Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Pirates-Cardinals pregame notes

Notes ahead of the Cardinals’ tilt against the first-place Pirates:

  • Why is Brock Peterson starting at first base instead of Matt Adams? The Pirates have Jeff Locke on the bump, who as a lefty you might expect to fare better against lefties. However, in his three-year major-league career, Locke has a 4.16 xFIP vs. right-handed batters, but a 4.62 vs. lefties. Mike Matheny likely opted for the right-handed Peterson in an attempt to gain a platoon advantage. However, a platoon advantage may not apply in this case. And as we’ve said before, even if you have a platoon advantage, player talent still trumps, as in the case of Matt Carpenter: Adams may not be as accomplished as, say, Allen Craig, but he’s certainly more accomplished than Peterson. A point in Matheny’s favor is that Adams is fairly inept against like handed pitchers (.225 career wOBA).
  • Tonight’s Cardinal starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, has evidently found a flaw in his delivery after watching video. As we wrote the other day, perhaps it has something to do with his cutter.
  • Pitcher Jake Westbrook came off the DL yesterday from his “lower back strain.” Regrettably, he almost surrendered an 11-run lead when he took over for John Axford in the eighth inning. His defense didn’t help, but his fielding independent numbers — 15.08 FIP, 7.08 xFIP — show that he can’t blame Peter Kozma. Westbrook is only hurting the team, but inexplicably the Cardinals are unable to let him go. Indeed, John Mozeliak implicitly admits that Westbrook isn’t ready for primetime when he says “There’s no place for him to rehab,” referring to the now-ended minor-league season. When pitching coach Derek Lilliquist says that Westbrook will pitch from the bullpen “for now,” one can only hope that the other option is not the rotation but the bench.
  • Speaking of ineffective relievers, Axford has shown nothing to make us believe that the Cardinals have been or will be able to “turn him around.” As a Cardinal, Axford has faced 12 batters. The outcomes, comprising a 5.30 FIP/6.33 xFIP, have been:
    • 4 ground balls
    • 3 line drives
    • 2 fly balls
    • 1 sac bunt
    • 1 HBP
    • 1 walk
    • 0 strikeouts
  • That the Cardinals had to yield Michael Blazek makes a bad deal even worse.
  • A humble man admits his mistakes. So we’re glad to recant and repent of our past gainsaying of Joe Kelly, who this year has pitched in admirably to fill the void that Westbrook (and others) left. To be sure, he’s not much different from 2012, when he finished the year with a 4.00 FIP (he has a 4.13 in 2013), nor is he nearly as dominant as his 2.74 ERA suggests. But he has been a dependable and durable starter, starting as many games as Adam Wainwright over the last two months. Credit is thus due to Kelly.
  • We mocked Mike Matheny the other night for saving his closer, Edward Mujica, until the 16th inning. Our rationale was that, if Matheny truly believes his closer is his most effective relief pitcher, it’s foolish to save him for an inning that may never come (whether he actually is his best reliever is a tangential question). Writer Derrick Goold postulated that Matheny doesn’t actually believe Mujica is his best pitcher (currently, at least), and therefore that the manager was not deserving of our criticism. We replied that “We’ll see next time the team has a save situation in a 9-inning game.” That time came last night, and sure enough, Matheny turned to Mujica for a one-out “save.” It was the second-highest leverage appearance for the team’s relievers (Kevin Siegrist entered in the seventh with a four-run lead but none out), so we’re confident in surmising that Matheny still considers Mujica his go-to guy.
  • In honor of Willie McGee night at the ballpark, we give you the answer to our Twitter trivia question:  Who is the one player who played with both McGee and tonight’s CF Shane Robinson?

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