A Role for Carlos Martinez (by Jared Simmons)

guest post by Jared Simmons. You can find him on Twitter: @McGeeTriples.

.gif credit: SB Nation

.gif credit: SB Nation

The glut of young, power arms possessed by the St. Louis Cardinals has been well documented. Some fans have called for the organization to maximize the value of their assets and relieve the rotation’s logjam through a trade. However, I have always believed the old cliché about never having too much pitching. So, how then, can the Cardinals get the most value out of all their young arms when they can’t all fit into a five-man rotation?

Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, and Michael Wacha are locks for the rotation with Jaime Garcia, if healthy and effective following shoulder surgery, destined to be in the mix as well. That leaves Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, and Carlos Martinez vying for the final starting spot. There’s been talk from John Mozeliak himself about C-Mart potentially starting the year in AAA if he cannot crack the big-league rotation. This line of thinking is very pragmatic and follows the conventional wisdom. But I believe that there’s another, less conventional way for Carlos to dramatically impact the Cardinals season without 1) being in the starting rotation or 2) being the “eighth inning guy.”

The odds of Martinez beating Kelly or Lynn out for the 5th and final rotation spot appear slim and honestly, seem undesirable. Where can Martinez impact the game the most? I would argue that the gap in production between any of these three in the 5th starter role would be negligible over the long season. Further, the 5th starter is unlikely to see a start in postseason play and therefore asked to step into a role that he has not performed in all season. I want Carlos Martinez to pitch early and to pitch often when the postseason rolls around.

The late-inning relief roles are stocked with good pitchers. Trevor Rosenthal, Jason Motte, and Kevin Siegrist are flame-throwers and should be able to hold down the fort in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings pretty efficiently. As a result of these surpluses the Cardinals have the luxury of breaking the mold or returning to the old mold–if you prefer–and using Carlos Martinez and his electric arm as a super reliever.

Let’s define “super reliever” for the purposes of this blog post: a super reliever is a relief pitcher whose role is not tied to a particular inning. Today, closers pitch the 9th and setup men pitch the 7th or the 8th innings. If anything different is asked of these players, they lose or their agents lose their minds on their behalf. Saves and holds earn dollars.

Meanwhile, games are lost in the 5th inning when a starter loses his mojo and gets in a jam. Or the sixth with the bases loaded and a two run lead, does the manager call the bullpen for his best guy knowing that this is the confrontation that will likely determine the outcome of the game?

No.

Instead, the manager calls for Seth Manness. Or Fernando Salas. Or Maikel Cleto. When this happens, the odds of losing the game skyrockets—all because the manager is paralyzed by fear and handcuffed by convention.

The “super reliever” eliminates this scenario because his role is to put out the fire whenever the flame sparks. The super reliever is just like the closer—only more flexible, more durable, and more valuable. If the game is on the line in the 6th, this man (Carlos Martinez) will slam the door. If Trevor Rosenthal has pitched 3 straight days, Carlos Martinez will save the game without breaking a sweat. If a game goes into extra innings and all other bullpen options are exhausted, the super reliever will go 3 innings, shut the door, and send the crowd at Busch home happy.

The super reliever is also not tied to an arbitrary one-inning limit. He pitches as needed, and gives way when the situation dictates that he should. And because he’s not tied to an inning or a particular situation, he is free to do this—as tomorrow the setup men and the closer will still be there to do the overrated, overvalued, and overpriced task of coming into their predefined inning with a 3 run lead, no one on base, and retiring the opposing 7, 8, and 9 hitters for the 29th best team in baseball.

The super reliever is the leverage reliever. The man to pitch anywhere, anytime as long as the outcome hangs in the balance. The bullpen arm who can count for two roster spots and determine the difference between winning and losing.

For the Cardinals, this man is or rather should be Carlos Martinez with his electric fastball and devastating slider. A man with a reliever’s arm and a starter’s stamina. His career ahead lies in the rotation, but for now, with the excess of young arms already on the roster, his most potential impact is in this unconventional role I just described.

I believe Carlos Martinez has a rare gift in his right arm. In my view, C-Mart has the stuff to become a legendary figure in the annals of Cardinal pitching lore – if only he is able to refine his command and remain healthy. As such, I hope the Cardinals will utilize him in as many game-deciding situations as possible. With the traditional bullpen roles in good hands and the long-relief/mop-up role being handled by the odd man out of the rotation (Lynn or Kelly) the most efficient way to capitalize on C-Mart’s talent will be in the same way that old school closers were used: 100-120 innings of flame-throwing, season-defining, high-leverage relief.

