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4.5 games back. Hitting and pitching resurrected

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Kip Wells continues to rise from the dead, and puts together another decent outing. Considering that it looked like he completely unraveled in the first inning, it's all the more amazing that he was able to get his act together and put a decent game in the books, but that seems to be exactly what he did. In fact, it seems like the entire Cardinals pitching staff has been abducted by aliens, who have decided to grace us by replacing them with robots designed to pitch baseballs. Since Joel Piñeiro has made his first start with the Cardinals, the team's starters have gone from allowing a .795 OPS with a 1.61 K/BB ratio against opposing hitters to allowing a .671 OPS with a 4.2 K/BB ratio, per the baseball musings day to day database. Most ridiculously, Kip Wells has gone from his MLB worst first half ERA of 5.92 to having a 3.63 ERA in the second half, increasing his K/BB ratio from 1.5 to 1.9.

Some of this is clearly due to facing the relatively light hitting Dodgers and Padres in the last seven games, and some of it might just be some sort of midseason blurp that will soon get swallowed up by the overall regression to the mean, but I still think that there is some reality to it. In particular, aside from Looper, it doesn't look like the current guys in the rotation are winning games with smoke and mirrors--Wainwright is throwing that big curveball, Wells and Piñeiro are showing really great movement on their pitches, and Reyes is still changing speeds and hiding that changeup very effectively. And the team seems to have not given up when they get behind, all of a sudden.

Just look at last night--I still got my feeling of dread when Wells took the mound and immediately proceeded to cough up two home runs and three runs, but instead of pulling his first half routine of crumbling horribly and allowing endless gopherballs to end up in the Brewers' bullpen, he got out of the inning, and proceeded to put five zeroes on the board, giving the offense time to work.

I doubt that everyone in the rotation is going to continue to show this level of effectiveness, and I would assume that their August walk rate is not sustainable (10 BB in 248 AB), but I really do think that the pitching staff that we've seen in August is a bit closer to the rotation's actual ability than the one that we've been seeing for most of the year.

Finally, I just wanted to mention that, since Tony has started batting the pitcher in the eighth slot against Washington on the 4th, the team has gone from hitting at a .270/.335/.399 rate to hitting at a .303/.374/.429 clip. Obviously, that increase can't be attributed solely to having the pitcher bat one spot up, but several analyses by our patron have indicated that, in fact, it does make sense to shift the entire lineup up by one person, and have that pitcher bat in the eighth spot. This was in the context of the 2004 Cardinals, and their mega-lineup, but perhaps the logic makes sense in general. If Tony keeps it up, and the team offense stays this solid, I wonder if other teams will try and follow Tony's lead, because I would love to have more data to evaluate whether or not this actually is a workable lineup over the long run.