Cardinals/Pirates: Three things to walk with
The Cardinals leave out of Pittsburgh with essentially a split series due to the rain out of Tuesday evening, and also with a series that’s a tale of two halves. After an offensive eruption in game one, which they won 10-6 on Monday, they could barely find their way into the hit column two days later, dropping the final game of the series 5-0 to AJ Burnett. Now, as they depart to see the other Pennsylvania based team in the second leg of their current 10 game road swing, they’ve got nowhere to look but up. Here’s what to take from the Pittsburgh series, which was a revelation of some challenges that are remediable, but are becoming problems quickly.
1.Runs Parched: Last season, when the Cardinals were on, they were on. But when they were off, it was an ugly thing to see. The offense would turn off completely, and there would be no chance of scoring it would seem, only to then erupt to be able to produce runs seemingly at will. The rollercoaster hasn’t been too wide thus far this season, with them averaging 5.6 runs per game, good for third in the National League. Yet, the team’s average is still struggling (.248, good for 20th in the NL), and they are truly living in the moment to produce runs.
The shutout suffered on Wednesday was the club’s second on the season. Burnett took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Carlos Beltran broke it up. Despite that, they still couldn’t manage to get any runs on the board, and not counting the rained out game on Tuesday, have officially not scored in the last 15 innings. With Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay awaiting, getting out of that funk in this series would have been timely.
2. Free Joe Kelly: Kelly made a rare appearance in Monday’s game, throwing two scoreless innings, while surrendering one hit. He had not pitched since April 7th versus the Giants, and missed the entire home stand. Kelly made the team partially out of necessity due to the Jason Motte injury changing the bullpen’s capacity, but also due to the flexibility he displayed after moving to the pen late last year and throughout the playoffs. While it is good to have him available, this is still a 24-year-old that is a starter by trait. Finding more opportunities for him to work is essential, because if they are only going to present themselves once a week, he would potentially be better used in Memphis.
3. Warrior without a clue: Lance Lynn has been the definition of a workhorse this season…but one that leaves early every day. In his three starts on the season, he has pitched a total of 15 innings, and has thrown a whopping total of 294 pitches already. That is an awful lot of work for a starts that are reaching to hit the middle point of a ballgame. Although his record is 2-0, the numbers outside of it belie what is really at work for his season. His other read outs look are seven walks against 17 strikeouts, better than one hit per inning surrendered, good for a 1.60 WHIP, contributing to a 5.40 ERA.
The problem with Lynn’s efficiency is approach. While the stuff is good, he does not miss many bats or throw in places conducive to strikes (i.e. the off the plate). Also, due to heavy volume he throws in, he wears down very early in the game and virtually guarantees his starts to be heavy bullpen games. He has once again benefit from a heavy amount of run support (8 runs per game), which makes the bad inning not look as bad, because from a certain perspective, it’s not burying the team. But a pitcher should be able to win games, not just benefit from his environment, and the telling stat is what batters are doing to him the second time around. Batters are managing a whopping .433 average on his 31st through 60th pitches, which is usually his second and final time seeing a lineup. Roughly speaking, he’s average one time through, and horrible the next. In order to thrive (or potentially even survive) as a starter, Lynn has to become more deceptive and make location his friend, because the reliever-turned-starter approach he’s taking now is not going to cut it.