Todd Wellemeyer has always had some pretty strong platoon splits. For his career, there’s a 74 point OPS difference between righties and lefties. His career slash lines against righties are .248/.333/.400 and against lefties they’re .271/.356/.451. So far this season, however, the platoon splits are more like the Great Schism. Well, that’s not entirely true. Righties are hitting him this year better than lefties ever have (.319/.364/.431). Lefites, however, are turning him into Esteban Yan. They’re mashing the Colonel at a .351/.413/.564 clip. That’s an OPS of nearly 1.000 for left-handed hitters.
Now, a week or so ago I postulated that things would even out as Wellemeyer saw more righties and fewer lefties. Essentially, I chalked up his problems to small sample sizes. Tuesday’s game against the Pirates encapsulated Wellemeyer’s problems against lefties. Wellemeyer’s had 7 starts so far this season, 4 of which have been pretty bad. Tuesday Wellemeyer was relatively successful against righties. In his 4.1 IP, righties were 2-9 against him w/ 2 BBs and 1 K. Lefties, on the other hand, belted him at 7-13 w/ a 3B and 2 HR. He did strike them out 3 times but when the BA is over .500 and the SLG is 1.154, those 3 Ks don’t mean a whole lot. The bottom line is that if lefties continue to pound him the way they have, it’s going to be a really long season for Wellemeyer.
I assumed that things would begin to level off – that he would face more teams w/ more righties and fewer lefties and, as a result, his performance would begin to look somewhat better. But if lefties continue to pound him all over the park, wouldn’t you put every lefty you could in the lineup against him? He may not see righties much more frequently than he is right now simply b/c managers may choose to play those platoonable lefties as often as they can.
Now, it’s rare when I find the witty give-and-take between Dan and Al to be particularly worthwhile – in fact, I quite often mute the TV and listen to some music while I watch the game. But Tuesday night Al mentioned something during the game that stood out. He mentioned that he thought that Wellemeyer’s curveball didn’t have a lot of bite – that it seemed to be rolling as it approached the plate. The significance of this is that, b/c he’s been facing so many more lefties, he’s throwing many more curveballs than in year’s past. It’s still not a major part of his repertoire – 3.7% this year – but he rarely threw one in the past and if he can’t get it over for a strike or hitters are crushing it every time he tosses one up there, it could be a much bigger problem than it appears to be.
Wellemeyer’s problems are symptomatic of the Cards’ problems this month. Since May began, the Cards have yielded 61 runs in 11 games – 5.5 per game. We’ve really only had 2 good starts – both of them, strangely enough, by Wellemeyer. Since May 2, we’ve given up 59 runs in 10 games – nearly 6 runs a game and have only given up fewer than 5 runs twice, in the 2 games against the feckless Pirates at Busch. Now we’re looking square in the face at being swept by the same Pirates in Pittsburgh.
Clearly, the team is really scuffling right now. Not only is our 2nd best (best?) starter on the DL, but we also have 3 of our starting 8 on the DL. They’re also our #2, #4, and #5 hitters so it’s not like the injured players are particularly fungible. Thurston and Barden have come back down to Earth and, for the time being anyway, we’re going to be starting either Shane Robinson or Nick Stavinoha in the OF. Maybe we’re better off putting Skip back in the OF for a week or so (until Ankiel’s healthy) and starting Barden or Thurston every day at the keystone.
Unfortunately, hitting and pitching aren’t the only problems the Cards are dealing with right now. The defense has been atrocious. Only 1 team – Washington – has a larger gap between the number of runs the team has given up per game and their ERA. We’re currently yielding 4.61 runs per game but our team ERA is just 4.16. This means that we’re giving up nearly .50 unearned runs per game. The biggest culprits, according to fangraphs, so far have been Skip (in both the infield AND the outfield), Khalil Greene, and Chris Duncan. Now, say what you want about UZR and small sample sizes and all the rest, but it’s inarguable that the team has taken a step backward defensively. We’re 11th in the league in defensive efficiency and, as I mentioned, 15th in unearned runs given up per game. Perhaps it’s too early to blame specific players, but the team, as a whole, isn’t as strong defensively as it was a year ago and it’s not just b/c Troy Glaus hasn’t taken the field yet.
I’ll have a game thread up in time for the witching hour. If we get swept by the Pirates, I may have to toss back a few Franklins!