World Series: Has St. Louis Cardinals Starter Joe Kelly's Luck Run Out?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the postseason, Joe Kelly has revealed himself to be what his strikeout and walk rates indicated he was during the regular season.

In Saturday's World Series Game 3 against the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's trust in Joe Kelly will once again be put to the test.

As discussed earlier this October, Kelly strikes out fewer batters than average and issues more walks than average. Despite being a below-average starter in terms of inducing strikeouts and handing out bases-on-balls, Kelly had an inexplicably high strand rate of 82.4% over 124 regular season innings pitched.

Kelly's postseason has seen his run prevention numbers line up more closely with his true pitching talent. One would have expected that Kelly's high LOB% would drop and his ERA would rise as a result. That is precisely what has happened.

The following chart contains Kelly's regular season and postseason stats.


Joe Kelly

K%

BB%

HR/FB

LOB%

BABIP

ERA

FIP

xFIP

Regular Season

14.9%

8.3%

8.9%

82.4%

.289

2.69

4.01

4.19

Postseason

18.1%

8.3%

16.7%

72.1%**

.325

4.41

4.33*

3.75*


*I have changed the table data from when this post was published. I initially calculated Kelly's postseason FIP and xFIP myself, using 3.20 as the constant as given on the Fangraphs FIP Glossary page. However, the Fangraphs Guts! page has the 2013 constant as 3.048, so I changed the table, which lowered Kelly's postseason FIP from 4.49 to 4.33 and his postseason xFIP from 3.90 to 3.75. Thanks to WillieMcGeesTwin for pointing this out.

**I calculated Kelly's postseason LOB% myself, using Fangraphs' formula.

Kelly has allowed 18 hits in 16 1/3 postseason innings to go along with 6 walks and one hit batsmen (which fractured Hanley Ramirez's rib). Allowing 25 baserunners in 16 1/3 innings is problematic. Nine of these baserunners have crossed home plate. That's why Kelly has a postseason ERA of 4.41.

However, there is more to Kelly's postseason mediocrity than his LOB% lining up with his peripherals. Kelly's HR/FB rate has doubled (although his two homers allowed in October were only solo shots). Kelly's fortunes on balls the other club hits into play have also soured. But it's difficult to explain this development away as mere bad luck.

Opponents posted a .289 BABIP against Kelly during the regular season, with a 20.7% line drive rate. During his postseason starts, opposing batsmen have hit liners at a 25% clip en route to a .327 BABIP against the righty. Opponents are striking more of Kelly's offerings sharply and enjoying success against him as a result.

During the regular season, opposing batters posted the following line against Kelly: .259/.326/.367/.694.

During the postseason, opposing hitters have batted for the following line against him: .281/.352/.406/.758.

During his two postseasons of managing, Matheny has shown a tendency to give his starters a long leash. In NLCS Game 5, this inclination bit the Cardinals as Matheny left the struggling Kelly in for five innings, which allowed the Dodgers to tack on two additional runs via dinger. The Cardinals wound up losing the game by two runs. It will be interesting to see how long Matheny is willing to let Kelly pitch against the Red Sox in World Series Game 3.

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