I am a fan of Rock M Nation where Bill C. puts together a study hall on Mizzou games. Well, I like the idea so much that I've put together my first "study hall" where I will, as time allows, break down the starting pitching performance, since I find it more fascinating than explaining how Holliday is not the clutch. If the formatting is screwed up, I apologize. I cannot figure how to separate the paragraphs, which makes this harder to read.
On with it.
Jake Westbrook's importance to the 2012 Cardinals cannot possibly be overstated. A ground ball pitcher, Westbrook actually pitched decently in 2011, but his numbers were skewered by a pretty terrible middle infield defense. Despite having most of his peripherals in line with career norms, Westbrook saw his ERA inflate to 4.66 despite having an xFIP around 4.
With Carpenter down, Wainwright in the process of returning to his groove, Garcia being a bit fragile and Kyle Lohse being Kyle Lohse, Westbrook has to be better for the Cardinals this season if he wants to contend and keep pitching past 2012.
Monday night's start against the Reds started out grimly. After getting a quick out against Brandon Phillips, walked Zack Cozart (only his second base on ball) and Votto. He walked Chris Heisey and Drew Stubbs (also hard to do) in the second inning.
Westbrook struggled to find a consistent release point. He was throwing sinkers, but they were all over the map.
Al Hrabosky is fond of saying that sinker ball pitchers need "tired arms" to be effective. Hrabosky says a lot of things, most of which I don't believe, but Westbrook started finding his groove as the pitches added up.
Using PitchFX, I charted what pitches Westbrook went to when he had two strikes.
Bottom 2nd, Heisey on first, Stubbs down 0-2:
Pitch 3: Sinker (ball)
Pitch 4: Slider (ball)
Pitch 5: Sinker (ball)
Pitch 6: Sinker (foul)
Pitch 7: Sinker (foul)
Pitch 8: Sinker (ball)
Westbrook simply couldn't put Stubbs away; a bad sign because Stubbs strikes out a lot. But, he retired Hanigan and Bailey to bring up Phillips. Westbrook quickly got ahead 0-2.
Pitch 3: Slider (foul)
Pitch 4: curve (strikeout)
The curve was seldom used by Westbrook, throwing just eight, but getting seven strikes.
By the third inning, Westbrook got himself straight. He fell behind five of the first six batters he faced, but then got ahead of the next six. And when Westbrook got ahead, he was hard to hit.
Next for Westbrook was getting the ball down. In the first three innings, he had just two ground ball outs. In the fourth, the Reds put two balls in play, both grounders. One was a Furcal error, one was a ground out to Freese.
In the fifth inning, Westbrook got up 0-2 on Hanigan and finished him with a ground out. With two outs, Phillips finally got a hit for the Reds. He fell behind 0-2.
Pitch 3: Sinker (foul)
Pitch 4: Slider (ball)
Pitch 5: Curve (Single)
The pitch Phillips hit was a curve placed perfectly on the outside corner. It was a good piece of hitting:
After the debacle that saw Phillips score from first on an error, Westbrook found himself facing Votto with two outs and a 1-1 count:
Pitch 3: Slider (ball)
Pitch 4: Slider (strike)
Pitch 5: Sinker (strike looking)
Westbrook left the pitch up, but Votto got crossed up and failed to deliver:
With two strikes against the Reds, Westbrook threw 10 sinkers, 8 sliders and 5 curves.
-He retired three batters on sinkers
-He retired two batters on curves and two batters on sliders
Obviously the key for Westbrook next time out will be to get himself right early on. He avoided a lot of damage, but the overall results were good. Look how efficient he was after those two nerve-wracking innings:
35 pitches (16 strikes)
53 pitches (39 strikes)
He had four nine-pitch innings and had he not made a foolish error in the fifth inning would have saved himself some pitches.
Pitching Statistics (per PitchFX)