I remember as a kid trying to watch Kelly’s Heroes with my dad, and not understanding any of it. I mean, it didn’t have a Wookie. Reading over that Wikipedia synopsis, sounds a lot like Three Kings that came out almost 3 decades later. Nothing original in Hollywood anymore!
But to baseball, Joe Kelly has some heroes of his own. First there’s the Cardinals developmental system that seems to churn out pitching prospects that can throw upper 90’s faster than Hollywood sequel greenlights. Then there’s the Cardinals offense that leads the NL in runs scored by 53. Using his rag-tag unit of pitching coaches, arguably the best catcher in the game Yadier Molina, and an offense ready to give him a lead every game out, can Joe Kelly help you steal the gold in a fantasy title? I tuned into his start yesterday in Pittsburgh to break down how he looks and if he can be a wildcard contributor to your final fantasy push:
First Inning: The heroes came early for Kelly, who gets spotted a three run lead before throwing a pitch. His first pitch of the game is a 93-MPH fastball painting the outside corner to Neil Walker for strike one. Interesting line-up with Walker 1 and Garrett Jones 2 trying to rattle Kelly early with lefties. Next pitch is a 95-MPH heater on the inside half fouled off, then the 0-2 is a 76-MPH curveball that stays off the plate trying to backdoor him, 1-2. Then another curveball, this one hangs and stays high in the zone, gets hit to second and just past a diving Matt Carpenter for a leadoff single. That was not a great pitch, but Walker barely found a gap with it. Kelly starts Jones with a 95-MPH fastball in there for strike one. I haven’t seen Kelly pitch since relief appearances last year, and had no idea his velocity was this high. Another 95-MPH fastball painting the outside lower corner gets fouled off, 0-2, then another heater high and tight at 96 makes it 1-2. Kelly ramps it up to 97(!) just above the letters but gets tipped foul back, then a change-up stays outside, 2-2. The Cardinals commentators mention that’s been Kelly’s go-to off-speed. The 2-2 is another change-up about 5 inches off the ground, but Jones somehow is able to golf it to right, however it’s caught by Shane Robinson charging in for the first out. Up is Andrew McCutchen who takes a 96-MPH fastball in there for a strike, then a 94-MPH heater on the hands is slashed foul, three straight 0-2 counts. Kelly is low with the heater at 97, a little slider at 84 is hit foul, then a 96-MPH fastball on the hands saws Cutch off, but it’s hit so softly that David Freese charging-in and barehanding it is a millisecond late on the throw with McCutchen beating out an infield single. Tough luck there for Kelly. Runners on 1st and 2nd, and first pitch to Pedro Alvarez is a 95-MPH fastball on the lower outside black that Alvarez turns around into right, but caught by Matt Holliday on the third base foul line, two down. Now two outs and Kelly starts Marlon Byrd with a nice sweeping slider that barely breaks out of the zone 1-0, then a 94-MPH fastball on the outer edge gets skied to right, and Robinson a few steps in front of the track makes the easy catch to get Kelly out of the inning.
Second Inning: Kelly starts Justin Morneau in his Pirates debut with a 95-MPH fastball in there for strike one, then another 95-MPH fastball on the outside lower black in a perfect spot makes it 0-2. A great change-up at 83 looks like it nipped the lower black on it’s way down but doesn’t get the call, then a 97-MPH fastball on that lower outside corner gets fouled back, still 1-2. Kelly hangs a curveball outside, he doesn’t have a good feel for that pitch today, then a change-up on the outside corner gets nubbed to first for an easy out, one down. Kelly starts John Buck with a fastball outside, that one clocking in at 98! Had no idea Kelly was ramping up the velocity like this. Another fastball at 94 is just high, think Kelly was trying to throw a get-me-over strike there, then again 94 is in there, 2-1. Another fastball at 96 is fouled off, again fastball at 94 this time inside is tapped foul, a curveball on the hands is popped back foul, then Kelly on the 2-2 puts him away with a 97-MPH fastball above the letters that gets a late swing for his first K. Two outs, and Kelly starts Jordy Mercer with a slider for a strike, if he can get those over early in counts it’ll be a nice outing. Then a slider is low, then yet another slider starting 8 inches inside breaks over the plate, 1-2. Kelly then paints the outside corner at 95, gets Mercer looking, with just a great looking sequence for his second K.
