On the mound for the Redbirds? Staff ace, Adam Wainwright.
Taking the hill for the Pirates? Stud rookie righthander, Gerrit Cole.
We know enough about Wainwright by now, but what do we really know about the young Pittsburgh starter, Gerrit Cole? Other than his Game 2 start in St. Louis and the fact that he was chosen over A.J. Burnett to make this start, we really do not know that much.
In preparation of a possible Game 5, I broke down every single pitch thrown by Cole in Game 2 immediately after the game, and I delved deeper into his 2013 statistics to learn a little bit more about him.
Game 2 Breakdown:
Cole threw 86 pitches through 6 innings, allowed 2 hits, and gave up just one earned run–on a solo home run by Yadier Molina. He threw 47 fastballs, 32 breaking balls, and 7 changeups.
As shown by the table above, Cole went to his fastball 55% of the time, his breaking ball 37% of the time, and his changeup just 8% of the time. Of his 86 pitches, 52 of them (60.5%) were “down in the zone,” and given his 6’4″ frame, this means that the majority of his pitches arrived to the plate in a tough-to-hit downward plane, just like that of Michael Wacha–and we all know how dominant he has been of late.
Well, Cardinal hitters simply did not work Cole very much in Game 2–until the 6th inning at least. He faced 21 hitters and 9 of them (43%) had at-bats of 3 pitches or less–allowing him to average an efficient 13 pitches per inning through 5. In those 9 at-bats of 3 pitches or less, Cardinal hitters had just 2 hits (.222 average)–a double by Carlos Beltran in the 1st and the homer by Yadi to lead off the 5th.
Thus, if the Cardinals want to get to Cole, especially early in the game to set the tempo, they need to bring a more patient approach to the plate–like they did in games 3 and 4 of the series. Plus, in my opinion, the only two hitters on the team that should be swinging early in the count are Molina (.347 BA on 1st pitch in 2013) and Beltran (.358 BA on 1st pitch in 2013)–the two who had the only hits against Cole in Game 2.
I sifted through the rest of Cole’s 2013 numbers to see if I could find any other weaknesses that could possibly be exploited by the Cardinals against Cole. This led me to the following table:
As you can see, Cole is most vulnerable early in the game–opponents are hitting .347 against him in his first 25 pitches of the game. He is dominant from pitches 26 to 50 (.194 batting average against), but then the opponent batting averages start to creep back up the longer he is in the game. Because of this information, it is in the Cardinals’ best interest to pounce on Cole early in the game, or else we will likely be watching another pitchers’ duel in Game 5.
Including his one start in the playoffs, Cole has allowed just 8 home runs in 123 and one-third innings pitched this season–an average of less than one home run every other start. However, after breaking down all eight of them, I spotted a trend. 7 of the 8 home runs came off his fastball or at least a deviation of his fastball (all 7 were pitches 97 MPH or greater). 6 of the 8 came against righthanded hitters and were on pitches left in the center of the plate. Lastly, 5 of the 8 were on pitches that he left up in the zone. Thus, if the Cardinals want to strike in one swing of the bat like Holliday did in Game 4 against Morton, they (especially their righthanded hitters) will need to take advantage of fastballs that Cole leaves up in the zone and in the center of the plate.
As the ace of the staff who has been hot lately, I expect Wainwright to pitch well in Game 5, so the deciding factor for whether or not the Cardinals advance to the NLCS versus the Los Angeles Dodgers will be the offense. Will they score enough runs to advance? If they want to score against the young impressive righty, the numbers show that it is best to strike early in the game. Also, they need to be patient at the plate–unless it’s a fastball hanging up in the zone–because he was far too efficient in Game 2.
Go Cards! #12in13
Until next time…
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