Pitch Clock and Step Offs
The pitch clock this year was set to 15 seconds to throw a pitch with no one on base and 20 seconds with a runner on base. There wasn't much a team could do to prepare for this, as this rule is situational rather than prepatory. However, the Cardinals could have signed relievers and starters in the offseason who typically worked quickly.
Giovanny Gallegos was the pitcher with the slowest tempo in 2022 at 25.3 second between pitches without runners on base and 30.5 seconds between pitches with runners on base. It was a genuine concern in the offseason that Gallegos would see more infractions than the average pitcher due to his slow pace. Additionally, it was a concern that Gallegos would struggle even if he pitched within the clock's limitations. Ryan Helsley and Jordan Montgomery also pitched slowly, but not nearly at the rate of Gallegos.
Gallegos's numbers haven't been as strong in 2023 as they were in 2022. The pitch clock is a possible explanation for this drop in performance. Gallegos had a 3.05 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 1.017 WHIP, and struck out 11.1 batters per nine innings. This year, Gallegos has a 4.50 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 1.212 WHIP, and is striking out 9.3 batters per nine innings. His pace has had to be cut in half this year due to the pitch clock. Perhaps that is why his numbers have ballooned this year.
The limitations on pickoffs and step-offs weren't a major rule change for pitchers. The Cardinals didn't necessarily need to plan for that new rule in 2023, but preparations and changes may have helped the team this year. The pitch clock played a much more significant role this season on the team's pitchers, particularly Giovanny Gallegos.