Since last Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals are 5-2. They won a series against a non-Phillies team for the first time May 10th when they swept the Miami Marlins. They also had their first better than .500 week since May 8th to 14th. The last month and a half of baseball was terrible, but after beating two of the top teams in the NL, maybe it’s turning around.
The Cardinals have seven games left before the All-Star break. They start a four game series against the Marlins tonight, followed by a weekend series against the Mets. If St. Louis manages to win both series, they’ll .500 (or better) going into the break, and this season will feel a lot different.
So, with that, let’s get into the stats you need to know.
Wacha gets back on top.
Michael Wacha made two starts this week, the first in a June 26th makeup game against the Reds and the second to start the series against the Nationals. With a 0.75 ERA over those two games, he tied his best two-game stretch since August 8th, 2015. What was the difference?
If we’re asking Wacha (or, rather, Jenifer Langosch asking Wacha for her game recap), it was his release point: “I was back on the top of the ball.” And the data supports Wacha’s feel:
Wacha’s vertical release point against the Reds measured at 6.88 feet. That’s the most vertical he’s been this year. It’s the most vertical he’s been since May of 2016. On July 1st, his vertical release point measured at 6.87 feet. Wacha’s getting on top of the ball again, allowing him to work on a downward plane.
Is Grichuk making an adjustment?
Mostly everyone knew that Grichuk’s month long demotion wasn’t going to change who he is as a hitter. Since returning, he’s struck out 12 times in 37 plate appearances, or 32.4% of his PAs. His walk rate is only 5.4%. Both of those are basically in line with his career averages. In terms of plate discipline and contact ability, nothing is different.
But in terms of power, he’s back. Isolated slugging percentage (ISO) measures how far above a player’s batting average his slugging percentage is. Essentially, it’s a power ratio. The league average ISO this year is .170. Before his demotion, Grichuk had only a .156 ISO, compared to a career rate of .300. Since returning, his ISO is at .314, which puts him in the top 40 among 230 qualified players since June 25th.
That ISO has helped Grichuk to an exactly average 100 wRC+ since returning despite a .229 batting average and .250 BABIP. His three homers and nine RBI have made him seem more impactful. This one particularly felt huge, and it swung the game win probability by 47.5%.
If Grichuk made any adjustment while he was down in the minors, it was with his hand placement. Comparing an at-bat from this May (on left) to his June return (right), we notice a slight difference.
The difference is very subtle, but look at Grichuk’ top hand. In the May at-bat, we have an unobstructed view of his top hand. In the June at-bat, our view of his top hand is partially blocked by his head. You can also see the difference where the bat cuts through the “M” in Busch Stadium on the backstop. This difference is really small, and I can’t say whether it’s intentional or how much difference it would make. But it looks just a little different, and it’s coincided with the return of Grichuk’s power.
Molina’s 0-4 night ends streak.
Earlier this season, Yadier Molina had a 16-game hitting streak. It was one of the worst hitting streaks of all time. During that streak, he had a slash line of only .275/.282/.464 for a 91 wRC+. Hitting streaks are supposed to mean above average production, yet Molina was 9% below average during that streak. It was a weird streak.
His latest streak, which ended on Sunday Night Baseball, was more normal. This time, he hit .333/.354/.492 for a 120 wRC+. A 3.1% walk rate held his overall line down, but we’ll take what we can get.
Molina was also selected to his 8th All-Star game on Sunday Night. He was chosen as a reserve, which means other players voted him in. Statistically, I don’t think he deserved the nod. His 0.9 WAR ranks only 9th among all NL catchers. At the plate, he is tied for the lowest wRC+ among selected NL hitters at 83.
What his selection does indicate is that Molina’s name still carries weight across the MLB. He’s earned a reputation as one of the best catchers in the game, and the players still respect that reputation. So Yadi is an All-Star, and congratulations to him for the accomplishment.
Thanks for reading!