Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

Coming into the season, there were plenty of question marks surrounding the Cardinals’ ball club, not the least of which was how the Cardinals rotation would perform. With Adam Wainwright lost for the season to an elbow injury, the Red Birds would only be returning two starters who pitched the last full season with team: Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia. With Carpenter, the team knew what it was getting: a perennial contender for the Cy Young Award who was coming off a 16-9 season with a 3.22 ERA. Garcia had a sensational rookie campaign, but faded towards the end of last season and really struggled during spring training.

Courtesy of Erika Lynn

As for the “other” pieces in the rotation, the Cardinals really couldn’t know what to expect. Jake Westbrook had a less than stellar switch from the AL to the NL late last season after being acquired via trade. Kyle Lohse hadn’t pitched a full season since 2008, compiling a 10-18 record over two consecutive injury-plagued campaigns in ’09 and 2010. Kyle McClellan had gotten stronger each of the past three seasons in the Cardinals bullpen, but there were no guarantees his success would convert from reliever to starter.

With a third of the season in the books, the starting rotation has turned out to be one of the Cardinals’ biggest strengths. Consider for a moment that last year’s starters combined for 63 victories, and effort that left the Cardinals 5 games short of a playoff berth. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright combined for 36 of those 63 victories… or 57%. As of June 7th, the Cardinals have gotten 1 win out of Carpenter, and of course none out of the injured Wainwright. Yet the Cardinals still hold a comfortable lead over the Brewers for 1st place in the NL Central.

Back in March, I projected what I thought the team would get (and what it would need) from the rotation in order to stay in contention.

As a whole, I figure the rotation at the very least would need 60 wins from the rotation. Here’s a look at how those projections are panning out:

Pitcher Projected Wins Necessary Wins Current Wins Current Win Pace
Carpenter 15 15 1 3
Garcia 15 15 6 16
Lohse 12-15 10 7 19
Westbrook 12 10 5 13
McClellan 10-12 10 6 16
Team Totals 64-69 60 25 67

Carpenter’s win total is the glaring discrepancy, but that’s ok thanks to the 2-5 pitchers. All four of them are on pace to exceed expectations and help the Cardinals stay in contention into September.

The common theme among Cardinals fans this season has been this: “One win from Carp, a significant fall-off in production from Pujols, and we’re still in first place. Imagine what the division standing would look like if those two got back to ‘normal.’”

This past week, the world saw the resurgence of Albert Pujols. Carpenter had been pitching great and it’s only a matter of time before he starts racking up wins.

And then, we’ll see what this team is really capable of.

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