Not the Droids We Were Looking For

The major problem we had last year – closing out games with the lead – reared its ugly head in a big way on Opening Day. Staked to a 4-2 lead, and with 2 out in the ninth, Jason Motte surrendered 4 runs, and the Cardinals lost 6-4.

It’s early. It’s very early. But the one day returns are not encouraging.

I ‘watched’ the game from work, courtesy of ESPN.com. Interesting side note: ESPN has updated it’s Gamecast to include probability of winning at the top of the page, stealing a slice of life from fangraphs. Before the Pirates got 2 in the sixth, Cardinals win prob was about 82%. Even after that, St Louis had a 56% shot at winning. I can only imagine how high it was with two out, a guy on third, and a 1-2 count on the hitter.

Wainwright seemed shaky, although he danced out of trouble for 5 innings. That sixth was painful to watch – 3 walks, then the tying double off Kinney. I assume Ludwick made a great throw to nail Maholm at the plate, ending the inning. How about Maholm? Single and 2 walks in 3 trips to the plate. Someday I’m going to invent a NL fantasy league where pitcher hitting statistics count in the team totals.

Via SportsCenter highlights, I saw a little of Motte’s outing in the ninth. There are folks out there with a lot more time watching him, so my single sample size experience is definitely skewed. He didn’t seem to have a secondary pitch besides his fastball. Again, selective highlight editing skews that perception.

Assuming he has a breaking ball of some sort, his fastball is what disturbed me. It doesn’t move at all. He throws hard – high 90s – but it’s straight. I’ve seen this before in a Cardinal closer. Todd Worrell. Todd threw gas, but it was straight gas. And good fastball hitters, of which MLB is loaded with, will eventually time it and turn it around. Especially if they get to watch hitter after hitter get fed the same pitch (as Jack Wilson did). Again, one-sample size set, no other data to go off, but if Jason Motte is a ‘here it is, hit it if you can’ kind of guy, NL hitters will feast on him. And it will be a long year.

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