The vexing success of Joe Kelly

The vexing success of Joe Kelly

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The vexing success of Joe Kelly

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by JJ Bailey / BaseballStL

KMOV.com

Posted on September 12, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 14 at 12:52 PM

(BaseballStL) – The Cardinals starting rotation is having quite a run of late. With Lance Lynn’s return to form Wednesday night, it’s been 27.2 innings since a Redbird starter has given up an earned run.

On the back of this streak, the Cardinals have won five straight, and continue to hold the lead in the NL Central.

Charged with continuing the streak is perhaps St. Louis’ hottest pitcher in Joe Kelly. Kelly’s recent run, starting on July 6, has included eight wins, three no-decisions, and no losses.

Also, in the 11 games in which he has started since then, the Cardinals have only lost once. That loss, 2-0 to the Braves, saw Kelly go 6.1 innings and give up no runs.

His success is somewhat coutnerintuitive, as his accuracy has been a question mark.

Kelly’s ERA has dropped to 2.74, but his WHIP remains high at 1.40 (though in fairness he has only thrown 70 innings as a starter).

He throws a strike on the first pitch only 55 percent of the time, well below the MLB average of 60. Adam Wainwright throws 65 percent of first pitches for strikes. Phil Hughes and Patrick Corbin lead the majors with 70 percent.

Of his 1633 pitches thrown, Kelly has tossed 633 of them for balls. He has seen an 0-2 count only 18 percent of the time, when the MLB average is 24.

Teammate Shelby Miller, by contrast, sees them 34 percent of the time.

So Kelly doesn’t get ahead but about half the time, and he rarely stays ahead when he does. Generally this would be a recipe for disaster. Yet here he stands as the most dominant pitcher on the roster of late.

One possible explanation could be that his somewhat erratic approach keeps hitters on their heels, evidenced by his skill at getting the called third strike.

Kelly’s looking strikeout percentage is 32, nearly ten percent more than the MLB average of 24. Perhaps hitters are unable to settle in against him because he works around the zone.

Despite walking 3.5 per game, the 25-year-old has seven quality starts. As unorthodox has his success has been, it is impossible to ignore.

Thursday, he will get to showcase his strength against yet another division foe. He’s 6-0 against NL Central teams as a starter, and another team win on the back of Kelly would tie the season-best streak of six in a row.  

JJ Bailey covers the Cardinals for KMOV.com and the BaseballStL app. Follow him on twitter @jungborednbroke and on @baseballstl_app for updates. 

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