(BaseballStL) -- Let’s assume the worst, that the Cardinals are forced to play a one-game play-in. Whom should they pitch?
The quick answer is, of course, Adam Wainwright. But not so fast. Let’s take a statistical look at who might be the best choice. Big games demand your best pitcher and that would figure to be Wainwright. But statistics tell a different story, depending on the scenario.
If the Cardinals play the Cincinnati Reds in that one-game play-off, statistically, Wainwright would not be the best man for the job. The Reds, on the strength of two terrible whippings they put on him in the second half, are hitting .319 as a team. Waino was smoked for nine earned runs on Aug. 28 and six more five days later. Shin-soo Choo, Zach Cozart and Brandon Phillips are all hitting better than .400 when Wainwright pitches. His ERA since the All-Star break is 4.30 so we better look somewhere else.
Shelby Miller is lights out at home this year, posting an 8-3 record and a 1.76 ERA. He threw against the Reds once since the ASB at Cincinnati, surrendering three earned runs in six innings. He’s not so good on the road (5-6, 4.48 ERA) so Miller at home against the Reds would statistically be a better choice.
The hottest pitcher since the break is Joe Kelly, who surrendered just one run in six innings against the Reds and if the game is on the road, Kelly is 7-1 in the second half.
Lance Lynn is just 2-6 since the break with an ERA of 4.6 (away, it’s even worse.) Against the Reds, he’s surrendered six earned runs in 13 innings and Jay Bruce has hit for the cycle against him in 13 at-bats so his resume is not impressive.
Best choice at Busch is Miller, best choice at Great American is Kelly. But whether either is ready for that pressure is an issue that cannot be ignored.
Should the Pirates falter and the Cards face them in a one-gamer, the outlook is decidedly different.
In that scenario, Miller is definitely not the right choice, home or away. Garret Jones is an incredible 7-10 against him and the Pirates are hitting .305 when Miller pitches.
Kelly is 2-0 and has surrendered just one run to the Bucs in 12 innings (and Jones is 0-7) since the break. Lance Lynn again is an iffy choice as the Pirates hit .275 off him since the break (and Jones is 4-7.)
Wainwright is much stronger against Pittsburgh. Since the break, the Pirates are hitting .210 against him in 21 innings, including the recent shutout that put the Birds back in first. So Waino at home and Kelly the better choice at Pittsburgh.
Big game decisions are made by taking into account a lot of variables, historical performances, recent events and gut feelings. But statistics are a reflection of reality and cannot be ignored in any decision. Wainwright has struggled against the Reds and Miller and Kelly would be better choices.
Don’t look for that to happen however.