Dusty Blake's pitching approach might clash with the Cardinals' veteran rotation

The St. Louis Cardinals' pitching rotation is long in the tooth, and it's fair to wonder whether Dusty Blake's new-school approach to pitching will gel with the seasoned staff.
St. Louis Cardinals Photo Day
St. Louis Cardinals Photo Day / Benjamin Rusnak/GettyImages

There are few certainties in life. Among them are death, taxes and baseball fans criticizing their teams' coaches. I am usually reluctant to blame a coach for a team's struggles, but amid the St. Louis Cardinals' pitching skid in 2023, I pondered whether former Duke University pitching coach Dusty Blake was the correct choice for the position in St. Louis.

The Cardinals preached getting more swings and misses in 2023, and the team sang its praises of Blake after hiring him. However, the pitching staff for the Cardinals ranked 29th in strikeouts, with 7.66 in per nine innings. It also ranked 29th in opposing batting average at .273.

After the Cardinals realized that they had fallen far behind the curve on analytics, they pivoted from incumbent pitching coach Mike Maddux to Blake, but they might have overcorrected. Nearly every pitcher on the team regressed from 2022, and Blake's inexperience in the major leagues became a talking point among fans when dishing out criticism.

A fascinating development in the league over the past couple of years is the pushback on analytics. As coaches and managers with more traditional strategies have found success, such as Maddux, Bruce Bochy and Dusty Baker, it's becoming a credible theory that analytics should be a complementary piece to strategies rather than their sole driver. With the new-look rotation for 2024 constituting an average age of 35, a question arises about whether Blake's more analytical approach will work with this staff.

Lance Lynn is one pitcher who seems to fly in the face of modern analytics. Lynn is one of the most fastball-heavy pitchers in the league in an era where fastballs are being deemphasized and breaking balls such as the sweeper are reigning supreme. Given Lynn's old-school approach and his bulldog demeanor, it's hard to see him working in lockstep with Blake.

With Blake only five years older than Lynn and Kyle Gibson and more experienced in working with young college arms rather than major league veterans, the approaches between Blake and the rotation have the potential to lead to some ideological skirmishes and have the team pining for the days of Maddux.