Shortening the bullpen with C-Mart in this manner does a lot of things for the Cardinals:

• It allows the greatest number of the team’s bullpen innings to be pitched by the team’s best pitchers.

• Gives Manager Mike Matheny the ability to ration the workloads of Motte, Siegrist, Rosenthal, and even Seth Maness (whom Matheny loves for some reason). This is important because for the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals, the goal is winning a World Series. And NOT in the same way that it’s the goal for every team in the MLB. Really winning a World Series. Barring catastrophe, the regular season is just a formality the Cardinals have to wade through on their way to October. So, having your power arms fresh and peaking at playoff time is of more concern than how well they can play in April.

• Rations C-Mart’s innings. The Cardinals, like most teams, are concerned with preserving their young arms for the long-term (Note Shelby Miller’s disappearance from the playoffs). Being able to manage Carlos’ innings throughout the season will hopefully eliminate any desire to hold him back in October.

• Ensures that the bridge from the starter to the shutdown portion of the bullpen is as smooth as possible. There’s value in the middle innings. Close games are often lost in the 5th or 6th innings. Big leads are lost nearly every time Fernando Salas steps on to a major league mound. It also limits the desire of modern managers to trot every member of a bullpen into every single game until they find the one guy who is going to have a bad day. C-Mart is easily capable of going 2-4 innings at a time on any given night.

• Gives the Cardinals roster flexibility. Martinez’s ability to pitch so many innings out of the bullpen means the Cardinals don’t have to carry as many pitchers if they don’t want to. Or if they choose to carry 12 pitchers—they don’t have to use them as often.

The Cardinals have a lot of different ways they can go with Carlos Martinez in 2014. They afforded themselves this luxury because of half a decade’s worth of smart decisions in free agency, the draft, international pool, and with their own players. Carlos Martinez is a weapon they can use from the 5th inning to the 9th inning.

He should be used in tight games, and he should be able to rack up a ton of relief innings. If you make him the “eighth inning” guy, you are unnecessarily limiting him and are probably only going to get 60-80 innings out of him. More innings = more value. Pitcher’s with elite arms like Martinez have not generally been used in this manner since the 80’s, but the presence of Motte, Siegrist, and Rosenthal means that they can deploy Martinez anytime, anywhere and still be covered at the end of the ballgame.

Make sure to follow Jared on Twitter: @McGeeTriples

Jared

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For more updates from stlCupofJoe, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page

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St. Louis Cardinals: Statistical Snippets for 2013

Photo Credit: Jeff Lewis Photography

Photo Credit: Jeff Lewis Photography

Struggling to find a quality topic for a full blog post, I decided to compose a post of 13 random statistical snippets regarding the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals. The snippets are numbered, but they are in no particular order.

Here we go…

1. As of today (August 25th), Pete Kozma has not had a hit in 23 at-bats. Yet, somehow, this is not his longest slump of the season. From June 26th through his first at-bat on July 14th, Kozma had a zero for 28 slump.

2. Kozma’s on-base percentage currently sits at .275. To put this in perspective, the Cardinals have seven players with batting averages higher than Kozma’s OBP.

3. According to Fangraphs.com, Matt Carpenter has the 4th highest WAR (wins above replacement) in the National League with 5.3. He is making just $504,000 this season. Like I stated on Twitter, he is putting value back in Most Valuable Player.

4. Also according to Fangraphs, the Cardinals have five players in the top 37 in National League WAR. Carpenter is 4th with 5.3, Yadier Molina is 7th with 5.1, Matt Holliday is 28th with 2.6, Allen Craig is 33rd with 2.5, and Carlos Beltran is 37th with 2.3.

5. Adam Wainwright has fewer walks than starts this season. In 27 starts, Wainwright has just 25 walks. With 182 strikeouts, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is an incredible 7.28. #BuenoWaino

6. Molina leads the National League in hitting with a .335 batting average. He has put the ball in play on the first pitch 78 times this season. In those 78 at-bats, he has 29 hits (.372 batting average) with two of them being home runs.

7. Jon Jay‘s current batting average is .270. Thus, in order to get to .300, he will need to catch fire. He is projected to get 108 more at-bats this season and will need 46 hits (.426 average) to reach the .300 mark. Not likely, but it would go a long way for the success of the team down the stretch.

