Exit Interview 2021: Jake Woodford

As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning.  Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review.  Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season.  As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!

Player: Jake Woodford

Season stats: 3-4, 3.99 ERA, 26 G, 67.2 IP, 66 H, 7 HR, 25 BB, 50 K, 25 inherited runners, 15 inherited runners scored, 4.50 FIP, 1.345 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 0.3 bWAR, 0.3 fWAR

Statcast: .331 xwOBA, 5.7 barrel %, 90.3 exit velocity, 41.0 hard hit %, 17.1 K %, 8.5 BB %

Best Statcast category: Barrel % (82nd percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Chase Rate (1st percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 4, Goat 1

Grade: B

Positives: Started the year on the active roster, though he was the first player sent to Memphis (well, the alternate camp at Sauget, actually)….bounced back and forth between AAA and the majors but may have figured something out in the last go-around, as he had a 2.51 ERA in 28.2 innings in September….five of his eight starts came in the last month while the Cards were fighting for a playoff spot….his two best outings were both against the Brewers, as he shut them out for 5.1 innings and five innings, respectively….righties slashed .208/.325/.300 against him….had a 3.46 ERA on the road….only allowed two homers in the second half despite throwing 15 more innings than the first….had a 0.68 ERA in the three games he won….had a 2.79 ERA when receiving six or more runs of support….leadoff hitters had a .640 OPS against him….batters hit .232 when leading off an inning….had a 1.86 ERA in the second inning….the Brewers had a .379 OPS against him.

Negatives: First set of starts didn’t go as well, as he posted a 5.93 ERA in three July starts before returning to Memphis….in his final two starts of the year the Cubs reached him for a .300/.356/.375 line….lefties hit .317 against him….had a 4.85 ERA in 10 home games….had a 4.62 ERA in the first half and walked more than he did in the second half in fewer innings….had a 5.84 ERA in nine June games….he walked more batters as a reliever but gave up fewer hits, so the lines weren’t that much different….had a 4.76 ERA with two or fewer runs of support….second place hitters slashed .414/.455/.552 against him….batters had a 1.097 OPS on the first pitch….the first batter he faced had a 1.012 OPS….walked the opposing pitcher twice….batters had an .865 OPS with two outs in an inning….gave up a .906 OPS with runners in scoring position….only had 2.2 seventh innings but had an ERA of 10.12 in them….batters had an .847 OPS on pitches 51-75….had an 8.10 ERA on two days’ rest as a reliever….had an .824 OPS against in day games.

Overview: I still don’t know what to make of Woodford.  He’s never going to be a big contributor, I don’t believe, but his starts in September were big and helpful.  He’s still relatively young (just over 25) and it’s likely he’s still got some development in him.  The strikeouts aren’t there and they aren’t coming, given that Woodford sits in the low 90s, but he threw his sinker more in 2021 than he did in 2020 and in front of this defense, that’s got a chance to make you serviceable.  The club obviously isn’t counting on him to be a big part of the team–note the signing of Steven Matz–but he made a case for himself in September, depending on how much you want to rely on it.

Outlook: Woodford still has two option years left so there’s a good chance he’ll ride the Memphis shuttle again like he did this season.  He’ll probably fill in if the rotation gets an injury or be an extra arm when the bullpen is worn down.  A bit of a Swiss army knife–you wouldn’t want to depend on it to save your life, but it can be helpful in many ways.

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