Third Inning: Picking up two more runs of support, Kelly starts Pirates long reliever Jeanmar Gomez with a 91-MPH in there for strike one, that was definitely a get-me-over, then a fastball is low, another fastball in there, and another fastball at 96 on the outside corner strikes him out looking. Gomez looked like he was told just to watch pitches there. So three straight strikeouts, and Kelly gets a slider in there for strike one to Walker, then another hard slider bites way in and low, 1-1. A 95-MPH fastball on the outside corner gets weakly grounded to second, two down. Kelly starts Jones with a fastball high, then a two-seamer low and outside, then another fastball on the outside edge fouled to left, 2-1. Kelly misses with a fastball outside, then nips the outside lower corner with a fastball, and the payoff pitch is a fastball on the inside black, first time he went inside, and it freezes (Freeses?) Jones for Kelly’s 4th K. Nice inning.
Fourth Inning: Still protecting a 5-0 lead, Kelly starts McCutchen with a 96-MPH fastball for a strike, misses low at 96, then just outside at 95, still pumping up the heat. Another heater is very low at 95, then gets one in there at 95 and McCutchen hits it hard, but it’s right to second for the first out. Kelly starts Alvarez with a change-up for strike one, then flutters a hanging curveball way outside, 1-1. Time to scrap the curveball, another terrible one. Again a change-up, this one dies outside, then the 2-1 is a fastball on the outside black popped up to shallow left for the second out. Kelly misses low and inside at 97 to Byrd, then outside at 97, 2-0 but still great velocity. Kelly again misses with a fastball just low, looked pretty good, but the 3-0 is another fastball just a shade inside for a four-pitch walk. Not what you’d like to see there. So up is Morneau who takes a fastball in there for strike one, then Kelly is high and outside, 1-1. A fastball on the outside lower black is fouled off, then a change-up goes low, another change-up is nubbed foul down the third base line, followed by a fastball just inside to make it full. The payoff pitch is a 95-MPH fastball fouled off, then Kelly goes to the change-up and it dips just an inch low for back-to-back walks. Morneau really fought hard for that one, the Cardinals announcers are dogging him for that walk, but Kelly threw 8 pitches and all but 1 was very close, credit Morneau there, don’t discredit Kelly. Now runners on 1st and 2nd and Buck slashes a 96-MPH foul that actually hangs up and would’ve had home run distance, but a good 50 feet foul. The 0-1 is a fastball on the hands tipped foul, a good slider that bends out of the zone is barely tipped foul, and another slider dips low, now 1-2. Kelly sticks with the slider, it’s working today and buries itself almost into the ground getting Buck to swing over it for Kelly’s 5th K.
Fifth Inning: Kelly starts the 5th with just a nasty painting fastball at 97 on the outside corner to Mercer, 0-1, then a change-up gets flared foul, 0-2. Kelly tries that curveball again, that one wasn’t terrible staying inside and gets tapped foul, then a slider that hangs in the zone at 81 gets hit fairly hard to short, but the out is made, one down. Kelly starts pinch-hitter Travis Snider with a fastball high and outside, then gets the lower outside corner, and the 1-1 is a change-up hit to first and Allen Craig makes a fantastic play on it for the second out. Kelly’s Heroes! Up is Walker who takes a slider just inside, then a fastball on the inside corner at 96 gets tapped weakly to second for a very fast, clean, 1-2-3 inning.
