Reintroducing Alex Reyes’ repertoire

After spending the entire 2017 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Alex Reyes has been hard at work preparing for an integral role with the 2018 St. Louis Cardinals. For Cardinals fans, 2017 was nothing more than a forgettable season. While some individual players (i.e. Tommy Pham, Paul DeJong) certainly posted breakout seasons, the team failed to reach the playoffs, for the second straight season. And during this time, some may have forgotten about the exciting repertoire of the 23-year-old Reyes. As you’d expect, I am here to change that.

2016 PitchF/x Basics (via

Alex Reyes repertoire


No current Cardinal pitcher — and yes, this includes Carlos Martinez — possesses a deeper repertoire than Reyes. Sure, control remains a serious issue (12.2% walk rate in 2016), but given the overall complexity of his repertoire, Reyes retains a high floor for sustained success. Plus, for those worried about his walk rate, one positive indicator for the future is the fact that Reyes’ 2016 zone percentage (48.3%) was actually higher than the league average rate of 47.0% (using Pitch Info).

So, what’s the point in throwing five different pitches, anyway? Well, four of Reyes’ five pitches are of legitimate swing and miss quality, with the slider leading the way at whiffs on 45.45% of swings. And from a sequencing standpoint, the five-pitch Reyes can be extremely creative versus hitters — especially during the second or third time through the order — as he is able to readily mix and match a diverse assortment of velocities and movements (both horizontal and vertical). As you’ll see in some of the GIFs below, it is nearly impossible to overstate the value of changing a hitters’ eye level when discussing a pitcher throwing as hard as Reyes does.

This should not come as much of a shock, but sinker-changeup is the most appealing Reyes sequence for me. While the horizontal movements match up almost perfectly, the difference in velocity — on average, 7.68 MPH — can lead to successful pitch tunneling. Another exciting sequence is fourseamer-curveball as the average velocity difference between the two pitches is an eye-opening 19.27 MPH. When a pitcher is able to yield a velocity differential near 20 MPH, without telegraphing either pitch, the result is an unfair task for opposing hitters.


The threat of triple digits is very real with the fourseamer. This is the pitch that put Reyes on the radar of nearly every scout. That being said, one year removed from Tommy John surgery, I wouldn’t be surprised if Reyes dials his velocity back a little bit. Yet, he will likely open 2018 out of the bullpen, so the counteracting forces may cancel each other out, at least initially. Regardless, with the threat of four other pitches, Reyes at 94-95 MPH is as successful as many pitchers at 96-98 MPH. The height and length of his release, along with the propensity to locate the pitch up in the zone, play the velocity up a bit as well.


In my opinion, the sinker will be a very important pitch for Alex Reyes, starting pitcher. It’ll rarely ever grade well from a results standpoint because it doesn’t lead to a lot of swings and misses (7.55% in 2016), but it will allow for early-in-the-count contact which will subsequently lead to longer outings. Sequenced properly with the changeup, I also foresee Reyes getting a lot of three pitch strikeouts going forward, similar to the one below against Fowler (yes, Fowler got screwed on strike three).

Strikeout of Dexter Fowler (BrooksBaseball At Bat)

Reyes vs Fowler (FS, FS, CH).gif

via @cardinalsgifs


If you follow me on Twitter (@stlCupofJoe), you already know that the changeup is my favorite Reyes’ offering, by far. From a velocity standpoint, the pitch pairs perfectly with his fastballs — differing by 7.68 MPH from his sinker and by 9.13 MPH from his fourseamer. If the pitch doesn’t lead to a swing and miss (39.42% of swings), it is frequently put on the ground (58.82% ground balls per BIP). For perspective, Carlos Martinez’s changeup — the definition of a “worm killer” — yielded a ground ball rate of 62.16% in 2017, so this is a really impressive showing by Reyes’ change.

Groundout by Joey Votto (BrooksBaseball At Bat)

Reyes vs Votto (FS, CH).gif

via @cardinalsgifs

Joey Votto is one of baseball’s very best hitters. It isn’t easy to catch him off balance. Yet, this is exactly what Reyes was able to do, leading to relatively harmless ground out to second base. It took Reyes six pitches to retire Votto, and what’s most interesting is he went to the changeup four times. There aren’t many Cardinal pitchers I feel confident pitching to Votto, but Reyes possesses the repertoire to get him out, consistently.


This is actually a relatively new pitch in Reyes’ repertoire. Just ask Ben Zobrist who swung over the top of the first documented slider of Reyes’ young career on September 13, 2016. Yes, 449 pitches into his first MLB season, Reyes — already possessing the ability to throw four plus pitches — decided to unleash a fifth one — an 86.3 MPH slider. When sequenced with his fastballs, the pitch can be absolutely filthy.

