The St. Louis Cardinals played more bad baseball than good (again) this week. Their playoff odds are down to 16.1% which still feels too high. FanGraphs now gives the Cardinals a 1.0% chance at winning the World Series, which also feels too high.
Yet, while Cardinals baseball has been tougher to watch lately, I focus on good things in the StatCap. Maybe because good things are easier to find.
Luke Voit debuts, gets pegged.
Luke Voit made his debut on Sunday Night Baseball as a pinch hitter. The seventh and last pitch he saw pegged him in the back at 95.7 mph. He thought it was funny. It was the third fastest pitch to hit a Cardinals player this season and the second fastest HBP in the 7th inning (Greg Garcia was nailed by a 96.9 mph fastball in the 7th on April 12th).
The Cardinals have been hit by four pitches that clocked at 95+ this season, tied for 6th most in the MLB. In a division oddity, the Brewers rank first in this category with 8 HBP at 95+ mph, the Pirates rank second (6), and the Reds tie for third (5). The division, as a whole, has been hit by 25 pitches at 95+ mph – no other division has more than 15.
Strangely, this doesn’t appear to be the result of a division-wide philosophy to pitch hard and in (although Pittsburgh is known for this strategy). While the NLC pitchers have hit 18 batters at 95+ mph, they trail the NL East, whose pitchers have hit 20.
One last oddity: the top three divisions in this category are all in the National League. So, in the league where pitchers have to take a bat to the plate, they hit batters with more heat. Makes sense.
Tommy Pham does it all.
Tommy Pham is doing it all right now for St. Louis. Pham is the team’s best hitter. He leads the team in steals and BsR (baserunning component of WAR). He leads all Cardinals outfielders with seven defensive runs saved and six outfield assists. Seven DRS puts him in a tie for 13th among all MLB outfielders, and six outfield assists puts him in a tie for third.
This year, Statcast has given us a new way to look at outfield plays with their catch probability metric. A five star catch is a play where the fielder had a 25% chance or less of making the play. Only 56 five star catches have been made all season. Pham now has the Cardinals first and only five star catch. Here it is (probably):
I say probably because the catch probability numbers aren’t actually public, beyond an aggregated leaderboard. We’re not allowed to see the catch probability on a given batted ball unless one of the MLB-associated writers uses the data in an article or tweets about it.
On this play, Jenifer Langosch tweeted that Pham’s play had a catch probability of 26%, which would make it a four star catch. However, Statcast data is notorious for small initial errors in its data and for silently re-adjusting that data. To my knowledge, via the catch probability leaderboard, Pham did not have a five star catch until after this game. So it’s probably that play. If it’s not, maybe it’s this game saving dive from a couple weeks back.
Tommy Pham now has as many five star catches as Kyle Schwarber.
Grichuk returns from demotion, makes Cardinals Statcast history.
Randal Grichuk made his return to St. Louis on Sunday and was slotted right into the cleanup spot. Up until the game, Grichuk had a 69 wRC+ and a 0.22 BB/K ratio. That’s not good, and is arguably worse when your strikeout rate hangs around 30%. Grichuk was returning from a demotion to A-ball and then AAA. In AAA, he posted an even worse 0.15 BB/K ratio with a strikeout rate of 29.9%. But, immediately upon his return, he was slotted in the cleanup spot. He did nothing to quell those specific concerns, striking out twice in five plate appearances.
Grichuk did, at least, make it look like a justifiable decision, going 2-5 with two runs scored and the longest home run by the St. Louis Cardinals in the Statcast era.
This home run was actually the second farthest home run at Busch this year, bested by that Keon Broxton moonshot we would all rather forget. Those are the only two home runs hit farther than 465 feet at Busch Stadium since the start of 2015.
This is what can happen when you miss low and in to Grichuk. It’s what makes Grichuk such a tantalizing player. The terrible BB/K ratio is what keeps holding him back. At this point, we know who he is: a league average (maybe slightly better) hitter with extreme peaks and valleys. Are the hot streaks worth the periods of offensive void?
Thanks for reading. Someday, we’ll be talking more about winning baseball.