I have been doing some research over the past couple of weeks that led me to find a very interesting tidbit of data that I felt the need to share with all of my fellow #STLCards fans that happen to read these pages here at Birds On The Black.
It is about a left-handed pitcher in the organization that not many people seem to discuss.
Tyler Webb is a pitcher that does not get much acclaim in these parts, or any parts of Cardinal fandom that I follow closely. (He was covered here.) However, he did something quite remarkable this season - and it was to end the regular season, so it should have been at the forefront of our collective minds. But it wasn't. At least not for me.
During a tight pennant race, Webb pitched in 7 games to 19 batters. These 7 games were against (with batters faced, and retired):
Milwaukee (1) - came in with 2 outs in the 8th inning of a 7-6 loss, when the Cardinals were up 4-3. Webb faced Mike Moustakas in what was, at the time, the biggest out of the entire game.
Chicago (1) - came in to start the 6th inning with the Cardinals having just taken a 2-1 lead (we would win the game 2-1). He got Schwarber to line out to lead off the 6th.
Chicago (4) - came in with 1 out in the 7th and retired the last two in the 7th and first two in the 8th in the Molina/DeJong back-to-back homers to win it 9-8 game. Webb got important outs retiring Heyward, Hoerner, Contreras, and Rizzo before Gant and Martinez closed it out.
Chicago (1) - Webb, pitching in his third game of the series, threw to just one batter to end the 8th and picked up the win. With a 2-1 lead, Mikolas got pulled with 2 on and 2 out in the 8th and Kyle Schwarber once again at the plate. Webb retired him to get that win.
Arizona (1) - In the 4,000 inning (I think it was actually 19) loss to the Diamondbacks, Webb threw "early on" in the 10th inning to just one batter, Josh Rojas. He got Rojas to bounce out to second.
Arizona (5) - The next day, with the bullpen in shambles, Webb was one of 7 pitchers to record 24 total outs - he got 5 of them, tied for most on the staff that day. He recorded the last two outs of the 6th (Jake Lamb and Kevin Cron) and the entire 7th (Rojas, Nick Ahmed, and Domingo Leyva).
Chicago (6) - Facing the Chicago Cubs for the 4th time in just over a week, Webb retired 6 in a row in an 8-6 loss. The Cubs scored 8 runs across 9 innings, two of which Webb worked scorelessly, with not even a runner allowed. The Cubs had 17 base runners and 8 runs in the other 7 innings. Webb retired Kemp, Hoerner, Schwarber, Happ, Lucroy, and Caratini across the 6th and 7th innings.
All in all, there were 15 individual batters faced, four of them more than once, in order to face 19 batters at the plate in that 7-game stretch. Those 15 hitters combined to hit .253/.337/.464/.801 over the course of the season - or almost exactly what Manny Machado did in 2019. Would you have expected Tyler Webb to get out a Manny Machado type 19 times in a row? Yeah, me either. Webb did.
Tyler Webb threw 75 pitches over 19 batters - 3.95 per batter. Webb threw:
9 fourseam fastballs (12%) - averaging 90.3 mph and a 2200 rpm spin rate compare that to a season average of 37.2% of the time at 89.9 mph and 2197 rpm Basically, he just threw it way less often.
35 sinkers (46.7%) - averaging 90.9 mph and 2159 rpm compare that to a season average of 28.0% of the time at 89.8 mph and 2144 rpm Basically, he just threw it way more often, replacing the 4seamer not being thrown.
21 curves (28%) - averaging 76.3 mph and 2319 rpm compare that to a season average of 15.4% of the time at 76.7 mph and 2283 rpm He threw a lot more curve balls as well, with slight more spin (good!)
10 changeups (13.3%) - averaging 79.7 mph and 1806 rpm compare that to a season average of 19.4% of the time at 79.7 mph and 1768 rpm He threw less change ups, but slight more spin here, too (not good for changes!)
So his repertoire varied a bit, but he was very much facing a high percentage of lefties in that grouping.
Is there anything else I can find that would describe his late season dominance?
44.7% of his pitches on the edge of the strike zone prior to September 15th.
25.7% of his pitches in the heart of the plate prior to September 15th.
.280 wOBA and .288 xwOBA prior to September 15th.
85.8 mph average exit velocity prior to September 15th.
14 of 119 (11.8%) balls in play were barrels or made with solid contact prior to September 15th.
44.0% of his pitches on the edge of the strike zone from September 15th onward.
28.0% of his pitches in the heart of the plate from September 15th onward.
.000 wOBA and .262 xWOBA from September 15th onward.
86.3 mph average exit velocity from September 15th onward.
Only 2 of 15 (13.3%) balls in play were barrels or made with solid contact from September 15th onward.
What this describes to me is that he was getting much luckier in those last 7 games pitched. Players hit the ball half a mile per hour harder, had a higher percentage of barrels or solid contact, he threw more pitches over the heart of the plate and less pitches on the edges of the zone, but somehow his xwOBA went down - but the luckiest part was that prior to September 15th, he basically pitched to his xwOBA whereas in the 19 plate appearances to end the regular season he allowed nothing at all.
Then again maybe not. His average launch angle against him prior to September 15th was nearly 16 degrees. In his last 7 games of the year, it was just 9.2 degrees. Maybe that's the key?
Who knows. What I do know is that Tyler Webb flat out dominated the second half of September and I hope he does so again in 2020!