If the St. Louis Cardinals want proof the lady luck is on their side as the team continues its quest to claim the NL Central crown, they need to look no further than Joe Kelly.
In terms of sheer counting numbers, the righty had been incredible. Since being given the chance to move from the bullpen to start, Kelly has not seen his name attached to a loss, and is currently on a seven-game personal winning streak, including winning in each of his last five turns.
Okay, so maybe the wins are kind of useless in evaluating his success, but he’s also thrown five straight quality starts, and owns a brilliant 2.06 ERA through 70 innings as a starter.
Just like he’s been doing for the last couple of months, he was instrumental in helping the redbirds move within a half game back of the division-leading Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, throwing six innings of one-run ball — the eighth time over his last 10 turns where he’s allowed one run or less, having pitched into the sixth inning in all of them.
… and he’s done all that with a whole lot of help from the baseball gods.
Take his latest outing, for example. While he did ‘shut down’ his opponents, Kelly was never not in trouble, having allowed at least one baserunner in scoring position in every frame except one. With eight hits and three walks to just four strikeouts, the 25-year-old was simply lucky to have escaped his outing without allowing much damage.
The same could be said for the majority of his outings as a starter, really.
Kelly’s 3.73 BB/9 as a starter on the season isn’t great, and that number has risen to 3.82 over his last six starts. Not mitigating the issue is that his strikeout rate is at just 5.60 K/9 in that span. It’s not like as though batters are having a hard time hitting him either, doing so at a .266 clip.
You know who has a .266 BAA over his starts in the last month? Adam Wainwright. His ERA in that span? 5.81.
Yes, Kelly’s 1.47 WHIP in his last six starts should tell you that his 87.7 strand rate is fairly fortuitous, even though he has allowed a meager 16.5 percent line drives and posted a team-best 2.20 GB/FB ratio in that span. It may be tempting to think that his .304 BABIP says that he hasn’t been the recipient of a whole lot of luck, but outings like Friday’s tell you all you need to know.
Then again, with a 7.27 K/9 to 2.77 BB/9, a .157 BAA and a 0.85 WHIP with men in scoring position this season, maybe he’s just particularly clutch in high-leverage situations? Oh, he has a 6.23 ERA in those 26 innings of work? Perhaps the baseball gods are just playing the opposite game here.
Sure, Kelly’s numbers may be a bit topsy-turvy, but as long as it gets the Cardinals to the top of the NL Central, I don’t think they’ll care all that much about it.