Before the season, CHONE projected the Cardinals were on course to win 91 games and enjoy a cake walk in a relatively easy division.  Someone will run off with this and say, “see, this is why projections are worthless”.  But before you go off an anti-metrics rant, let’s remember what projections are. In a nutshell, among other things, projections  use regression to the mean, age adjustments and weighted averages to derive their results. Projections are “50th percentile” projections; there are always players who are exceptions to the rule due to good or bad luck, or some sort of overhaul to their swing mechanics (hello, Jose Bautista!) or injury. It’s not divination.

It’s common for a team to have several players under or overshoot their projection. It’s just that in the Cardinals case, the under achievers have been particularly damning to the team. For this post, let’s just take a look at the hitters. The cut off is 100 plate appearances. I took the players individual CHONE projections and then adjusted them for their plate appearances and not their projected PA’s. Then I did a little color scaling for your eyes, because I’m a nerd like that.

  • The infield trio of death of Brendan Ryan, Skip Schumaker and Felipe Lopez has really hurt this team. All three were not expected to be some sort of offensive force behind Pujols-Holliday-Rasmus, but neither were they expected to hit for sub-.300 wOBAs, either. (Schumaker is at .301, being fair). I thought Flip was a good Freese-insurance signing, and instead he pooped the bed. Ryan and Schumaker picked a bad time to do the same thing.
  • Molina and Pujols also both were one WAR apiece worse than projected. Molina’s bat backslid after two good seasons, and Pujols has been a little off from his normal numinous standard. And yet he’s still an MVP candidate.
  • The sheer waste of roster space of the likes of Feliz, Winn, Miles and Stavinoha has been pretty frustrating to watch.
  • The most pleasant surprise has been Matt Holliday, who is doing his best to show that he earned the ginormous contract he got this past winter.

All told, the Cardinal’s hitters are five wins worse than we would have expected. Combine that with losing Brad Penny for the year, and Kyle Lohse being hurt and then horrible, you have a recipe for a pretty disappointing year. It’s really not that hard to figure out.

Last night Penny induced 11 groundballs. Here’s his “movement” graph, via Texas Leaguers:

Penny had a 4 seam fastball going that he threw 45% of the time. The pitch had about -6.5 inches of “tail” and 13 inches of “rise”, at an average speed of 94 MPH.

He threw a “change”at an average of 89 MPH. The pitch had a lot less “rise” – 6 inches, and had -9.4 inches of tail. He threw the pitch 20% of the time.

Let’s forget Jason Motte for a minute. Here’s what’s important about today’s game: Brad Penny is the latest Dave Duncan convert, or at least it seems to be that way. Last season, Penny threw his splitter/change-up about 7.5% of the time. The average speed of the pitch was about 86 MPH. The pitch had about -8 inches of horizontal spin deflection, and 7 inches of vertical spin deflection. This isn’t a pitch to be confused with a sinker. The pitch he was throwing today (mostly those little yellow dots) were 89 MPH on average, with -7 inches of horizontal spin deflection (tail) 5 inches of vertical spin deflection. So the pitch has more speed,  lots of tail and more sink.

These pitches are clearly distinguished from his 4-seam fastball, and he threw it 37% of the time. He induced 13 ground ball outs. Welcome to the Cult of the Two-Seam Fastball, Brad Penny.

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