What Some Cardinals Saved for the Home Stretch

During the postseason is when we talk about postseason statistics, and one of the first points always brought up is that the level of competition in the postseason is more difficult. As such, it isn’t fair to just run a straight comparison between numbers in the playoffs and numbers not in the playoffs. The postseason is selective for the best teams, which will have many of the best players. Many of the worst players on the best teams won’t play, or won’t play much. There is a counterpoint, though, at least as far as pitchers are concerned: the playoffs take place in October, by which point a lot of arms might be worn down. The season is long, and it’s taxing, and who’s to say what’s really left in the tank come Columbus Day or whenever?

What we know, anecdotally, is that good pitchers tend to still be good. We seldom ever see a player’s velocity crater, and if a guy were truly worn down he probably wouldn’t be used. One of the interesting things we’ve seen with Michael Wacha, though, is that his velocity hasn’t just stayed the same — lately he’s been throwing harder. It stands to reason that’s why he’s been so effective, at least in part. And it turns out Wacha isn’t the only Cardinal with strength saved for a final push.

Most people know by now about Trevor Rosenthal, and if you know about Rosenthal, you know about his heat. The fastball is his calling card, and because of that fastball, the Cardinals don’t really miss the ultra-effective version of Edward Mujica. They’ve been built deep enough to survive. And where Rosenthal has the arm to fill in for another guy, the Cardinals additionally have arms to fill in for Rosenthal. Right now, the closer isn’t the only scary part of the Cardinal bullpen, and among the weapons out there are Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez.

Siegrist and Martinez were plenty effective in the regular season. That still holds true, even if you don’t know who Kevin Siegrist is. And in getting straight to the point, here are a couple images from Brooks Baseball player pages:

siegristbrooks

martinezbrooks

Siegrist, right now, is throwing harder than he has all year. The same goes for Martinez. Focusing just on the fastballs: in August, Siegrist averaged just under 96 miles per hour. He gained a tick in September, and he’s gained another tick on top of that in October. There have been corresponding velocity increases with his changeup and curveball. Meanwhile, Martinez was earlier throwing a sinker around 95 and a four-seamer around 97-98. More recently, his sinker has been 97-98, and his four-seamer has pushed triple digits. Martinez’s slider, also, has been harder. Two of the Cardinals’ primary non-closer relievers are throwing as hard as the closer is, and the closer is known for how hard he throws.

Another way of looking at this: according to PITCHf/x, Siegrist’s 23 fastest pitches this season have all come in September or October. Of Martinez’s 25 fastest pitches this season, 21 have come in September or October. A couple weeks ago, Martinez pumped a fastball at 100.8, and on Friday he threw a handful of heaters between 99-100. The specific numbers might be very slightly off, but the general points shouldn’t change.

Given that Siegrist and Martinez apparently have their velocity up, a natural follow-up is: so, are they better, then? It’s a difficult issue to investigate, because of the limited nature of relief-pitching sample sizes. Martinez, for what it’s worth, has been highly effective the last two months. Siegrist has had a mediocre October, but then he’s faced all of 12 batters. This is probably a case where we look to a more general principle: more velocity is good. It makes a pitcher harder to hit, and there’s no real evidence that Siegrist or Martinez have lost movement or location. Already tough, right now they should be a little bit tougher.

And as it happens, Eno just wrote about the Red Sox’s relative struggles against really hot heat. There’s some evidence to suggest Boston has trouble with better fastballs, and now the back of the Cardinals’ bullpen is about as hot as it gets. Siegrist could match up that much better against David Ortiz and/or Jacoby Ellsbury. Martinez could be leaned on for 1-2 innings if Mike Matheny doesn’t feel like chancing it with someone else. There are plenty of reasons to have questions about Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn as starters, but let it not be said that the Cardinals aren’t prepared for a bullpen game. Even limited, there’s still quality available support, and in a close game the Red Sox could have real trouble scoring after the sixth inning.

