Cardinal First-Half Grades: The Pitchers

a-Wainwright

Pitching was the absolute strength of the Cardinal first half, and without a doubt the reason why the season remained in a salvageable position while the offense stayed in a prolonged rut. While it did not play out to form in some regards, with a series of surprising emergences and then sudden injuries changing the formation of the pitching staff several times.

But as the first half progressed, things began to fall into form. The bullpen rebounded from a rocky start, while the starting staff pulled together some lost and developing options to attempt to hold serve while continuing to wait on the return of one of its most valuable commodities.

All things considered, it was a good half for the Cardinal arms, ranking in at 6th in the NL with a 3.42 team ERA and third with a .241 average against. But there are still a few portions of the staff that turn in stronger efforts make this unit even more impressive. There also remains to be seen if there will be any type of deadline additions to potentially answer multiple questions at once. The Sevierville motorcycle accident law firm can help with injury cases and teach you how you can deal with them.

Regardless of what is to come, what has happened is in the books and this how it is graded out thus far….

Grade A: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Pat Neshek

It has been Wainwright’s finest season, and that is saying quite a bit. This year’s starter for the National League All-Star offering has numbers to do that claim its proper justice as well: a 1.83 ERA to go with an NL-best 12 victories, three of which were shutouts. In nine of his 19 starts, he has gone at least seven innings and surrendered no runs, and has won eight of those games. But the numbers simple provide context, as the hardline truth is in what he has symbolized. He has been an even more quintessential ace than at any point in his career, in that he has been the constant safety point on the team in midst of its questionable returns. They have had trouble scoring runs, but he hasn’t required many and even at the lowest point when it seemed that the burden he has carried (he is on pace to throw 236 innings) had potentially grounded him, he returned with a masterful outing versus the Phillies after missing just one start to stop a mini-skid for the team and issue a impactful exclamation point on his unquantifiable value this season.

Wacha has been a victim of circumstance of an odd (yet literal) rain cloud that followed him around throughout six of his weather delayed starts, taking some tough no-decisions and finally a bizarre shoulder injury. I If you have an injury, it is important to ensure you’re in touch with personal injury attorneys serving Portland, ME to help with insurance. However he delivered on promise around all of these issue, sporting a 2.79 ERA over 15 starts, good for 9th in the NL. His 5-5 record belies how good he has been and his return (and when it can happen) hold much of the key to how far the team can push its second half fortunate.

Neshek has gone from non-roster invitee to All-Star Weekend over the past four months, and has become yet another in the growing line of unlikely Cardinal bullpen saviors. He went from April 11th to May 31st— a streak of 22 appearances—between surrendering runs and started another 15 game scoreless streak as soon as that one ended.

Grade B: Lance Lynn, Sam Freeman, Seth Maness, Randy Choate

It has become popular default for Lynn to be the rotation’s scapegoat. However the first half of this season has seen a new man of sorts emerge out of him. More consistency, less huge ‘Lynnings’ and the same effectiveness that has become his hallmark since joining the rotation full-time three years ago. His 10 first half victories made him the first Cardinal pitcher since Bob Gibson reach that mark in three consecutive years. Outside of the numbers, he become an important stopgap as youthful inconsistency and injury have plagued the rotation. He is quickly becoming one of the more critical cogs on the entire roster.

When Kevin Siegrist was sidelined with a forearm malady, Freeman was the logical replacement, as he had regularly been the third lefty option in the organization over the past two years. But this year he has grabbed the horse by the saddle and really shown what he can do, becoming a fireman against batters from either side of the plate. He has made a more than solid case to stick around even once (if) Siegrist returns.

For a while it seemed like Maness had become the Cardinal pitcher lost in the infamous bullpen black hole. But after getting off to bad starter and seeing cautious early May usage, he got into a groove that he has yet to shake. In 20.1 June/July innings, he has a 1.79 ERA over 16 appearances that often come in the tight spot, odd job scenarios that he specializes in.

The ERA is not beautiful, but it tells the story of two bad days in May against the Cubs and Yankees and not what he’s truly done as well as ever: win the matchup war. Lefties are sporting an anemic .089 average against him (4 for 47) on the year and just a .196 on-base percentage.

