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The fastballs of the St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals pitchers thrive on their fastballs—both fourseamers and twoseamers/sinkers. Let's take a closer look at each one of them using information from BrooksBaseball.

Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The pitching staff of the St. Louis Cardinals, like most major league pitching staffs, was largely dependent upon the fastball in 2014. In fact, three of the team's pitchers (S. Miller, L. Lynn, and C. Martinez) threw a version of their fastball at least 70% of the time. When comparing the value associated with individual pitches in a given repertoire, one can always turn to Fangraphs which provides a fun concept called "pitch value."

On the surface, "pitch value" seems like it could be a rather useful measure, but it is not, by any means, flawless. First and foremost, PITCHF/x data on Fangraphs relies on a computer algorithm designed by MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM). The problem here is that pitch classifications from this algorithm are often wrong initially and change/calibrate as the season progresses. One of the biggest problems noted is the classifications of a fourseam fastball versus a twoseam fastball/sinker, due to the fact that, on a whole, they are pretty similar pitches. Thus, when looking at PITCHF/x data, it is prudent to look elsewhere. BrooksBaseball, as you know by now, is my go-to site for this, as Harry Pavlidis manually corrects Pitch Info on a pitch-by-pitch, game-by-game basis. Another issue with the pitch value component on Fangraphs is that it does not really factor in the value of the "set-up pitch," which, to be fair, is pretty tough quantify.

Well, then. Enough about that. Let's check out the numbers...

Fourseam fastball PITCHF/x data:

Pitcher Velocity (MPH) Dragless Horiz. mov. (in.) BAA SLG Whiffs
Adam Wainwright 91.19 -2.17 .233 .390 5.56%
Lance Lynn 93.85 -7.21 .232 .389 12.24%
John Lackey 92.74 -2.90 .269 .417 8.74%
Shelby Miller 94.30 -5.59 .233 .363 8.61%
Carlos Martinez 98.11 -6.47 .294 .441 8.95%
Trevor Rosenthal 97.84 -2.81 .260 .350 12.70%
Seth Maness 90.96 -6.96 .156 .313 12.98%
Michael Wacha 94.09 -4.59 .255 .368 11.76%
Marco Gonzales 90.56 11.03 .212 .303 3.12%

As a very quick side, from now on, I will refer to "dragless horizontal movement" when discussing pitches' horizontal movements because according to Harry Pavlidis, "the movement [seen in "dragless horizontal movement"] is more of the magnitude a hitter experiences." The biggest factor associated with horizontal movement is how the hitter sees the pitch out of the pitcher's hand, so it only makes sense to look at this value. This is different from what I have used in the past, so I figured it was necessary to bring it up.

Well, not surprisingly, El Gallo has the highest average velocity (98.11 MPH) on his fourseam fastball. To go along with this supreme velocity, it had -6.47 inches of dragless horizontal movement—the fourth most on the staff. The most horizontal movement came from the left-handed Gonzales. Of note, Gonzales's sample size is considerably smaller than the rest of the staff, though. Though he clearly had the most movement (11.03 inches), Gonzales found himself with the lowest whiff rate (3.12%), but more importantly, he had the lowest slugging percentage (.303) against the pitch as well.

Somewhat surprisingly, sinkerballer Maness and his sub-91 MPH fourseam fastball had the lowest batting average against (.156) and had the highest whiff rate (12.98%). Given its velocity and movement, El Gallo's BAA of .294 and SLG of .441 is rather disappointing. Later in the offseason, I will check the pitch location of his fourseamers to see what I can dig up on why this pitch didn't get better results in 2014.

Twoseam fastball/sinker PITCHF/x data:

Pitcher Velocity (MPH) Dragless Horiz. mov. (in.) BAA SLG Whiffs
Adam Wainwright 91.08 -10.52 .335 .503 4.38%
Lance Lynn 92.19 -11.68 .257 .301 6.24%
John Lackey 92.31 -10.96 .279 .450 4.42%
Shelby Miller 94.07 -11.31 .423 .731 7.83%
Carlos Martinez 96.48 -12.93 .270 .324 9.54%
Pat Neshek 91.20 -14.49 .198 .319 11.69%
Seth Maness 90.30 -11.37 .308 .418 3.95%
Marco Gonzales 90.51 14.01 .263 .579 7.37%

As you can see, there is considerably more horizontal movement associated with twoseam fastballs/sinkers, as compared to fourseamers. Understatement: Neshek's sinker was absolutely devastating in 2014. Despite barely cracking an average velocity of 91 MPH, it exhibited the most horizontal movement (-14.49 inches), had the lowest BAA (.198), and induced the most swings and misses (11.69%). That sinker grip Miller learned from Justin Masterson? Yeah, Miller threw it a grand total of 115 times in 2014 (sample size alert!), and though it had the second highest average velocity on the team (behind El Gallo, of course), it did not yield positive results: BAA of .423 and SLG of .731.

Seth "Sinkerballer" Maness threw his sinker 60% of the time in 2014, and predictably, it produced the lowest whiff rate (3.95%), but hitters experienced some success against the pitch as well (.308 BAA, .418 SLG), which I found interesting. Martinez's sinkerball data is extremely impressive (a 96+ MPH pitch moving nearly 13 inches horizontally?!), and unlike with his fourseamer, the results came with it. If Martinez is ever given the chance to be in the starting rotation, the sinker will be his money pitch, and I expect him to get even better results going forward.

If I were to choose, Lynn had the best overall fastball in 2014. Given that he throws the two pitches nearly 80% of the time, this is probably a good thing. Or, does he throw these two pitches so often because they are so good? This is a question that I would love for you all to ponder in the comments section.

Credit to for the data used in this post.