So here’s the thing: by the time I got home from work, walked the dogs, cooked dinner, and turned on the game Jake Woodford was about 80 pitches in already and it was the fourth inning. The game had been on for about an hour and by that point the St. Louis Cardinals were losing to the Atlanta Braves 6-1.
I continued to watch as the Cardinals tacked on a few runs in the bottom of the fourth on a fortuitously placed single from Jordan Walker and a groundout from Brendan Donovan. The score was a much more manageable 6-3.
Over the course of the next five innings the Cardinals were only able to score 1 more run on a home run off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt, while the Braves put up 2 more against Jordan Hicks. I think at some point between that seventh and eighth run scored for the Braves I fell into blissful slumber on my couch surrounded by the various pets that live in my house.
Overall I think I watched only a few innings of this game as it happened and even what I did watch, I don’t think my brain absorbed very much. Probably because the win probability for this game was about 25% for the Cardinals since the top of the second inning and slowly declined for the rest of the game. Even with this high-powered offense, it just never felt like a game they were going to win. It just was not fun for me to watch and honestly our human lifespan is so short in the grand scheme of the universe and we spend so much of our lives doing things we don’t want to do. My brain went into shutdown mode to protect itself from watching anymore of this uninteresting game.
Unfortunately this game needs to be recapped and I really needed to pay attention in order to do that. So I went back through and suffered through the video so that I can explain to those of you that were able to avoid this experience what happened.
First and foremost is that Jake Woodford got pummeled. He gave up a two-out homer on a 3-2 count to Austin Riley that went 473 feet at an exit speed of 113 mph. Here is where Woodford’s 93 mph fastball was located:
I can hear the sound of the it being barreled just from this image. If you look closely I think you can see Riley licking his lips.
Woodford ran into a similar problem with the pitch he threw to Ronald Acuña Jr., who I mentioned in the series preview has been in the 91st percentile in exit velocity despite having some batted ball misfortune. The pitch to Acuña was actually even tastier than the one to Riley because it wasn’t a fastball, but what looked like an extremely flat 83 mph curveball. This is actually that newish trendy pitch called a sweeper. It probably isn’t meant to be thrown here:
I won’t post another photo, but the homer to Ozzie Albies was more of the same: a fastball over the heart of the plate just asking to be scorched. It looked like maybe Walker could make a play on it at first, but it was just out of reach of his outstretched glove over the fence.
The other story of the game was Jordan Hicks just being all over the place. There were sinkers and sliders up around the batters’ heads and fastballs over the middle of the plate. This put him into jams and counts where he had to make a Flawless Pitch to escape. Sometimes he did, but sometimes he only made a Pretty Good Pitch and that isn’t enough to escape a mess that big.
Let’s end with some positive notes though. While Woodford seemed to struggle mightily with his location, he did garner the game-leading 9 swings and misses, a majority of them on a sinker and that sweeper thing (the more I have to say “sweeper” the more I hate it). Jordan Hicks was topping out at 102 mph with 7 of the 8 sinkers he threw at over 100 mph. And lastly my favorite little piece of data I see: Paul Goldschmidt was crushing the ball. His exit velocity was over 105 in 2 of his 4 at bats with the other 2 being around 97 and 102 mph. He saw 20 pitches during the game: 12 curveballs, 5 sweepers, 2 fastballs, and 1 changeup. He swung at both fastballs he saw and hit both of them in play with one going to deep left field.
Tomorrow the Cardinals take on Dylan Dodd in his MLB debut. He throws around 96 mph and has above average command, but his movement is just okay. I suspect the Cardinals might bounce back against this rookie. Game time is 6:45 pm CT.