Stats & Info: St. Louis Cardinals

Top stats to know: Rookie of year preview

November, 10, 2014

AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThis swing produced 36 home runs in 2014.
Awards season kicks off on Monday with the announcement of the AL and NL Rookie of the Year awards.

In the American League, the choice is clear-cut, with Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu heavily favored over New York Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances and Los Angeles Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker.

In the National League, New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton and St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong are the three finalists in what should be a close race.

AL: Abreu’s award to lose
Abreu is trying to become the first White Sox player to win the AL Rookie of the Year award since Ozzie Guillen in 1985 and the sixth White Sox player overall, joining Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio (1956), Gary Peters (1963), Tommie Agee (1966) and Ron Kittle (1983).

Abreu led all rookies in home runs (36), RBIs (107), hits (176), doubles (35), runs scored (80), OBP (.383), slugging percentage (.581) and OPS (.964). He's the first rookie in major league history to finish in the top five of all three Triple Crown categories.

Abreu became the first player in MLB history to win both the player of the month and the rookie of the month awards twice in the same season.

Abreu would be the first first baseman to win the award since Ryan Howard of the Phillies won in 2005.

That’s not to say that Betances and Shoemaker didn’t have good seasons.

Betances had a 1.40 ERA and averaged 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, both the lowest totals for anyone who threw at least 80 innings this season. Betances also ranked best among those pitchers in opponents’ batting average (.149) and OPS (.442).

At age 28, Shoemaker had one of the best rookie seasons for an Angels pitcher. He finished 16-4 and was 7-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last eight appearances of the season.

NL: deGrom vs. Hamilton
DeGrom is trying to become the first Mets player to win rookie of the year honors since Dwight Gooden in 1984. The other Mets to win the honor are Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972) and Darryl Strawberry (1983).

DeGrom didn’t figure to be in the rookie of the year running after starting the season 0-4, but he was dominant the rest of the year, going 9-2 with a 1.99 ERA in his last 15 starts. DeGrom allowed 20 runs in his first seven starts and only 24 in those last 15.

Included in that was a start against the Marlins in which he tied a major league record by striking out the first eight batters of the game.

Hamilton is trying to become the first Reds player to win the award since pitcher Scott Williamson won in 1999. The last Reds position player to win was third baseman Chris Sabo of the Reds in 1988. Other Reds to take the honors: Pete Rose (1963), Tommy Helms (1966), Johnny Bench (1968) and Pat Zachry (1976).

Hamilton excelled in two areas: baserunning, as he finished second in the NL with 56 stolen bases, and defense. He led NL center fielders with 10 assists and ranked third among them with 14 defensive runs saved.

Hamilton’s 56 steals are tied for the second most by a rookie in the wild-card era, behind only Tony Womack’s 60 for the Diamondbacks in 1997.

Wong is an unlikely candidate to win, but he did close the season very strong. He would be the first Cardinals player to win rookie of the year since Albert Pujols in 2001.

Postseason Kernels

October, 30, 2014

AP Photo/David J. PhillipThere were plenty of standout performances this postseason en route to the Giants' championship.
Just 221 days, 18 hours and 21 minutes after the first pitch in Sydney, the 2014 MLB season has come to its inevitable end. But there's still time for a look back at some of the postseason's best oddities. We invite you to tell us which of these games was your favorite ...

AL Wild Card
It seems so long ago now (a month, in fact) but it gave us "Yostball," after the skipper's habit of bunting and running in unexpected situations. Kansas City had seven different players steal a bag, one shy of the record for any major league game (the Oakland Athletics had eight thieves against Minnesota on Aug. 1, 1976). They tied the postseason record of seven steals as a team, set by the 1907 Cubs and matched only by the Big Red Machine in the 1975 NLCS.

Cardinals-Dodgers, Game 1
Clayton Kershaw's disastrous seventh inning made him the first pitcher in postseason history to allow eight runs while also recording 10 strikeouts. No Dodger had done that in the regular season since Van Mungo in 1936. Meanwhile, Cards starter Adam Wainwright allowed 11 hits and six runs but got bailed out by the big inning. He's the first postseason starter with those totals to not lose the game since Scott Erickson of the Orioles in 1997. A.J. Ellis had four hits and scored three runs, becoming only the second Dodgers hitter ever to do that in the postseason. The other was Steve Garvey (1974 NLCS).

Giants-Nationals, Game 2
When go-ahead run Buster Posey was thrown out at the plate in the ninth, we literally played two. Brandon Belt finally homered in the 18th, only the third 18th-inning-or-later homer in Giants history. George "High Pockets" Kelly hit an inside-the-parker in 1922, while Larry Doyle in 1914 provided the deciding runs in what was (at the time) the longest National League game ever, a two-run shot in the top of the 21st in Pittsburgh. Yusmeiro Petit threw six innings of one-hit relief and got the win, something no pitcher in the majors had done since fellow Giant Ryan Jensen on May 4, 2002.

