Hitting Analysis of Pedro Alvarez: From a St. Louis Cardinals’ Perspective

Photo Credit: piratesprospects.com

Photo Credit: piratesprospects.com

Pedro Alvarez is probably the most infamous “Cardinal killer” in recent memory. In 53 regular season games against the Cardinals, Alvarez has a .254/.304/.473 slash line. The batting average and on-base percentage components don’t seem all that scary, but a .473 slugging percentage shows that his hits “pack a whole lot of punch.”

Of his 51 hits, 11 of them were doubles and 11 more were home runs. Thus, 43% of his hits have gone for extra bases. He has knocked in 42 runners against the Cardinals–11 more than he has against any other team in his career.

So what can the Cardinals do? Alvarez is a career .235 hitter who averages 141 strikeouts per season. He must have a lot of holes for the Cardinals to exploit, right? Well, I took a look at five different graphs from BrooksBaseball.net to see where he can be attacked.

Now, I fully realize that the Cardinals already have scouts and pitching coaches relaying this information to their pitchers, but I figured it would be fun and informative for readers as well. At just 26 years old, fans will be seeing Alvarez take at-bats against the Cardinals for years to come.

As noted on the graphs, but to avoid any confusion, all zones are from the catcher’s point of view.

AlvarezWhiffsLHP

Against left-handed pitchers, down and away (boxed in yellow) seems to be the most vulnerable spot for Alvarez. This makes sense, though. Teams bring in lefty specialists, such as Randy Choate, to throw sweeping breaking balls down and away–daring him to chase pitches that usually end up out of the zone. Of those four squares in the bottom left, Alvarez swung and missed (aka “whiffed”) on 67 of 242 pitches in 2013. His 27.7% whiff rate on pitches down and away was 6 percentage points higher than his average whiff rate (21.5%) against lefties in 2013.

Also, if a pitcher is locating his pitches well, up and out of the zone (boxed in yellow) could be viable options with 50+% whiff rates in these boxed areas. However, very dangerous areas border these so it would probably be wiser to look down and away since there’s more room for error.

AlvarezWhiffsRHP

Like with lefties, down and out of the zone is the way to attack Alvarez if you are a right-handed pitcher looking for swings and misses. His overall whiff rate against righties in 2013 was 16.6%, but in the zones highlighted by the yellow box, his whiff rate was significantly higher at 25.2%. This was a pretty good sample size as well, considering 25% of the pitches from right-handers ended up in the boxed zones.

Enough about whiff rates, what about balls in play? I’ve got you covered there as well. However, before I get into that, let me make you aware of a quick disclaimer. I chose “linedrives per balls in play” instead of batting average because I believe linedrives are a better representation of a hitter’s hot and cold zones than average. A high average in a certain zone could be tainted by a small sample size full of bloop hits; whereas a linedrive is a linedrive–regardless of whether it’s results in a hit or not.

AlvarezLHPLD

That same zone I highlighted on the left-hander whiff rate graph is highlighted here. As you can see, of 15 balls in play on pitches in this zone, only two of them (13.3%) were linedrives. In fact, if you look at the zone highlighted in orange just above that, Alvarez had just one linedrive in 17 balls in play–leading to a very tame 5.9%. If you put the two left-handed pitcher graphs together, the way to attack Alvarez is down and away–looking for him to chase pitches out of the zone at times, which he does at a pretty regular rate.

AlvarezRHPLD

The same area I noted in the right-handed pitcher whiff rate graph is highlighted (in yellow) in this graph as well. Of 36 balls in play on pitches in this zone, only four of them were linedrives–11.1%. Considering the linedrive percentages in other parts of the zone, this is easily one of his weakest spots. I highlighted two other areas in orange that seem to be weak spots for Alvarez as well. However, if you take a look at the zones immediately adjacent to these (highlighted in green), a pitcher must have his best stuff if he wants to attack these two zones.

