Control, Control, You Must Learn Control

Imagine what this weekend would have been had the Cardinals been able to actually throw strikes.

Nothing would have salvaged Saturday’s loss–when Adam Wainwright isn’t on, things get ugly in a hurry, but you could argue that the Cardinals would have taken two of three from a depleted but still dangerous Padres squad.  Friday, they lost by one run after issuing 12 walks and hitting three batters.  The two runs the Padres scored in the third were a direct result of Johan Oviedo walking the bases loaded with nobody out, inflamed by Jake Woodford hitting Austin Nola with a pitch.  A third run came after Manny Machado singled in Trent Grisham, who had walked.  The last run scored after the bases were loaded with one out on two walks and a HBP.  It’s fair to say the Cards really gave that one to the Padres.

Last night’s game wasn’t much better.  The Cards got out to a quick lead, but usually consistent Kwang Hyun Kim walked two with the bases loaded after walking one earlier to help load the bases.  (Granted, the fact that Manny Machado knocked over Tommy Edman and a double play wasn’t called due to interference didn’t help much either.)  The other two runs in that inning, at least the sacrifice fly, might not have come if those runners hadn’t been on.  That one inning basically was the game for the Cardinals, though the last run scored because, around two strikeouts, Ryan Helsley walked a guy and then Grisham doubled him home.

Five walks from your staff in one game would feel like a lot, right?  You’d like to see more like three or four.  I don’t have the league stats to determine what the average is, but five starts to feel out of hand.  St. Louis has had 18 games where they have walked five or more.  That means 44% of the time, the staff is wild, at least by that measure.  They’ve walked seven or more seven times.  Eight or more five times.  They have two games where they’ve walked over 10, both of those in the last ten days.  So it’s not like this is being skewed by some early wildness and the club has settled down.

Our friend Joe Schwarz, in response to a Twitter comment of mine, sent along a link to a Baseball Savant search showing how many pitches the Cardinals have thrown that have either been balls or HBP.  You won’t be surprised, given that the Cardinals are first in the league in walks by over 20, are fourth in wild pitches (trailing the leader by just three), and are second to the Cubs in hit batters (by three), that they throw more balls and a higher percentage of balls than anyone else in the league.  They have thrown 130 more of these than second-place Milwaukee and their 39.4% rate is 1.3% higher than Kansas City.  It’s not good.

It gets worse.  Mike Petriello put this Tweet out there last night.

None of those jump out at you as “hey, that was a good team.”  When your closer is throwing balls at a 45.7% clip (updated after his two walks last night), it’s probably a sign that things aren’t going as planned.

It’s not really getting better either.  Eight of May’s 15 games have seen the club walk five or more, including the last three and five of the last six.  It could be a random patch of wildness, but it seems more severe than that.  If what I saw Saturday night out of Springfield is any indication, the problems may go deeper than just the major league team.

What can you do about it?  I don’t know, but Mike Maddux needs to figure out something.  It’s frustrating to lose mid-May games because you are walking too many batters.  It’d be devastating to lose crucial September ones or even October games (with all this, the Cards are still two games up on the Brewers) because of it.


Friday (5-4 loss)

Hero: Nolan Arenado.  Three hits, including a late home run that provided the final margin.  If nothing else, Arenado had him a good weekend in San Diego for the most part.

Goat: Johan Oviedo.  There’s a lot of talent, but there’s obviously some seasoning that still needs to be done.  Five walks and no strikeouts in two innings and started the bullpen usage early on Friday, something that didn’t stop until the end of Sunday’s game.

Notes: When Jake Woodford (two innings, one hit, one walk, no runs for him, though he let two of Oviedo’s score) is arguably your most effective reliever on the night, things aren’t going your way….two hits for Tyler O’Neill, including a big two-run homer in the eighth….two hits also for Tommy Edman, who still hasn’t gotten a day off and it might be starting to show overall but not here.

Saturday (13-3 loss)

Hero: Harrison Bader.  The only batter with two hits and one of them was a home run.  Granted, it was when the score was 10-2, but it’s more than anyone else was doing.

Goat: Adam Wainwright.  In truth, the fact that we aren’t seeing more of these sort of games from Wainwright, given where he is in his career, is honestly remarkable.  Of course, he’s always had a tendency for a blow up game anyway.  Now, though, his margin for error is so small that when it’s off, it snowballs quickly.  Like six runs with three home runs in four innings quickly.

Notes: When Matt Carpenter is your more effective reliever, things really aren’t going your way.  Carpenter struck out twice as a hitter but threw an inning and a third of scoreless ball, allowing two hits.  Like Woodford, he did allow inherited runners to score, but at that point, nobody cared.  A bit ironic that his first pitching performance comes with the bases loaded, where he has been so effective as a hitter in his career….Junior Fernandez was called up before this game, in part to give a fresh arm, but he looked much like the others.  Two walks, two hits, three runs in just one inning of work….Nolan Arenado and Yadier Molina also homered in this one.  I thought Petco was supposed to be a pitcher’s park?

Sunday (5-3 loss)

Hero: Nolan Arenado.  Even though his error started the fourth, his two-run homer in the first got the team quickly on the board and gave them a chance to get out of San Diego with a win.  It just didn’t hold up.  Arenado also had a single and he and Dylan Carlson were the only Cardinals with multiple hits.

Goat: Kwang Hyun Kim.  Kim walked one batter in his first three starts but has walked seven in his last three, including three last night.  The four run inning based on his lack of control did in the Cardinals.

Notes: Genesis Cabrera looked pretty good overall last night.  He came into a bases loaded situation and gave up a sacrifice fly and a single, but settled in after that and at least let his fielders have a chance….Giovanny Gallegos may, as many pointed out, be on a pace for a lot of work this year, but he also hadn’t pitched in this series and there is an off day today, so it’s not surprising he got into this one.  He did his job, going 1.1 innings with no runs….0-5 for Tommy Edman, which sapped some of the offensive possibilities.

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Last updated: 10/06/2022