Will 22-year-old right-hander Michael Wacha crack the Cardinals’ postseason rotation?

9 Comments

Beyond ace Adam Wainwright, there isn’t much certainty about which starters the Cardinals will choose to use this postseason. Michael Wacha might have provided some on Tuesday night.

Wacha, a 22-year-old first-round pick in 2012, came one out from no-hitting a good Nationals lineup in front of a packed house at Busch Stadium, using a changeup that drew high praise after the game from Ryan Zimmerman and a high-90s fastball to set the table. “”The changeup is so good,” Zimmerman admired to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.

St. Louis is two games up on Pittsburgh in the National League Central standings with five days left in the regular season and at least assured of a spot in the NL Wild Card Game. If the Cardinals finish strong — they end with a weekend series against the last-place Cubs — it’ll be straight to a five-game NLDS. That’s when some tough decisions will have to be made by second-year Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

A major league team will typically carry a three- or four-man rotation into a five-game Division Series. Outside of likely NLDS Game 1 starter Adam Wainwright, Matheny’s current regular-season staff is a mixed bag. Lance Lynn has been solid in three straight starts but his 4.09 ERA is the highest of Matheny’s four non-Wainwright options. Joe Kelly allowed only a handful of runs from early-July to mid-September but his peripheral numbers aren’t as promising and he was shaky this past weekend in Milwaukee. Shelby Miller, who’s had a not-as-good second half, also ran into problems against a 70-87 fourth-place Brewers team.

Miller, Kelly and Lynn will all pitch this week, and they’ll all have to perform well to fend off Wacha for the chance to start an October game. Or maybe it’s already too late. Wacha now boasts a 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 65 strikeouts through his first 64 2/3 major league innings. The righty out of Texas A&M had a 2.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 113/23 K/BB ratio in 106 minor league frames. All signs point to his success continuing.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

mlb
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
1 Comment

NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.