NLCS Game 2
Kolten Wong's walk-off made the Cardinals the first team ever to homer in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of the same postseason game. The 5-4 final score was spread over nine different half-innings (no crooked numbers), tying the record for most runs in a postseason game without a multi-run inning. The Yankees set the record when they beat the Orioles in the 1996 ALCS when Bernie Williams hit a walk-off homer in the 11th.

NLCS Game 5
Travis Ishikawa hit the fourth pennant-winning home run since the start of divisional play in 1969. Magglio Ordoñez sent the Tigers to the 2006 World Series, while the others were both famous Yankee homers: Chris Chambliss in 1976 and Aaron Boone's 11th-inning shot in Game 7 in 2003. This year's NLCS was only the third postseason series with walk-off homers by both teams, the others being the 2004 NLCS and the 1988 World Series-- in which one was Kirk Gibson's legendary "one-legged" homer.

ALCS Game 3
Pushed back a day (in the only weather incident of the entire postseason), Jeremy Guthrie needed 94 pitches to get through five innings. That gave the Royals' bullpen another chance to shine. Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland each worked one perfect inning; they're the first quartet of relievers ever to do that in a postseason game. The entire ALCS was the first series in postseason history in which no starter-- for either team-- finished the sixth.

World Series Game 4
Eleven different Giants batters had hits, matching a World Series record last accomplished in 1960. Even Petit got in on the action, the first relief pitcher with a World Series hit since Al Leiter had a double in 1993, and the first Giants reliever with a hit since Clydell "Slick" Castleman in 1936. In a four-run third inning, the Royals sent 11 batters to the plate, including Jason Vargas twice. He became the first AL pitcher to bat twice in a World Series inning since Boston's Luis Tiant in 1975.

World Series Game 5
Madison Bumgarner threw the first Giants shutout in the World Series since Jack Sanford in 1962; the first walk-free World Series shutout for any team since Bret Saberhagen in 1985; and the first walk-free World Series shutout with eight strikeouts since, well, ever. The previous high for K's in a World Series shutout with no walks had been seven -- by Don Larsen in his perfect game in 1956.

World Series Game 7
Because it was Game 7. And because Bumgarner recorded just the second five-inning save in the majors in the past 20 years. Joaquin Benoit of the Rangers recorded a seven-inning save -- and nearly finished a combined no-hitter -- on Sept. 3, 2002, when starter Aaron Myette was ejected for throwing at the first batter. Much more on Game 7 here.

By the way, the season would not be complete without a hearty shout-out to the amazing Play Index, and also our partners at the Elias Sports Bureau. Most of this column's content would be difficult, if not impossible, without their help. A sincere thank-you.

And if you're wondering ... our favorite game?

The next one. See you in April.

Top stats to know: Cards at Giants Game 4

October, 15, 2014
The Giants look to build on a 2-1 series lead over the Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLCS, starting tonight at 8:07 on ESPN Radio. The game will feature two right-handed starters who recent trends suggest should focus on throwing heat.

Cardinal rules for Shelby
Odds will be in Shelby Miller's favor tonight if he leans heavily on his fastball. Over 14 starts this season (including one from the NLDS) in which he’s thrown his heater more than 75 percent of the time, the right-hander is 5-0 with a 3.19 ERA and .226 opponents’ batting average. That’s opposed to 5-9 with a 4.06 ERA and a .244 opponents’ average with a fastball percentage less than 75.

Another major key for Miller will be to limit his pitches down in and below the strike zone. He’s without a win this season when more than 40 percent of his pitches are in that area, sporting an ugly 7.31 ERA and .315 opponents' batting average. Under 40 percent? A 10-3 record, 2.62 ERA, with opponents batting .209.

Singing a different 'Song
Ryan Vogelsong has struggled facing the Cardinals throughout his career in the regular season, posting a 1-6 record and 6.23 ERA over nine starts. That trend has reversed in the postseason, however, where the right-hander has beaten St. Louis in both their meetings while allowing just two earned runs and eight hits over 14 frames.

Similar to Miller, a key to Volgelsong’s postseason success against the Cardinals has been increased usage of his fastball. In the two postseason starts, Vogelsong threw his heater on roughly 64.4 percent of his pitches; a huge jump considering his 49.5 rate in the 2014 regular season.

The hitters he’ll be facing tonight with the most plate appearances in those two playoff games – Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter – were a combined 1-for-12.

Discipline taking a holiday
Speaking of Holliday, the Cardinals need to get him turned around to help regain control of this series. The slugger is batting just .125 (3-for-24) with zero RBIs over the last six games of this postseason.

He’ll need to be more selective in order to right the ship, having swung at 58 percent of pitches he’s seen over this six-game slump, leading to an inflated chase rate of 40 percent. Comparatively, Holliday swung at only 49 percent of overall pitches in the regular season while chasing just under 28 percent.

