Pitch Usage Among the Members of the Cardinals Rotation

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Fastballs and curveballs and changeups. Oh my!

Ten days ago, Ben posed the question: "Have the St. Louis Cardinals Changed Their Pitching Approach Under Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist?" It was an interesting topic, and if you have not already checked out his post, I recommend you do so. In the meantime, let's take that topic one step further. What pitches are members of the rotation predominantly using? Where do these usage percentages rank compared to teams around the MLB?


4-seam

2-seam

Cutter

Sinker

Slider

Curve

Change

STL

37.0%

12.5%

9.0%

12.9%

5.9%

14.6%

8.0%

MLB Rank

9th

18th

5th

6th

29th

2nd

26th

Based on the total percentages, it appears the Cardinals rotation is predominantly fastball-curveball when it comes to pitch usage. They ranked in the top ten on three of the four fastball deviations—four-seam (9th), cutter (5th), and sinker (6th). Their curveball usage of 14.6% was second in the MLB behind the Miami Marlins (16.7%). Are these percentages a true representation of the staff as a whole, though? Or is one person (i.e. Waino) carrying the staff in a certain pitch type (i.e. curveball)? Also, did the rookies' (Miller, Wacha, Lyons, Gast, Martinez) pitch usage differ from the veterans'?


IP

4-seam

2-seam

Cutter

Sinker

Slider

Curve

Change

Wainwright

241.2

17.1%

n/a

29.7%

21.9%

n/a

27.3%

3.8%

Lynn

201.2

55.7%

16.9%

n/a

n/a

14.0%

10.2%

3.3%

Miller

173.1

73.6%

n/a

1.8%

n/a

n/a

18.6%

6.0%

Westbrook

110.2

n/a

n/a

11.5%

71.9%

n/a

6.9%

9.5%

Kelly

87.0

1.1%

66.0%

n/a

n/a

10.1%

8.7%

13.8%

Garcia

55.1

19.7%

24.7%

9.8%

n/a

21.4%

8.6%

15.7%

Wacha

54.0

69.2%

n/a

2.1%

n/a

n/a

5.5%

23.1%

Lyons

43.2

31.4%

32.0%

n/a

n/a

19.5%

5.8%

11.2%

Gast

12.1

46.7%

10.9%

n/a

n/a

n/a

8.2%

34.2%

Martinez

4.2

46.4%

36.1%

n/a

n/a

n/a

14.4%

3.1%

As I expected, some pitch types were falsely elevated by one or two members of the staff. The rotation's total curveball percentage may have been 14.6%, but is this really an accurate representation of the rotation as a whole? Upon further review, it appears Wainwright's 27.3% and Miller's 18.6% had a lot to do with this curveball percentage because excluding Martinez (who had only one start), no other pitcher threw a curveball more than 10.5% of the time. Without Wainwright and Miller, the team's curveball percentage would have been 8.4% and tied with the Rays for 22nd in the league.

According to the totals, the staff threw a cutter 9.0% of the time (5th most in the MLB). However, Wainwright's 29.7% over 241.2 innings pitched was the main reason the cutter percentage was so high. What about sinker percentage (12.9%, 6th in the MLB)? This, like curveball percentage, was dominated by just two pitchers: Westbrook (71.9%) and Wainwright (21.9%).

What about the rookies? How did their pitch usage compare to that of the veterans? If you combine the two main fastball deviations (4-seam, 2-seam) together and take innings pitched into account, the five rookies threw fastballs 70.7% of the time. This percentage is much higher than Wainwright's (17.1%), Westbrook's (0%), and Garcia's (44.4%). It is slightly higher than Kelly's 67.1% but slightly lower than Lynn's 72.6%.

Is there a philosophy change occurring as a new wave of starters enter the rotation or are they just utilizing their best stuff? After all, I don't think many would argue that Miller, Wacha, and Martinez have three of the best fastballs on the staff. However, I also think most rookies/young pitchers come into the league throwing more fastballs and as they gain experience and/or lose fastball velocity, they look to their secondary pitches more often.

Credit to the PITCHf/x System on Fangraphs.com for the data used in this post.


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