The St. Louis Cardinals have had the best rotation in baseball so far this season. However, there is one part that could ruin that.
One of the things most people find synonymous with St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball is pitching, and pitching has been the key to the St. Louis Cardinals barely staying afloat this season. Starting pitching that is, we’re not going to get into the debacle of the relief pitching right now.
Yesterday we dug into the fact that Adam Wainwright has started to turn things around in his last four starts. Now, we seem to have a problem with Michael Wacha. He started the season off well and it seemed like things were going to finally work themselves out for the once highly touted prospect.
However, here we are with a guy who hasn’t been able to get past the fourth inning in either of his last two starts. With the last start being the worst where he was pulled after pitching just three innings. Like we did with Wainwright yesterday, I want to dig deep into not just the numbers but what Wacha is actually doing.
If you have been following me as a writer, you may remember my post on Michael Wacha’s struggles back in 2015 for Redbird Rants. During this post, I discovered that Wacha simply couldn’t command his fastball in the strike zone. This caused hitters to lay off his changeup which is his best pitch.
Since then, Wacha has gained better command of the fastball and this season that hasn’t been a struggle for him. Even in his most recent start, where Wacha struggled, he still got his fastball over for a strike almost 70% of the time. So, this is clearly not a problem for Wacha any longer.
It’s been a struggle for Wacha lately. However, like most of his career, his early season numbers may not be actually representative of great success. This is meaning that Wacha simply hasn’t faced any great teams during his good stretch of the season. So, it almost seems as if Wacha got away with some bad habits against the not so good teams and it came back to bite him in the last two games against the Dodgers.
As always, I will mention that I am certainly no expert. However, in looking at the data from brooksbaseball, I found something alarming. Just like Adam Wainwright struggled with his release point early on in the season, Wacha is doing the same thing.
However, it is something that Wacha was doing even when things were going well early on in the season. The most alarming thing about this is it seems to be pitch related. While it is not as apparent early in the season, it is still there. The chart below shows Wacha mainly keeping his fastball and changeup in one general area and having his cutter and curve in another zone.
While this doesn’t look like that big of a difference, in the age of video and hitters paying attention to every little thing a pitcher does, hitters can pick up on this. As it becomes worse it will tip the hitter off as to what type of pitch will be coming. Below you will see how bad it has gotten for Wacha in his two starts against the Dodgers.
Not surprisingly, it was the worst in the May 30 outing. While it seemed he was keeping all of his pitches throughout the different slots in the earlier starts, he started to tip his pitches more in the last two outings. You can see that -.5-0 ft range is where he tends to live with his fastball and changeup. However, on the other side is where he was living with his curveball and cutter.
Like I stated before, with video and hitters paying more and more attention to a pitcher’s tendencies, hitters are going to have a better idea of what is coming. Now, we will have to wait for data to come out to see if this is a continued trend for him as he only went 4.1 innings and allowed six runs tonight.
Regardless, this is a big concern for the St. Louis Cardinals. Whether this is related to his stress reaction in his shoulder or is something completely unrelated is unknown. They cannot have him continually struggling. They can’t have any of their pitchers struggling as the offense is very inconsistent on a night to night basis.
Hopefully, for the St. Louis Cardinals’ case, he can get this together and get back to his best form. If not, it may be time to take a look at Luke Weaver or Marco Gonzales as an option in the rotation for the St. Louis Cardinals.