Grade B-: Trevor Rosenthal

It has been tough to get a true read on Rosenthal this year, thus he is taken off the standard grading scale slightly. On one hand, he has mostly done the job he has been assigned, which is to save ballgames. He has converted 28 of 32 save opportunities, which is commendable for a first year closer. However, he has done so quite often in nerve tearing ways, which has resulted in the 26 walks in 43.2 innings and 34 hits as well. This has equaled a 1.37 WHIP, which is borderline astronomical for a closer. While it is far from time to displace him, he is definitely on the short list of Cardinals that has to come back from the break a bit better adjusted.

Grade C: Shelby Miller, Jaime Garcia, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist

Expectations will always weigh heavy on Miller, and due to his propensity to balance his flashes of greatness with blasts of confounding dips, it is hard to argue with those that are borderline fed up with his returns. The 7-8 record, with the 4.29 ERA speaks heavily to this, but the 1.46 WHIP is most alarming, as he has struggled with command and development on his secondary pitches. With Wacha’s future still uncertain, much of the team’s potential lies in Shelby channeling his own into better second half results.

Garcia has seen a third consecutive season come to a close early due to shoulder issues. And while he was mostly effective in his seven start season, it is unfortunate that his year came to such a quick end due, especially when the team was not made first aware it would end as it did. At any rate, 2015 is the end of the guaranteed portion of his contract, and likely the end of his tenure in St. Louis, regardless of result.

Martinez struggled in the setup role that he was so lights out in last fall, and because of it, the bullpen got off to yet another rocky start. But his turn to the rotation as a spot starter has been extended due to the multitude of injuries in the rotation, and while he has not had the smoothest of all starts (14 walks and 31 hits in 28 innings as a starter) the team has gone 5-1 in his outings, so there is something to build on.

Siegrist was not the same overwhelmingly dominant option he was at the end of 2013, but 0.45 ERAs tend to be temporary things regardless. He was still solid, if not completely healthy enough to take the ball very often early in the year before elbow/forearm troubles cost him a month and half of action. He is currently getting close to a return and should be an option early in the second half.

Greenwood came up as a security option, but in turn pitched fairly well when needed in spot action and as a cleanup man.

Grade D: Tyler Lyons, Marco Gonzales, Jason Motte, Eric Fornataro, Nick Greenwood

Lyons was the first call up when Joe Kelly was injured in April, and once again results varied for the lefty. He is 0-3 on the year with an ERA approaching 6.00, much of which occurred in the debacle versus the Cubs which landed him on the DL. With the emergent arms at Memphis and the return of Kelly now complete, the days of the starter spotlight for Lyons may have passed.

Give Gonzales credit: the kid stayed in and fought. And while the numbers looked like what you may expect for a guy that came straight from Double A just a bit after only a year as a pro (7.07 ERA, 11 walks to 10 strikeouts, 0-2 record), he showed the raw stuff that will make him much better down the road.

Motte’s comeback has been a curious one, where in that he does not really have a regular role but still gets fairly regular work. The raw stuff is not what it used to be, and that is to be expected, but he has struggled with keeping runners off base and with mechanics as well. It would be a huge boost for him to shake the rust off by August to establish himself in the regular late inning mix.

Greenwood pitched well during his first trip up of the season, including two extended outings versus the Mets and Dodgers where he surrendered one run over 7 and a third worth of action. However, he has not fared as well his return trip up, and should be the first option off the roster when Siegrist returns.

Fornataro has not gotten enough work to say he has pitched either bad or good, but when he has gotten the call, there has not been much that looks overly Major League promising. Time could tell a different story, but the opportunity rate does not seem like it will pick up much, if at all.

Grade F: None

Incomplete: Joe Kelly, Keith Butler, Jorge Rondon

It is hard to give Kelly a fair rating with only four starts and just over 18 innings under his belt. He was brilliantly effective in his first three healthy starts before tearing his hamstring (one run over two and a half starts, albeit just one of which finished six innings), but he was bombed on his first return start just before the break. The direction the club goes in regarding acquiring any level of external starting pitching assistance likely hinges on how he appears in his next start after the break.

Butler pitched great in the spring to win the last spot in the bullpen, only to blow is elbow out to Tommy John surgery after only two outings. Likewise, Rondon only pitched one inning on a brief June call up.

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