Stephen Strasburg's perfect season gets befouled. Meanwhile, a baseball traveled 484 feet and Francisco Liriano righted himself.
The Thursday Takeaway
We’re not supposed to talk about pitcher wins anymore. There’s no real need to count the ways that the statistic is misleading and poorly constructed; Brian Kenny can take care of that for you. If you read this site, you should know why it’s not the greatest barometer of pitching success in a world filled with poor pitching barometers. In a world of blind men, the one-eyed man is king. The pitcher win is a blind man without a nose or nerve endings in his fingers.
The Cardinals system is in a relatively fallow period, but one underestimates their development system at his own peril. We talk to pitchers Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez.
Background: The St. Louis farm system is not what it once was. After several years rated as one of the best systems in the game, featuring impact talent at the top, supplemented by seemingly endless depth, most experts see the Cards’ system as having few in the way of potential stars and thin in the way of depth. Back in 2011, when the Cardinals’ A-ball affiliate was in Quad Cities, it won the Midwest League title with a roster that included Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Trevor Rosenthal, and the late Oscar Taveras.
When it comes to the standings on the first day of the second half, what you see is *mostly* what you get.
Last year, the Cardinals had the best record in baseball, 100-62. The Pirates were second best, 98-64. This year, at the All-Star break, the teams find themselves looking up—looking pretty far up, in fact; 7.0 games for St. Louis and 7.5 for Pittsburgh—at the Cubs. Worse, they’re currently fourth and fifth, respectively, in the race for the two National League Wild Card slots, 1.0 and 1.5 games, respectively, behind the Mets and Marlins for the last spot. It’s leading fans of the two teams to ask, Are the Cubs really this good? and Are we really this bad? Cubs fans, by contrast, are looking at a team that was a ridiculous 39-15 record after play on June 10 but 14-20—third worst in the National League, tied for seventh worst in the majors—ever since.
A missed season put Aledmys Diaz behind the developmental curve, but in the past 12 months he has caught up.
“About as close as the Cardinals get to a ‘You only moved the headstones!’-level mistake, Aledmys Diaz hasn’t impressed since signing a four-year, $8 million contract prior to 2014. The expectation now is that he could turn into an extra infielder. Diaz passed through waivers untouched in July, so the rest of the league might find that evaluation a tad optimistic.”
Standout pitching performances this week, including Zack Greinke, Francisco Liriano and Adam Wainwright.
The past week to 10 days has seen a return to past glory for a pair of veteran right-handed, with both Zack Greinke and Adam Wainwright providing optimism that their respective seasons can be salvaged. A veteran southpaw has not been so lucky, and though Francisco Liriano’s last two starts came in week nine of the season (he was skipped this past week), he is scheduled to pitch today and all eyes will be on his performance and any potential adjustments that he makes.
A play that was almost too close for replay, Ichiro marches on, and the Rangers and Orioles continue to surge.
The Thursday Takeaway
“What is a catch?”—one of the more complex existential questions of our time, albeit usually only in the context of the NFL and the subjectivity of its rules. In Thursday’s Cardinals-Reds game, though, it got a relatively rare turn in baseball’s limelight.
Yet, while the club’s offense has been better than expected—St. Louis ranks first in the NL in home runs and in OPS—the record sat at just .500 entering play Thursday. That’s because the club added Mike Leake and, in effect, Adam Wainwight, who has been healthy again after missing nearly all of the 2015 season.
Yup, it’s the upgrades who are leading the regression. Wainwright in particular has been dreadful. When he hasn’t been showing off his hitting skills , he has allowed four homers in 33 2/3 innings (after allowing just 10 in the 255 innings split he threw in 2014 and 2015). He has an ERA close to 7, a FIP close to 5, and just 4.8 K/9—the sixth-lowest in baseball, minimum 20 innings. Overall, the club’s starting rotation has a 4.38 ERA and just 7.0 K/9 as a collective this year, after posting a 2.99 ERA with 7.9 K/9 last season. What has happened to the Cardinals’ erstwhile ace?
The problem relates to what had historically been his greatest weapon. And that, ladies and gentlemen, leads us to the biggest question of all: What do Adam Wainwright’s curveball and a chained-up Chihuahua have in common? All bark, no bite.
The curve has long been Wainwright’s out pitch, with a career whiff rate of 17 percent—and, with two strikes, 21 percent. This year, the whiff rate is at 9 percent overall, and 11 percent with two strikes.