- The Cardinals are 4-10 in their last 14 postseason road games, losing their last two.

- The 24-year-old Miller has only faced the Giants twice in his career, both in 2013. He won both of those starts, allowing just two earned runs while striking out 11 over 12 1/3 innings.

- The Giants are 13-3 in their last 16 NLCS home games, going back to 1987.

- Pablo Sandoval has a .375 batting average (33-for-88) over his last 21 postseason games.

Cardinals' show their clout in NLCS Game 2

October, 13, 2014

Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesMatt Adams' eighth-inning blast was one of four Cardinals home runs of historic proportion in Game 2.

To say that the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals were not a home run hitting team during the regular season would be a gross understatement. St. Louis’ 105 home runs ranked last in the National League, and 29th overall in the majors, only ahead of the Kansas City Royals with 95. That was the lowest home runs total by a Cardinals team in the wild-card era, which includes the shortened 1995 season. But few teams have been more adept at hitting home runs in the postseason -- at least so far this October -- than St. Louis.

This postseason the Cardinals are launching one home run every 17 at-bats, which more than three times more frequently than their rate of one home run every 52 at-bats during the regular season.

Matt Carpenter started off Sunday’s long ball barrage with his third-inning blast off of perennial Cardinals postseason victim Jake Peavy. The solo shot was the fourth of this postseason by Carpenter in his 22nd at-bat. He hit eight home runs in 595 at-bats during the regular season.

Carpenter’s four home runs are tied with fellow Missouri third baseman Mike Moustakas for the most this postseason. All four of those came as a leadoff hitter, which ties him with Carl Crawford for third most in any postseason by a leadoff hitter. Crawford hit his for the Dodgers last season. Another Dodger, Davey Lopes hit five home runs from the leadoff spot in 1978, which is one behind Lenny Dykstra’s six leadoff home runs for the 1993 Phillies.

Next to join the home run parade was Oscar Taveras, who became the second-youngest Cardinal to hit a postseason home run by depositing a Jean Machi pitch down around the right-field foul pole. Only 21-year old Albert Pujols, who took Randy Johnson deep in Game 2 of the 2001 National League Division Series, was a greener Redbird than the 22-year-old Taveras.

Taveras was pinch-hitting for reliever Carlos Martinez when he hit the game-tying shot, becoming the first player in Cardinals postseason history with a game-tying or go-ahead pinch-hit home run.

The seventh inning has been disproportionately productive for the Cardinals this postseason. The team has scored 23 total runs, 14 in the stretch inning.

The eighth inning brought more heroics as Matt Adams stepped to the plate against hard-throwing Hunter Strickland. Adams went down 1-2 in the count but ripped Strickland’s offering 394 feet into the sea of red. Adams was the batter who sank Clayton Kershaw with a seventh-inning, three-run shot in the Cardinals’ NLDS Game 4 comeback victory. With that second swing Adams became the first player with two go-ahead homers in the seventh inning or later in a postseason since David Ortiz in 2004, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

Adams’ home run was the fourth that Strickland has allowed in four postseason appearances. In 50 appearances during the regular season in the minors and majors combined, Strickland allowed three home runs.

But closer Trevor Rosenthal couldn’t hold the lead, surrendering the game-tying run on a wild pitch that allowed pinch runner Matt Duffy to speed around from second base.

However in the bottom of the ninth, Kolten Wong, who until Sunday was best remembered for getting picked off first base to end Game 4 of the 2013 World Series, hit the fourth St. Louis home run of the night, a walk-off job, to even up the series.

Wong became the fourth Cardinal to walk-off with a home run, joining David Freese in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Rangers in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, Jim Edmonds in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS against the Astros and Ozzie Smith in the bottom of the ninth off Dodgers closer Tom Niedenfuer in the 1985 NLCS.

Wong also became just the fourth second baseman to end a postseason game with a home run, joining Jeff Kent in the 2004 NLCS for the Astros, Alfonso Soriano in the 2001 ALCS for the Yankees and Bill Mazeroski, who hit one of the most famous home run in baseball history, in Game 7 of the 1961 World Series for the Pirates.

Top stats to know: Brewers at Cardinals

September, 16, 2014

Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsMatt Holliday has seen a decline in his power production over the past four years.
The Brewers and Cardinals begin a three-game series Tuesday night at Busch Stadium (8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN), where St. Louis has won eight straight games. The Cards lead the NL Central by 3½ games over the Pirates and five games over the Brewers.

Here are some stats to know for Tuesday night’s game.

Going in opposite directions
After play on June 28, the Brewers were an NL-best 51-32 and held a 6½ game lead over the Cardinals in the division.

However, from June 29 to Aug. 25, the Brewers went 22-26 and saw their lead shrink to a game and a half. But things got worse from there.

Since Aug. 26, Milwaukee has won only five of 19 games, while the Cardinals (who have made postseason play each of the past three seasons, including two World Series appearances) have surged forward, winning 12 of 20 games to move into first place in the division.

