The 2010 St. Louis Cardinals top three starters, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Jaime Garcia, are comparable to the newly crowned champions of San Francisco. For that matter, they can also be considered as the best three in the league.
The leader of the pack and runner-up to Doc Halladay in this year’s Cy Young award is Adam Wainwright. Wainwright, who also finished third in last year’s vote, clearly looked like a pitcher on a mission to be the best starting pitcher in baseball this year. He reached the 20-win plateau and carries with him the reputation of having one of the best curveballs in the league. His best performance came on June 4th against Milwaukee in a two-hit, eight strikeout shutout of the Brewers. Adam set a Major League record for consecutive games pitched at home going six innings or more while allowing three runs or less. His quality start streak ended at 28 games when he left after throwing five innings in a loss to the Reds in early September. Waino’s final numbers, his 20-11 record, 2.42 ERA, 213 K’s and 1.05 WHIP were all career best.
How would you like to have a pitching staff with two aces? Saying Chris Carpenter, the 2005 Cy Young award winner and last year’s runner-up is a number two pitcher is crazy. So, let’s call him 1A. Carpenter enjoyed a full season of health and started in 35 games in 2010. In some ways, the season felt like the same old Carp. His 16-9 record could have been better. He either received a loss or a no decision in eight quality starts and the team went 22-13 in his starts. His worst month was September as he lost four consecutive starts down the stretch. Carpenter finished with a 3.22 and walked more batters per nine innings (2.4) than ever has as a Cardinal. At times, Carpenter seemed like he struggled giving up the long ball but the 21 surrendered (0.8 HR/9) were in line with his career norm (0.9 HR/9). People were spoiled by his 2009 performance when he gave up only 7 dingers, which was an anomaly for Carp. Heading in to 2011 Wainwright and Carpenter form a one-two punch that any manager in the league would love to have.
The Redbirds third starter pitched like an ace as well in 2010. Jaime Garcia, 23, pitched his first full season in the majors and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting, the highest of any Cardinal since Albert Pujols won the award in 2001. Coming off elbow surgery, Garcia logged 163 innings in 28 starts and finished fourth in the league in ERA at 2.70. Going into the end of June, Garcia was dominating and his ERA was even under 2.00. His best performance came on August 22 as he threw a three-hit shutout against the Giants. However, he seemed to be tiring a bit at the season’s close and was shut down with the Cardinals out of the race after three September starts. Although many would have liked to see Garcia pitch one or two more times and try to win the ROY award, LaRussa and his staff had his best interest at heart. Jaime has a bright future ahead and has definitely impressed in his debut season.
Early in the season the Cardinals seemed unstoppable. With Brad Penny throwing darts, the pitching staff’s one through four starters were on fire. Then, the middle of May came. Penny was shelled by the Reds, hurt his oblique while swinging a bat and was done for the year. In his nine starts Penny was chewing up innings and the Cardinals looked like they had all the pieces in place. Penny ended with a 3-4 record with a 3.23 ERA.
Continuing the disappointment, Kyle Lohse laid a big egg in 2010. He started out rough and landed on the DL with a never before heard of exertional compartment syndrome in his forearm. Lohse did return but was clearly still working out kinks and trying to get comfortable again. He finished the season with a gaudy 6.55 ERA and a 4-8 record in just 18 starts and 92 innings.
Due to the Cardinals injuries, Blake Hawksworth stepped out of the bullpen and into the rotation for eight turns. At first it seemed like Blake could be serviceable, turning in four decent starts from the end of June to the middle of July and picking up 3 wins. Yet, even through that stretch he became prone to the long ball and struggled with his control. He returned to the bullpen in August and finished out the year keeping his ERA around 4.00. As a starter, Hawksworth went 3-4 with a 5.83 ERA.
Another byproduct of Cardinal injuries was the return of the 2006 NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan. To some degree, Suppan regained his form under the tutelage of Dave Duncan in 15 starts with the Cardinals he went 3-6 with a 3.75 ERA.
The biggest surprise at the trade deadline came when the Cards dealt outfielder Ryan Ludwick to the Padres in a three-way deal that returned them starter Jake Westbrook. Westbrook did quite well for the Birds. In his twelve starts with the Cardinals, nine of them were quality starts. As a team, the Cardinals went 5-7 when Westbrook toed the rubber. Jake garnered four wins and four losses. His best start for the Cardinals came in his last as he went seven and two-thirds of an inning, and struck out nine Rockies while only surrendering four hits. Westbrook looked comfortable wearing the “Birds on the Bat” and the Cardinals are currently looking into resigning him.
The other six scrap starts for the year came from P.J. Walters and Adam Ottavino. P.J. did look good in his last start against a lowly Pirates squad only allowing four hits in seven innings but is not offering much hope that he will be able to pitch at the Major League level. In much the same way, Ottavino continues to disappoint fledgling through his three starts as well. He landed on the DL with a torn labrum in July and never returned during the year. He elected to rehab without surgery and should be ready for action next spring.