Finally, a look at Alvarez’s spray chart from 2013:

AlvarezSprayChart

Of his 36 home runs in 2013, five were to the opposite field (14%) and three were to center field (8%). It’s obvious that much of his pop comes when he pulls the baseball. This shouldn’t be news to anyone, though–just thought it was worth visualizing.

Conclusion;

Alvarez’s career batting average against lefties is .200 with 12 home runs. His career average against righties is much better at .248 with 74 home runs. The numbers show his bat is much more potent against right-handed pitching–also should not be news to anyone. However, as I showed in the five graphs above, both lefties and righties should attack him in pretty similar zones–down and away.

I fully realize that the majority of the zones I highlighted were pitches out of the strikezone. Yet, until Alvarez proves he can be a more patient hitter, these zones need to be exploited. Plus, if he indeed proves to be more patient next season, I would much rather walk him on four pitches out of the zone than give him the opportunity to change the game with one swing of the bat–like he has done so many times already in his young career.

I hope you enjoyed this piece because it was pretty fun to create. In the coming days, maybe even today, I will be publishing a few more hitting analyses on infamous “Cardinal Killers.”

Due up next: Jay Bruce

Until next time…

Joe

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

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Cardinals Will Ride Michael Wacha’s Changeup Back to St. Louis

Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals enter Game 4 of the National League Division Series (NLDS) on the brink of elimination–down 2 games to 1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. If the Cardinals win Game 4, both teams will return to St. Louis for Game 5, and Adam Wainwright will be primed and ready to go for the Cardinals.

However, before this can happen, the Cardinals must win Game 4 first.

Well, Mike Matheny has assigned this tall task to 22-year-old rookie right-hander, Michael Wacha, and this looks, at least on paper, to be an extremely wise decision.

As I wrote in my post on September 25th, Wacha’s “1-2 punch” of fastball-changeup is a devastating combination and when it is on, it is nearly unhittable. Though he is still just a rookie, I would argue that he has one of the best changeups in all of baseball.

According to BrooksBaseball’s PITCHf/x tool, Wacha has thrown 283 changeups in 2013, and the pitch is averaging 5.95 inches of horizontal movement (tailing action). This horizontal movement combined with the downward plane from his 6’6″ frame has led to the hitter swinging and missing on 22.61% of his changeups (aka whiff %). Also, batters are hitting line-drives off his changeup just 2.47% of the time (For perspective, both of these percentages are even better than changeup-specialist, Cliff Lee).

So, Wacha has a good changeup…so what?

Well, the Pirates simply are not good at hitting changeups, and I have the numbers to prove it. I broke down 10 Pirates that have the possibility of facing Wacha in Game 4 and compiled the following table:

PiratesVsChange

As you can see from the table, the team as a whole has had 517 at-bats end on a changeup in 2013. The team is hitting less than .200 against changeups–coming in at .198. Also, of the 517 at-bats, 130 of them (25%) have been strikeouts. Lastly, the team is not hitting for much power against changeups this season–hitting 15 home runs or just 2.9% of their at-bats.

Concluding Thought:

I realize that playoff baseball is not played “on paper,” and there will be numerous variables that play a part in the outcome of Game 4. However, in my opinion, one that is backed up by the data above, Wacha is the best candidate to get the Cardinals back to St. Louis for Game 5. His fastball-changeup combination gives him a huge physical advantage over the Pittsburgh hitters, but will he be ready mentally for the task at hand? This is something we will soon find out.

Go Cards! I am not ready for the 2013 season to be over yet…

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Related Article:

– Cards hope Wacha will change up outcome (stltoday.com, @dgoold)

Kris Johnson of the Pittsburgh Pirates: Living the American Dream

Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Introduction:

Kris Johnson is a 28-year-old rookie pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He attended Blue Springs High School in Missouri from 1999 to 2003. As a Wildcat, the left-hander dominated on the mound–throwing five no-hitters and was ultimately drafted in the 50th round by the Anaheim Angels after his senior season. Yet, he declined the offer and took his pitching talents to Wichita State University. As a freshman for the Shockers, he lead the Missouri Valley Conference with a 2.01 earned-run average.

