Trevor Rosenthal Brings the Heat

Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

St. Louis, and much of the Midwest, is cold right now. Really cold. With six to twelve inches of snow falling across the area today and below zero temperatures expected tomorrow, I figured it was a perfect time to write about Cardinals’ flame-throwing closer, Trevor Rosenthal.

Have you ever taken the time to look at the raw data of his pitching in 2013? I glanced at it in a previous blog post, but that was mid-season when he was still the set-up man, so let’s see how he progressed as the season went along.

Let’s face it. With the way the weather is outside, our minds are craving baseball. However, unfortunately, it is still over a month away till Spring Training. I will start by taking a look at Rosenthal’s phenomenal outing on October 12th in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers and then move on to his numbers from the season as a whole.

Game 2 of the NLCS:

Yasiel Puig At-Bat: Strikeout on 7 straight fastballs (pitch locations below)

RosenthalPuig

Photo Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Pitch 1: 97.4 MPH fastball
Pitch 2: 98.2 MPH fastball
Pitch 3: 98.8 MPH fastball
Pitch 4: 99.6 MPH fastball
Pitch 5: 99.3 MPH fastball
Pitch 6: 97.8 MPH fastball
Pitch 7: 98.6 MPH fastball
Average: 98.5 MPH

This at-bat consisted of seven straight fastballs which can be damning to some pitchers. However, with pitches ranging from 97.4 MPH to 99.6 MPH, Rosenthal can afford throwing this many in a row, as long as he locates them well. Throughout much of the regular season and especially the playoffs, hitters knew what to expect from Rosenthal–a fastball. To combat this, Rosenthal did exactly what I just noted, changing location consistently–up-down-in-out–throughout the Puig at-bat.

When the seventh pitch rolled around, Puig had a pretty good idea it was going to be a fastball, but he had no clue on its location–leading to a good ole backwards K. Puig had a .315 batting average and a .519 slugging percentage against fastballs this season, but those most definitely weren’t Rosenthal-like fastballs.

Juan Uribe At-Bat: Strikeout on 4 straight fastballs (pitch locations below)

Photo Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Photo Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Pitch 1: 99.8 MPH fastball
Pitch 2: 99.0 MPH fastball
Pitch 3: 99.1 MPH fastball
Pitch 4: 99.4 MPH fastball
Average: 99.3 MPH

An average of 99.3 MPH? That’s not even fair. Two of the four pitches (pitches 3 and 4 of the at-bat) resulted in whiffs. Uribe was a .315 hitter against fastballs in 2013, but as I noted, a Rosenthal fastball is in a whole different class–an elite class shared by very few pitchers in the league.

Andre Ethier At-Bat: Strikeout on 3 fastballs (pitch locations below)

Photo Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Photo Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Pitch 1: 98.5 MPH fastball
Pitch 2101.2 MPH fastball
Pitch 3: 98.9 MPH fastball
Average: 99.5 MPH

As if the 99.5 MPH average wasn’t enough, Rosenthal changed Ethier’s eye-level on all three pitches–the first pitch being down in the zone, second one up in the zone, and then finished him off with one near the middle of the zone. Ethier swung and missed on all three, and if I remember correctly, he looked pretty foolish on each one. With pitch number two coming in at 101.2 MPH, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was his fastest all season.

2013 As a Whole:

velocities

As you can see in the table to the right, Rosenthal’s velocity was pretty consistent all season. If anything, he ramped it up a little bit as the season went along. The 10 MPH difference between his fastball and changeup will be devastating for years to come, especially as he gains confidence in his secondary pitches.

I know Rosenthal has made it clear he wants a shot in the starting rotation. Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist just may give him the opportunity this spring. However, I legitimately believe he will go down as one of the best in the game if he stays in the closer role and is able to stay healthy. He is only 23 years old. His fastball is already elite. We all know this. However, his secondary pitches, especially his changeup, have also shown flashes of brilliance as well. With Rosenthal’s work ethic, I expect him to have these pitches fine-tuned and ready to go next season.

Sorry, Major League hitters. You are in for quite the treat for years to come.

