The St. Louis Cardinals are opening their season with an inter league matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Cards are tossing out newly extended right hander Miles Mikolas. Toronto, on the other hand, is throwing one of the best pitchers in the AL in Alek Manoah. He is coming off a season with a 3.31 xERA where he held opponents to an average exit velocity of 87.5 MPH. Now his 2022 metrics can paint us a picture of what the big righty brings to the table, to truly understand what he brings to the table we have to learn about the quality of his stuff, which we will do down below.
Side note - I’d love to make an article like this a weekly series where every Wednesday we break down a pitcher the Cardinals will face that upcoming weekend. Let me know in the comments if that’s something you guys would like to see.
Pitch #1 - Four seam fastball - usage rate - 35.9%
2022 stats - .240 xBA, .390 xSLG, .310 xwOBA
Average velo - 93.9 MPH - Spin rate - 2,369 RPM - vertical movement - 14.3 inches - horizontal movement - 5.5 inches
Like most four-seam fastballs this pitch plays best in the upper third. Despite not having high end velocity on it Manoah still gets solid results. This can be in part due to his extension on the pitch from his 6-7 frame meaning the hitter only has about 53 feet to pick up it up. Having an extension of that size significantly increases the perceived velocity meaning 93.9 MPH might actually look closer to 96 or 97 MPH. Despite St. Louis having multiple high end fastball hitters in their lineup, expect him to try and establish this pitch early and often.
Pitch #2 - Slider - usage rate - 27.1%
2022 stats - .218 xBA - .346 xSLG, .272 xwOBA
Average velo - 81.5 MPH - Spin rate - 2.216 RPM - vertical movement - 41 inches - horizontal movement - 14.5 inches (5.6 above average)
Based on his expected metrics, Manoah’s slider grades out as his third best pitch, however, I think it is his best and most effective pitch. It has great late break and even when thrown well out of the zone it looks like a strike the majority of the way because of that break. It is the only pitch in his arsenal in which he had a whiff percentage above 26.1 percent as it sat at 31.8 percent in 2022. Despite throwing it 260 fewer times than his four seamer he struck out 64 batters with it compared to the 66 he struck out with the four seamer. Manoah very well might attack rookie Jordan Walker with this pitch consistently if he makes his MLB debut on Thursday.
Pitch #3 - Sinker - usage rate - 25.8%
2022 stats - .215 xBA, .277 xSLG, .270 xwOBA
Average velo - 93.3 MPH - Spin rate - 2,194 - vertical movement - 21.1 inches - horizontal movement - 14.7 inches
Usually, I don’t love it when a pitcher has a four seam/sinker combo, especially when it makes up over 60% of their thrown pitches, but it seems to work for Manoah. It is not one of the more wicked sinkers in the league coming nowhere close to Clay Holmes or Brusdar Graterol’s, but it is a usable pitch for him. It gives him one that breaks down and in on righties which provides him with a ground ball pitch evidenced by the 1-degree launch angle it had against it in 2022.
Pitch #4 - Changeup - usage rate - 11.2%
2022 stats - .218 xBA, .348 xSLG, .267 xwOBA
Average velo - 86.5 MPH - spin rate - 1,980 RPM - vertical movement - 27.2 inches - horizontal movement - 14.5 inches
Honestly, I think we are only going to see this pitch a few times from Manoah come Thursday. Despite it posting solid expected metrics in 2022, it only had 62 batted ball events off of it meaning the numbers are a bit skewed due to small sample size. This is a pitch I expect him to attack Lars Nootbaar with a few times as he threw it 309 times to lefties last season compared to 22 for righties.
Prediction - Manoah throws 6 ⅓ innings, striking out 7 Cardinals and giving up 2 earned runs.