Gut Check: Kyle McClellan

by on May 3, 2011 · 7 comments

It’s an odd thing to say about a guy who is 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA, isn’t it?  Then again, this is the first time Kyle McClellan has to bounce back after a rough outing as a starter at the highest level, and it will be very interesting to see how he handles it.  It’s not exactly like he’s got an easy assignment against the 18-9 Marlins, either.  Of course, starters go through this with regularity, so what’s all the fuss?  I’ll explain by dropping knowledge like Prince Fielder drops carrot sticks.  Consider McClellan’s first 5 starts:

  1. 3-2 no decision vs the Pirates, 6.0 innings, 95 pitches, 2 earned runs
  2. 8-2 victory over the Diamondbacks, 6.0 innings, 95 pitches, 1 earned run
  3. 9-2 victory over the Dodgers, 7.0 innings, 94 pitches, 1 earned run
  4. 4-2 victory over the Reds, 6.0 innings, 95 pitches, 2 earned runs
  5. 11-7 victory over the Astros, 5 2/3 innings, 80 pitches, 5 earned runs

Again, he’s undefeated with a 3.23 ERA, so what’s wrong with this picture?  Maybe it’s just me being a tad nitpicky.  Right-handed hitters are batting .329 against McClellan while lefties are only hitting .220.  Naturally, his WHIP number was expected to rise, but he’s up around 1.435 which is 2nd highest and exceeded only by Jake Westbrook‘s WHIP of 1.879.  If you’ve watched his starts and looked at his pitch count, you know that he’s playing with fire just a bit.  He’s giving up 10.0 hits/9 innings, and his SO/9 rate is down to only 5.0 which would be a career low for a season for Kyle.  Is there just a bit of a weak spot in the armor?  Is he already hitting “the wall” as a starter?  Does this “Honkin’ for Jaime” shirt make my hips look skinny?  #shamelessplugisshameless

I’m not saying that McClellan needs to do anything specific against the Marlins.  It would be ridiculous of me to inform our 3 loyal readers of how he needs to establish his fastball early and get ahead of hitters to set up some other random pitch blah blah blah.  Anybody can spout that stuff.  Just know that the Marlins have guys like Gaby Sanchez, Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, and John Buck who can do work in a hurry, if he isn’t on his game.  Besides, it’s not like he can just turn the game over to the Cardinals bullpen for the last 3 innings and go sit comfortably on the bench without a care in the world. 

Against what I consider one of the tougher teams in the NL, coming off of a start in which he surrendered 5 runs and only lasted 80 pitches, I believe that this may be the start in which we truly find out whether Kyle McClellan has the mental makeup to do well as a starting pitcher or not.  Weather permitting, of course.

TIDBIT:  There certainly shouldn’t be any complaints about McClellan’s offensive output.  He’s hitting .333 with 3 RBI this season.  For what it is worth, I don’t think that he’s hit any wall as a starter, and conditioning probably isn’t a factor.  Team’s are just being patient, and some are willing to wait for Franklin to pitch himself out of the game.

MORE BITS OF TID:  For the sake of the Cardinals, I hope McClellan starts figuring out a way to get some quick innings.  Yes, the team probably expected that the bullpen would be picking up the slack on a regular basis, but they probably hadn’t expected the bullpen to be in the shape it’s currently in, either.

Like it?  Think McClellan can bounce back and shutdown the Marlins?  Follow gr33nazn on Twitter, and we’ll calculate his WHIP using an abacus or something!

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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Otter May 3, 2011

5IP/6H/4ER and only 75 pitches. I’m not impressed, but nor am I surprised.
So far, this season seems to be like the little guys are carrying the load offensively (not that Holliday and Berkman aren’t helping by any means), but the pitching has just been… “eh”. They’re not doing anything wrong, they’re not really making that many mistake pitches, but they’re not missing bats either. It’s like my old college coach used to say, you can have all the skill in the world, but there comes a point where the best players simply find ways to get the job done, and so far, the Cardinals have not been finding ways to get the job done defensively. Weak errors, poor closing power, and just a general inefficiency on defense is murdering the team. You can claw out a few wins now and outlast some opponents, but they’re going to wear out pretty fast, and it’s a long season.

PH8 May 4, 2011

“…but the pitching has just been… “eh”.”

I know it’s easy to overlook because the bullpen has largely been ulcer-inducing, but the starting pitching has been excellent save for some bad luck for Carpenter and some bad outings by Westbrook.

Cardinals starters are currently 8th in the league in xFIP.

Mike Turner May 4, 2011

Let us not forget that McClellan is a fifth starter, and judge him relative to other fifth starters. That was the criteria that met Jeff Suppan when he came in, and he was a superlative 5, used his mettle to prove himself a 3, and garnered a contract worth of a 2 after his wonderful work in the 2006 post-season. I’m not saying McClellan is on a Soup track, I’m just saying keep it all relative.

PH8 May 4, 2011

This is a great point, Mike. Not to mention that many of us were railing against him being in the rotation at all. He has certainly exceeded my expectations so far.

Dennis May 4, 2011

Against which 5th starters should he be judged? The Cardinals want to make the playoffs, so should he only be compared against the 5th starters for teams expected to complete for the playoff spots? What exactly determines who the “5th starter” is anyway? Isn’t it just a label? I’d argue that Westbrook is really pitching like the 5th starter, so McClellan is really the #4 and should be compared against other #4 starters.

Besides, this really just misses my point. Suppan averaged less than a 4.00 ERA while averaging over 190 innings a season for 3 full seasons. McClellan is starting to trend north of that ERA and south of that innings mark. The point is that as good as he’s been, he’s going to have to be better. His early line hides a few ugly truths. He’s now given up 4+ runs in 2 different starts, and he’s yet to pick up a loss thanks to the Cardinals offense.

PH8 May 4, 2011

Could be worse, they could’ve signed Suppan.

Dennis May 4, 2011

True, but nobody knows what would’ve happened, if they had left McClellan in the pen and used someone else as the other starter.

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