Follow Rosenthal on Twitter: @TrevRosenthal

Stay warm, my friends.

Joe

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

As usual, all pitching data was received from BrooksBaseball.net. If this is of interest to you, check the site out for yourself. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

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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

Breaking Down the Cardinals Bullpen in Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS

Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Despite scoring just four runs in two games, the St. Louis Cardinals lead the Los Angeles Dodgers two games to zero in the National League Championship Series. The starting pitching from Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha has been great, but the bullpen has been even better–recording a 0.00 ERA in nine and one-third innings pitched. I decided to break down every single pitch by the relievers to see what has been the keys to their success.

BullpenNLCS

Trevor Rosenthal has looked great so far this post-season for the Cardinals. Other than the “triple” by Mark Ellis in the 10th inning of Game 1, he has not allowed a hit while recording five strikeouts and just one walk. In Game 2, he blew the Dodgers away–striking out the side on 14 straight fastballs. He will play an integral role for the Cardinals the rest of the way. The young rookie will continue to face high pressure situations since runs have been hard to get so far this series.

Game 1:
24 fastballs: avg: 98.0 MPH, max: 99.4 MPH: 12 swings, 3 whiffs
4 changeups: avg: 88.5 MPH, avg horizontal movement: 5.36 inches
1 curveball: 82.4 MPH, horizontal movement: 2.20 inches

Game 2:
14 fastballs: average: 99.0 MPH, max: 101.2 MPH; 8 swings, 6 whiffs
_________________________________________

Carlos Martinez looks to be settling into his role as the “set-up” man for St. Louis. The 22-year-old rookie looked incredibly confident against the Dodgers in Game 2 striking out both batters he faced.

Game 1:
7 fastballs: avg: 97.2 MPH, max: 98.7 MPH, avg horizontal movement: 8.92 inches
2 curveballs: avg: 84.7 MPH, avg horizontal movement: 6.66 inches

Game 2:
4 fastballs: avg: 97.8 MPH, max: 99.1 MPH, avg horizontal movement: 9.26 inches
4 curveballs: avg: 84.2 MPH, avg horizontal movement: 5.77 inches

cmart

As you can see by the above image, Martinez had a “picture-perfect” approach against Dodgers’ slugger, Adrian Gonzalez in Game 2. He has proven that he is becoming more of a “pitcher” rather than just a “thrower”–consistently mixing in a curveball to go along with his electric fastball. It is almost unfair to hitters–having two pitches with so much movement with 12-15 MPH difference.
__________________________________________

Lance Lynn recorded the win in Game 1, pitching two scoreless innings in the 12th and 13th. He got into a mini-jam in the 12th, but was able to get out of it when Michael Young grounded into a double play. As usual, his fastball was his go-to pitch–averaging 94.9 MPH with 5.12 inches of tailing action and topping out at 96.4 MPH on a pitch low and away to strike out Juan Uribe.

It was good to see Lynn get some successful innings under his belt. Some may think this rules him out of the Game 4 start, but with only 29 pitches, he will still likely be available. Whether Matheny chooses him over Shelby Miller? That is yet to be seen.
___________________________________________

Seth Maness came into the game with one out in the seventh inning. He started with one of his signature groundouts and followed it up with a strikeout of Hanley Ramirez. Eight of Maness’ 15 pitches were sinkers in Game 1. They averaged just under 92 MPH and had over 8 inches of horizontal movement to them.
___________________________________________

John Axford was given the 11th inning in Game 1 and started out well–striking out Puig and getting Uribe to ground out. After a two-out walk followed by a single, he struck out pinch hitter and ex-Cardinal Nick Punto on a 97.2 MPH fastball. Axford has so far proven to be a solid pickup by the Cardinals–filling a similar role to Octavio Dotel‘s in 2011–a reliable veteran presence in the bullpen.
___________________________________________

