Another frustrating loss last night has brought the Cardinals back to St. Louis after finishing a seven game road trip with a 2-5 mark. I’d like to touch on a few things today including my trip to Pittsburgh last weekend for the series with the Pirates which I think I’ll start with.
PNC Park certainly deserves the praise it receives. Other than the fact I had to sit there two of the three games as the Pirates pounded the Cardinals it was a fantastic experience. I met a lot of great people who were more than willing to talk baseball and share their story about how old they were the last time the Pirates had a winning season. One of the big highlights of the park for me was the presentation that took place during the game. From the player introductions which were presented in Saturday Night Live fashion to the advanced statistics displayed on the scoreboard and ribbon throughout the game. My favorite being the horizontal and vertical break of each pitch. This is an area I hope the Cardinals will improve on at Busch. I understand the focus should be the play on the field but a better scoreboard with more advanced statistics than just the normal slash would be great. They also had a free concert on Saturday night complete with an outstanding fireworks display that was shot off from on the field, the river, the Clemente Bridge and even buildings across the river. I’m not really that into fireworks but this was impressive for sure. I’d recommend PNC to anyone thinking about catching the Cardinals on the road next season.
Alright, back to the on field stuff. So Lance Lynn got knocked around again last night. I’m going to defend him forever but last night was rough and the things said about him on the social medias made me want to punch clowns. Dennis who writes at ManFridge Baseball had mentioned last night that Lynn had gone away from his four-seamer recently. I hadn’t really even thought of that but I looked into it and sure enough the usage of his best pitch has dropped dramatically. In April-June when Lynn was pitching well he threw his four-seam fastball 60% of the time while going to his sinker 16% his curve 12% and throwing a cutter 8% while also mixing in a change. In July and August he only went to his four-seam 38% of the time while the sinker usage went to 26% and he started using his cutter more as well. I did notice that the line drive rate on his sinker is lower than that of his four-seam and he also gets a good ground ball rate with the sinker. The problem is his sinker command has left his walk rate up and the ground balls are continuing to get through as his BABIP remains at .314. I would love to see him go back to the four-seamer more to get ahead in counts and then work the sinker in. This would also help keep his pitch count down to go deeper in games. The reality is that like all professional sports MLB is a results driven business and Lance needs to start producing results or fans are going to be out with torches to run him out of town. Keep in mind that Lynn is showing durability with his innings load the past couple seasons and isn’t a free agent until 2018.
I want to close with some Joe Kelly praise. Without Kelly over the last few weeks the starting rotation would be a mess. Similar to Lynn, Kelly primarily goes sinker/four-seam with the sinker being his primary pitch. What worries me about Kelly is that he currently leads the league in LOB% at 85% which is very high. This was something I had mentioned with Jeff Locke of the Pirates that indeed did regress and knock him out of the rotation for some time. The difference was that Locke had an unbelievably low BABIP of .239 or something while Kelly gets hit to the tune of .294 when the ball is put in play which is sustainable. I just think Kelly is showing the ability to execute pitches when he needs to and is able to escape jams. A mid-nineties sinker and fastball with movement combo is fun to watch for sure.
That’s all for now. Let’s hope Lance gives his four-seam a chance and gets back to his early season form. The Cardinals host the Pirates tonight for the start of a three game set. What a tough second half schedule it’s been. After this series the Cardinals have a favorable stretch run to the finish that they can hopefully take advantage of. A.J. Burnett vs. Joe Kelly tonight. Later.