Is a Trade Really Necessary?



Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch wrote an article that confusingly argued the Cardinals should pick up another starter. He claimed the Cards are a balanced team with a defense that is “short on sizzle but corrals what it reaches” (whatever that means). He admits the Cardinals are more than likely to make the postseason due to their “offensive professionalism” (is that the same as just being good?) and a bullpen that will help them “solve close games”.

Weeding through the drivel and fat of the article, it seems Strauss is claiming the Cards are already basically a lock for the postseason, but need extra pitching to contend once they get to the “October stage”.

There’s major problems with that thinking and the article in general:

1) Which prospect would you trade for a starting pitcher?

Strauss points out The Cardinals should add pitching, but doesn’t put it on the line and name which prospect he would part with to get this pitcher. This sets up a conundrum as in order to get someone like David Price or Cliff Lee, you really can’t give up anything less than an Oscar Taveras or a Wacha. But it’d be insane to give either up for a half a year of anyone.

And if you are willing to give up less, you’ll receive a pitcher like Jason Marquis or Jason Vargas, who isn’t really any better than what they have now.

2) Are the Cardinals pitching really that bad?

Strauss tries to prove his point by looking at the Cardinals 51 quality starts being 7th in the NL for the year, as opposed to having the most quality starts at the end of May.

He points out that Miller hasn’t thrown at least 151 innings in a year (duh, he’s a rookie) and it’s causing an “erosion of his fastball command and overall efficiency.”

He points out that Lynn has a 5.36 ERA in his last 7 starts. Since June 1st, the team ERA has been 4.65 vs the NL average of 3.91.

Quality Starts, though better than win-loss record, don’t give a complete picture. Lynn does have an ERA of 5.36, but a FIP of 3.58. And though Strauss spreads Lynn’s misfourtunes out to two months, it’s really just July. In June, his ERA was 4.83. But in June, opponents average was only .223, versus .220 in May. Opponents wOBA was .297 compared to .277 in May. And along with a good FIP, it shows he was just getting unlucky.

Now in July, the numbers to kick up.  6.85 ERA, opponents avg .340, and opponents wOBA of .368. And this is all over the sample size of just 22.1 innings. When you look at his starts in July, it’s inflated by an outlier start on 7/13 vs The Cubs, where he went 4.1 innings and allowed 6 ER. If you excuse that start as an outlier, the rest of the month is similar to June.

Other Cardinals starters for the month of July: Wainwright – 3.41 ERA, 3.08 FIP. Westbrook – 2.66 ERA, 4.57 FIP. Kelly – 3.97 ERA, 5.25 FIP.

Now compare to pitchers rumored to be on the trade market for July (not Price or Lee, since losing Taveras isn’t an option). Eric Stults – 3.20 ERA, 3.44 FIP. Bud Norris – 7.13 ERA, 5.59 FIP. Jason Marquis – 4.30 ERA, 5.26 FIP.

Those options are either much worse or comparable to what we already have. And not worth losing a prospect for.

3) Strauss is also relying on the tired narrative that only pitchers with postseason experience, and not rookies, can excel in the postseason.

There is very little proof that rookies’ stats change at all from regular season to postseason or that they can’t handle it. Here are some examples of rookies who have excelled in the postseason ( I would like to point out Matt Moore wasn’t even a rookie yet when he did it)

Athletics Nation also tackled this subject, listing success of rookies in the postseason.

I want to zero in on a few of these rookies and compare their season stats to their Sept/Oct stats.

Madison Bumgarner (2010)

Season – ERA: 3.00, Opponents avg: .270, FIP: 3.66. WHIP: 1.31

Sep/Oct –ERA: 1.13, Opponents avg: .244, FIP: 2.92. WHIP: 1.09

Jeremy Hellickson (2011)

Season – ERA: 2.95, Opponents avg: .209, FIP: 4.44, WHIP: 1.15

Sep/Oct – ERA: 2.67, Opponents avg: .172, FIP: 5.34, WHIP: 1.07

Ivan Nova (2011)

Season – ERA: 3.70, Opponents avg.: .253, FIP: 4.01, WHIP: 1.33

Sep/Oct – ERA: 2.67, Opponents avg.: .254, FIP: 3.74, WHIP: 1.16.

All three of these players improved in the postseason of their rookie years. Maybe we should not only accept that Miller can start in Oct, but he should be expected to excel.

The truth is, there is no one on the market that The Cardinals can have who is any better than anyone we have now without giving up Taveras. A few of the pitchers are in minor slumps that happen in the season. There’s no need to panic and apply narratives about workloads or not being able to handle the pressure. As Mozeliak says in the Strauss article about Miller “I don’t think it’s just workload. I just think he needs to go back to what he was doing early on and regain that form. I don’t think it’s fatigue. I think that kid’s as strong as anybody out there. He understands this business. It’s not like he’s a first-year pro. My expectation for him is to have a strong second half.”

And postseason experience applied to rookies is a myth.

The Cardinals are 59-37 with a winning pct of .615. They are the best team in baseball. They are geared to really do some damage in the postseason and have a farm system that will help this sort of success be possible for years to come. There’s no need to mess with any of that. So the best option for the Cardinals is possibly the most boring option, and that’s to do nothing.

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