At 3-6, the St. Louis Cardinals are off to their worst start in the Mike Matheny era. We know the Cardinals will not continue to play .333 ball (that would be 54 wins on the season), but how deep of a hole is the club in? Yes, it’s too early to judge the team for the entire season, but there are some serious concerns. There are also some numbers that simply will not continue and we should take sample size into question. Again, I am not saying this club will win 90 games, what I am saying is there are some poor starts that will improve. Let’s take a look at 5 sabermetric stats that will improve.
“Don’t sabe me bro.”
Dexter Fowler: 39 wRC+
Through 40 plate appearances, Dexter Fowler has a wRC+ of 39, which is roughly 60% below league average, which is around 100. Through his major league career, Fowler’s lowest wRC+ was in his sophomore season of 2010 where he scored a 94 wRC+. His numbers over the past four years have been 129, 110, 126, and 103. While I wouldn’t expect him to finish in the 120’s again, a 100 should be easily attainable, in fact, Steamer is projecting a 104 wRC+ which I think is pretty conservative.
Do not give up on Dexter Fowler.
Stephen Piscotty 26.9% K rate
Yes, Stephen Piscotty had an impressive game on Wednesday, but has started out slow (like every other Cardinal). Through 26 plate appearances, Piscotty has struck out nearly 27% of the time. For a power hitter like Randal Grichuk, this would be average if not pretty good. Piscotty is not that player and has had previous K rates around 20%. Steamer projects a K rate of 19.8% for Piscotty. He will cut down on the strikeouts which means he will put the ball in play more which will lead to more opportunities for runs.
Matt Carpenter 21.7% hard hit rate
There are several statistics I could point to for Matt Carpenter, but I will focus on the analytical hard hit rate. Through the first week plus of the season, Carpenter’s hard hit rate is 21.7%, meaning he is hitting the ball “hard” less than 1/4 of the time he makes contact. This is extremely below his previous numbers of 41.9% in 2016, 37% in 2015, and 33.3% in 2014. Hitting the ball hard leads to more base hits, so it’s pretty much a given that he will hit it harder which will increase many of his other stats.
Lance Lynn 6.66 FIP
Sample sizes for pitchers are even smaller as they have only gone twice (except Michael Wacha) through the rotation. After two turns, Lance Lynn owns a 6.66 FIP. I threw this one on the article partially for its ominous nature, but also because it shows how unlucky he has been. FIP stands for fielding independent pitching. There are things that a pitcher can’t control (defense) and those things are eliminated with FIP. Lynn’s highest career FIP came in 2012 and it was 3.49. Steamer is projecting a slightly higher one (probably due to Tommy John recovery) at 4.02. This is nowhere near the 6.66 he is currently at.
Carlos Martinez 66.2% LOB rate
Carlos Martinez has had one good and not so good start at the beginning of 2017. If you look at his FIP and ERA you will find respectable numbers, but I have a stat that suggests those numbers will get much better. Carlos Martinez is keeping 66.2% of baserunners from scoring thus far, which is actually much lower than league average of 71 or 72% and even lower than his averages, around 78%. This means that Martinez should be able to hold more runners from scoring, which will lower his ERA.
There are several more stats I could look at for players who are not performing where the should be. The debate now seems to be how much of the Cards early struggles are sample size related and how much are related to them just not being very good. I think there is a mix there, but I wanted to point out some sample size anomalies that will change as the season progresses.
In a month, I will revisit this post and prove to you that these numbers were just sample size related. What I won’t be able to prove to you is if this club is going to be a contender.