Kevin Siegrist has been somewhat under-utilized through two games in the NLCS, but with the success of the bullpen so far, can anyone really complain. He made the 7th inning interesting–throwing two wild pitches before getting Michael Young to fly out. This involved one of Don Mattingly‘s more controversial moves–removing the best pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw, after just six innings pitched. It obviously did not matter considering the Cardinals failed to score in later innings, but it was a questionable move nonetheless.
___________________________________________

Randy Choate has done his job so far–getting two outs–one in each game–on just four total pitches. He is getting paid $1.5 million this season and has been the definition of a “lefty specialist.” As long as he keeps getting lefties out, look for him to continue to be the first lefty out of the ‘pen for the rest of the playoffs.
___________________________________________

Concluding Thoughts:

The bullpen has been huge through two games in the NLCS. If they are able to keep this up, then the World Series is most definitely in the very near future for the Cardinals. However, with games being as close as they have been, they cannot afford to have many slip-ups, if any at all.

With Adam Wainwright going in Game 3, the bullpen will hopefully get some rest. However, with Hyun Jin-Ryu on the mound for the Dodgers, I don’t expect much of a difference on the scoreboard.

The 8th-9th inning combination of Martinez-Rosenthal will face some tough situations throughout the rest of the playoffs. Let’s hope the 22-year-old and 23-year-old rookies are up to the challenge.

UPDATE: It appears that Matheny has decided that Lynn will start Game 4. Though many people will disagree with the move, his performance in Game 1 may give him the confidence to have a good outing. We will see how it plays out.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

As usual, thank you, BrooksBaseball, for the pitch information used in this post.

What’s up with Edward Mujica?

Photo Credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Something is wrong with Edward Mujica, and it needs to be corrected if the St. Louis Cardinals plan on making a deep run in the playoffs. Sure, Mujica successfully nailed down last night’s save to give the Cardinals a two-game lead in the Central, but he did not do it very convincingly.

After a lead-off single, sac bunt, fly out, intentional walk, infield single, Mujica found himself with the bases loaded and the winning run on second base. Thankfully, he was able to blow a 94.5 MPH fastball by the slowed bat of Todd Helton for the third out.

This is an alarming statistic for a pitcher who has a WHIP of 0.89 on the season. I realize that Mujica’s main pitch is his devastating splitter, and it is tailored towards contact. Averages show that all “contact pitchers” eventually have to allow hits, but don’t forget that this pitch has a 19.5 whiff percentage in 2013 and has helped him record 45 strikeouts in just under 63 innings. Thus, he’s really not a pure “contact pitcher,” he just does not get nearly as many strikeouts as pitchers like Trevor Rosenthal or Aroldis Chapman.

I decided to break down these five outings (two hits allowed per outing) further to see if I could spot anything of note. In each of the five outings, Mujica allowed the lead-off hitter to reach base via a double (vs. Pittsburgh), single (vs. Cincinnati), double (vs. Milwaukee), single (vs. Seattle), and single (vs. Colorado). Allowing the lead-off hitter to reach can spell disaster for a late-inning reliever, especially in one-run ballgames.

From April 13th through June 19th, Mujica had 26 appearances and recorded 21 straight saves. During that span, Mujica had 15 appearances (57.7%) in which he did not allow a single hit. For comparison and disregarding the one-out outing on September 6th, Mujica has not had a hit-less outing since August 26th–7 appearances ago.

Also during that span, he allowed the lead-off hitter to reach base only three times (11.5%) in 26 opportunities. As I stated above, Mujica has allowed the lead-off hitter to reach in five of his last six appearances–not a good

Trying to figure out what has been different, I took the time to graph each at-bat that resulted in hits against Mujica in these five troubling appearances, and a pixelated image of it is shown below:

1305458_10200643425150546_2073743277_n

If you look closely (probably not possible given the pixelation of the image), of the 10 hits he has allowed, seven of them have come against his splitter and three against his fastball. Only four of the hits have come on pitches near the middle of the strike zone–with two of them being the singles last night by the Rockies. I also noticed that he is still setting up his pitches well by changing the hitters’ eye levels on the pitches prior to the hits.

Thus, Mujica is still pitching well in my opinion–changing speeds, locating well, and changing hitters’ eye levels throughout the at-bats.