8. Lance Lynn actually has some pretty decent numbers this season. Lynn has 15 quality starts–24th in the National League. He is also averaging 6+ innings pitched per start–second on the team behind Wainwright. He seems to always have one “blow-up” inning, but his overall performance has not been as bad as what people think.

9. Since the All-Star Break, Joe Kelly has the 4th lowest ERA in the National League at 1.80. Clayton Kershaw is first (1.02), Jose Fernandez is second (1.31), and Mat Latos is third (1.47). The highest ERA since the break is 7.55, and it belongs to Jake Westbrook. (these ERA’s were based off a minimum of 30 innings pitched)

10. The league average against left-handed pitchers is .250 this season. The Cardinals are 25th in the league in this category–hitting just .239 against left-handers this season. With the lineup set to be more left-handed next year (Kolten Wong, Matt Adams), look for the Cardinals to make some sort of move this off-season. As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, I would like to see the Cardinals deal Adams (and some pitching) for an upgrade at shortstop (Jonathan Schoop, anyone?) while his value is still high.

11. Next is an obvious and largely overstated one, but I will bring it up anyways. The Cardinals lead the MLB in batting average with runners in scoring position. The team leads the way at .328, and the next closest team is Detroit–43 points lower at .285.

12. The Cardinals are tied for second in the MLB in home runs over the last seven days with 11. The team had just 9 home runs in all of July, so obviously the ball is flying better in the warmer air.

13. For the “Tweeps” out there, the Cardinals have 11 players that are regularly active on Twitter. Not surprisingly, @Yadimolina04 has the most followers with 151,818. @carlosbeltran15 comes in second with 118,228, and @jonjayU is in third place with 102,233 followers. The player with the fewest followers is recent call-up, @Tsunamy27, with 5,881.

I hope you enjoyed my 13 snippets for 2013. If you have any of your own, feel free to share them in the comments section below!

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official member of the STLSportsMinute Network

Joe Kelly Should Not Be Overlooked for 2014 Rotation

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Joe Kelly has been the best starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals since the All-Star break. Including a brief stint back in the bullpen, Kelly has been one of the top pitchers in baseball since mid-June.

The table below is a breakdown of his statistics since June 14th:

Date G ▴ GS Dec IP ER BB SO HR ERA BA
Jun 14 to Aug 17 12 7 4-0 53.1 11 21 34 3 1.86 0.222

Those statistics are absolutely incredible. He may not be pitching that deep into games, but he has pitched at least six innings in four of his last seven starts.  Sure, the relievers (Maness, Siegrist, Rosenthal, Mujica) cannot pitch every single day, but who can really complain if Kelly pitches six innings and allows only one or two earned runs?

If Kelly is truly the team’s best pitcher since June, then why is he not really being considered for the 2014 starting rotation?

Let’s take a look at the current state of the 2014 rotation:

2014 Rotation “Locks”:
1. Adam Wainwright
2. Shelby Miller
3. Lance Lynn
4. ??
5. ??

Thus, this effectively leaves five (maybe six) guys for the final two spots:

a. Kelly
b. Jaime Garcia
c. Michael Wacha
d. Carlos Martinez
e. Tyler Lyons
f. John Gast

Case for Kelly:

His performance thus far in 2013 as a starter has been impressive. His stuff is just nasty. His four-seam fastball can touch 98 MPH on the radar gun. His two-seam fastball comes in around 93-96 MPH and has tailing action that leaves left-handed hitters buckling at the knees. He is gaining confidence in his changeup and slurve which will only make him a better starter in the future.

I realize that we have only seen a small sample size of Kelly as a starter, but as I stated above, he has the stuff to get both righties and lefties out. His laid-back personality shows that he will be able to survive a long season of up’s and down’s. Let’s see how he does for the rest of the season before locking him into the 2014 rotation, but the purpose of this article was to bring him into that conversation in the first place.

Case for Garcia:

He is left-handed. He has proven to be a successful pitcher thus far in his career–39-25 in with a 3.45 ERA in three seasons as a starter. Also, he is under contract through 2015 with team options for 2016 and 2017.

However, there are also few knocks on Garcia. His health always seems to be in question–he has now injured both his elbow and his shoulder in his short MLB career.

Also, for whatever reason, he has not been able to bring the success he has had at home with him on the road. From 2010 through 2012, his home ERA is an impressive 2.33. However, during that same span, his road ERA is 4.46. I cannot put a finger on this issue, but given the fact that half of his starts will be on the road, this can be troubling.