Strikeout of Eugenio Suarez (BrooksBaseball At Bat)

Reyes vs Saurez (FS, SL).gif

via @cardinalsgifs

If you are looking for a prime example for an upcoming “What is pitch tunneling?” presentation, look no further. As you can see by the trails, these two pitches were released nearly identically (both vertically and horizontally), followed a very similar path for roughly half of their respective flight’s home, only to land in two very different locations. The 96.5 MPH fourseamer rode just above the strike zone, and the 84.7 MPH slider landed at the very bottom of the zone. If the opposing hitter is unable to pick up the slider spin early on, he stands no chance because even the best swing would lead to nothing more than on-the-ground contact versus this pitch.


Only one pitcher — in all of baseball — threw a curveball with more vertical drop than Reyes in 2016. Per the PitchInfo Leaderboard on FanGraphs, Reyes’ curveball averaged -11.5 inches of vertical movement, second to only Garrett Richards of the Angels (-11.6 inches). Combine the velocity difference referenced above, and you have an extremely effective option for getting hitters out.

Strikeout of Ryon Healy (BrooksBaseball At Bat)

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via @cardinalsgifs

Honestly, my words aren’t needed to describe this three-pitch strikeout sequence. Look no further than Healy’s knees on strike one and his head as he trudges back to the dugout after strike three (a 99.4 MPH fourseamer, by the way).

Bottom Line

Reyes will almost certainly open the 2018 season out of the bullpen. He will benefit from the role as he will only be one year removed from Tommy John surgery, but the Cardinals will benefit as well, with Trevor Rosenthal being a likely non-tender due to Tommy John of his own. If the Cardinals plan a return to the postseason in 2018, Reyes will be a crucial figure — out of the bullpen and in the starting rotation — in achieving that goal. Barring any sort of setback, I’d look for his return to the starting rotation near the All Star break.

As always, credit to @cardinalsgifs,, and FanGraphs for their respective contributions to this post.


The Cardinals must re-sign Juan Nicasio

The St. Louis Cardinals failed to reach the postseason for the second season in a row. Don’t be fooled, playing meaningful games in September isn’t that big of a deal. Rather, competing deep into the playoffs (on a consistent basis) is expected. If the organization wants to get back to doing that, they simply must improve the 25-man roster going into 2018. Say what you want about the manager, but barring an unexpected development, he will be back next season. The new pitching coach will undoubtedly play a role in the team’s future success (or failure), but improvements to the 25-man roster should be considered the offseason’s top priority.

Thus, the 31-year-old Juan Nicasio — who performed nearly flawlessly upon his arrival in St. Louis — must be re-signed. With the tendering of a contract to Trevor Rosenthal up in the air (due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery) and the almost certain departure of the no-longer-effective Seung Hwan Oh, the back-end of the bullpen requires serious bolstering. Fortunately, the Cardinals had a firsthand look for an entire month of one of the most desirable options in Nicasio. Beyond September — in which he posted a 1.46 ERA — his 2017, as a whole, ranked quite well among his peers:

2017 Statistics

Nicasio Stats.PNG

Honestly, I could stop here in my explanation as to why Nicasio is a must-sign, but that’d be boring (and downright lazy). Rather, I have chosen to take a closer look at Nicasio’s repertoire, in an attempt to understand why he was so successful this season. First and foremost, it doesn’t hurt that his fourseamer — which he threw 71.3% of the time — averaged 95.75 MPH in 2017. While this isn’t Aroldis Chapman-type velocity, it isn’t by any means slow. He coupled the heater with a hard slider (averaging 88.91 MPH) 26.01% of the time.

Further, I strongly believe he possesses untapped potential with the changeup. The pitch clocks in similarly to the slider at 87.96 MPH but carries a considerably different movement profile. From a tunneling perspective, the pitch matches up perfectly with his most-frequently-thrown fourseamer. Bottom line, the changeup is a pitch I’d want the new pitching coach to work on with Nicasio should he ultimately re-sign.

If a pitch is thrown 71.3% of the time — as is the case with Nicasio’s fourseamer — it must be pretty good. And Nicasio’s was as it led to whiffs on 25% of swings in 2017 (an unusually high rate for a fourseamer), and opposing hitters managed only a .216 batting average (and .123 isolated power) against it. He was better than league average in both exit velocity (87.6 MPH versus 88.2 MPH) and launch angle (10.7° versus 15.8°), as well.

