Taking a deep dive into the Cardinals right-hander's repertoire, sequencing, tunnels, and overall approach.
In one sense, Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez is an easy pitcher to understand. He can touch 100 miles per hour with his fastball. He throws both a four-seamer and a sinker, has a slider and a changeup to go with them, and all four pitches could be counted as above average. He’s fiercely competitive and a great athlete. Bob Gibson was a bigger guy than Martinez at a time when everyone else on the field was smaller. Gibson had only two dominant pitches, and rarely even bothered with others. He’s also a Hall of Famer. Still, it’s really hard not to compare Martinez to Gibson.
In another sense, though, there’s a whole lot we don’t know about Martinez. No, that’s not true. We know a ton about Martinez, far more than we would have known 10 years ago. Yet, we would have been much more confident in our assessments of Martinez then than we are now. Sometimes, even valuable new information only makes the essential truth about something feel further beyond our reach.
Are the Cardinals and their long-sturdy catcher starting to show some cracks?
All winter, Isaac Bennett (whose work you’ve seen at BP Wrigleyville) and I have carried on baseball talk via Google Hangouts. We agree on more things than not, which is something neither of us can say about most of the other people with whom we get to consistently converse about this kind of stuff, so the conversations are usually easy. Two things divide us pretty sharply, though, at least at the moment. They are:
How the NL's fifth-worst offense in 2015 became its third-best offense in 2016.
The 2016 Cardinals were a disappointing team. The year before, they’d been the first team since the 2011 Phillies to win 100 games. Their loss to the Cubs in the Divisional Series stung, but it was the team’s fifth straight trip to the postseason. With a strong pitching staff—the team’s 2.94 ERA was the majors' lowest in 27 years and the first team ERA under 3.00 since the 1989 Dodgers—and a farm system that produced a seemingly endless supply of new talent, they seemed poised to remain a playoff contender, if not fend off the fast-charging Cubs.
We know what happened next. As the stat-heads predicted, the team’s FIP (3.50, fifth in the league) and DRA (4.11, sixth) presaged 2016 better than the sparkly ERA, as the Redbirds compiled a 4.08 ERA that ranked seventh in the league. That decline in pitching pretty much summed up the story of the season, as the team finished with an 86-76 record, one game behind the Mets for the second Wild Card.
Magneuris Sierra got the call every prospect dreads last year. The last year has been about attitude, adjustments, and reclaiming his path to the majors.
Last year, Magneuris Sierra got dropped from Peoria midseason, the rare case of a good prospect moving backward. It stalled what had been an encouraging rise for the slender center fielder, who is back in Peoria with the St. Louis Cardinals Low-A affiliate this season. The Cardinals signed Sierra out of the Dominican Republic back in 2012 for just $105,000, and he quickly found favor with evaluators and prospect writers. But leaping from the rookie league to Peoria in 2015 may have been too much too fast for the 19-year-old.
With Alex Reyes assigned to the bullpen, the Cardinals will turn to Weaver to fill their rotation slot for Saturday.
The Situation: Yesterday, we wrote a call-up on Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes, and how he was on his way up to help stabilize the rotation. Apparently, that’s all hogwash and poppycock, because Reyes is headed to the bullpen, and Luke Weaver will make his big-league debut on Saturday in place of Michael Wacha.
Background: Weaver was one of the best pitchers in the country his sophomore year at Florida State University, posting a 2.29 ERA and an impressive 119/19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just over 98 innings. He struggled to repeat those numbers as a junior (85 strikeouts in just over 106 innings), but still was considered a first-round talent in the 2014 draft, and St. Louis procured his services with the 27th pick that June. Since entering the Cardinals system, the numbers have been ridiculous; he’s posted a career era of 1.78, and after posting a 1.40 ERA with 88 strikeouts in Double-A Springfield and a shutout in his first start at Triple-A, St. Louis is ready to see if those numbers can translate to the next level.
The Cardinals are calling upon one of the top arms in the minors to aid their run for the playoffs.
The Situation: Barring a 1995 Mariners-esque comeback, the Cardinals are not going to catch the Cubs. They’re right in the thick of the wild-card race despite some so-so starting pitching, however, and they’re going to call on Alex Reyes to see if he can be part of the solution.
Background: Similar to what Lucius Fox did last June, Reyes “defected” from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic in 2012, and the Cardinals were able to sign him $950,000 that December. After impressing the next summer in the Appy League, Reyes struck out 137 batters in 109 innings for Low-A Peoria in 2014 , and quickly became one of the most intriguing right-handed pitching prospects in baseball. That stock went up substantially in 2015 after dominating in the Florida State League, and he more than held his own as a 20-year-old in Double-A later in the year. He was throwing well in the Arizona Fall League, but then a marijuana suspension not only cut his AFL stay short, but caused him to miss the first couple months of the 2016 season. Pitching in the treacherous PCL, he’s posted a 4.96 ERA, but he’s also struck out 93 hitters in just over 65 innings, and the Cardinals believe he’s ready to contribute.