St. Louis Cardinals: Statcast Cardinals Series Two Recap

Apr 9, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez (18) looks on after giving up a solo home run to Cincinnati Reds left fielder Adam Duvall (23) during the second inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Carlos Martinez (18) looks on after giving up a solo home run to Cincinnati Reds left fielder Adam Duvall (23) during the second inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Recapping a series is probably more fun when the St. Louis Cardinals win.

We are officially a week into the St. Louis Cardinals 2017 season. Thus far, it’s been a disappointment. After beating the defending world champion Chicago Cubs on opening day, the Cardinals have lost four of five games, including two of three to the lowly Cincinnati Reds.

I admittedly found less fun in the Statcast numbers over these three games. That’s what happens when the team goes scoreless twice.

Game 4: Mike Leake goes 8 strong innings, but the St. Louis Cardinals offense flounders.

Mike Leake continued the St. Louis Cardinals run of strong starting pitching, but the offense failed to put a single run on the board.

The Cardinals hardest-hit ball of the day came in the first inning when Matt Carpenter hit a low lineout to Reds left fielder Adam Duvall. Statcast gave the line drive a hit probability of 82% based on its 104.8-mph exit velocity and launch angle. Yet, Carpenter was robbed of a hit, and the at-bat would foreshadow the team’s quiet offense for most of the series.

The bottom of the sixth was a bit of an oddity. Dexter Fowler led off the inning with a 102.1-mph lineout. Next, Diaz grounded out at 104.1-mph, although his -18 degree launch angle meant most of the speed was taken off upon hitting the ground and the play was fairly routine. Carpenter finished off the inning with a 103.8-mph groundout to second.

It’s a young season, but I haven’t seen another inning yet with three batted balls over 100 mph where all three were outs. Chalk that up to bad luck and bad placement.

The Cardinals’ hardest batted ball resulting for a hit actually came from Mike Leake, when he singled on a 100-mph liner up the middle. It was Leake’s eighth batted ball with an exit velocity greater than 100 mph in the Statcast era, which is six more than Pete Kozma has over the same period. Further, Leake’s hardest hit ball registered at 104 mph, while Kozma’s comes in at only 100.6 mph.

Game 5: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals offense explode to even up the series.

The second game of the series was more fun, as the St. Louis Cardinals offense got started early before breaking the game open in the fourth.

Aledmys Diaz welcomed Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo back to major league action when he smoked a 110-mph solo shot to left field in the bottom of the first inning.

St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals /

This is Diaz hardest hit ball to date. At least, the hardest he’s hit in live action. The batting practice blast that broke the Big Mac land sign might have been hit harder.

Luckily, Diaz’s day was far from over. In the fourth inning, Diaz hit this 98.9-mph shot to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 6-1 lead:

The five-run lead would be enough for the St. Louis Cardinals, though the team tacked on another four on their way to a 10-4 victory. The win snapped a three game losing streak for the Cardinals and offered hope for the offense after a slow start to the season.

Additionally, Matt Adams was given his second regular season start in left field, and it went about as well as anticipated:

As for pitching, Michael Wacha looked strong in his season debut. He averaged 94.6 mph on his fastball while topping out at 97.56 mph in the second inning. He also flashed a sinker that could be a strong fit in his repertoire since he generates below average spin rate on his fastballs. Adding a consistent sinker would help his fastball play up while also making his changeup more deceptive.

Game 6: The St. Louis Cardinals are routed as they are shut out again in the series finale.

Heading into this game, everyone believed the St. Louis Cardinals had the pitching advantage. Carlos Martinez took the bump for St. Louis, facing Scott Feldman (formerly of the 2011 Texas Rangers).

Unfortunately, the punchless version of the Cardinals offense showed up again while Martinez and the rest of the St. Louis staff struggled to keep the game within reach.

Randal Grichuk registered the team’s hardest hit ball of the day on a 109.5-mph double to right-center field. Unfortunately, he was caught trying to take third on a failed sacrifice bunt from Carlos Martinez. Matt Adams and Yadier Molina both registered singles at 105.9 and 104.9 mph, respectively, but neither inflicted much damage.

When I first saw the lineup card for the day’s game, I noted that it was an early contender for the worst lineup of the season. Matt Adams was given yet another start in left field, bringing his total to three, or 50% of the team’s games in left field. This follows an offseason where the team repeatedly preached about the importance of improving the team defense and athleticism.

Additionally, Matheny continues to ignore Jose Martinez who, while unproven at the MLB level, has to be better than a lifetime first baseman who just started shagging balls in spring training about three weeks ago. He’s still far from being even adequate, as shown by his inability to make the play described above.

Batted balls with a catch probability that high aren’t even included on the Statcast Catch Probability Leaderboard because it’s assumed that they’re too easy. Matt Adams made it look like the hardest play of the afternoon.

Continuing a theme of questionable (terrible) managerial decisions, Kolten Wong was benched for Jedd Gyorko, despite the fact that the Cardinals were facing a right handed pitcher. While Matheny acknowledged in spring that platooning Wong would be an option for this season, he apparently decided five games in that Wong no longer deserved even a full time platoon.

Jhonny Peralta contributed to a poor defensive effort when he booted a potential double play ball before throwing it wildly into right field. The Cardinals would end the day with three errors. While those errors officially only led to one unearned run, the plays not made surely cost the team more than that.

Luckily, the season is still young. While the results so far are disappointing, the Cardinals pitching staff has provided reason for optimism. Hopefully the offense will come around once Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter start getting hits to fall.

Next: Cardinals Rotation Starts Out Strong

The data used throughout this post comes courtesy of Baseball Savant’s Statcast Search and Game Feed, as well as the Gameday Feed.