One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Matthew Liberatore
Season stats: 2-2, 5.97 ERA, 9 G, 7 GS, 34.2 IP, 42 H, 5 HR, 18 BB, 28 K, 5.02 FIP, 1.731 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, -0.5 bWAR, 0.0 fWAR
Statcast: .357 xwOBA, 8.8 barrel %, 91.2 exit velocity, 49.2 hard hit %, 17.4 K %, 11.2 BB %
Best Statcast category: Curve Spin (84th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Fastball Spin (15th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 1, Goat 3
Positives: Made his major league debut May 21st against Pittsburgh….threw five scoreless innings against the Brewers in his next start, picking up his first win….had three starts where he didn’t allow a run….lefties put up a .615 OPS against him….had a 2.19 ERA at home, but only made three appearances there….had a 3.72 ERA in May….did not allow a run in the two games he won….shut down third place hitters to the tune of .211/.211/.263….kept batters to a .506 OPS when he was ahead in the count….allowed a .171 average with runners in scoring position….had a .451 OPS with two outs and RISP….had a .569 OPS against in high leverage situations.
Negatives: Never pitched past the fifth inning in a start….gave up five runs twice and four runs twice as well….righties had a 1.010 OPS against him….batters hit over .300 against him in both halves of the season….batters hit .359 against him in three July outings….pitched five relief innings and had a 9.00 ERA….allowed a .975 OPS against when getting between three and five runs of support….second place hitters had a 1.589 OPS against him on the strength of three homers….if batters swung at the first pitch, they eventually hit .357….surrendered a .400/.583/.844 line when he was behind in the count….had seven walks in 36 plate appearances leading off an inning….batters hit .304 on his first 25 pitches….three of his homers allowed came after 50 pitches….gave up six runs in six innings to the Cubs….had a 5.17 ERA in 22 starts in Memphis.
Overview: Liberatore really had a back-and-forth season and I’m not talking about his trips up and down I-55. Both in the majors and in the minors, he tended to alternate good starts with rough ones. In his first six major league starts, the run total allowed was 4-0-4-0-5-0. His September starts in Memphis had a similar pattern: 7-0-4-0-4. I’m no Kyle Reis so I have no idea what to make of that. Maybe it’s a consistency thing, maybe it’s just random, maybe he adjusts one thing and then batters figure out another. There’s no telling but I think it’s safe to say that the initial debut of Liberatore wasn’t what Cardinals fans were hoping for. There was an expectation that he’d come up and at least be strong enough to stay up. Instead, given his struggles and the other issues around the rotation, he spent more time in Memphis than in the bigs.
Outlook: There were already some questions about whether Liberatore was going to reach the levels people had hyped up for him before his debut season and those questions are going to be stronger this offseason. However, he just turned 23 at the beginning of the month and last year was his second go-around at Memphis after completely skipping most of the lower minors. I would expect that we’ll see a similar usage pattern for Liberatore in 2023. He’ll spent much of the year at AAA while occasionally getting shots at the big leagues when a spot starter is needed or if someone goes down to injury. Trading him now would be selling low so I can’t imagine he’d be part of any winter deal but I guess you never know. We’ll see if another year of experience can help him come back next season with better results.