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Entries in St. Louis Cardinals (38)

Monday
Apr092012

Umpire Review: Opening Weekend (Part One)

Throughout the 2012 season we will take a look at the accuracy of MLB umpires by comparing their ball/strike calls to PitchFX data. With every team now having completed at least one series, let's take a look at the numbers.

First up, let's see which umpires expanded their strike zones during Opening Weekend:

All MLB Games through April 8, 2012

Ed Rapuano manned home plate duties in the Wednseday night MLB opener between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins.  He seemed to be giving pitchers some help as 16 of the 94 pitches taken out of the strike zone by batters were called strikes. As a point of comparison, league average called strike rate on pitches out of the zone last season was 9.7%.

Again, Rapuano's expanded zone on Wednesday was a product of 16 erroneous strikes. Over the remainder of the season, he'll likely move closer to his average from last season (9.3%).

137 Taken Pitches / 49 Total Called Strikes / 16 Strikes Outside the ZoneFrom the above graphic, you can see that Rapuano was favoring the outside strike for both lefties and righties. Five of those strikes came against Marlins batters, while eleven came against Cardinals hitters. It didn't seem to affect the defending champions too much as they still managed to win the game 4-1.

Next up, we'll take a look at missed strike calls within the PitchFX strike zone....

Friday
Oct282011

Carp Goes on Short Rest

With the World Series on the line, Chris Carpenter takes the ball on short rest tonight for the St. Louis Cardinals. Carp, who gave up four runs in three innings while pitching on short rest against the Phillies in Game Two of the NLDS, gets the nod over a fully-rested Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse.

Starting pitchers typically perform worse on three days' rest. Baseball-Reference keeps track of a stat called tOPS+, which compares a pitcher's on-base-plus-slugging percentage in a particular situation to his overall OPS. One-hundred is average, while anything over 100 means the pitcher did worse in that situation than he did overall. With the exception of 2009, starters have lost a good bit of their effectiveness when going on short rest:

2008: 115 tOPS+ (15 percent worse on three days' rest than in other situations)

2009: 94 tOPS+

2010: 113 tOPS+

2011: 121 tOPS+

How have pitchers fared in the playoffs on short rest? Not well. Since 2008, there have been 10 starts made on three days' rest. The pitchers lasted slightly more than 5.1 innings per start, with a solid strikeout total (7.6 per nine innings pitched) but also plenty of walks (3.8 per nine) and lots of home runs allowed (1.55 HR/9). Those starters had a collective 5.79 ERA.

The sample size is awfully small (a total of 54.1 innings pitched), but we are talking about some of the best starting pitchers in the game. After all, a manager wouldn't consider putting a pitcher out there on short rest unless he thought that his less-than-optimal-ace would still be better than a well-rested, middle-of-the-pack starter. In recent years, though, those aces have coughed up runs at a Kyle Davies-like clip.

Here's the list of short-rest playoff starters since '08, ranked by Game Score (the average is around 50):

 

Is 70-80 percent of vintage Chris Carpenter better than Edwin Jackson at 100 percent? We'll find out tonight, though it's entirely possible that Carp is only the nominal starter, going once through the Rangers' lineup, and Jackson sees a few innings of action as well. Given how starters tend to fare worse in the mid-to-late innings -- compared to their first time through the lineup, their opponent OPS climbs 29 points the second time through and 74 points when facing batters a third time -- being quick to the bullpen is a smart strategy. 

If Game Seven is even one percent as thriling as Game Six, we'll all be in for a treat.

Wednesday
Oct262011

Napoli's Lefty Lashing

With the score tied at two in the eighth inning of Game Five, Bullpen-Phone-Gate apparently led to lefty Mark Rzepczynski facing Mike Napoli, as righty relief ace Jason Motte never got the signal to warm up. Given Napoli's slugging exploits against southpaws, Tony La Russa and the Cardinals should have used every tool at their disposal -- bullhorns, flares, a team of special-ops Rally Squirrels -- to make sure Scrabble hit the S-H-O-W-E-R-S.

Napoli is no slouch against right-handed pitching, with a .259 batting average, a .337 OBP and a .495 slugging percentage over the past three seasons. But versus lefties, he's rocking a .312/.407/.589 line. In fact, the erstwhile Angel has one of the five best Weighted On-Base Averages (wOBA) against left-handers from 2009-2011 (minimum 400 plate appearances vs. LHP):

 

There's no clear pattern in how lefty pitchers try to combat Napoli. They're not shy about throwing him fastballs/sinkers, as Napoli gets one about 57 percent of the time versus lefties (58 percent league average). And they're all over the place in terms of pitch selection, dotting all four quadrants of the zone:

Left-handers' pitch location vs. Napoli, 2009-2011

That jumble of pitch locations stands in contrast to how lefties typically approach right-handed hitters. They mostly try to hit the outside corner:

Pitch frequency by location for left-handed pitchers vs. right-handed batters

It really doesn't seem to matter where lefties locate, however. Napoli mashes just about everything thrown in the zone, and, as noted last week, he hammers pitchers who try to climb the ladder out of the zone:

Napoli's in-play slugging percentage vs. lefties by pitch location, 2009-2011With left-handers throwing in and out, high and low, Napoli goes with the pitch. He pulls inside pitches, but he also punches outside offerings to center and right field:

Napoli's hit chart vs. lefties, 2009-2011

Napoli will take on another lefty, Jaime Garcia, in Game Six tonight. But this much can be said loud and clear: there's no way Napoli sees another southpaw in the late innings in this series.

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