Case for Wacha:

He has been a successful starter in Triple-A. Just a year after being drafted, he has shown flashes of being a dependable starter at the big league level. Against the Royals in late May, he pitched seven innings and allowed just one earned run. When was the last time a Cardinals starter had a performance like that?

His stuff is unbelievable. He is able to touch 97-98 MPH on the gun, and his 6’6″ frame allows him to throw his heaters on a downward plane–kind of like Wainwright. His curveball has been nasty when it’s on, and given time, it will only get more consistent. He also has a change that can be effective as well.

Having only thrown just over 110 innings (Memphis + St. Louis) this season, has he been groomed to pitch 175+ innings next year? Not really. However, as a polished college pitcher with solid mechanics, I really do not see this as that big a problem for him.

Case for Martinez:

He has electric stuff. In his one big league start, he touched 100 MPH multiple times, and he flashed a devastating curveball. He has proven to be a successful starter in Memphis so far this season. Yet, he needs to fine-tune his off-speed pitches and learn how to get deeper into games. Look for him to develop this more the rest of the season and into the off-season.

Case for Lyons:

He is left-handed. He has been extremely successful for Triple-A Memphis–going 7-2 with a 3.39 ERA in 16 starts. He has not been able to translate this success to the big leagues just yet, but he has only been given seven starts so it may still be too early to tell.

His last start was actually pretty good–going 6.0 innings and allowing only three earned runs. This could have been even better had Matt Holliday caught that flyball instead of having it bounce off his glove/hand into the stands for a home run.

Case for Gast:

He is left-handed. Yet, it is tough to even make a case for Gast to be honest. Though he was 2-0 in three starts in the big leagues, he had a 5.11 ERA and was unable to pitch deep into games. Also, he is recovering from shoulder surgery and may not even be ready to return to live action until July 2014. Thus, with all the question marks, he is very unlikely to get this, but I figured I would include him in the conversation since he saw time in the starting rotation this season.

Trade Possibilities?

The Cardinals have a surplus of pitchers for just two starting spots in 2014. The organization also has some promising prospects that will look to crack the rotation sometime soon as well–Zach Petrick, Marco Gonzales, etc.

As we all know, shortstop is a weakness for the Cardinals. Though Pete Kozma has been good defensively in his rookie season, his bat has just been ice cold–.223 batting average, .273 on-base percentage, and .281 slugging percentage. He has not hit a home run since the second game of the season. The Cardinals already had Brendan Ryan at shortstop and dealt him for Maikel Cleto (haha!). Thus, they don’t need another one and need to make a move to improve at the position during the off-season.

It is likely at least three to five years before any of the team’s recent draft picks at the position will make it to the big leagues. Thus, wouldn’t it be smart to trade part a surplus to improve a glaring weakness?

Well, in my humble opinion, I really do not want to trade Wacha or Martinez. Both project to be top-end of the rotation guys and have shown flashes of brilliance in brief appearances in the big leagues.

The only other player on the above list that could bring a solid return would be Garcia. I realize that potential trade partners will be worried about his health, but he claims that he is on track to be ready by October so hopefully that is not an issue. Also, compared to other starters in the league, he has a relatively cheap contract–$7.75 million in 2014 and $9.25 million in 2015.

I realize that most people believe that every rotation needs at least one left-handed pitcher. This makes a lot of sense, especially if you face an opponent that has a lot of left-handed hitters. However, Kelly has been more successful against lefties than he has against righties this season. Also, Wainwright and Lynn have shown to be successful against lefties as well. Thus, does it really matter if the pitcher throws left-handed or not? In my opinion, as long as the pitcher is able to get lefties and righties out, then that is all that matters.

My Picks for the 2014 Rotation:
4. Kelly
5. Wacha/Martinez

  • I think Wacha is better suited for the spot at this time, but it is still hard to rule out Martinez

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official Member of the STLSportsMinute Network

St. Louis Cardinals: Breaking Down Lance Lynn’s Numbers

Photo Credit: cbssports.com

Photo Credit: cbssports.com

Cardinal Nation, it is time to give Lance Lynn some of the respect he deserves.

But, Joe, doesn’t he have a really high earned-run average? Well yes, he does. His 3.98 ERA is the 35th highest of starting pitchers in the MLB. However, regular ERA can at times be deceiving, so there is another statistic out there to come to Lynn’s defense (pun intended?)–fielding-independent pitching (FIP).

