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Poor Pitch Selection by Wellemeyer Helps Phillies, Hurts Cardinals

Nick PoustCorrespondent IIJuly 27, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 22:  Todd Wellemeyer #37 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the New York Mets on June 22, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)


St. Louis <a href=Cardinals starting pitcher Todd Wellemeyer had a rough outing, to no one's fault but his own. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)" title="Todd Wellemeyer" width="346" height="410" />

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Todd Wellemeyer had a rough outing, to no one's fault but his own. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

The reason why Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays was his ability to locate every pitch. If he went inside, it was to set up a pitch outside. If he went high, he went too high for a hitter to hit. He didn't live in the middle of the plate, he worked off it, throwing changeups and sliders that started in the strikezone and dipped inside and out that kept the hitters off guard.

Retired starting pitcher and sure-fire first ballot hall-of-famer Greg Maddux was the same way. Rarely did catchers have to move their glove, as he, throughout his illustrious 23-year career, hit the target at a remarkable rate. He won 355 games because of his repertoire, which heavily consisted of offspeed junk. Maddux had a fastball clocked in the mid-80s and so does Buehrle, but if well-located, it can be just as effective as a 94-98 mile-per-hour heater.

While some pitchers excel solely by blowing fastballs past the opposition, like the Boston Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon, it is not to best route if one wants to have a prolonged career. Papelbon throws in the mid-90s and has late life on his pitch, but though he racks up the saves, he has continuously been in trouble because he throws it eye-level and doesn’t have the offspeed stuff make up for his lack of location.

Todd Wellemeyer, who started for the St. Louis Cardinals against the Philadelphia Phillies, didn't have the control of a Maddux or Buehrle, nor the intelligence of either, or even the one-pitch repertoire of Papelbon. He didn't have anything.

Wellemeyer is fourth on the Cardinals with seven wins, but his win total is misleading, as he's been the beneficiary of fantastic run support. He entered his 20th start of the season with a 5.79 ERA, allowing 144 hits, 79 runs, and 17 home-runs in 110 1/3 innings. Those numbers just got a lot worse, as the superior Phillies took advantage of his mediocrity.

The 30-year-old righthander refused to pitch inside, instead leaving every 93 mile-per-hour fastball up in the zone. The TBS announcers calling the game, ex-New York Met Ron Darling and ex-New York Yankee David Wells, noticed his skittishness immediately, saying, in some variation, that he had a rough outing ahead of him.

Wells, who played with the Yankees during their dynastic years of the late 1990s, said Philadelphia reminded him of those championship teams. I am inclined to agree. The Yankees of old were all experienced, knew their role, and each an excellent hitter. They were patient at the plate, which took a quick toll on the opposing pitcher, were smart on the basepaths, and slick in the field. The Phillies, the defending World Series Champions are no different.

Jimmy Rollins, who tagged a fastball right in the heart of the plate for a two-run home-run off Wellemeyer in the sixth inning, is the perfect leadoff hitter: he has the right combination of power (he hit 30 home-runs during 2007, a year in which he garnered the National League's Most Valuable Player award) and speed (he has four seasons of forty stolen bases in his career). Shane Victorino, the "Flyin' Hawaiian," who compiled two singles on a high fastball and lazy, fluttering curveball, and scored twice against Wellemeyer, is the ideal second-place hitter, possessing speed and the ability to hit for a high average.

The 3-4-5 hitters in the Phillies lineup make their lineup arguably the most dangerous in the major leagues. Hitting third there is Chase Utley, part of the new-breed of second baseman sweeping the major leagues. Similar to Texas' Ian Kinsler and unlike second baseman of the past, he has 30-plus home-run power to all fields, and though he doesn't run as well as Kinsler, he's intelligent on the basepaths nonetheless. He had three hits—including a two-run home-run in the third–on a high, straight fastball that wasn't high enough, a sinker that didn't sink, and a hanging changeup, all from the arm of Wellemeyer.

Ryan Howard was Wellemeyer's next task, and a tough one at that. Howard, the biggest of boppers in their lineup, cranked a no-doubter to deep–and I mean deep–center-field off Wellemeyer in the fifth frame. It cleared the fence that read the measurement "401 ft." with ease, rising high above, ricocheting off the "batter's eye,"—a brown, 30-40 foot high wall–to land onto the field, just behind center-fielder Rick Ankiel, who couldn't help but admire the moonshot.

Chip Karay, who completed the trio in the TBS telecast booth, wondered how far Howard's blast had traveled. He guessed around 450 feet, while my father and I guessed around 480 feet. Innings later, we were informed his home-run went an underwhelming 433 feet. I think it would have carried near my father and I's approximations, considering the ball was still rising once it hit the batter's eye.

Only a really poor pitch could be punished so far. That's what Wellemeyer was serving up. It was tee-ball practice for the Phillies and a nightmare for the only consistently disappointing pitcher in the Cardinals rotation.

He issued a walk to Victorino after gift-wrapping Rollins’ blast, then, before he could throw a pitch to Utley, his leg siezed up. The Cardinals' trainer came for a visit, as did manager Tony LaRussa. They were concerned, but I am sure Wellemeyer was relieved. His outing was over and the Phillies were in his past. He can now focus on his next start, that is if there is a next start.

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