Sixth Inning: Kelly gets another 2 runs of support, and starts the 6th up 7-0 with a 94-MPH fastball in there for strike one to Jones, another fastball at 94 is fouled back, then at 95 a third straight heater is flied straight to Holliday in left, one down. Kelly starts with a curveball to McCutchen and as we’ve seen with half of his curves today, it squirts out of his hand and hits Cutch in the middle of the numbers. So runner on first, and Alvarez misses a 93-MPH fastball, then a two-seamer at 91 is called a ball even though it was in the zone for sure, 1-1 on a tough call. Kelly rears back and gets a 95-MPH fastball through Alvarez’s swing, then another fastball is nubbed foul, still 1-2. Kelly bounces in a change-up, 2-2, then another change-up is grounded very weakly to short and Alvarez is thrown out at first moving McCutchen to second, two down. Kelly starts Byrd with a fastball on the hands fouled off, then another fastball this one a two-seamer at 91 gets Byrd to swing-and-miss, then Kelly is outside at 96, 1-2. Another fastball at the letters is fouled off, then a slider that bent across the zone but stayed just a bit too much on the edge of the plate gets hit right back up the middle for a single scoring McCutchen and giving Kelly his first ER on the day. That wasn’t a very bad pitch at all, Byrd barely got the last iota of the barrel of the bat on it to hit it hard enough for a single. So runner on first with two outs, and Morneau takes a fastball low, then another fastball is in there for Kelly’s 100th pitch. Another fastball at 96 on the low outside corner is fouled off, then a curveball fouled down the first base line, then a fastball on the hands is ripped down the first base line again, it’s off Craig’s glove for a single and Morneau’s first hit as a Pirate. Again, not a bad pitch at all, and a hit by an inch. So runners 1st and 2nd still two outs, and the first pitch to Buck is a fastball that’s fouled to right and Robinson is able to snag it to end the inning and Kelly’s great start.
Final Line: W 6 IP 104 Pitches (68 Strikes) 1 ER 4 Hits 2 Walks 5 K Gamescore: 63 Gamescore+: 69.8
Final Analysis: Great stuff yet again from Kelly, who has gone at least 5 innings in 12 straight starts, given up 2 or fewer earned runs in 10 of those, and hasn’t lost a single one going 7-0. His Gamescore+ was way above his Gamescore, giving up only 4 singles with one of them a very tough-luck infield hit to McCutchen and notching 5 Ks.
It all starts with a power fastball from Kelly, who was consistently 94-96 and got up to 98 a few times. These Cardinals pitchers have bionic arms. His average fastball velocity on the season sits at 94.9, just astonishing to me since I haven’t done previous research on him or see him pitch this year. I think since Carlos Martinez gets all the pub with his 100-MPH heat and with the great year Shelby Miller is having, Kelly has been overlooked by non-Cardinals fans. His change-up was solid in this game and his 2nd-most utilized pitch this season. Sitting at 82-84, it mixes speeds perfectly with that power heater. But what really looked sharp yesterday was the slider, that could sweep across the zone or get buried into the dirt. I was trying to think of a good comp, and the fastball/slider from his armslot reminds me a bit of Craig Kimbrel minus a few ticks on the gun. That might be too high of praise, but the slider movement and the slightly lower armslot is very reminiscent. Kelly also spun a few curveballs up there, but hung a few badly and it wasn’t too useful to him in this start.
I know Kelly’s WHIP is a tad scary at 1.38 and he walks a few too many guys (36 in 95.2 innings for a 3.39 BB rate), but he’s been surprisingly consistent and has a really bright future. He’s still only 25 and I think is a lock to open 2014 in that rotation with a real electric arm. Looking at the rest of this season though, his schedule is a little rough. He’s got a second straight start vs. the Pirates at home, then MIL, @ COL, @ MIL and CHC if the rotation holds up. I’m always leery of back-to-back starts vs. a team, in 3 innings vs. Milwaukee he’s given up 4 runs on 8 baserunners (given in 3 relief appearances, but still a little scared) and you obviously hate the Coors field start. But that last game at home vs. the Cubs looks nice (he’s pitched well against them this year with a 2.55 ERA and 14 Ks in 17.2 innings), and if you’re picking up guys as cheap keepers for next year, keep Kelly in your list.
I want to say thanks to all the loyal Pitcher Profile readers as this will be my last breakdown of the 2013 season. It’s been a great ride! I’m transitioning fully into Razzball Football co-leading with Sky and Razzball Basketball as lead editor so I’m still around and ready to win you championships in those fantasy leagues. Thanks again!