When Andre Pallante broke camp with the St Louis Cardinals in 2022, he quickly showed himself to be a reliable arm whether it was in the rotation or the bullpen. Unfortunately for Pallante he has not been able to carry over that success in 2023.
Looking back at his 2022 campaign, Pallante threw 108 innings in 47 games, 10 of those were starts, and he had a 3.17 ERA with a 122 ERA+. Pallante was the first Cardinal since Joe Kelly in 2012 to pitch 100 or more innings in his first season in the big leagues. He did average over a hit an inning mainly because he had a 64.4% ground ball rate but that also means he got a lot of ground ball double plays, as he induced 17 of those leading all rookies in that stat.
So what happened? 2023 has just not been the same for Pallante, after his rough outing in game 1 of the Cardinals series with the Orioles he has a 5.25 ERA in 56 appearances. He did pitch in the World Baseball Classic for team Italy this year, it's difficult to tell if that had any effect or not but it is possible. If you look at his numbers some of the stats will tell you why he is struggling, but some of them don't, and it could also be something like the new rule changes for 2023.
Andre Pallante's struggles this year could be because of Major League Baseballs new rules regarding defensive shifts.
Going into this season the MLB put huge restrictions on defensive shifts, teams have to have two players on each side of second base, which has given more field for hitters to play with. Pallante had a high FIP ( Fielding Independent Pitching) last season at 3.98, which means that he benefited with a solid defense behind him, his FIP is even higher this year at 4.70. So take the help he's gotten from his defense plus no more exaggerated shifts, means that the defense is limited from maybe helping Pallante even more when he gets a hitter to hit a ground ball, those soft ground balls are now sneaking past the infield.
Because Pallante has actually gotten a higher ground ball rate this year than last ( 76.9% ground ball rate) and his fly ball rate has almost been cut in half. But with him allowing 69 hits in 60 innings, he's not getting outs on all those ground balls, Pallante is getting " singled to death ". What do the other stats say?
On top of all the hits allowed, Pallante is walking batters at a higher rate than he was last season, a 4.1 BB/9 rate is not going to cut when he is not striking out hitters at a high rate. He's not getting the double play balls like he did last season, just six so far this year, you could probably blame the shift ban for that as well. He has significantly struggled more on the road than at home, a 7.04 ERA in 30+ innings on the road after having a 2.79 ERA on the road last year. Pallante has also been hit hard on his breaking balls this year, hitters have hit .324 against his slider and curveball this year after only hitting .241 against those pitches last season. But in my opinion, the stat that is causing Pallante's struggles this season the most, is that he cannot get right-handed hitters out.
For whatever reason right-handed batters have been teeing off on Pallante while he has been very effective against the left-handers, he has very drastic reverse splits. In 2023 right-handed batters are hitting .376 with a .912 OPS against Pallante, now only about 13% of the hits he's allowed to righties have gone for extra bases, it's the singles have been eating him up. He struggled against right-handers last year as well, as righties hit .295 with an .805 OPS against him in 2022, but the degression is concerning.
When it comes to looking into the future to see who could be productive for years to come in the Cardinal bullpen, I do see Pallante to be one of those guys. He showed last season what he is capable of, and he is showing this year that there is some things that need to be addressed in the off-season. If he can work on limiting the walks, getting more outs on his breaking pitches, and getting right handers out more consistently, expect Pallante to be a bounce-back candidate and a reliable arm in the Cardinals bullpen in 2024.