From the looks of things, neither Siegrist nor Martinez is worn down. On the contrary, the numbers say they’re pitching stronger than ever at just the right time. If this is due in large part to postseason adrenaline, that’s interesting, and it’s worth looking into in greater depth. If this is due in large part to planning on the Cardinals’ end, that’s also interesting, and it’s worth looking into in greater depth. How is it that some of the Cardinals’ arms have something extra left in the tank? To that question, I don’t have an answer, but I know these guys couldn’t choose a better time to peak. The “why?” part isn’t nearly as important right now as the “what?”



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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RC
Guest
RC
2 years 10 months ago

Did you check to see if there were velocity differences between home and away?

Because if a whole lot of a team’s pitchers suddenly started throwing faster, calibration issues would be my first thought.

CFIC
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Martinez’s innings have been limited all year. So there’s no mystery there. Siegrist has been used more, but has no where near the innings total of Rosenthal. I’m not sure what the answer is here, but it is a very nice change of events for the Cardinals. first it was Motte and Boggs (both of whom are non-factors anymore, but they were a push in the general direction of velocity). Now the Cards have these guys who have a starter’s repertoire, are young, and are only required to pitch a little at a time. Very interesting strategy from Mozeliak, etc.

semperty
Guest
semperty
2 years 10 months ago

I don’t know about Martinez or the others, but I know they used to have Wacha skip two or three consecutive starts in AAA Memphis to keep him rested and able to contribute in October.

CFIC
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

yeah him as well

Anon
Guest
Anon
2 years 10 months ago

Now the Cards have these guys who have a starter’s repertoire, are young, and are only required to pitch a little at a time.

Siegrist, Martinez, and Rosenthal were all starters in the minors.

CFIC
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

that’s what I said

CFIC
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

random thought: does humidity decrease velocity?

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 10 months ago

If anything humidty should increase velocity since water vapor is lighter than oxygen or nitrogen gas. Humid air is less dense than dry air.

CFIC
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

thanks, that goes against my intuition on that idea, since air “feels” thicker in humidity. my main point was, though, about grip (pitchers can’t get a great grip in thick humidity, can they?)

Caveman Jones
Guest
Caveman Jones
2 years 10 months ago

Well, the season is almost over, so I have to imagine that everyone is going to empty out the tank as best they can. Why save yourself when you might not pitch more than a few innings the rest of the season? Anyway, let’s see how the heat stands up to the cold of Boston tonight and tomorrow.

Alex Remington
Member
2 years 10 months ago

Has the “evil” hypothesis been formally disproved?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 10 months ago

It is *ALWAYS* on the table.

Bob The Bilderberg Group
Guest
Bob The Bilderberg Group
2 years 10 months ago

Nice article, Jeff. In fact, StL General Manager John Mozeliak announced way back during Spring Training that Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez would all have their innings carefully controlled throughout the season, in order to strong for the season’s seventh month. (I do not believe that Mozeliak was actually so presumptuous as to refer to October baseball per se; I recall rather that he spoke of having the rookie arms rested for September’s home stretch.) A Strasburgian kerfuffle was never an option, and they expressly said so.

It would make sense that Siegrist is fresh as well, since — as astutely mentioned above — he was trained almost exclusively as a starter until this season.

jj
Guest
jj
2 years 10 months ago

doesn’t seem to have worked for Miller…unless they were just saving him for the WS

Kinanik
Member
Member
Kinanik
2 years 10 months ago

Wait until Michael Wacha’s next year. Steamer has him making 46 starts with 278 IP. That doesn’t even include the playoffs!

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
2 years 10 months ago

If you change the X axis to games instead of innings the above conclusion become a less robust. Is there an established trend that pitchers lose velocity as the season progress? If there is a macro level trend excuse my ignorance, however there are several bio-mechanical reasons that can explain individual velocity increases from increased external rotation to movement on the strength power continuum.

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