After a successful NCAA career in Wichita, Johnson was selected in the 1st round (compensation portion), 40th overall by the Boston Red Sox in the 2006 MLB Draft. He promptly agreed to terms with the Red Sox–receiving an $850,000 signing bonus. As an aside, according to my brother-in-law and sister (his good friends), KJ used part of his bonus to buy a brand new Lexus and with the guidance of his father, he invested the rest of it.

Minor League “Roller Coaster”:

In short, things did not pan out for KJ in the Red Sox organization. He was 28-49 with a career ERA of 5.10 and had a troubling 12.63 ERA in 20.2 innings for Pawtucket (Boston’s Triple-A affiliate) before being released in 2011.

After five unsuccessful seasons in the minors, most guys would have considered quitting. Not KJ. As my sister has told me, KJ is a pretty stubborn guy, and to be frank, he still trusted in his pitching ability. Thus, in 2011, the Pirates decided to give the former first-rounder a shot.

For this post, I searched around for some articles and read one on SB Nation that stated, “signing a guy who somehow allowed seven homers in 20.2 Class AAA innings last year wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense, unless they needed someone to throw batting practice.”

Well, guess what SB Nation, KJ was able to turn it around in the Pirates’ organization–he became a solid professional pitcher, not a batting practice pitcher. After having two successful minor league seasons in 2011 and 2012, he came into 2013 looking to improve even more, and this is exactly what happened. This year, for the Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh’s Triple-A Affiliate), KJ went 10-4 with a 2.39 ERA in just under 136 innings pitched–a stellar performance deserving of a shot in the big leagues.

Marathon Major League Debut:

On August 18th, 2013, seven years after being drafted, KJ finally had his major league debut, and it will never be forgotten. The Pirates were deadlocked with the Diamondbacks, 2-2 in the 11th inning when KJ got the call to enter the game. It is almost hard to believe what happened next. He ended up pitching a full six innings in relief for the Pirates. Sure, he allowed two runs in the 16th that lead to the loss, but he saved the Pirates bullpen and showed flashes of pitching ability. Allowing just two runs in six innings would make most teams ecstatic if it came from a starting pitcher.

Thus, because of his strong performance in relief, he got his chance to start for the Pirates in a pivotal game against the Cardinals on September 1st. A pitcher, who had once been classified as a “bust” was pitching for a team competing for a division title in September. The start did not go well for KJ–completing just two innings while allowing five runs. The Cardinals beat the Pirates, 7-2.

A tough outing like this could break a pitcher down. Yet, he had been through struggles before over the past seven years, and with the expanded rosters in September, he knew he would get another shot. That next shot came last night (September 6th) after the Cardinals broke out to an early lead against the Pirates.

AJ Burnett got roughed up for five runs in the first three innings, so the Pirates turned to KJ to “stop the bleeding,” and this is exactly what he did. KJ pitched two perfect innings–allowing zero hits while striking out three. His last strikeout will likely be a memorable one for him–making Carlos Beltran look foolish on a sinker down and away.

Brief Scouting Report:

In three major league appearances, KJ’s numbers do not look very good–0-2 with a 6.30 ERA. Yet, this is a very small sample size, and if last night is any indication, he will keep getting better with more big league experience.

He has the stuff to be a successful major league pitcher. According to BrooksBaseball.net, he has thrown his sinker up to 95.17 MPH this season with somewhere between seven to ten inches of tailing action on it. He complements his sinker with a hard slider that comes in around 84-86 MPH. Yet, to me, his best pitch is his changeup. I know this may be a stretch, but some of the changeups I saw him throw last night resembled those of another lefty, Cliff Lee. The changeup comes in around 84-85 MPH, and in his MLB debut, it averaged 10.52 inches of horizontal movement.

Final Thoughts: (before the interview)

Thus, by now I am sure you were wondering why I titled this post the way I did. Well, here’s why. To me, the “American Dream” is finding something in life that you truly love and sticking with it no matter what anyone else has to say about it. You choose when to move on from it, not someone else.

