Feb. 24: Q of the Day
While Joe Kelly has had some success as a starter, his pitches seem to come up and flatten out somewhat about the fifth or sixth inning. With our abundance of starting pitching, wouldn’t he be better slotted for long relief and occasional spot-starter?
— Bob K., Chicago
The biggest hindrance in Kelly’s struggles to pitch past the sixth inning had to do with efficiency more than it did with effectiveness. In 15 starts last season, Kelly started the seventh just two times. He finished the inning once. Yet, he threw 90+ pitches in nine different starts. High pitch counts didn’t do much to hurt the result — he allowed more than three earned runs in a start only twice — but it did stop him from pitching as deep as he would have liked.
Since last spring, the Cardinals have encouraged Kelly to reconsider what sort of pitcher he needs to be in order to maximize his skills as a starter. That means perhaps pulling in the reins and replacing a 97-mph fastball with a sinker that is more likely to be put into play. Yes, the strikeout numbers would probably go down. But so would the pitch count. Think about how quickly sinkerball pitcher Jake Westbrook could get through innings when he was at his best. Getting those groundball outs early in the count do wonders for a pitcher trying get deep into a game.
Efficiency is more important in a starting role than it would be a relief one, so Kelly’s role to open the season could dictate how he uses his repertoire. If the Cardinals chose to slot Kelly into the back-end of the bullpen, you’ll likely see a trend toward more four-seam fastballs than two-seam ones. Otherwise, expect it to be the opposite.
To submit a question for consideration, email me at Jenifer.Langosch@MLB.com. Include your first name, last initial and hometown.
Follow me on Twitter (@LangoschMLB), Instagram (LangoschMLB) and Facebook (Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com)