So what’s different, then?

Well, during that span in which he had 21 straight saves, Mujica’s splitter averaged 87.45 MPH and its average horizontal movement was 8.22 inches (tailing action). Over his last six outings, his splitter is averaging just 85.8 MPH and its horizontal movement has been averaging 7.28 inches.

In these appearances, his splitter is averaging 1.65 MPH slower and is tailing 0.94 inches less. This may not seem like much, but for a “contact pitcher,” this is a big deal. He relies on that extra bit of movement to lead to less solid contact from the hitter. Also, the slower speeds can lead to hitters being able to sit back and read the pitch’s break before taking their swings.

It’s a long season, and he has the second most innings pitched by a Cardinals reliever behind Rosenthal. The numbers above show that he is either tiring or has a lingering injury that is affecting his performance.

Conclusion:

If the Cardinals want to make a legitimate run at their 12th World Series title, they need Mujica to return to the form he was in earlier this season. This may not be possible given the innings he has logged, but he at least needs to get closer than where he is at right now.

Allowing two hits per outing in the 9th inning of playoff games is simply not going to cut it. Thus, he either needs to get rest now or figure out if there is some mechanical flaw in his motion. Like I said earlier, he is still pitching well mentally and is locating his pitches, hitters are just being fooled like they were earlier in the season.

In short, if Mujica is unable to figure out what is going on, the Cardinals need to insert Rosenthal into the closer role. Mujica is one of my favorite Cardinals, but if he cannot figure out what is going on, the team needs to remove him from such a crucial role.

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

Come September, Trevor Rosenthal Should Replace Edward Mujica as Closer

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

Edward Mujica was an All-Star for the first time in his career this season, and he was well deserving of the honor. The St. Louis Cardinals are 25 games over .500 right at 62-37, and a pretty big reason has been Mujica’s performance as closer. However, as weird as this may sound to some people, Mujica is not the answer for the Cardinals if they want to make a deep playoff run to the World Series.

Mujica’s Statistics:

Don’t get me wrong, Mujica’s statistics through 99 games have been nothing short of incredible for St. Louis. He is an NL-leading 30 for 32 (93.75%) on save opportunities, and he has appeared in 45 games out of the ‘pen.

In 44 and two-thirds innings pitched, he has 38 strikeouts and just two walks. His earned-run average is near the league lead for relief pitchers at 2.01. He is holding hitters to a stifling batting average of .198. Lastly, for the sabermetrics guys, his 2.76 SIERA is still in the “excellent” range.

Rosenthal’s Statistics:

However, for as good as Mujica has been this season, Trevor Rosenthal has been even better. Rosenthal has 23 holds compared to just two blown saves thus far this season. Like Mujica, he has also appeared in 45 games.

In 48 and one-third innings pitched, he has racked up 71 strikeouts to just 10 walks. His earned-run average rivals Mujica’s at 2.23. Batters are hitting just under .230 against him, which is slightly higher than Mujica. However, his SIERA is over one point better than Mujica’s at 1.71–4th best of pitchers who have pitched at least 40 innings this season. A SIERA as good as Rosenthal’s basically means that he is striking out a lot of hitters (71), walking very few (10), and if hitters do make contact, it is usually not very solid contact.

Also, he is highest among relievers with 71 strikeouts–just three above the 68 tallied by the almighty Reds’ closer, Aroldis Chapman. (Reds fans, if any of you are even reading this, I realize that Chapman has pitched in 8 less innings than Rosenthal so calm down.)

Comparative Analysis:

Mujica and Rosenthal have had fantastic seasons so far, and both would have been worthy All-Star selections. However, this is just the regular season, and even if the Cardinals stay hot and finish with the best record in baseball, they cannot take home their 12th World Series trophy without first making it all the way through the playoffs.

Well then … what are the biggest differences between regular season games and playoff games?

1. Increased pressure. (Duh!)
2. Fewer runs scored.
3. Cooler temperatures–leading to more defensive swings, less solid contact, and ultimately fewer runs scored (point #2).