KJ struggled throughout the minors at times over the span of seven years, and I am sure many scouts out there figured he was just another first-round bust. Writers out there even took the time to call him a “batting practice pitcher.” Yet, he believed in his ability, and partly due to his stubbornness, he stuck with the game that he loved.

Now, after all he has been through, he is pitching for a major league team in the hunt of a division crown. If that is not the “American Dream,” then I do not know what is.

Finally…

A Quick Interview: 

I was able to ask him a few questions via email because my sister and brother-in-law are friends with him. She texted him and asked, and he was more than happy to help me out. This took place before his start against the Cardinals on September 1st, but I waited until now to post it given the outcome of that game.

StlCupofJoe: How has it been traveling back and forth between Triple-A Indianapolis and the big leagues with Pittsburgh?
Kris Johnson: Well it’s never fun to be sent down, but its even more rewarding to get that call back up.

Stl: Who have you learned the most from in your professional career thus far?
KJ: There’s a lot of people who have influenced me along this roller coaster of a career so to pick one person out wouldn’t be right, I like to think that everyone has a different perspective, and any little piece of info that’s beneficial is helpful.

Stl: Who would you model your pitching style after?
KJ: I really don’t know who I would be compared with because there are no two pitchers alike, and that’s what makes this game so great.

Stl: What are your thoughts of the Cardinals lineup? (had to get this one in there for my readers)
KJ: There’s a reason why the Cardinals are so good. It’s because anyone in that lineup can hurt you, their average with RISP is I believe the best in the league.

Stl: Describe your major league debut. I bet you could have never expected to pitch 6 innings in relief in your first game.
KJ: Oh it was unbelievable.  Never would I have thought I would go 6 innings in relief,  I was running on pure adrenaline, because I didn’t get barely any sleep the night before or on the flight out, and the fact that it was a day game I couldn’t try to get a nap in before the game.  But if I had to describe it in one word it would be “unbelievable.”

Stl: The 2nd time the Pirates called you up, what did they tell you? Did it sound like this one was for the rest of the season?
KJ: Well since Sept 1st was coming I had a feeling it would be, and I’m glad I could come up and help this team out the best I can to make it to the playoffs

Pirates fans, and baseball fans for that matter, make sure to follow KJ on Twitter: @Kris_Johnson60

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official member of the STLSportsMinute Network

Breaking Down Francisco Liriano’s Hex on the Cardinals

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Francisco Liriano has made the St. Louis Cardinals look foolish at the plate in 2013. When 100% healthy, Liriano is a fantastic pitcher, no one can deny that. Yet, the Cardinals are making it easy on him. There are things that must be done by the Cardinals if they want to have success against him. First, let’s take a look at his statistics against St. Louis in 2013.

July 29th in Pittsburgh: Pirates 9, Cardinals 2
7.0 innings pitched, 4 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts, 102 pitches

August 14th in St. Louis: Pirates 5, Cardinals 1
9.0 innings pitched, 4 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts, 94 pitches

August 30th in Pittsburgh: Pirates 5, Cardinals 0
8.0 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 earned runs, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, 95 pitches

2013 Total:
24.0 innings pitched, 10 hits, 2 earned runs, 5 walks, 20 strikeouts, 291 pitches

Thus, Liriano is averaging 8 innings and 97 pitches per game against St. Louis. Liriano is a left-handed pitcher, and we all know that the Cardinals have a woeful time hitting lefties–.236 batting average, .293 on-base percentage, and .374 slugging percentage.

Liriano also has devastating stuff. His whiff percentages are unbelievable for a starting pitcher. Batters are swinging and missing over 20% of the time on both his slider and changeup this season. His sinker averages 8.93 inches of horizontal movement, and his changeup averages 9.15 inches of horizontal movement. Thus, his pitches have incredible tailing action that lead to a lot of swings and misses.

