Welcome to the season premiere of The StatCap, where I’ll review the past week in St. Louis Cardinals baseball with quick hit analysis and notes through a Statcast and Pitchf/x lens. The StatCap will be run weekly, sometimes more if the St. Louis Cardinals play enough good baseball. It might also receive a better name in the future. Anyways, let’s get into it.
Randal Grichuk sent down to A ball
News broke Monday morning that Jose Martinez was recalled to the MLB club. To make room for him on the 25-man roster, Randal Grichuk was optioned to Palm Beach. Last week, I wrote about the massive holes in Grichuk’s swing. Unfortunately, Grichuk’s bat-to-ball skills never developed, and “strike zone management” will be the focus of his Florida trip.
Thus far in 2017, Grichuk is one of only five qualified hitters with a swing rate above 50%, a contact rate below 75%, and a .160 isolated slugging or worse (~average or worse). The average wRC+ among these players is only 75; Grichuk’s sits at 71. That’s bad.
Leake lives on the edge
With his 8 inning, 1 run performance on the 24th, Mike Leake lowered his ERA to 1.91 and retook the NL lead from Clayton Kershaw. His 2.99 FIP trails only Stephen Strasburg in the National League. Mike Leake has been legitimately great so far, and command is the big reason why:
Mike Leake is throwing 11.5% of his pitches on the corners of the zone… Highest % of any pitcher (Min 500 pitches) pic.twitter.com/Gda4zCOxEh
— Daren Willman (@darenw) May 27, 2017
Leake has masterfully limited contact quality so far this year by keeping more pitches on the edges of the zone. Paging through his pitch heatmaps, there’s not one with a core over the middle of the zone. He’s picking away at the black and succeeding.
During the offseason, those hoping for a rebound from Leake looked at his peripheral metrics, which were arguably the best of his career. So far in 2017, he’s stepping it up another notch. His groundball rate of 54.3% would be a career best, a 4.2% walk rate nearly matches his career low, and a 17.7% strikeout rate is near his career high.
It’s Memorial Day, and the two St. Louis Cardinals with the best chance at an All-Star bid are Mike Leake and Jedd Gyorko. Go figure.
Molina goes streaking
Usually, when a player has a 16 game hitting streak, you’d say they’re on fire. That isn’t really the case for Yadier Molina, who only owns a .275 batting average to go with a .745 OPS over his “hot” streak. I wasn’t able to find much about the worst 15+ game hitting streaks ever, but I did find this article from 2008. Based on their findings, Molina’s .275 average during his streak is the second worst on record.
Diaz continues to hack
I commented very early on in the year that Aledmys Diaz was suffering from an overaggressive approach this year. After a period where it looked like he was getting back on track, Diaz is, again, swinging at almost literally everything.
Swinging at bad pitches has obviously sapped Diaz of his OBP skill, but also of his power. His average exit velocity is down, his ISO has sagged from .210 to .147, and his BABIP is down to .285. That number is about what you’d expect given his quality of contact, so until he improves his approach we shouldn’t expect his BABIP to climb. He needs to adjust, or the St. Louis Cardinals might find themselves looking for a shortstop.
Birds dig “DeJong” Ball
The St. Louis Cardinals clubbed four home runs on Sunday, all solo shots. The last of those was launched off the bat of Paul DeJong, making his MLB debut as a pinch hitter.
— Nicholas Childress (@NChill17) May 29, 2017
While homering in your first at-bat is always noteworthy, DeJong’s moonshot had a 40 degree launch angle. That makes it the highest home run hit by a Cardinal in 2017.
Thanks for checking out the debut addition of the StatCap. If you saw any fun notes I missed or have a better suggestion for what I name the series (seriously), let me know on Twitter @zjgifford.