The New York Yankees just finished a three game series in St. Louis against the Cardinals. The Yankees took two of the three games and thus had a successful series. The two fan bases are fun to compare. You cannot deny that the Cardinals have something special in St. Louis. The sea of red is everywhere and no city supports their team better. But they also, with a few rational exceptions, do not like their team questioned in any way. Yankee fans, on the other hand, love to argue and usually do so against each other! Last night on Twitter was a typical example. I wasn't picking on the Cardinals, which is the funny thing. It was actually a compliment to the Yankees for the series. I tweeted:
Yankees faced the talented Wacha, Lynn & Miller, had pitchers hitting and only struck out 11 times in 118 PAs in the series. 9.8%.
— William Tasker (@FlagrantFan) May 29, 2014
In my mind, that is not saying anything bad against the Cardinals. The current MLB strikeout rate is 20.2%. So 9.8% for a series is a nice bit of information. It was one of the few things nice you can say about the Yankees' inconsistent offense thus far this season. In the last seven days, the Yankees' strikeout rate has been 13.5% and it is only 17.8% for the month of May, nicely below league average.
But a Cardinal fan took exception to the tweet and fired back:
— Ron Fauss (@ronfauss) May 29, 2014
I thought that was interesting. So I decided to see if that was indeed a "thing." A couple of articles I did find seem to indicate that it was indeed a "thing" during the Tony La Russa / Dave Duncan days. But now pitching coach Derek Lilliquist states that the current philosophy is more of a hybrid.
In other words, the current power pitchers the team has make it conducive to pitch up in the zone and get their share of strikeouts. That was anecdotal evidence that this fan's meme was perhaps dated. What do the statistics say?
The statistics show that the Cardinals are fifth in baseball as a pitching staff in strikeout percentage of 22.0%. It was higher before the series with the Yankees. Since we've already said that the league average is 20.2%, the Cardinals are decidedly better at striking people out than most of the league.
If the Cardinals are still pitching to contact, they aren't doing it very well. The pitching staff is currently 20th out of thirty teams in contact percentage against. But have no fear, that is a good number, not a bad one. Missing bats is a good thing.
If you are pitching to contact, it would be preferable to have a staff that features ground balls. In fact, from the articles I culled for this piece, the Duncan philosophy was to pitch down in the zone to get ground balls. But the current Cardinals are nineteenth out of thirty teams in causing ground balls and they are eighteenth in ground ball to fly ball percentage.
Sometimes fans aren't as informed as they could be. But that is understandable. The only problem with not being current in what a team is really doing is the risk of blindly defending a meme that is no longer defensible. And to get back to my original point, the Yankees did do a great job of frustrating the Cardinals current strategy by actually getting the bat on the ball quite often.