Well, unfortunately for the Cardinals, his pitches aren’t going to magically become straighter or any easier to hit. However, Cardinals’ hitters need to start laying off stuff out of the zone. By laying off pitches out of the zone, it will lead to longer at-bats, more walks, and better pitches to hit. Liriano has faced 84 St. Louis batters this season, and 42 of them (50%) have had at-bats of three pitches or less. This is a starting pitcher’s dream–an over-anxious lineup leading to efficient pitch counts.

In Liriano’s 3 games against the Cardinals this season, St. Louis hitters have had 23 at-bats end with pitches out of the zone. They are 0 for 23 in those at-bats with 13 strikeouts. Thus, it is obvious that Liriano is getting Cardinals’ hitters to chase. 13 of his 20 strikeouts (65%) have come on pitches out of the strikezone. That is absolutely unacceptable for an offense like the Cardinals.

Conclusion:

The Cardinals offense is better than this. I realize he is a lefty, but they need to at least make it a little harder for him. Almost one-third (23/72) of Liriano’s outs are coming on pitches out of the zone. That just cannot happen if the team wants to succeed.

Liriano is good, and the team very well may not ever be able to hit him this season or post-season. If this is the case, then the next best thing they can do is work the count and get to the bullpen quicker. A 94 pitch complete game just cannot happen to a lineup that consists of Matt Carpenter, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, and Yadier Molina.

I realize that the Pirates have a good bullpen with Mark Melancon as their closer, but their chances are much better against him than Liriano. Also, if they get deeper into counts and stay within the strikezone, it will force Liriano to change the way he likes to pitch.

On August 9th against Colorado, Liriano allowed 10 earned runs and was unable to get out of the third inning. Why? The Rockies were not chasing his pitches out of the zone like the Cardinals have this season. Liriano faced 21 hitters and only two had at-bats that ended on a pitch out of the zone. Though both of those ended in singles, it still shows that their approach at the plate forced Liriano to pitch inside the strikezone where his pitches become a lot more “hittable.”

If the Cardinals ever want success against Liriano, they need to emulate the Rockies’ approach against Liriano. He wants hitters to chase his pitches. Frankly, some of his stuff moves so much that it has to be hard for him to even throw it into the zone. Thus, lay of those pitches and take some walks. By doing this, Liriano will have to adjust by giving the batter a pitch to hit.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official member of the STLSportsMinute Network

Wainwright and Maness and Chambers, Oh My! St. Louis Cardinals Walk-off a Winner

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Quick Game Recap:

The first game of the crucial series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates was truly a spectacle, and this time, the good guys came out on top.

It was the bottom of the 14th inning. The clock struck 12:15 AM at Busch Stadium as Jon Jay slid around Russell Martin‘s tag for the game winning run on an RBI slap single by none other than Adron Chambers.

Prior to this walk-off win, the Cardinals were 0-40 in games they were trailing after the eighth inning. Well, they are now 1-40, and frankly, it could not have come at a better time.

Breaking Down the Key Players:

Adam Wainwright:
Final Line: 7.0 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 2 home runs, 122 pitches (71 strikes)

Despite Wainwright’s less-than-ace-like start to the game, he was able to settle in after the first two innings–pitching five scoreless innings to keep his team in the game. He allowed a first inning two-run home run to Andrew McCutchen and then a solo homer to Jordy Mercer in the second.

He had racked up 81 pitches through just four innings, leading to many questioning Matheny’s decision of pushing him back. Yet, he was able to constantly battle out of jams to pitch seven full innings–largely due to the fact that he was more efficient in the 5th, 6th, and 7th (just 41 pitches).

Thus, unlike I had predicted in my post before the game, Wainwright was not dominant like I had thought he would be. However, he did what ace pitchers need to do by keeping his team in the game even though he did not have his best stuff.

Thank you, Wainwright. I am glad the offense and the bullpen was able to pick you up in this one. For all the negative fans out there, Waino may not have been dominant in the game, but he definitely pitched like an ace out there.

Seth Maness:
Final Line: 2.1 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 earned runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 2 double plays (1 as a hitter and 1 as a pitcher)

Maness did what Maness does best. He got the job done, even though it wasn’t that pretty. In the top of the 13th, it looked like yet another loss was coming for the Cardinals. Runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs, not to mention that one of the fastest runners in the league was on 3rd in McCutchen. A diving stop by Kozma got the first out of the inning. After an intentional walk, Maness was able to induce yet another double play to get out of the jam he had created for himself.

Oh, and I also have to mention that Maness had two chances to end the game at the plate, but he came up empty both times. In the first at-bat, he grounded into an unconventional 6-9c-3 double play, and in his second, he struck out looking. However, I am glad he didn’t end it because it was nice to see Chambers get it done.

Adron Chambers:
Game Stats: 1-2, 1 single, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 1 RBI (the game-winner), 1 ripped jersey

To be honest, Chambers looked lost at times during his at-bats tonight. However, that is what makes the game of baseball so great. He looked bad, swinging at pitches that were either in the dirt or already in the catchers mitt, yet was able to center one just enough to slap it the other way for the game-winning hit.

Jon Jay:
Game Stats: 4-6, 3 singles, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 stolen base (HUGE steal), 1 run scored (the game-winner), and 1 sac bunt

Great game at the plate once again for Jay. Four more hits to raise his season average to .271. He now has a .344 on-base percentage as well–good enough for 27th in the National League. Since the All-Star Break, Jay is hitting .325 with seven doubles, one triple, and ten runs batted in. He is easily the second hottest hitter on the team behind Matt Holliday. Also, for the sabermetricians, he is finally increasing his WAR rating. He is up to 0.7, and it does not look like he is stopping there.

He had probably the most controversial sac bunt ever, at least according to Twitter anyways. Who would have ever thought that St. Louis fans would be mad at him for bunting and wanting him to swing the bat? Not me, I have been one of his biggest fans since his University of Miami days, but many fans have been making up players to take his spot in center all season.

I agree that he should not have been bunting there, either. It is just funny to see how a few good weeks at the plate can change fans’ entire outlook on a player. Thus, Jonny, keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll be back .300 in no time.

The Bullpen:
Final Line: 7.0 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts, 0 earned runs

5 pitchers used (Rosenthal: 1 inning, Mujica: 2 innings, Siegrist: 0.2 innings, Maness: 2.1 innings, Freeman 1 inning)

Concluding Thoughts:

I fully realize that Matheny needs to manage his bench better. However, it is not my place to dog him for his decisions. He is getting paid to do what he does, while I am paying in order to watch what he does. Don’t think that his mis-management of the bench went unnoticed by me, it is just not my job to call him out, and I wanted to savor all the good moments from this game for this post.

The Cardinals cannot have a walk-off “hangover” tomorrow. They are up against their lefty nemesis, Francisco Liriano. He carved Cardinals’ hitters up last game, but is coming off arguably one of the worst outing of his career–allowing 10 earned runs in two and one-third innings pitched in Colorado.

Let’s hope he is shell-shocked from that start, and Cardinals’ hitter are able to capitalize early in the game because once Liriano is settled in, there are no hitters that will be able to hit him.

With the win, they are now just 2.0 games behind the Pirates, but it would be nice to make that just 1.0 after tomorrow night. I will be in attendance, and I am looking forward to another electric, playoff-like atmosphere at Busch.

Oh, and huge thanks goes out to Starling Marte for being flashy out there in left field on that lazy fly off the bat of Descalso. Maybe next time you will use two hands and not cost your team the game.

GO CARDS!

I apologize for the scattered set-up of this post. However, after a game like I just witnessed, and the time that it was when I completed it, I figured it was only fitting. I honestly believe I just witnessed one of the most entertaining baseball games of my life. Hope this blog was able to do it at least a little bit of justice.