Peralta struggling lately, but strong vs. Cardinals
Wily Peralta started off the season 15-7 with a 3.27 ERA in his first 25 starts. But he’s 1-3 with a 7.40 ERA over his past four starts.

However, he likes facing the Cardinals this season. Before losing to them Sept. 4, Peralta won his first three starts against St. Louis in 2014, pitching into the seventh inning every start.

What has been different against the Cardinals in 2014 from 2013?

• The Cardinals hit .524 (11-for-21) off Peralta with runners in scoring position last season; they are hitting .222 (4-for-18) this season.

• He has been much better at getting ground balls -- 60 percent ground ball rate in four starts against the Cardinals this season, 42 percent last season.

• Left-handed batters hit .286 with a 7-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio last season; they are hitting .184 with an 11-2 ratio this season.

Power outage
Matt Holliday's power production has been in a steady decline since 2010, with his slugging percentage dropping each year (from .532 in 2010 to his current .439 this season).

One reason for this lack of power could be his inability to hit pitches on the outer half of the plate.

He’s hitting almost 100 points lower on such pitches this season compared to 2013.

Quick hitters
• No player to play at least half of his games at catcher in the modern era (since 1900) has produced as many doubles in a season as Jonathan Lucroy this year (51).

• The Cardinals have hit 99 home runs this season, 29th in the majors. The last time St. Louis finished last in MLB in home runs was 1991.

• St. Louis ranked 22nd last season in defensive runs saved (minus-39). This season, they lead all of baseball (plus-59).

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Cardinals

July, 19, 2014
Clayton Kershaw might not have a scoreless streak going any more, but he figures to be tough to beat when the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday Night Baseball.

Here are some of the stories our broadcast crew will be focusing on tonight.

The greatness of Kershaw
Since the start of June, Kershaw is 8–0 with 80 strikeouts and an 0.74 ERA in eight starts. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Kershaw is the only pitcher in major league history to win eight consecutive starts within a single season with at least 80 strikeouts and an ERA under 1.00 over that span.

Kershaw pitched against the Cardinals on June 29 and struck out 13 in seven scoreless innings. He had a particularly wicked slider that night and whiffed eight hitters with it.

That pitch ranks among the best in the sport and nets misses on 54 percent of swings. Opponents have made 90 outs while getting 13 hits and two walks against that pitch this season.

Over the four-start stretch from June 18 to July 4, Kershaw got 38 outs with the pitch and yielded only one hit and one walk with it.

It was a slider on which Kershaw’s scoreless streak ended, however, with Chase Headley hitting a home run against a rare hanger in his latest start.

Carlos Martinez Stat to Watch
St. Louis Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez has the highest average fastball velocity of any pitcher to throw at least 50 innings this season (96.8 mph). He’s a smidge ahead of Kansas City Royals starter Yordano Ventura (96.7). An optimal maneuver for the Dodgers would be to start Carl Crawford somewhere in their outfield. Crawford is 11-for-18 with a double and a home run against pitches of 95 mph or faster this season.

Dee Gordon has also fared well against those pitches. He’s 10-for-31 with eight walks in at-bats ending with pitches that speed. Seven of the 10 hits have come from either hitting the ball up the middle or hitting it to the left side.

Some notable Dodgers have been beaten by the heat a bit this season. Matt Kemp (.182), Yasiel Puig (.167) and Adrian Gonzalez (.154) all have hit sub-.200 against pitches of that speed in 2014.

The Cardinals secret weapon
Pat Neshek showed that which made him an All-Star in Saturday’s win, as he struck out Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez to preserve a two-run lead with the tying run at the plate in the eighth inning.

Neshek has arguably been tougher to hit than Kershaw this season (take a look at Neshek's heat map below). He's faced 145 batters and held them to a .132/.179/.162 slash line, with only two extra-base hits. Lefties and righties have nearly identical numbers against him, with lefties hitting .130 and righties hitting .133.

Neshek lost the All-Star Game, but that appears to have been a minor blip. Opponents have only one hit in 30 at-bats against him in his past 16 appearances.

Top stats to know: Pirates at Cardinals

July, 9, 2014

AP Photo/J Pat CarterSince making his major league debut, Gregory Polanco has reached base safely in 24 of his 27 games.
The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals play the third game of their four-game series tonight at Busch Stadium (8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN). The Cardinals won the first two games of the series with consecutive walk-off home runs.

Here are some storylines our broadcast crew will touch upon tonight.

Pirates Starting Pitching

After play on June 20, the Pirates were 35-38 and nine games out of first in the NL Central. Since that time, Pittsburgh has won 12 of its past 17 games to move within 4½ games of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Pittsburgh was expected to start Gerrit Cole, but he will be placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a tight lat muscle. Cole has pitched well against the Cardinals in his career, with a 2.16 ERA in four career starts (two in the regular season, two in the postseason).