Thus, one of the most important characteristics for a closer in the playoffs is his ability to make hitters swing and miss, and this is where Rosenthal clearly outperforms Mujica. Rosenthal strikes out just under 36% of the batters he faces, while Mujica strikes out just 22% of them. This point can be further accentuated by Rosenthal’s 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings compared to Mujica’s 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

According to PITCHf/x, hitters make contact 70.6% of the time they swing at a Rosenthal pitch, while they make contact 77.3% of the time they swing at pitch thrown by Mujica.

Rosenthal is giving up a home run every 18 innings compared to Mujica giving up one every nine innings. This can be a game-changer, especially in one-run save opportunities. One late-inning home run allowed can not only determine the outcome of one game, but it can also play a key role in deciding the series as a whole. Advantage: Rosenthal.

Critics have made a point in saying that the Cardinals’ defense is not as good as the fielding percentage may show. I have not had the time to analyze this much, but it is believed by many that the reason the team’s fielding percentage is so high is because the defense as a whole lacks range. If the defense lacks range, it gets to fewer balls, and by getting to fewer balls, it has less chances to make an error.

If proven to be true, this “lack of range” will probably be exposed in the playoffs and become a much bigger deal since runs come at a premium in October. Thus, this is just another reason why Rosenthal is the better choice for the Cardinals in the playoffs.

Conclusion:

Mujica has done a great job as closer, and as long as he remains effective, I recommend the Cardinals to still use him till the beginning of September. The reason I say this is because Rosenthal is still a rookie, and I don’t want him to have too much stress put on his arm before the playoffs.

Sure, Rosenthal has pitched more innings than Mujica so far, but let’s be honest “closer innings” can be more stressful than “set-up man innings” at times. Now I am not undervaluing the set-up man role here, just saying that the stress of “closer innings” can add up, especially on a 23 year old rookie like Rosenthal.

The main reason I believe Rosenthal should take over in early September is so he can get comfortable in his new role and get whatever “growing pains” he faces out of the way by the start of the playoffs. This will also give the team ample time to evaluate Rosenthal and see if he is truly ready to take over as closer for the most important parts of the season–the stretch run and the playoffs.

A huge thank you to Mujica for what he has done and will continue to do in the closer role until September, but if the Cardinals want to get #12in13, it is in the team’s best interest to move Rosenthal into the closer role.

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupOfJoe

Are the St. Louis Cardinals Utilizing Carlos Martinez the Right Way?

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

UPDATE: 12:50 PM on 7/25: Via Derrick Goold, the Cardinals have optioned Martinez to Triple-A Memphis, recalling LHP Marc Rzepczynski. This poses the question: Is “Scrabble” up to contribute for the rest of the season, or is he up to showcase his arm one more time at the big-league level for potential suitors? We will soon find out.

Carlos Martinez‘s “role” for the St. Louis Cardinals. What is it? Does he even have one?

Thus, I took to Twitter to ask the expert, Cardinals’ beat writer, Derrick Goold, and this is what he had to say:

photo (48)

Given Goold’s response, the latest rumors linking Martinez to Alexei Ramirez (this has to be a bogus rumor by the way), and the way he has been used since his latest call-up, I decided to delve deeper into the topic. Before I get into possible roles for Martinez, I will give a brief run-down of his season so far.

First Stint in St. Louis

Martinez was up earlier this year in May and had what seemed to be a middle-relief role. However, he was not designated to a specific inning and was used sparingly–making just seven appearances for a total of eight innings pitched. He was basically making one appearance every four days. During that span, he had a 4.50 earned-run average while tallying nine strike outs to just three walks.

His ERA was elevated mainly because of one bad outing against Colorado in which he allowed three hits, one walk, and three earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Of his seven appearances, he did not allow a run in five of them. Surprisingly for a flamethrower, he allowed 14 ground balls compared to just seven fly balls. He did not allow a home run during this stint.