Two-strike fourseamer location (after joining the Cardinals)

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As you can see, with two strikes, Nicasio possesses enough confidence in his fourseamer to keep it within the strike zone. While most pitchers aim to have hitters expanding their zones with two strikes, this doesn’t appear to be the case with Nicasio, and this includes his time prior to becoming a Cardinal as well. Further, his confidence in his stuff went beyond just two strikes as his overall zone percentage of 51.5% ranked seventh highest among qualifying MLB relievers. For perspective, Greg Holland — another Cardinal target this offseason — posted a zone percentage of just 45.9%. Give me the pitcher with the higher zone percentage (but also comparable overall numbers) every single time.

And no, the fourseamer isn’t limited to only two-strike success, either. In fact, when you include pitchers (both starters and relievers) with at least 30 balls in play on fourseamers up, but still inside the strike zone, Nicasio ranked 17th best in MLB with a .199 wOBA (wOBA primer found here). Even better, his xwOBA (or expected wOBA) was even stingier at .169 — tied for 7th best in baseball.

No pitching analysis article is complete without the work of the great @cardinalsgifs. Let’s go beyond my words by utilizing visual documentation behind Nicasio’s 2017 success:

Strikes one and two to Javier Baez (BrooksBaseball At Bat)

Twitter Ready

via @cardinalsgifs

Given the usual incredibly small sample, I don’t typically put much stock in pitcher-hitter matchups. That being said, Baez had owned Nicasio prior to this at bat, recording six hits (four singles, one double, and one home run) in 10 plate appearances. Nicasio didn’t allow past failures to get in the way with his September Cardinals’ mojo. Instead, he attacked Baez down and away for called strikes one and two. As you can see, he throws the slider so hard that it actually tunnels quite well with his fourseamer (important to consider if, but hopefully when, he works on his changeup). Even if Baez would have swung at either of these two pitches, he wasn’t going to make solid, meaningful contact.

Strike three to Javier Baez (BrooksBaseball At Bat)

Baez  K).gif

via @cardinalsgifs

After missing down, away, and in the dirt on pitch number three — subsequently training Baez’s eyes for a pitch down (a 93.1 MPH slider) — Nicasio blows him away with an up-and-in, 97.5 MPH fourseamer for strike three. Look no further than Nicasio’s reaction to understand the filthiness of this approach.

Ball one to Brett Phillips (BrooksBaseball At Bat)

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via @cardinalsgifs

After inducing a swinging strike one and a called strike two — both on fourseamers up and away — Nicasio absolutely nails the up and inside corner with a 95 MPH sinker. Unfortunately, the umpire was as locked up as the hitter and didn’t pull the trigger on a called strike three. The ability to paint up and in with a similar pitch to the one you threw on the two pitches prior is a skill not many pitchers have. Nicasio certainly has this skill, and it is a large reason why his fourseamer possesses such a high swing and miss rate.

Strikes one and two to Ian Happ (BrooksBaseball At Bat)

Happ pitch 3&4- FB.gif

via @cardinalsgifs

Even when Nicasio missed his spot — as he did on both of these fourseamers — he still experienced success by going up in the zone. In the GIF prior, I showed his ability to go up and in to lefties — after showing his ability to go up and in to righties. Here, he shows that he is capable of blowing it past lefties on fourseamers up and away. From an effective velocity stand point, you lose a couple MPH on pitches away versus pitches in, so this speaks highly to Nicasio’s raw velocity.

Strike three to Addison Russell (BrooksBaseball At Bat)

RUSSELL - K Pitch.gif

via @cardinalsgifs

And just in case you wondering, Nicasio can experience success down in the zone as well. After attacking Russell up on the three pitches prior, Nicasio absolutely paints the down and outside corner with a 98.4 MPH fourseamer. Russell stood zero chance on this strikeout.

Bottom Line

Yes, the 2018 Cardinals need a lot more help than just one pitcher for the back end of the bullpen. That being said, I hope you now understand just how important Nicasio is for the Cardinals’ future plans. It would not be wise to enter next season solely reliant on young arms like Sam Tuivailala and Sandy Alcantara. Re-signing Nicasio would be a good start to a hopefully active winter. Pair him with a pitching coach like Jim Hickey, and he just may perform even better than he did this season. While I wholeheartedly understand frugality when it comes to the signing of relief pitchers, this was thrown out the window with Cecil’s contract. Nicasio is an absolute must-sign. Get it done, Michael Girsch and John Mozeliak.

As always, credit to @cardinalsgifs,, and for their invaluable contributions to this post.