Expected to take his place is Brandon Cumpton, who will be recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. Cumpton has made nine starts for the Pirates this season and has gone 3-2 with a 4.61 ERA. He has one career start against St. Louis, a 6-0 Pittsburgh win on July 30, 2013, in which he threw seven shutout innings.

Lance Lynn’s Fastball

This season, Lance Lynn is using his fastball 78.6 percent of the time. Only Bartolo Colón (81.7 percent) uses the pitch more.

Last year, Lynn was second in the majors in the stat, but he has increased his usage this season.

Gregory Polanco Channeling His Inner Barry Bonds

Since his MLB debut on June 10, Polanco has reached base safely in 24 of his 27 games. Included in that was an 11-game hitting streak to begin his career, the longest such streak in franchise history.

Overall, the start of his career is eerily similar to that of another Pirates outfielder -- Barry Bonds.

Matt Holiday Struggles

Matt Holliday is having one of the worst seasons of his career. His batting average (.260), slugging percentage (.375) and at-bats per home run (64.6) are the lowest in his career, while his on-base percentage (.366) is his worst since 2005, his second year in the majors.

Top Stats to Know: Royals vs. Cardinals

June, 2, 2014

Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsTop prospect Oscar Taveras homered Saturday in his major league debut.
The Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals face off Monday night, when power will be at a premium in St. Louis.

As the Cardinals fight to catch the division-leading Brewers and the Royals look to pull themselves out of the AL Central basement, both teams will be trying to add the long ball to offenses that have suffered power outages to start the season.

Power Problems for Both

The Royals and Cardinals rank last and second-to-last, respectively, in home runs this season. Much of their power struggles have come in the middle of the lineups.

Both teams have received three home runs from their third and fourth hitters in the lineup, tied for the fewest by any team this season. The Royals (0.099) and Cardinals (0.111) also rank last and second-to-last this season in isolated power, which measures extra bases per at-bat.

Chasing History . . . The Wrong Way

The Royals are on pace for 69 home runs this season, which would be their second-lowest total in team history and fewest since 1976 (65) in a non-strike season.

The Cardinals' home run totals are way down as well -- they are on pace to hit 85. That would be their lowest home run total in a non-strike season since 1991 (70).

Matt Holliday has hit only three home runs, the fewest he has had in his first 56 games of a season. Matt Adams, who was recently moved to the disabled list with a left calf strain, has averaged a home run every 64.7 at-bats this season. Adams averaged a home run every 17.4 at-bats last season.

Cardinals' Defense Delivers

The Cardinals lead the majors with 38 defensive runs saved, five more than the next closest team.

St. Louis' infield has been especially dominant defensively, with second baseman Kolten Wong tied with Ian Kinsler for the second-most defensive runs saved with six (Colorado's DJ LeMahieu leads MLB second basemen with seven).

Last season, the Cardinals' defense ranked 22nd in the majors with minus-39 defensive runs saved, while the Royals led the majors in 2013 with 93 runs saved.

Lynn's shutout versus Yankees a rare one

May, 28, 2014
Lance Lynn wasn’t dominant, but he was sharp enough to earn his first career shutout by blanking the New York Yankees on Tuesday.

Lynn now has 39 wins over the past three seasons, but it looks like he’s headed to his best season in that span, with a 3.13 ERA so far. The past two seasons, his ERA was 3.78 and 3.97.

How he won
Lynn triumphed with a fastball that ranged from 92 to 95 mph and netted him 19 outs. But Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Lynn’s breaking stuff was the best he’d seen all season, even though Lynn didn’t get a swing and miss on any of the 28 breaking balls he threw.

Lynn threw a season-high 18 percent curveballs (22 of his 126 pitches), and those resulted in seven outs while yielding only one baserunner.

The Yankees went 2 for 17 when hitting ground balls against Lynn, who has benefited from improved infield defense: Cardinals infielders have turned 78 percent of ground balls hit against Lynn into outs. Last season, their out rate was 72 percent.

Interleague shutout of the Yankees a rarity
No pitcher had thrown a shutout in interleague play against the Yankees since the 1997 season, when Dave Mlicki (Mets), Greg Maddux (Braves) and Mike Grace (Phillies) did so.

The last Cardinals pitcher to shut out the Yankees in either the regular season or postseason was Ernie White, who threw a six-hitter against them in Game 3 of the 1942 World Series.

The last Cardinals pitcher to throw a complete game against the Yankees is a more recognizable name — Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson, in clinching Game 7 of the 1964 World Series.

As the Elias Sports Bureau noted, Gibson beat a Missouri native in Mel Stottlemyre that day. Lynn beat one as well in Yankees starter David Phelps.

Matt Adams continues to rake
Matt Adams supported Lynn’s effort by going 3 for 4 with an RBI. He is now 5 for 9 in the series and 18 for 40 in his past 11 games.

Adams continues to excel against pitches on (or just off) the outside edge of the plate. He has three hits in the series on pitches to the outer third or off the corner (including one on Tuesday), giving him 37 for the season.

Last season, Adams saw 693 pitches to that location (266 more than he’s seen so far this season) and had only 28 hits. He also has 32 line drives on such pitches in 2014, more than twice as many as he had in 2013 (15).

Rosenthal hasn't been what he was in 2013

May, 18, 2014
The St. Louis Cardinals were on the verge of sweeping the Atlanta Braves on Sunday and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny decided to gamble, using his closer Trevor Rosenthal for a fourth straight day and for the fifth time in a six-day stretch. Rosenthal had looked good in preserving three-run leads in each of the previous two days, with four strikeouts on 26 pitches in two dominant innings.

But the move backfired.

The Braves scored two runs in the ninth inning, one against Rosenthal and one on a Carlos Martinez wild pitch to score a come-from-behind win.

Though Rosenthal has only two blown saves this season, he’s lacked the effectiveness he’s had the previous two seasons. A couple of cases in point:

Rosenthal has now allowed at least one run in eight of his 19 appearances this season (42 percent of his games). Last season, he allowed runs in 16 of his 74 appearances, or about half as often.

Rosenthal blew this save on a bases-loaded walk to Jordan Schafer, who had walked only once in 29 plate appearances all season entering that matchup. It continued Rosenthal’s issues with walks this season. He’s now walked 14 in 21⅔ innings, only six fewer than he issued in 75⅓ innings in 2013.

In fairness to Rosenthal, his 3-2 pitch to Schafer was a pitch right at the bottom of the strike zone on which he didn’t get the call.

But even with that, Rosenthal has had some issues. One is in getting the high strike. His strike rate on fastballs thrown to the upper-third of the strike zone or above was 65 percent last season, but only 49 percent in 2014.

Rosenthal’s overall chase rate is down. It was 32 percent last season, but only 19 percent so far in 2014.

There had been some concerns about Rosenthal’s velocity, though his early drop-off seems to have dissipated. Rosenthal has had his two fastest average fastball velocities in the past four days (97.6 mph on Thursday, 97.2 on Sunday). He’s hit 99 mph on the radar gun only seven times this season after doing so 166 times in roughly four times as many pitches in 2013.

Matheny remained committed to Rosenthal on Sunday, perhaps because of his lack of faith in the Cardinals' other relievers. St. Louis relievers other than Rosenthal entered Sunday with a 2-6 record and 3.98 ERA. They were 18-15 with a 3.60 ERA last season.

Top stats to know: Cubs at Cardinals

May, 12, 2014
The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals start a three-game series at Busch Stadium tonight (8 ET on ESPN), the third series between the NL Central rivals this season.

Here are some of the key storylines we'll be following tonight on Monday Night Baseball.

Cardinals aren't clutch
Coming off a World Series appearance and 97-win season, most people expected the Cardinals to contend for the NL pennant. Yet as we approach the quarter-pole of the season they are 19-19 and five games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the division.

Their bats have really struggled early on, ranking 11th in the NL in both runs and OPS entering Monday's game.

Last season they led the league in runs and had the second-best OPS in the NL.

Much of last year's offensive success was fueled by a .330 batting average with runners in scoring position, a number that no other team in the last 40 years had ever matched. Regression has hit the Cardinals hard this season, as their .233 batting average with RISP ranks 19th in the majors in 2014.

Rizzo beats the shift
Anthony Rizzo last season had strong power numbers which included 23 homers and 40 doubles, becoming the youngest Cubs player ever with at least 20 home runs and 40 doubles in a season.

However, his batting average was just .233, brought down by a .258 batting average on balls in play that was the ninth-lowest in the majors last year.

That low BABIP could partly be explained by his inability to beat the shift. He hit just .143 on grounders and short liners against the shift last season, the fifth-lowest mark among players that saw at least 80 shifts in 2013.

This year he's still seeing a high number of shifts but he's done a much better job of beating them.

Rizzo is hitting .270 on short liners and grounders against shifts this year and already has as many hits on those plays as he did all of last season. He's raised his overall batting average to .285, including .303 on balls in play.

A closer look shows that Rizzo is hitting the ball up the middle more often this year, with nearly 37 percent of his balls put into play going to center compared to 27 percent last year.

Rizzo has made this transformation without sacrificing any power. He is on pace to hit more than 30 homers this season and his slugging percentage and isolated power numbers would both be career-highs.

Not an easy road for Wood
Travis Wood struggled his last time out against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, continuing a trend of poor road starts for the lefty.

Wood has lost his last four games away from Wrigley, with a 9.92 ERA in that span. He has more walks (10) than strikeouts (9) over those four outings and has failed to complete six innings in any of those games.

Facing the Cardinals might not help stop that streak. Wood's 4.90 ERA vs the Redbirds is his fourth-highest against any NL team, and he's won just one of five starts at Busch Stadium in his career.

Top stats to know: Cardinals at Braves

May, 5, 2014
"Monday Night Baseball" this week (7 p.m. ET/ESPN) features a matchup of the league's top two teams in starters' ERA, as the Atlanta Braves (2.42 ERA) host the St. Louis Cardinals (2.71 ERA).

Here are some of the top stats to know about Monday's pitching matchup between Shelby Miller and Aaron Harang.

Shelby Miller
One of the most powerful fastballs in the league is that of Cardinals starter Shelby Miller. He throws it hard, his average velocity of 93.6 mph ranking 11th in the league among starters since the start of last season. He also uses it effectively; he is tied for fourth in the league among starters since the start of last season in miss percentage (22.3 percent).
However, he has gone to his cutter more often this season, at the expense of his signature curveball.

He’s throwing that curveball in the strike zone less often, and hitters are learning to lay off it (15.9 percent chase percentage this season, compared to 26.2 percent last season). But they still whiff when they offer at it.

Overall, Miller is striking out fewer hitters and walking more, perhaps because he’s using the curveball less with two outs (14.3 percent of the time this season compared to 21.7 percent last season). His BB percentage nearly doubled, from 7.9 percent last season to 14.2 percent this season, and his K percentage dropped from 23.4 percent to 17.6 percent.

Aaron Harang
Despite losing two starters for the season, the Braves lead the majors in starters’ ERA and overall ERA. Part of that success has been due to the play of Aaron Harang, at least until recently.

Harang was leading the majors with a 0.85 ERA until Wednesday, his previous start, when he gave up nine runs, all earned, in 4 2/3 innings against the Marlins. After that outing, his ERA went up to 2.97, and he fell all the way to 42nd in the majors in ERA.

What has made him successful in the early going?

• His opponents’ BABIP is .258 (would be lowest of his career).

• His opponents’ well-hit average is .129 (his lowest since the start of 2009).

• Opponents are hitting .688 on well-hit balls (MLB average is .687).

• Opponents are hitting .526 on line drives (MLB average is .686).

• Allowed one HR in 50 AB to lefties (16 HR in 305 AB last season -- a rate of 19.1 AB per HR).

What went wrong on Wednesday?

• Allowed seven hard-hit balls (allowed 10 in first five starts combined).

• Threw 59 percent of his fastballs in the strike zone (45 percent in his first five starts combined).

• Didn’t get one swing-and-miss against his fastball (hitters missed 22 percent of their swings against his fastball in his first five starts).

• Allowed six hits with his fastball (allowed five in first five starts combined).

• Allowed five well-hit balls off his fastball (five in first five starts combined).

Top stats to know: Cardinals at Cubs

May, 4, 2014
One of baseball’s best rivalries will get special treatment at 8 p.m. ET today (ESPN/Watch ESPN), with "Sunday Night Baseball" broadcasting the game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs live from the Wrigley Field bleachers.

Here are some of the statistical storylines our broadcast crew will be looking at.

Jason Hammel’s surprising success
Jason Hammel’s 4-1 record, 2.08 ERA and league-leading 0.69 WHIP is one of the biggest early surprises of the 2014 season.

What have been the keys to Hammel’s success?

Hammel has thrown a much higher percentage of pitches at the bottom of the strike zone than he has in the past.

His rate of pitches in the lower-third of the strike zone or below in five starts this season is 46 percent, up from 35 percent from 2009 to 2013.

While Hammel has done a much better job neutralizing left-handers than he has in the past, he has been downright dominant against right-handed batters.

Righties are hitting .098 against him entering the day, the lowest opponents batting average for any ERA-title qualifier (two points better than Jose Fernandez entering the day). They’re 1-for-40 against him in two-strike counts.

Stats to Watch: Lance Lynn
Lance Lynn has had a lot of success for the Cardinals the past three seasons and he can thank his team’s offense in part for that. The Cardinals average 5.4 runs per game in Lynn’s starts over the past three seasons, the third-highest rate in the majors.

The thing to be wary of when Lynn struggles is the big inning. He has allowed three or more runs in an inning 27 times over the past three seasons. Only Jordan Lyles has yielded more big innings (29).

Lynn has always had more trouble with left-handed batters than right-handed batters. From 2012 to the present, he has allowed righties to hit .240 with a .637 OPS and lefties to hit .267 with an .808 OPS. That gap has been only more pronounced this season, with lefties hitting .291/.371/.509 in 62 plate appearances in 2014.

The struggles of the Cardinals' outfield
Without Carlos Beltran, the Cardinals outfield has not been able to replicate its past success.

Cardinals outfielders rank 14th in the NL in batting average and slugging percentage, and 13th in on-base percentage.

The difference from last season to this season is stark and can be seen in the chart on the right.

Starlin Castro’s turnaround
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has gotten off to a good start this season, hitting .313 with four home runs in his first 112 at-bats.

One reason for that is that Castro has been much more effective handling pitches on the inner half of the plate from right-handers this season. Pitchers have been attacking him there more often than they did last season, and he appears to be adjusting.

He’s hitting .370 with three homers in at-bats that end against righties that end with a pitch on the inner-half. Last season, he hit .264 with five homers on those pitches.

NL aces channel their 2013 best

March, 31, 2014
For a number of National League Opening Day starters, the first day of the baseball season was about picking up right where they left off.

That was true for 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, who dominated the Colorado Rockies for six innings in a Miami Marlins rout. Fernandez tied Josh Beckett’s club record for most strikeouts in an Opening Day start with nine.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Fernandez was only the second starting pitcher to have a nine-strikeout, no-walk game on Opening Day in the last 16 seasons.

The full list of pitchers to have that sort of game puts Fernandez in elite company. It is noted in the chart on the right.

Fernandez starred because he had a pitch mix that kept hitters guessing once he got two strikes on them. He threw 35 two-strike pitches, but didn’t throw more than 12 of any pitch type. Fernandez set a tone for how difficult he would be to hit when he struck out Troy Tulowitzki on an 84-mph slider in the top of the first.

Wainwright’s curve still pretty good
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright hasn’t lost anything from the curveball that made him among the top pitchers in the league last season. Wainwright (with help from a homer by catcher Yadier Molina) beat the Cincinnati Reds, 1-0, marking the first time in Reds history that they lost a season opener, 1-0.

Wainwright threw 22 curveballs and they netted him six outs, yielding no hits and one walk.

Liriano sharp
Some of the Pirates’ magic from 2013 carried over into their season opener with the Cubs, a game they won 1-0 on Neil Walker’s walk-off home run in the 10th inning. It was the second walk-off homer on Opening Day in Pirates history. Bob Bailey had the other against Hall-of-Famer Juan Marichal in 1965.

Elias notes that those mark the only two instances of a player hitting a walk-off homer in a 1-0 Opening Day win.

The Pirates got another great effort from Francisco Liriano, who struck out 10 in six scoreless innings. Liriano got misses on 45 percent of the swings against him. Ten of them came against his slider, resulting in seven strikeouts.

MLB theme of the week: Filling needs

November, 22, 2013
Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler wasn’t the only notable move this week, the busiest of baseball’s offseason so far. Let’s take a snapshot look at some intriguing notes related to other players who switched teams.

Bourjos, Young, find new homes to show off their ‘D’
The St. Louis Cardinals made a major defensive upgrade in centerfield in acquiring Peter Bourjos from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Though Bourjos has been hindered by injuries the last couple of seasons, he’s accumulated 33 Defensive Runs Saved in center field over the last four seasons. That’s tied with Craig Gentry for fifth-most at that position in that span. That’s just behind Chris Young, who agreed to a one-year $7.25 million contract with the Mets. Young is two years removed from his last really good defensive season. Young accumulated 38 Defensive Runs Saved for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010 and 2011, which ranked second-best among centerfielders in that span, behind only Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers.

Bourjos will be worth more to the Cardinals than he will to most other teams. Over the last four seasons, the Cardinals centerfielders have combined for -12 Defensive Runs Saved.

Young’s value to the Mets may depend on what position he plays and what other moves they make. Their centerfielder, Juan Lagares, ranked second in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved last season.

Angels fill a need
In obtaining third baseman David Freese from the Cardinals in trade for Bourjos, the Angels secured a player with a better history of offensive production at the hot corner than they’ve had in awhile.

The Angels have ranked 28th and 27th in OPS from their third basemen over the last two seasons.

Freese’s numbers dipped a bit from 2012 to 2013, but definitely represents an upgrade for the Angels.

Freese’s batting average on balls hit in the air was a near match in 2012 and 2013 (.473 and .481), though his homer total dipped from 20 to 9.

His overall batting average drop from .293 to .262 was attributable to hitting more ground balls (a 52 percent ground ball rate in 2012, 56 percent in 2013) and to his ground balls finding fewer holes (he went from hitting .310 on grounders in 2012 to .230 last season).

Under the radar: Bolstering the bullpen
With questions at the back of the bullpen, the Rockies went for experience by signing veteran LaTroy Hawkins, who had formerly pitched for the team with modest success in 2007. Hawkins pitched very well for the Mets last season, particularly filling in at closer in the latter part of the season when Bobby Parnell got hurt. Hawkins held opponents scoreless in 17 of his last 18 appearances (the only blip was a five-run outburst by the Tigers), striking out 16 and walking only one in that stretch.

The strikeout-to-walk rate was a key to Hawkins’ success. He had a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (55 strikeouts, 10 walks) at age 40.

Hawkins was one of five pitchers to throw at least 70 innings of relief last season with a strikeout-to-walk-rate of 5 to 1 or better. The other four are Koji Uehara, Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Trevor Rosenthal.