Back to Triple-A Memphis

Due to his sparse use out of the big league ‘pen, the front office decided to send him down–looking to “stretch him out” so that he could possibly fill the void at the end of the rotation left by injuries and a suddenly ineffective Tyler Lyons.

From May 28th through July 5th, Martinez made eight starts in Triple-A and worked his way up to where he was averaging over 90 pitches each outing. Thus, it is safe to say that he was successfully “stretched out.” He may not have developed the efficiency the team had hoped–only pitching more than seven innings once (a gem against the Iowa Cubs), but he was stretched out nonetheless. During this stint with the Redbirds, he went 3-2 with a 1.98 ERA. In 41 innings pitched, he recorded 35 strike outs while walking 16 batters. In those 41 innings, he allowed just 1 home run and batters were hitting .226 against him.

Second Stint in St. Louis

Thus, pleased with his performance in Triple-A, the Cardinals decided to call Martinez up on July 11th for the second time this season. Most saw this as a short-term move to fill in for an overworked bullpen, but exactly two weeks later, Martinez is still a part of the big league bullpen.

However, just like before, the Cardinals have only used him sparingly. In nine team games since his second call-up, Martinez has a grand total of three appearances for just three and one-third innings pitched. In his first appearance, he kept the Cardinals in the game against the Cubs on July 13th by pitching two scoreless innings, but his last two appearances have been what can be termed “mop-up” duty only.

On July 19th, six days after his last relief appearance, Martinez struggled in this “mop-up” role against the Padres. Hopeful to have a night off for closer, Edward Mujica, Matheny sent in Martinez to close out the ninth for the Cardinals who were leading 9-3 at the time. Martinez followed by allowing three hits, one walk, and three earned runs and was able to record just one out. Because of this poor performance, he forced the Cardinals to use Mujica when they really did not want to.

Just last night, with the Cardinals leading 11-3 over the hapless Phillies, Martinez came in again to close out the ninth. This time, he had much more success–retiring Philadelphia in order on just 13 pitches.

His second stint has been just as uneventful as the first. However, he has yet to allow a home run in the big leagues and with a 2.75 SIERA, it shows that major league hitters have trouble making solid contact against him, if at all. Thus, with all this in mind, it leaves fans and writers wondering what exactly his role is for this team? Well, as I see it, there are four possible options for Martinez, and for his sake, the Cardinals need to use him in one of them.

Four Possible Options for Martinez

1. Although I hate this term, Martinez can serve as the “bridge” between the starters and the 8th/9th inning combination of Trevor Rosenthal/Mujica. This is essentially the role that Mujica assumed for the Cardinals after coming over from the Marlins last season.

2. Martinez can fill the void and assume the position of 5th starter in the rotation. Sure, Matheny has done a great job at juggling the rotation and utilizing off-days so that the team has not needed a 5th starter yet. However, the team has 19 straight games without a day off, so a fifth starter is absolutely necessary. If the team sent him down to Triple-A to get stretched out and he was impressive enough to be called up, shouldn’t he at least get a shot in the rotation? What’s the worst thing that could happen? If he struggles, the team can look at other options like returning to Joe Kelly or giving Lyons another chance.

3. He can be traded. Although I strongly disagree with this option, I have come to the realization that there really is no such thing as an untouchable prospect anymore. If the members of the front office find a deal that they truly believe will make the team better–both in the short-term and the long-term–then can they really pass that up? I have been having trouble finding a trade that will help the Cardinals out in the long-run (meaning past this season), but that is why I am just a Twitter/Blogging-GM, not a well-respected GM like John Mozeliak.

4. He can be sent back down. I don’t really like this option either, but if he is not going to be used in one of the aforementioned roles, then what is the point in having him sit in the bullpen and pitch one inning every 5th or 6th day? He is too valuable of an arm to not gain the experience needed to be a successful big league pitcher in the future. Sure, he can learn a lot from the pitchers on the big league roster through side sessions, but what he really needs is to face live hitters and develop an effective off-speed pitch to complement his electric heater. If he is indeed sent down, I see the team either calling up Keith Butler for the bullpen or Lyons for the 5th spot in the rotation.

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupOfJoe