The St. Louis Cardinals, according to many sources, seem to be searching for starting pitching.
The one thing the team has made sure that everyone is well aware of is the depth of starting pitching in this organization. If that is true, then why the search for another arm in the rotation?
According to Derrick Goold of The St. Louis Post Dispatch, it appears the team feels the need for more innings in the rotation. The loss of Chris Carpenter, the concern over Jaime Garcia, and the unknown of what kind of workload the young arms can carry has the team willing to add a known “inning eating” commodity. Most recently, that interest has shown in the Tigers Rick Porcello.
Should the concern be warranted? Adam Wainwright is now two springs removed from Tommy John surgery and projected to be back to his normal self. The Jake Westbrook trade and subsequent signing was based off of his ability to pitch a high number of innings. The Cardinals have not had two pitchers with over 200 innings just once in the last 26 years, as pointed out by friend of the site Jon Doble.
Looking at trends over the last three years for the projected six men battling for the five spots in the rotation, the concern does come through.
Wainwright was injured the entire 2011 season, having a large impact on his three year average of 143 innings pitched. If we remove the injury season and go back a year further, his average jumps up to 220 innings. The concern is whether or not his arm can carry that load again, but for the sake of argument in this space, I give him the benefit of the doubt. Innings Based On Average: 220
Westbrook was brought in to solve the issue of innings pitched. Despite nagging injuries the last few years, he has approached the 200 inning plateau, though he has not reached it. His 2010 season was split between the Indians and the Cardinals, but was still a productive one. His average places him second in this discussion, though he is probably the number three man in the rotation. Innings Based On Average: 187
Garcia, the wild card of the bunch, has seen injuries and ineffectiveness effect him during his major league career. At times, he has been a dominant, top-of-the-rotation type pitcher. At others, he has been sporadic and wild, projecting more at the back of the rotation. Last season was the worst in his three year average, only producing a little more than 121 innings. So far this Spring, it appears he has righted the ship and is back on pace to be a big part of this team. Innings Based On Average: 166
Lance Lynn is a bit harder to project based on his limited exposure at the Major League level. Many tend to forget that he was a starter during his minor league career, however, and the three year projection goes back to grab an entire year of starting at the Triple-A level. His average is hurt by his time in the bullpen in St. Louis in 2011, but is still respectable for a guy entering his second year in a big league rotation. Innings Based On Average: 150
The final spot in the rotation will be left to either Joe Kelly or Shelby Miller. Kelly is the easiest to examine in this conversation, thanks to his production filling in for Garcia last season. His workload reached a peak due to the need for him in the big league rotation last year and leaves the Cardinals hopeful that he can repeat that performance but concerned that he may have pushed too hard, too soon. It is also important to note that his 2010 season saw him work out of the bullpen in Class-A ball for a period of time. Innings Based On Average: 138
Shelby Miller has everyone buzzing. He ranks as one of the top ten prospects in all of Major League Baseball and the team and fans are both excited to see what he can do on the biggest stage. He gave everyone a glimpse of his potential at the end of last season. He may be the biggest unknown in this situation and he may also offer a saving grace. He projects as a top of the rotation starter and will be relied upon throughout his career and that time may come as soon as this season. Innings Based On Average: 131
The ultimate equation that you would like to apply to an ideal situation is to break up the innings based on quality starts. A quality start requires six innings pitched from the starter and there are 162 games in the major league season. That puts most teams looking for 972 innings from their starting rotation in a perfect world. The Cardinals rotation will fall well short of that goal based off of these projections. Innings For Rotation Based On Average: 854-861
That leaves the team about 110 innings short of where they would like to be. The name that is driving the most attention right now is Rick Porcello, who’s three year average puts him at 183 innings. Even if he was slotted to fill the five spot in the rotation, this gains the Cardinals around 50 innings. A drastic improvement but not one that reaches their goal.
The Cardinals are relying on one of the pitchers in their rotation to overachieve their average and the addition of Porcello, or someone similar, to pick up the remainder of the balance.
Ultimately, the move may not be necessary but at the same time, it is not a bad one. Assuming the team doesn’t have to part with any key components of the future, a trade for Porcello makes a whole lot of sense once you take a look at the numbers.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
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