According to Fangraphs, FIP “measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance [by the defense] on balls in play and timing were league average.” Well, Lynn has the 16th best FIP in the MLB at 3.16. This ranks him above stud pitchers Cliff Lee (3.17), Yu Darvish (3.21), and Jose Fernandez (3.23).

What about his efficiency? He has to be the least efficient pitcher out there, right? In short, no.

Lynn is not the most efficient pitcher out there, but he is definitely not the least either. He is averaging 16.4 pitches per inning which is 28th highest in the league. Basing efficiency off this statistic, some notable pitchers that can be considered “less efficient” than him this season are Justin Verlander (17.4 pitches/inning), Gio Gonzalez (17.1 pitches/inning), and Shelby Miller (16.7 pitches/inning).

Well, then he for sure doesn’t go deep into games, does he? This notion is incorrect as well. Through 21 games started this season, Lynn has 129 innings pitched, which means he is averaging just under six and one-third innings pitched per outing.

Unless you are Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals really do not need the starter to pitch in the 8th and 9th innings that often with how effective Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica have been this season.

Thus, based on the average of six and one-third innings per outing, Lynn leaves only two outs for the rest of the bullpen to get before reaching the Rosenthal/Mujica combination. With how effective Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist have been, they are fully capable of getting these two outs, so Lynn, once again, is not really punishing the team.

Lynn is no Wainwright or Miller, but he does not have to be on this team. St. Louis needs him to step up and be a reliable third or fourth starter, and as shown above, he is doing just that.

One last statistic I would like to throw out there is the quality start stat. A quality start is defined as any outing in which the pitcher completes six innings and allows no more than three runs. Lynn has 12 quality starts this season, second on the team to Waino (who has a league-leading 17). He has two more than Jake Westbrook and three more than Miller.

Room for Improvement

However, for all the praise I just gave Lynn, I 100% agree that he does have room for improvement, and the biggest thing he needs to work on if he wants to play a role in the post-season is his “efficiency.”

Through 21 games this season, he has thrown 2,108 pitches. This averages out to be just over 100 pitches per outing. He needs to cut down on this or else he will have a second half just like last season. I delved deeper into his pitch statistics to see what can be done for him to improve, and I came up with one thing. Before I get to that, though, let’s go over the numbers.

Lynn: Pitch Location Percentages

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

42% of his pitches in the strike zone, that can’t be good, can it? Well, let’s compare this to someone else in the National League. Wainwright. Waino is widely considered as one of the top-three NL Cy Young Candidates, and his percentages look like this:

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

The “inefficient” pitcher, Lynn, actually throws more pitches in the strike-zone than Wainwright by 2.99%. Then, why does Wainwright average 14.2 pitches per inning–2.2 less pitches per inning than Lynn?

Some would answer this by saying that Lynn just tries to strike everybody out. Is this really the case, though? Based on strikeouts and innings pitched, Lynn is averaging 0.95 strikeouts per inning compared to Wainwright who is getting 0.90 strikeouts per inning. Lynn may not be just pitching for strikeouts after all.

Then what’s the problem? What is causing him to have the 28th highest pitch per inning rate in the majors? Let’s look into it a little further.

Lynn: Swing Percentages

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Wainwright: Swing Percentages

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Hitters are not swinging at Lynn’s pitches that are out of the zone like they are with Wainwright. Hitters are swinging at nearly 10% more of pitches out of the zone when facing Waino than when they are facing Lynn. Why is that? Though no one can be entirely sure, I think I have a good reason behind this.

Lynn: Pitch Type Percentages

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Using this table as reference, 84.78% of his pitches are variations of his fastball–fourseam, sinker/twoseam, and cutter. After including the changeup, 88.86% of Lynn’s pitches are considered “straight.” Sure, his sinker/twoseam and cutter have movement, but what makes these effective are their late movement–thus, they are not really considered breaking pitches.

Thus, his relative inefficiency lies here. Lynn is unable to locate his “straight” pitches. To be honest, at this point in his career, he may never gain control of these pitches. He either will always be wild or needs to fine-tune his mechanics which is usually something that is reserved for the off-season, not in-season.

Now, after five tables and various ramblings, I will state what I think Lynn needs to do…

What Lynn Needs to Do

To combat his inablity to locate his “straight” pitches, he needs to throw more curveballs. Hitters watch film and read scouting reports. They know that nearly 90% of what Lynn throws is straight. So if it looks like it is out of the zone coming from his hand, it will most likely stay out of the zone when it crosses the plate. The guesswork as to whether a pitch is going to be a strike or not is not as big of a deal for hitters facing Lynn.

