The St. Louis Cardinals first series is in the books. While it didn’t end the way we had planned, let’s take a look back through the lens of Statcast.
After earning a victory on opening day, the St. Louis Cardinals dropped two straight to the Chicago Cubs. Since you’ve probably already seen the game recaps, let’s take a look back using the tools available to us through Statcast via Baseball Savant.
Game 1: Carlos Martinez dazzles and the St. Louis Cardinals emerge victorious thanks to Randal Grichuk’s walk-off hit.
Carlos Martinez enters the 2017 season as the St. Louis Cardinals ace and a dark horse candidate for the NL Cy Young Award. After stifling the Cubs on a national stage, he’s put himself on almost everyone’s short list of contenders.
He looked amped-up and focused from the start. According to Daren Willman, Martinez first pitch registered at 94.9 MPH and was the fifth-fastest opening day first pitch since tracking began in 2008.
He finished the night having racked up ten strikeouts and set a (very) modern record:
According to the Statcast data, Martinez hit a max velocity of 99.69 MPH in the first inning facing Kris Bryant. His slowest pitch was a 77.76 MPH curveball in the sixth inning, also to Bryant.
Additionally, his changeup and sinker were great on opening night. They were so good, in fact, that Statcast was unable to differentiate the two. By location, the pitches were perfect: he was consistently low and away to both righties and lefties, rarely missing over the plate.
Dexter Fowler got his first base hit for the St. Louis Cardinals on a ball that didn’t leave the infield. His infield single to Javier Baez registered an exit velocity of only 75.9 MPH. It was the fourth softest batted ball of the night for the Cardinals and the slowest hit ball resulting in a base hit.
In the eighth, Randal Grichuk hammered a two run homer to the right field bullpen. While those runs ended up being critical, the blast gave us our first look at Statcast’s new home run graphics.
To this point, Grichuk’s nice home run was the hardest ball hit in the game by either team.
The top of the ninth didn’t go well for Oh, but it set up a dramatic bottom half of the inning. Jose Martinez got the rally started with a double off the wall, but was probably unlucky: based on the exit velocity and launch angle of the hit, it is almost always a home run:
Shortly after, Grichuk would end the game with a 109.3 MPH single, which registered as the hardest hit ball of the game. Prior to Grichuk’s heroics, the St. Louis Cardinals were 0-11 with runners in scoring position.
Game 2: The St. Louis Cardinals fall as Jake Arrieta outduels Adam Wainwright.
The St. Louis Cardinals struggled to get anything going in Tuesday’s game, but they still filled the stat sheet with plenty of oddities.
For one, per the Cubs broadcast (sorry), the Statcast tracking equipment had some technical difficulties during the game before later coming back live. This is confirmed by a gap in the game’s data feed.
When it did come back, however, it certainly wasn’t perfect. Check this out:
Either shifts have gone way too far, or Kolten Wong did not hit a 385-foot groundout. You don’t have to see the play to know Wong didn’t hit a 385-foot groundout to the second baseman. Plays like this are a fun reminder that while the technology invading MLB stadiums is great, it’s far from perfect.
Later in the game, Matt Carpenter hit a 105 MPH drive toward the gap in right-center, only to be robbed by ex-Cardinal Jason Heyward. Balls hit at that speed and trajectory are hits 68% of the time. Instead, though, Carpenter fell to 0-27 in his regular season career against Jake Arrieta.
In the seventh inning, it looked like Matt Adams had tied the game for about five seconds. That hope ended when Albert Almora robbed Slim City of a home run (or maybe not). Statcast had this batted ball’s hit probability at 83%, but noted that 92% of similar batted balls in the past have cleared the wall.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ only run came on a 62.4 MPH grounder from Kolten Wong. The ball never even made it to the infield dirt and also got Stephen Piscotty hit for the third time in his trip around the bases, this time on the head.
Adam Wainwright gave us a bit of a scare in the fourth inning when he uncorked what was probably the shortest pitch in the Statcast era (unofficially).
Unsurprisingly, the Statcast tracking technology had no idea what to do with this pitch. Yet, while we worried that Waino was about to go full Rick Ankiel, he used the spikeball to set up this 50 foot curve for the strikeout.
A well-executed sequence by the crafty veteran.
Game 3: The St. Louis Cardinals blow a late lead and fall to 1-2 on the young season.
The St. Louis Cardinals started the game off strong, tagging John Lackey for three runs in the first inning. Grichuk capped the first inning barrage with a 111.5 MPH single through the left side, a line shot with a hit probability of 69%.
With that single, Grichuk has three batted balls over 100 MPH this season. Those three batted balls account for all four of his RBI thus far.
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Later, while the Cardinals still led, Jedd Gyorko just missed a home run on a warning track fly out. He generated an exit velocity of 105.7 MPH and a launch angle of 39 degrees on the batted ball; just one degree more, and the fly out would have technically been considered a popout. Statcast rewarded Gyorko with a hit probability of 57%. On a ball hit this high, it’s safe to assume it’s a homer 57% of the time.
Kolten Wong had another noteworthy groundout in the sixth inning of the contest. This time, he hit a 107.7 MPH shot with a hit probability of 69%. Unfortunately, it was just within the range of Ben Zobrist who made the play to retire Wong. This was the St. Louis Cardinals’ hardest-tracked batted-ball of the day.
Unfortunately, Wong’s ninth inning double went untracked, so I can’t give him due credit for that one.
On a positive note, Lance Lynn looked strong in his first official start since 2015 Tommy John surgery. His fastball sat around 92-93 MPH and topped out at 94.4 MPH. His slider was consistently around 88-89 MPH, and he featured a changeup that registered around 86 MPH.
Thanks for reading, and credit to Baseball Savant’s Statcast Search and Game Feeds for the data. I’m hoping to do these for as many series as I have time for throughout the season. I try to track all this and more live on Twitter, so follow me @zjgifford!