There are numerous ways to characterize Carlos Martinez’s season thus far. One of the most telling may be to observe the trend-line between our ace’s hair styles and his success.
An unbelievable gem on opening night? Accompanied by the usual cut we’ve all grown accustomed to.
Four subsequent starts which left us with a 4.97 FIP, 5.91 BB/9, and raised eyebrows? Paired with an eccentric take on dreadlocks, white accents, and a new personal brand.
Tuesday night’s victory and 7+ innings? Back to the old school close crop look; simplistic yet effective.
We all know it’s been a roller coaster 2017 for Martinez, but the restoration to a pleasant level of success and efficiency with one of the Cardinals most valuable assets, has been held from us for far too long.
Martinez generated eight swinging strikes en route to his four strikeouts, split evenly between his slider and two seam fastball (via MLB.com). Even with the hiccups through the month of April, sitting inside the top 15 in swinging strikes across qualified pitchers is a positive sign before tonight’s outing. Martinez wasn’t the whiff-machine of usual levels on Tuesday night, but efficiency and great command of his two-seam fastball meant Matheny was willing to extend the leash into the eighth inning during a one run game. Despite a bit of laboring once he hit the fifth inning, Martinez rewarded his manager’s confidence in the 25 year old.
Pitching out of jams deep into games when the Cardinals’ bullpen isn’t in the greatest of states helps to replenish the effectiveness of these ‘lost’ options at the end of games. Time heals all wounds, or so I hope.
A big 3-2 slider meticulously placed down and away from the swing-happy Jonathan Villar was the final pitch of Martinez’s outing and one of his best.
Weighing candidates for that crown would also make us consider anointing a biting 98mph two-seam fastball dead center of the plate, that an inning earlier, pushed a goose egg onto Brewers’ shortstop Orlando Arcia for the day.
I was thoroughly impressed, from all angles, with the game Martinez put together and will be eager to see if he can follow up on a good start for the first time in a while. He should take the hill in Atlanta this weekend for his third road start of the year.
Biggest story on the night may be the ease at which Trevor Rosenthal converted his third save of the season. One night after Sueng Hwan Oh continued his perplexing start to 2017 by relinquishing an extra inning HR to Travis Shaw.
14 pitches, nine strikes, and two strikeouts. That’s now 17 total strikeouts paired with only two walks in Rosenthal’s 8.1 innings of work.
According to BrooksBaseball.net, Rosenthal actually tied the bow on his highest average fastball velocity for any one given month at 99.7mph a few days ago (next closest? October 2012 at 99.3mph).
I case you didn’t notice last night, something is wrong with Seung Hwan Oh. Although it may surely be a minor mechanical issue, we’re now one month into the season and if any fan were to tell you they were as confident sending The Final Boss out to the mound in a one-run game as they were in 2016, I wish I had their irrational confidence.
Rosenthal has his sights set on the role. Whether it takes a few more blown leads from Oh to cause a change, or a few more converted ones to re-solidfy the roles, I have a feeling this will be a continuing story for some time into the future.
The Cardinals now firmly enter the fray of swirling closer talk, along with what seems to be another new team every day.
Jedd Gyorko took a step back from his red hot stretch, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, allowing Stephen Piscotty and Matt Carpenter to post identical 2-for-4 lines with one run each, and matching pairs of strikeouts. After a Yadier Molina sac fly scored Carpenter in the sixth, Kolten Wong followed it up with a seeing-eye-single, plating Piscotty.
Sub-.260 is in no way where you’d want two of the Cardinals’ best hitters lingering around as May kicks into gear, but Carpenter and Piscotty both took advantage of low two-seam fastballs from Wily Peralta and played key factors in the Cardinals’ two runs.
It’s a much needed W, but one executed in a way that won’t happen often across a full season, so cherish this one while it’s still fresh. Any time a team strikes out 13 times and musters only six hits versus a pitcher with a 5.85 FIP on the season, a splash of cold water may be warranted to start kindling some consistent production.
Tomorrow brings us Waino versus Chase Anderson.
- Nothing spectacular this week for my notes, so I’ll leave you with some of Fangraph’s WPA tid-bits for your statistical pleasure.
- Stephen Piscotty’s double was the biggest play of the game (+.126 WPA), moving Carpenter and himself into scoring position with one out in a tie game in the sixth inning.
- Despite my praise of Martinez’s ‘big’ pitches, Brett Cecil probably threw the ‘biggest’ pitch of the game, getting Shaw to strikeout looking, and bringing with it -.121 WPA for the Brewers.
- The contributions of both Carpenter and Piscotty at the plate (+.144), didn’t even equal the +.159 that Trevor Rosenthal earned with his dominance in the ninth inning.