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Jeff Suppan solid in Cardinals return

Analyzing returned St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jeff Suppan’s four-inning outing on Tuesday evening

By Ian Walton

Jeff Suppan (AP/Jeff Roberson)In his first start for the Cardinals since 2006 and following his release by the Milwaukee Brewers, Jeff Suppan allowed only one run in four innings pitched on Tuesday evening against the Seattle Mariners in what must be considered a successful outing during a 4-2 Cardinals victory.

After loading the bases in the first inning with two outs, Suppan coaxed a fielder’s choice groundout by Josh Wilson.  A double by Rob Johnson in the second inning was promptly followed by four straight strikeouts. A home run by Milton Bradley in the fourth was the only other hit he surrendered before being pulled from the game following a double of his own and a run scored in the bottom of the fourth.

Having spent the better part of the season in Milwaukee’s bullpen, Suppan was understandably stopped at 73 pitches.  Forty-six of those pitches were thrown for strikes and he ended up with four strikeouts against two walks and four hits.

Suppan-vs-RHB

As can be seen above, Suppan had good command of his fastball (FF) against right-handed batters, hugging close to the lower and outside edges of the strike zone in many cases.  His curveballs (CU) all missed low.  One can see a few changeups (CH), cutters (FC), and a slider (SL) thrown in, according to PitchFX.

Suppan-vs-LHB

Against left-handed batters, Suppan was less selective with his fastball, leaving many more in the center of the plate.  In aggregate, Suppan threw 30 of his 41 fastballs for strikes on the night.  His changeup predictably worked the outer half of the plate while a few of his curveballs managed to land for strikes this time.  In total, only five of his 14 curveballs thrown were registered as strikes however (with one a missed swing).

Suppan-Release-Points

As per normal, Suppan hid his pitch selection well upon release as can be seen above.  His curveballs, fastballs, and changeups all left from the same location, which was an important deception along with his ability to change speeds.  Despite a fastball that topped out at 89 MPH, he averaged a seven MPH difference between his fastball and changeup and a 14 MPH difference between his fastball and curve.

Suppan seemed to fall right back into Dave Duncan’s standard game plan, inducing plenty of ground balls by pitching to contact.  He tallied six groundouts on the night as opposed to only two fly outs.  Only five of his 46 strikes were swung upon and missed.

In conclusion, while not spectacular in his short outing on Tuesday night, Jeff Suppan likely exceeded most expectations and represented a notable upgrade over recently demoted starters Adam Ottavino and P.J. Walters.  To review:

Positives

  • Fastball thrown for strikes, with good command shown against RHB
  • Ten of 12 outs recorded by strikeout or groundout
  • Release points and pitch speeds led to reasonable deception

Negatives

  • Too many pitches to LHB thrown in the center of the plate
  • Ineffective curveball often landed low and didn’t fool anyone

Brooks Baseball generated the graphs used in this article.

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