Cardinals pitching: Is the analytics team looking at the right numbers?

The Cardinals pitchers are taking a lot of heat this year. Is it justified?
St. Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals
St. Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages
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“I think it comes down to the execution by the pitcher,”

"At some point, you have to step up and guys need to do their jobs.”

“Our pitching needs to step up.”

All comments said by Manager Oliver Marmol after Wednesday’s loss.

Maybe it’s time to replace the word ‘pitcher’ with something else.

The St. Louis Cardinals are playing poorly. I know you are shocked that someone could make a statement like that. After all, they are really good at ….. Oh well, never mind.

It is shocking that they are telling us that their analytics validate the moves they make and the players they put in a position to make plays. Guys, it’s time to update the database.

We are told all about launch angle, hard-hit balls, exit velo, and any number of other statistics. And yet, by managing by those numbers the Nationals, Rockies, Royals, and As are the only teams that have worse records than the Cardinals.

Just maybe there are different numbers that they should be looking at.

What we should be looking at is what the first-place teams are doing compared to us. Maybe they have figured out that there is some new math at play here. As of today, the first-place teams are the Rays, Twins, Rangers, Braves, Reds, and Diamondbacks.

Today let’s just look at the pitching. I will break down the hitting and defense in future installments.

PITCHING

RANK

TEAM

ERA

1

Twins

3.59

3

Braves

3.66

5

Rays

3.70

8

Rangers

3.89

17

LEAGUE AVERAGE

4.30

25

Cardinals

4.63

When four of the six division winners are in the top eight and the Cardinals aren’t even close to the league average that’s a problem. Another problem; quality starts.

RANK

TEAM

PERCENT OF QUALITY STARTS

1

Twins

51%

5

Rangers

47%

12

Diamondbacks

37%

15

Braves

36%

16

LEAGUE AVERAGE

35%

25

Cardinals

27%

If you can’t get your starters to last six innings how can you expect your bullpen to hold up? Why aren’t they getting to the sixth inning? Maybe we just look at what happens in the first inning.

RANK

TEAM

1ST INNING ERA

1

Braves

3.48

4

Rays

3.84

8

Twins

4.23

12

Rangers

4.48

13

Diamond Backs

4.54

18

LEAGUE AVERAGE

4.77

28

Cardinals

5.8

So here is an issue. Your pitchers are getting off to a bad start and you are behind before you even come up to bat. Because of throwing more pitches and not lasting as long you need to go to the bullpen earlier.

However, it appears as though we aren’t going to the pen early enough.

RANK

TEAM

INHERITED RUNNERS

3

Twins

71

10

Braves

109

12

Rays

111

15

LEAGUE AVERAGE

120

28

Cardinals

156

This shows when the Cardinals relievers enter the game there are twice as many runners on base as the Twins relievers. Instead of pulling the starter when he gives up that first or even the second hit, the manager waits until another runner gets on. Probably because the pen is completely used up.

So is there anything in the stats that might tell us why the pitching is so bad this year?

Not really. As a matter of fact, the strike-out percentage is up from 19.6 last year to 20.5. First-pitch strikes are almost the same from 61% to 60.4%.

This is pretty much the same group of pitchers we had last year. The biggest jump for this group was in ERA. It went from 3.79 last year to 4.63 at this point of the season. If you look at just that one piece of the puzzle, a 3.79 ERA this year would move this pitching staff from 25th to 7th. From near the bottom to being right there with the division leaders.

There are so many things wrong with this team it’s probably not fair to try and stitch

things together and come up with a conclusion but that is kind of what we do here.

Part of the reason for this is the defense which I will break down next. Baseball-Reference has a stat called Defensive Efficiency. It is basically the percentage of balls in play converted into outs. In 2021 under Mike Shlidt who made defense a priority, the percentage was .714; ranking the Cardinals second that year. Two years later that number is .663 and we rank dead last.

If the pitchers can’t count on a ball in play being converted to an out that leads to more runners and that leads to runs and more pitches thrown.

Most teams have figured out that if you don’t want your defense involved in a play the easiest thing to do is strike the batter out. Why don’t we do that? We can’t. The number one strikeout pitcher in the league right now is Spencer Strider with the Atlanta Braves. You know, one of the teams I mentioned earlier when I was talking about division leaders. He has 155 already. Our top strikeout pitcher is Montgomery with 91. He ranks 45th.

The one thing that coaching can fix right now is the defense. Look at all the gold gloves we have on this team.

Coaching can also fix the first-inning problem. Either there is a problem with the pitcher’s pregame warmups or they have really bad scouting reports on the first three batters.

The pitchers aren’t the ones deciding when they should stay in a game or come out. That is strictly a manager’s problem. Also, the pitchers that the manager just called out are not the ones calling the pitches.

The pitchers also didn’t tell the GM that they didn’t need any strikeout pitchers added to the staff.

The management decides to take a starter (Matz) and make him a reliever instead of making him a better starter. They then do the same to a reliever (Thompson) turning him into a starter.

If it is the pitcher’s fault then why can someone (Liberatore) be so good in the minors pitching in eight games with an ERA of 3.13 and win 4 games at the beginning of the year get promoted and forget how to pitch?

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This team is a mess but you cannot put all the blame on the pitchers.

Next. 5 trades Montgomery. 5 trade destinations for Jordan Montgomery. dark