Until next time…

Joe

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official Member of the STLSportsMinute Blog Network

St. Louis Cardinals: Breaking Down the NL Central

Photo Credit: cardinals.com

Photo Credit: cardinals.com

With 95 games completed in the 2013 season, the St. Louis Cardinals sit atop the National League Central division–two games up on the Pittsburgh Pirates and four games up on the Cincinnati Reds. When the Cardinals end the season at home against the Chicago Cubs on September 29th, will the team still be in first? Here is a review of the remaining schedules for the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds to see just what is in store for the NL Central.

Cardinals Remaining Schedule

67 games left: 36 home, 31 away

Home Winning Percentage: .622

Away Winning Percentage: .600

Opponents’ Winning Percentage: .498

Pivotal Portions:
1. July 29th through August 4th: 5 games in Pittsburgh (DH on the 30th), 3 games in Cincinnati

2. August 26th through September 8th: 3 home games against Reds, 3 games in Pittsburgh, 4 games in Cincinnati, 3 home games against Pirates

Pirates Remaining Schedule

67 games left: 31 home, 36 away

Home Winning Percentage: .640

Away Winning Percentage: .533

Opponents’ Winning Percentage: .488

Pivotal Portions:
1. July 29th through August 1st, August 30th through September 1st: 8 home games against the Cardinals

2. September 20th through 22nd, September 27th through 29th: 3 home games against the Reds, 3 games in Cincinnati

Reds Remaining Schedule

65 games left: 33 home, 32 away

Home Winning Percentage: .667

Away Winning Percentage: .469

Opponents’ Winning Percentage: .488

Pivotal Portions:
1. August 2nd through 4th, September 2nd through 5th: 7 home games against the Cardinals

2. September 20th through 22nd, September 27th through 29th: 3 games in Pittsburgh, 3 home games against the Pirates

Analysis

From a Cardinals standpoint, it is nice to see that the team has 5 more home games than away games on the remaining schedule. However, through 95 games, the team has played to a .600 winning percentage or higher both home and away, so this may not be that big of a deal. It will be nice for fans to pack Busch Stadium III and create a playoff atmosphere down the stretch, though.

The Cardinals face teams with a higher winning percentage (.498) than both the Pirates and the Reds (.488 for both). This is unfortunate, but the Cardinals do face teams that currently have losing records for the last six series of the season.

The outlook of the season for the Cardinals will be a little clearer after August 4th. The team will have just played five games in Pittsburgh and three games in Cincinnati. If the team is able to remain in first place after those two series, then the outlook for the rest of the season should be a positive one. However, if they fall out of first place after those two series, they will still have an opportunity to make up ground from August 26th through September 8th. During this span, the Cardinals will face the Reds for two series (one at home) and the Pirates for two series (one at home).

One big benefit for the Cardinals, as long as they are still at or at least very near to first place, is that they finish the season at home against the lowly Cubs. The Pirates will be in Cincinnati for three games to end the season. These two teams will have just got finished with a series against each other just two series prior. Thus, to end the season, the Pirates and Cubs will be beating up on each other while the Cardinals will have a legitimate shot at a sweep against the Cubs, who will have presumably packed up the tents by then.

For the Cardinals sake, I hope Matt Holliday is able to return and be successful sooner rather than later. I hope that Jon Jay can continue to pick it up at the plate–he is hitting .271 with a .364 on-base percentage in July. I hope Chris Carpenter can make it back to the rotation and be effective–this is in doubt after last night’s frustrating performance in Triple-A Memphis. Lastly, I hope that Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, and Edward Mujica can keep up their All-Star level of play for the rest of the season. Is this a reasonable? Probably not, but I hope that the majority of the six stay hot throughout the rest of the 67 games.

Thus, needless to say, I am looking forward to the rest of the season. It would be nice if the Cardinals had a bigger lead, but it is good for baseball as a whole to have such a tight divisional race involving three teams.

I have said this once and I will say it again. This is a very special team. The team has come down to Earth a little bit lately, but I will stick to my prediction that this year’s Fall Classic will be the Cardinals facing off against the Oakland Athletics.

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupOfJoe