According to research from Pizza Cutter, pitchers’ strikeout percentage per plate appearance (K/PA) stabilizes after they have faced 150 total batters. It just so happens that all five starting pitchers in the Cardinals’ rotation have recently surpassed this threshold, so I thought it would be fun to create a visual that pits their 2012 K/PA against career rates. The graph is below followed by some brief commentary (after the jump).


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As mentioned in my post from Saturday, we have reached the point in the season where some sample sizes are becoming significant in that we can infer trends in change of approach/skill for certain statistics. Since the Cardinals’ starting pitchers each have 150 total batters faced (TFB), it’s an opportune time to check in on their rates for strikeouts, ground balls, and line drives.

Keep in mind that I generated this graph on Saturday morning, so McClellan and Lohse’s most recent performances were not included. Of course, you can check out their respective pages at FanGraphs for updated statistical profiles. As with the batters, each pitchers’ career rates are shaded more lightly in the below bar graph.

McClellan’s results have been fantastic thus far (3.99/4.17 FIP/xFIP in 43.2 IP), but there is some cause for pessimism found in his greatly diminished strikeout rate. While it’s normal for a pitcher’s strikeout rate to drop when converting from the bullpen to the rotation, it shouldn’t by this much. I’m sure it’ll improve, but it’ll be interesting to see by how much (ZIPS’ updated projection has him at 6.25 K/9 for the rest of the season). There’s also some luck found in his HR/FB (7.3%) and strand (79.2%) rates.

Part of Lohse’s success in 2011 has been generating 6% more ground balls. That and rarely issuing walks has helped lead him to a refreshing 3.20/3.73 FIP/xFIP. Maybe he’ll justify some of that contract after all.

Looks par for the course for Mr. Westbrook despite his ugly results thus far (6.14 ERA in 36.2 IP). If he can harness a little bit more control (4.66 BB/9) and continue to generate ground balls, he should be fine. It should be noted that his 4.35/4.10 FIP/xFIP are relatively close to his career norms (4.17/4.00 FIP/xFIP).

Jaime Garcia’s batted ball profile looks similar to last season, and that’s a good thing. What’s so impressive though is that he’s added a strikeout per nine innings pitched to an already respectable career number (7.37 K/9) while reducing his walk rate by an equally impressive amount. That results in a stellar 4.00 K/BB ratio (this number doesn’t stabilize until 500 TBF) to start his sophomore campaign and it’s helped him craft a team leading 2.36/2.60 FIP/xFIP. Other fans around baseball are starting to take notice.

It’s easy to see why Carpenter hasn’t been the perennial ace that we’ve been accustomed to since he’s been allowing more line drives and fewer ground balls. With that said, he’s also been the victim of a high HR/FB rate (16.2%) as evidenced by his 4.26/3.43 FIP/xFIP.

Between McClellan’s competence, Lohse’s resurgence, and Garcia’s emergence, you can see how the Cardinals have somehow managed to withstand Wainwright’s season ending injury. We’ll see if I can write the same sentence in another month or two.

I’ll keep revisiting these thresholds as a majority of players meet them throughout the season. Next up for pitchers: Fly ball and GB/FB rates stabilize at 200 TBF.

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Sorry we went all AWOL for a few days. These game analytics are a little more fun when they’re done individually.

At any rate, follow the jump for shotgun analysis of Carpenter’s return to form, Westbrook’s ongoing struggles, Lohse’s dominance, closer controversy, and Pujols-ian slumps.

Also, the Cardinals are above .500; and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time this year.

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Like Steve on opening day, I didn’t get a chance to watch game number two (other than the few highlights available at MLB.com). Two games. Two analyses. Zero minutes of actual live baseball watched. But we have numbers… saber-purists here at Gas House Graphs. The win probability table from FanGraphs:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link to page

The Cardinals took the lead twice but couldn’t hold off the visiting Padres.

The Good:

Matt Holliday Allen Craig led the team with .151 WPA; his bases loaded single with two outs boosted the Cardinals’ win expectancy all the way up to 74%.

In the third inning, Pujols put the team back on top with a solo home run (.123 WPA), his first round-tripper of the 2011 season; he finished the game with .093 WPA.

The Bad:

Jason Motte pitched 1.2 innings, gave up one hit, walked two batters (one intentional), and didn’t strike out anyone (-.073).

Yadier Molina was 0-3 with a strikeout (-.059 WPA); he grounded out with a runner in scoring position to end the first inning.

The Ugly:

Jake Westbrook only managed to pitch 4.1 innings while surrendering 8 runs, 6 hits, 5 walks, and 3 strikeouts (-.524 WPA).

Commentary:

Considering he coughed up two early leads, this game’s pretty much on Westbrook. When he left the game, the Cardinals’ win expectancy had already dropped to 11.3%.With the extra innings played in the opener, and mop-up duty necessary today, I wouldn’t doubt if the Cardinals decided to call up another reliever (to take Holliday’s place if he’s placed on the DL) as a way of alleviating some of the stress on the bullpen. I’m not necessarily advocating for that, but I can foresee it happening.

Pujols is no longer on pace to ground into 486 double plays

In his first game as Matt Holliday’s substitute, Allen Craig contributed 2 RBIs. I’m sure Jon Jay will be sprinkled in occasionally, but I hope that Craig gets most of the playing time in his absence. Dude can hit (slightly better than .400 wOBA in 871 triple-A plate appearances).

Boggs’ line (3.0 IP, 2 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 4 K) is pretty good other than the home run. How did he look out there? There must be some positive vibes about his back since he was allowed to throw 42 pitches.

Weakened defense has already been a theme in each of the season’s first two games, and the perpetrator was the same as Theriot made another error. Lucky for him, it didn’t cost the team a run. Unlucky for the team, it didn’t matter; they were already down by six runs playing in the second half of the game.

Prediction:

The Cardinals will not lose 162 games this year.

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For terms and presentation basics check out my Wainwright VEB post if you’re unsure of any of the language I use in the post.

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Westbrook looks like he’ll fit in nicely with Papa Dunc.  Here’s a chart showing fastball vertical movement compared to rv100

For this chart the more negative the rv100 the better, so the clear trend is that Westbrook’s fastball is better when he has more sink on it.  Similarly here’s a vertical location chart

At the bottom of the zone is good for him, but he wont get many chases below the zone it looks like (high rv100 because of balls).  Just a couple of things to watch for before tonight’s start.

The Cardinals made a surprising move today by trading Ryan Ludwick at least one-half season in advance of what was expected (if at all).  It made sense for the team to gauge others’ interest in the slugger given Pujols’ (likely?) extension and Ludwick having only one year left of team control.  In 2011, Ludwick would have either had an arbitration case, signed another one-year deal to avoid arbitration, or signed a contract extension to keep him in Saint Louis beyond 2011.  No matter what, Ludwick’s salary was going to increase from 5.45 million one-year deal he signed in 2010 and the Cardinals decided their money could be wiser spent elsewhere.  This decision clearly places a feather in Jon Jay’s hat and, if he doesn’t work out to be an everyday player, Allen Craig is always waiting to take some platoon ABs against left-handed pitchers.

The decision to trade Ludwick is rational but the timing of the move is questionable given the Cardinals’ middling wOBA (.325; 15/30 MLB teams) and impressive xFIP (4.10; 4/30 MLB teams).  To avoid flippantly airing my own knee-jerk reaction, I’ll just post some bullet points addressing pros/cons of the deal.

The arguments in favor of the trade:

  1. The Cardinals free up cash for another trade that will upgrade their MIF.  The trade deadline is drawing near and time will tell whether this rational played a factor in the swap.  Regardless, it frees up money for 2011 and beyond which, again, is important for potential Pujols extension.
  2. Difference between Westbrook and Suppan/Hawk is more than difference between Jay/Ludwick. Therefore, the 2010 team is better (in terms of WAR).  See full details of this rationale by Azruavatar at Viva El Birdos.

Arguments against the trade:

  1. According to MLB TradeRumors’ most recent Elias Rankings Update, Westbrook will not even qualify for Type B (worth sandwich pick) free agent status after 2010 season meaning that the Cardinals will not reap benefits of other young players in this deal when he presumably signs with another team.  Meanwhile, Ludwick is listed as a Type A (worth 1st rounder and sandwich pick) free agent.  Given his reliable production over the past 2.5 seasons, I think it’s reasonable to assume his Type A status will stick.
  2. The Cardinals could have kept Ludwick and still traded for Westbrook.  The player Cleveland obtained for Westbrook was Corey Kluber; a guy whose ceiling Kevin Goldstein describes (subscription needed) as, “a back-end starter.”  Surely, the Cardinals could have matched this without compromising their thin minor league system too much.  Such an approach would have allowed the Cardinals to trade Ludwick in Winter 2010; what kind of return would he have netted?  We may never know but it seems reasonable to assume that the return would have been more valuable to the Cardinals than two months of Westbrook and another guy that hasn’t yet made it to AA.
  3. Instead, the only “prospect” the Cardinals are  getting for Ludwick is Nick Greenwood (22 years old; still playing A ball); Erik provided this take on the player at Future Redbirds:

Nick Greenwood is 22 years old, left-handed and has a 6 K/9 in the Midwest League. He was a 14th round pick in last year’s draft. He did not make Baseball America’s Top 30 Padres list last season, for what it’s worth, and it’s unlikely he rates very highly in our system either by seasons end. He has fringe stuff, save for a decent change-up, but he has good command. He’s a C grade pitcher, arms of his ilk are a dime a dozen.

Hopefully, this is a pretty thorough review of the discussion being had right now about Ludwick’s abrupt shipment out of Saint Louis.  In my opinion, the move seems like a wash (at best) for what it provides the Cardinals this season unless, of course, it precedes another deal for a middle infield upgrade over Skip or Boog.  But that seems unlikely; today’s deadline has come and gone.  We’ve heard the term, “Year of the Pitcher,” thrown around the MLB this year.  Whether it is league wide or not, it may have to be in Saint Louis if the Cardinals are going to last deep into October.

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