Cardinals should steal a strategy from division rival to help improve pitching

Kyle Hendricks (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Kyle Hendricks (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals should be willing to try new tactics to get back on track. There’s a clear path they could take with their pitching staff.

Another day and the same story rings true: The St. Louis Cardinals, who once had hopes to take the division title home, sit last in the NL Central. At 8.5 games back from the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers, they could still find themselves atop the division at the end of the year.

Right now, you could make the case for almost any team in the division to earn the top spot in a matter of months.

Yes, even the Cardinals.

The Pirates have been in the lead as recently as over the weekend. The Reds are on a surge that could put them there soon, too, at just half a game back going into Monday. And the Cubs are 7-3 in their last 10.

With months of regular season left to play, the Cardinals should not be waving the white flag just yet. In fact, they should be looking for opportunities to get creative and try new things in order to inject a new spirit into the clubhouse.

Especially considering the fact that it looks unlikely the Cardinals will make any big trades or fire manager Oli Marmol, they need to be thinking about ways to get creative with what they have in-house.

One thing they could do is steal a winning strategy from the Chicago Cubs.

Cubs pitching improved by giving pitchers more control

When PitchCom first debuted, the St. Louis Cardinals were behind the trend and reluctant to buy in. They need to put that hesitancy aside and start doing things differently, choosing to be trendsetters rather than followers.

While they wouldn’t be the first team to do this, there hasn’t been widespread adoption of a tweak to PitchCom rules in 2023 just yet. Starting this year, pitchers can wear a receiver on their hip or glove to call their own pitches. In 2022, only catchers had such capabilities.

Notably, the Chicago Cubs are one of the first teams to give pitchers the ability to call their own games with a PitchCom receiver attached to the hip.

Kyle Hendricks nearly threw a no-hitter in his first game calling his own pitches. Here’s what Bob Nightengale reported recently:

"“The secret to Kyle Hendricks’ recent success is that he informed the Cubs that he’s going to pitch his own style, calling his own pitches, and not change his ways just to fit into an algorithm.”"

Down on the South Side of the city, Dylan Cease has also been calling his own pitches and had good reviews about the process. 

In his two starts with the PitchCom remote, Hendricks has a 1.38 ERA compared to a 4.70 in the three starts before he took to PitchCom to call his own pitches. Clearly, it’s worked.

A tweak like this is worth experimenting with for St. Louis. At this point, what do they have to lose?

Some, internally and externally, have also pointed to catcher Willson Contreras as one of the biggest variables from last year to this year for the pitching staff. While it seems unfair to scapegoat Contreras entirely for the pitching struggles, giving pitchers more control would at least allow the Cardinals to see how much Contreras’s pitch calling is impacting the game.

The Cardinals need to switch things up and try new strategies out. If they don’t, they only have themselves to blame for how this horrid season has gone.

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