11/13 COL 9 2 1 7 0 30 2 0.2 4 0 0 0 0.0 -0.2
6 8/6/10 FLA 9 2 3 7 0 31 2 0.3 3 0 0 0 0.0 -0.3
7 6/4/10 MIL 9 2 1 8 0 30 4 0.4 3 0 0 0 0.0 -0.4
8 7/4/10 MIL 9 5 0 9 1 30 8 1.3 4 0 1 2 0.5 -0.8
9 5/22/12 SDP 9 4 1 9 0 31 6 1.0 4 0 0 0 0.0 -1.0
10 8/23/13 ATL 9 6 0 9 0 33 6 1.1 2 0 0 0 0.0 -1.1
11 8/21/12 HOU 9 5 1 12 0 33 7 1.3 3 1 0 0 0.0 -1.3
12 6/1/13 SFG 9 8 0 10 0 33 10 2.4 4 0 1 2 0.5 -1.9
13 8/10/07 LAD 9 6 1 5 1 32 10 2.2 3 0 0 0 0.0 -2.2
14 4/24/10 SFG 8 7 1 4 0 33 8 2.2 3 0 0 0 0.0 -2.2
15 4/26/08 HOU 9 5 2 6 3 33 14 3.0 4 0 1 1 0.3 -2.7
16 7/23/09 WSN 6 8 1 7 0 26 10 3.5 3 0 0 0 0.0 -3.5
NA 6/29/13 OAK 9 5 2 8 0 33 6 1.3 DH DH DH DH NA NA

Game 15 Recap: Brewers 5, Cardinals 1

April 17th, 2014 by Pip

Players of the Game

  1. Allen Craig: Homered and drew a walk in four plate appearances, for a game-high .696 wOBA.
  2. Aramis Ramirez: Slashed three hits in four plate appearances for a team-best .666 wOBA (among starters).
  3. Joe Kelly: Turned in a nifty 2.13 FIP over 15 batters and four innings before leaving the game with leg injury.

Plays of the Game by WPA

  1. Jonathan Lucroy singled, scoring Wily Peralta scored and Carlos Gomez (-.159 WPA): Lucroy capitalized on the Cardinals’ shoddy fielding in the inning after Jhonny Peralta whiffed on a line drive and third baseman Daniel Descalso didn’t range far enough to record an infield out.
  2. Carlos Gomez doubled, scoring Logan Schafer scored (-.115 WPA): Gomez knocked in the Brewers’ first run the third inning, a lead they never relinquished.
  3. Shane Robinson grounded into a double play (-.111): With runners on first and second in the seventh inning with one out, the Cardinals’ run expectation for the inning was 1.2. Sugar Shane’s GIDP made it zero, ending the team’s best chance of coming back.

Notes

  • Well, at least Allen Craig is regressing to his mean.
  • Pat Neshek‘s ERA (2.45) looks good. Unfortunately, it’s the ERA of the guy he relieved (Keith Butler) that he elevated Wednesday. Not that Butler can complain: He has a team-low 25% Left-On Base rate.
  • Neshek walked in the Brewers’ ultimate run. In 2013, Cardinal pitchers walked in nine runs. Of the six pitchers who did, two — Jake Westbrook and Mitchell Boggs — are no longer with the team.
  • Mike Matheny summarized by saying that “”We didn’t get that big hit, but we had a couple of big opportunities offensively.” That’s true in the opposite: They did get a big hit in Craig’s round-tripper, but they didn’t exactly rattle the lumber, ending up with a meager .275 wOBA for the game. Last year, the had a .322 wOBA.
  • Yasiel Puig has nothing on Carlos Gomez.
  • Matt Adams had another opposite-field hit. We — and his OBA — like it.
  • Jon Jay is hitting the ball well — here’s hoping for more playing time, at least against righties.
  • Fielding undid the Cardinals as much as anything. First was the Adams error, then Peralta whiffed on Peralta’s liner right at him. Later in the same inning, third baseman Daniel Descalso couldn’t reach a grounder in the hole, extending the Brewers’ rally. You can’t give a major-league team four outs in an inning. Or five.
  • Three of the most recent Cardinals to walk in a run pitched earlier in the game, Joe Kelly (4/5/14), Randy Choate (9/2/13) and Keith Butler (6/6/13). As some fans will sadly recall, Butler did it on consecutive batters.
  • We’re not quite sure why Jay is stealing second base down four runs in the ninth inning. He made it, but the ends don’t justify the means.
  • Afterward, Jonathan Lucroy said that the Cardinals have “had some momentum against us the past few years.” What we think he means is that the Cardinals have been the better team the last few years.