So, why is Wainwright so “efficient” when only 39% of his pitches cross the plate in the strike-zone? One of the biggest reasons is his regular use of his curveball.

If Lynn wants to become more efficient, he needs to start utilizing his curveball more often. Wainwright throws his curveball 27% of the time, while Lynn throws his only 11% of the time. Sure, he does’t have a curveball half as good as Wainwright’s, but he needs to do something to keep hitters off-balance and second-guessing whether or not a pitch is going to be a strike or not.

He loves his fastball and for good reason, it is a fantastic pitch. However, by introducing a curveball on a more regular basis, hitters will start swinging at more pitches out of the zone. If hitters swing at more pitches out of the zone, this will ultimately lead to less pitches thrown per outing–increasing his “efficiency.”

Conclusion

To date, one of his best outings this season was against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 26th. He pitched seven innings, racked up nine strikeouts, and allowed just two hits and one run. In that game, Lynn used his curveball 22% of the time. He threw 106 pitches over seven innings–a 15.1 pitch per inning average. Thus, he was 1.3 pitches per inning more efficient than his current season average.

The outing that had people cringing was his start against the Chicago Cubs just before the All-Star break. In that game, he failed to get through the fifth inning, allowing six earned runs in the process. In that game, of the 74 pitches he threw, only TWO of them were curveballs.

Thus, unless he plans on magically gaining control of his fastball mid-season (very unlikely), he needs to start throwing his curveball more often. The statistics show that he is already missing the strike-zone 58% of the time, so he might as well make it a little more deceiving to the hitter by throwing a pitch that has movement. By doing this, he will not only get more swings on pitches out of the zone, but  will also get more swings and misses on his fastball due to the velocity difference between the two pitches.

Thank you for hanging with me on this one.

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupOfJoe

Seventh Heaven

20130513-235453.jpg
Photo Credit: ESPN (screenshot taken of their highlight video)

Through just 2 innings, Lance Lynn had 54 pitches, and due to the early start time (to be on ESPN) leading to sun in Carlos Beltran’s eyes, he had allowed 3 runs. That was not the start the then 5-game winner needed to improve to a 6-game winner in just 8 starts.

However, Lynn showed his maturity over last season and bore down for the long-haul. Post 2nd inning, he did not allow another hit until there were 2 outs in the top of the 7th. He averaged 27 pitches per inning the first 2 innings which could have been disastrous for the bullpen, but he dialed in to average just 14 pitches per inning for the next 5 (final pitch count: 124). Last year’s Lynn would not have been able to recover like this, so it is a terrific sign for the Cardinals if he is able to keep this up throughout the season.

This performance was reminiscent of an outing by a past starter (and hopefully future reliever) that wears #29, the great Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals’ front office along with the fans would gladly welcome Lynn developing into a pitcher like Carpenter (Yes, I understand that there will never be another Carp, which is why I explicitly stated “like Carpenter”).

The team took note of the bulldog performance by Lynn, and the offense felt obligated to do what it could to provide some runs to give Lynn the win. That is exactly what they did in the bottom of the 7th. The inning most likely amounts to nothing if Rick Ankiel’s glove had made the trip from Houston along with him. However, he was forced into borrowing a glove from a teammate–left-handed pitcher, Jonathon Niese.

With 1 out already recorded in the 7th, Ty Wigginton hit a jam-shot to center that fell out of the outstretched glove being worn by Ankiel. With his own glove, this most likely would have been the 2nd out with no runners on; instead, it was 1 out with a runner in scoring position at second base.

The very next pitch, Matt Carpenter smashed a line drive off the leg of pitcher Scott Rice which caused the ball to ricochet into foul territory. Heads-up base running by Wigginton combined with a frazzled pitcher forgetting to cover home plate gave the Cardinals the lead at 4-3. Please see the picture above for visual proof that Wigginton indeed made a game-changing play for the Cardinals. Shocking, I know (sorry to any Wigginton fans out there reading this…if there even are any).

The Mets brought in a reliever (Scott Atchison) in attempt to keep the game at just a 1 run deficit. This attempt ended in about 1.5 seconds: the amount of time it took the rocket off Matt Holliday’s bat to reach the bleachers in left-center. Thus, the Cardinals were now up 6-3 and were able to shut down the Mets in the 8th and 9th to give Lynn his 6th win of the season.

Until next time…

Joe
@stlCupOfJoe