Joe Kelly By the Numbers

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Machine Gun Kelly, notorious gangster. I'm hoping this sticks as a nickname for the current Mr. Kelly. 
  • Machine Gun Kelly, notorious gangster. I'm hoping this sticks as a nickname for the current Mr. Kelly. 
Joe Kelly's time as a starter for the St. Louis Cardinals -- in 2012, at least -- may have come to an end last night. Jaime Garcia made a rehab start for Triple A Memphis last night, and if the Cardinals are happy with the way his arm responds to this latest outing, there is every indication he may rejoin the team in the very near future. 

It's likely Garcia's return would come in a starting capacity, which would probably mean the end of Kelly's tenure in the rotation. If so, he ended on a high note, throwing 6.1 very effective innings last night as the Cardinals continued their 2012 hammering of the Arizona Diamondbacks. (The Cards are now 4-0 against the Snakes this season, and have outscored Arizona by a combined score of 30-11.) He gave up a pair of runs on a seventh-inning homer that essentially chased him from the game, but that was really the only significant blemish on his evening. 

Even better than the runs was the 6:2 strikeout to walk ratio for Kelly, who hasn't always been nearly so effective in his time with the big club. He may or may not have been pitching to stay in St. Louis -- for the record, he probably wasn't; that decision is going to be more about Jaime's health than what Joe Kelly did on the mound -- but either way, he certainly pitched like a man who wanted to stay right where he is. 

The final tallies for Joe Kelly in his first go-round as starter for the Cardinals (if, indeed, last night was the end for now): 

  • 12 games, all starts. 
  • 68.2 innings. 
  • An average of 5.72 innings per start. (Not too bad, considering his penchant for elevated pitch counts, but not quite as good as you would hope.) 
  • A 3.41 ERA. 
  • A 4.01 FIP. 
  • A 4.06 xFIP. (That's FIP with a normalized home run rate, for those of you keeping score at home.) 
  • A strikeout rate of 5.90 per 9 innings. 
  • A walk rate of 3.01 per 9 innings. 
  • 75 hits allowed, 6 of which left the ballpark. 
  • A 51.2% groundball rate. (Very nice.) 
  • A WHIP of 1.427. (Not so nice.) 
  • And finally, for those of you who care about such things, three wins and five losses. 
All in all, it was a pretty good showing, and roughly what we should have expected from Kelly. Coming up through the farm system, the book on him was that he had great stuff, but occasionally shaky control and usually shaky command. His inability to put that great stuff where he wanted was what kept his strikeout rates down and made him more hittable than a guy with his arm should be. The sink and movement on his fastball was exceptional, though, allowing him to pile up grounders like nobody's business.

Well, that's pretty much exactly what we got. A strikeout rate below 6.00 just doesn't seem to follow for a guy who hits 97 multiple times per game, and more hits than innings pitched seems a little odd as well. A groundball rate above 50% is encouraging, though, and shows hitters have a tough time lifting his fastball to do any real damage against him. There is plenty to like about what he did, but it's obvious there are still some very real rough edges that need to be smoothed and polished before Joe Kelly is able to live up to the promise his arm holds.

For now, it appears Kelly's day in the rotation is likely over, and I for one hope the Cards shift him to the bullpen rather than return him to the minor leagues. I love seeing Trevor Rosenthal throwing his own brand of heat at Busch Stadium, but I think he would be better served in the minors, considering his own extreme youth and the express train he's taken through the minors the last couple seasons. Kelly, on the other hand, I would love to see just what he could do coming out of the 'pen, where I think he could sit pretty easily in that 96-97 range he tops out at as a starter.

Joe Kelly did the Cardinals proud. It hasn't always been the prettiest, but the man helped hold the rotation together when things could have gone completely down the tubes for the Redbirds.

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