“I don’t think we’re looking to add starting pitching now." said Mozeliak. "We certainly feel like we accomplished something for our rotation."
It sounds like John Mozeliak is very content with the pitching additions he has made this offseason. By adding the Cy Young runner-up and two innings eaters the rotation should be a lot better than last year’s. Or, will it? If you remember last year, Mozeliak said the Cardinals had six starters.
The Cardinals have exchanged Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, and Jordan Montgomery for Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Sonny Gray. When listening to the Cardinals, they say this is a huge upgrade. Looking at the numbers though, there is little to support the feeling of accomplishment coming from the front office.
The Cardinals were looking for innings. Over the last two years, the new trio pitched 322 innings. Last year’s trio pitched 280 innings over the last two years. Based on averages that nets 22 more innings from the starters this year. That is 7 innings per pitcher. That is less than one more batter per game if they all start 30 games. Over the last two years, the new starters averaged 90 pitches per game. The old starters over the same period averaged 91.
They were also looking for more strikeouts from their pitchers. This is a bit of a mixed bag. Strikeouts per nine innings give an advantage to the new group with 8.5 SO/9 over 7.6 for the old group. Even at 8.5, that is still a bit weak. However, the old group has the advantage if looking at the strikeout percentage with 23.07 percent over 22.6 for the new guys.
What happens if there is no strikeout and the ball is hit? FanGraphs has a stat for hard hit percentage which they define as “Hard% - Percentage of balls in play that were classified as hit with hard speed. Last year’s group had a hard-hit ratio of 38.2. The stats from last year show the new group was 40.7.
The average age of the three pictures from last year was 33.6. That was with Wainwright and his 42 years added in. The new group the Cardinals brought in has an average age of 35.3 as of today. What did this new group of pitchers cost? $32 million this year. Last year’s three pitchers totaled $33 million.
Have the Cardinals improved their pitching over last year? They have spent the same money on older pitchers who will offer a few more innings if they all stay healthy, and a few more strikeouts per nine., while the balls will be hit harder.
This obviously won’t be answered until the year is over. The Cardinals are hoping Gray has a Cy Young season, Lynn and Gibson pitch seven innings every time out and both start thirty games. I hope I am wrong but the odds are just as good that this group of tricenarians could be no better than those they are replacing and could all be at the age they start to decline in a big way.