The season may be young, but there’s already terabytes of data sitting around waiting to be analyzed. MLB’s Statcast provides incredibly detailed information that can lead to some surprising conclusions. Let’s see how some Cardinals players grade out in the new data.
Matt Carpenter’s Exit Velocity
You don’t need to run a bunch of complicated equations to tell you that Matt Carpenter is the best hitter on the Cardinals. Luckily, the complicated equations that are run confirm this fact. Carpenter’s average exit velocity of 92 mph is easily tops on the team, and ranks him 26th best in the MLB.
Even though he’s off to a slow start (.236/.362/.364), it’s encouraging to see his name mentioned alongside players like Francisco Lindor (91.7 mph), Corey Seager (92.1 mph) and Bryce Harper (92.4 mph).
It’s clear that Carpenter has been making solid contact on a consistent basis this year, it’s probably just a matter of those balls finding grass rather than gloves.
While not a Statcast metric, Carpenter’s .289 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is significantly below his career mark of .329. This suggests that we’ll see significant improvement (in terms of results) moving forward.
Matt Bowman’s Fastball
No, I’m not here to tell you that Matt Bowman actually throws a 110 mph fastball or anything like that. While his velocity is middling at best, he’s been able to have great success so far this season through a minor change to his repertoire.
He has yet to allow an earned run in 2017, and has cut his walk rate down to 1.04 BB/9. In 2016, Statcast measured Bowman’s pitch selection breakdown as it appears below:
Nothing specifically stands out from 2016, but it’s worth noting that between his two-seam (FT) and his four-seam fastball (FF), he threw some sort of fastball 63.2% of the time. Fast forward to 2017, and his pitch breakdown looks like this:
First thing you’ll notice right away is the complete disappearance of Bowman’s two-seamer. In 2016, it was his most thrown pitch, yet he’s thrown a two-seam fastball just 10 times this year.
He’s basically abandoned it in favor of his four-seamer, which he throws almost half of the time. No word from Bowman on what’s prompted this change, but his improved control can surely be attributed to using a straighter fastball.
Jedd Gyorko’s Opposite Field Hitting
As with any power hitter, the expectation is that they’ll do most of their damage to the pull side of the field. In Jedd Gyorko’s case, that would be left field.
A strange thing stood out when taking a look at his data, though. It’s clear that the book on Gyorko says to keep the ball down and away from him. Just take a look at how pitchers attack him (2016 on left, 2017 on right):
The strategy hasn’t really changed year over year. What has changed, though, is Gyorko’s approach in looking to drive balls the other way. Take a look at his spray charts from 2016 (left) vs. 2017 (right):
Gyorko is going the other way with regularity, and it’s paying off in a big way. More specifically, his Oppo% has increased from 21.6% in 2016 to 32.3% in 2017 according to FanGraphs.
With this sort of adjustment being made, it’s possible Gyorko will no longer be a one-dimensional power threat like we’ve become accustomed to.
Trevor Rosenthal Fastball Velocity
One of the most encouraging sights from 2017 has been Trevor Rosenthal’s triumphant return to being a shutdown reliever. While he doesn’t have his closer gig back (yet), what has returned is his signature high 90s velocity.
In fact, Trevor Rosenthal currently leads all pitchers with an average four-seam fastball velocity of 99.1 mph. That includes noted flamethrower Aroldis Chapman’s fastball.
Furthermore, Rosenthal has thrown this season’s fastest pitch, albeit with Chapman excluded this time. At 101.1 mph, Rosenthal’s four-seam fastball to John Jaso on April 19th was the fastest non-Chapman pitch recorded this season.
Jaso did well to even foul it off, and won the battle by reaching on a single, but Rosenthal won the war by locking down a 2-1 Cardinals victory for his first save of the year.
Adam Wainwright’s 2-Strike Struggles
Cardinals Nation has been fretting about Wainwright’s possible demise since 2016, and his early performance in 2017 hasn’t done much to quell those fears.
The interesting thing that stood out about Wainwright’s 2017 season has been the hard contact he’s been giving up with 2 strikes. Take a look at Wainwright’s average exit velocities yielded by count:
On 0-2 and 1-2 specifically, batters are having no trouble making solid contact and battling out of that hole. In all, with two strikes on a batter, batted balls of of Wainwright have an average exit velocity of 89.17 mph. All other pitchers this year yield an average exit velocity of 86.59 mph with two strikes.
That ~2.5 mph difference might not seem significant, but it very well might be. Perhaps this speaks to Wainwright’s inability to put batters away, or maybe his off-speed pitches have lost some bite.
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