Tag Archive | "Starters"

The St. Louis Cardinals Versus Left Handed Pitching

FransiscoLiriano

 

The St. Louis Cardinals struggle against left-handed pitching so goes conventional wisdom. I really can’t remember a time that this wasn’t said. During the 80’s, The Cards struggled against lefties like Sid Fernandez (as if any of The Cardinals today have anything at all to do with the players in the 80′s) while being able to score runs off of great right-handers like Nolan Ryan. It was credited to the fact that Fernandez was a lefty and not the fact that at his height, he was almost at the level of Ryan as a pitcher.

I bring up the past, not because it means anything to today, but I wonder if that conventional wisdom that is part of the team’s history may be why people are so quick to repeat it today. The point is, if The Cardinals struggle off of a righty, the struggles are credited to other factors. But against lefties, it’s almost always credited to the fact he is just a lefty.

So with the playoffs coming up, and some great lefties on the horizon like Francisco Liriano and Clayton Kershaw, I want to study how successful The Cardinals really are against lefties.

A recent Post-Dispatch article pointed out The Cards were 15-20 against lefties. The article stated:

Those wins stand out because the Cardinals this season are 15-20 against left-handed starters. They’re the only team in the National League with a winning record that has a losing record against lefties.

The Cardinals have the highest average in the National League overall at .272, but they are hitting just .239 against left-handed pitchers, which puts them 11th. In the three games against left-handed starters before Sunday, they were hitting .306. And even if you add in the struggles they had against Minor, they’re still at .281 in their past four games. That’s a big step forward.

The article was written on August 30th. Since then The Cards have gone 2-2 against lefties. The problem is more to do with small sample size than actual facts. The Post-Dispatch articles argues that the Cardinals are improving against lefties by winning 3 in a row before losing to Mike Minor. So if you add the 2-2 record in since then, they are 5-3. But the article then desperately tries to figure out a reason why The Cardinals are improving, even crediting Kolten Wong.

The recent success the Cardinals have had against lefties started right about the time they called up Kolten Wong from Memphis and the team shifted to more of a platoon concept. It’s not a strict platoon, since right-handers David Freese and Pete Kozma still get starts against opposing right-handers. But the Cardinals’ lineup Sunday had just one lefty, second baseman Matt Carpenter. Otherwise, Matheny went with his right-handed options when he could: Shane Robinson instead of lefty Jon Jay in center, Kozma instead of lefty Daniel Descalso at short and Freese at third instead of the Wong-Carpenter parlay

But as we now know, Wong struggled greatly this year hitting .163/.196/.184. But regardless of his struggles, The Cards winning pct improved against lefties. The article even points out The Cardinals are 2-0 against Kershaw, but even that doesn’t mean too much as both games they won because of good pitching. On Aug 6th they beat Kershaw by scoring 2 runs off of him and on May 26th they scored 4 runs off of him.

So more than likely the “struggles” against lefties is more overevaluting a small sample size, as any 35 game period for the best teams in baseball can produce a slightly below .500 record. As did the 35 games The Post-Dispatch viewed.

But when we look deeper at the stats, and not focus so much on wins and losses, this is what we see:

Versus righties The Cards are: .279/.341/.410/ with a WRC+ 110.

Versus lefties The Cards are: .235/.297/.370 with a wRC+ 85

Now when you compare The Cardinals to other teams, you do see slightly inferior numbers.

Other teams against lefties

Pirates 263/.332/.410 wRC+ 110

Dodgers .266/.328/.396 wRC+ 104

Reds .242/.318/.391 wRC+93

So why do The Cardinals struggle against lefties? It would show proof if you saw lefties shutting down left-handed hitters on the team. But against lefties, Matt Carpenter has a great OPS of .803, Matt Adams a slightly below average OPS of .667 and Jon Jay has an OPS of .602, which could be deemed as struggling if it wasn’t for the fact that Jay has struggled as a hitter altogether this year.

So who is really struggling against lefthanders? Molina’s OPS is .891; Holliday’s OPS is .770; even Freese’s OPS is .787 despite having an OPS of .691 against righties. Most of the starting players on the team have an OPS over .700 against lefties.

The big anchor on the team seems to be (surprise surprise) Pete Kozma. Kozma has the third most at bats against lefties this year at 137 with a horrible OPS of .551. By allowing someone so underachieving to rack up so many at bats is sure to bring the team average down. By removing him from the equation, The Cardinals numbers are more equal to the other teams in comparison. That may be an irrelevant point, as someone has to play shortstop this post season, and it’s either him or Descalso who has an OPS of .586 against lefties. But it does bring some assurance that an outlier is hurting the team as opposed to it being a team epidemic.

It appears the conventional wisdom that The Cardinals can’t hit lefties is created for several reasons. 1) It is a smaller sample size 2) fans are over evaluating the randomness of the win-loss record against lefties, which is actually just under .500 and 3) Kozma played so poorly this year over so many at bats that it brings the numbers down.

Whatever theory you accept, at least take solace in knowing the numbers against lefties are improving, either by strategy or just the numbers regressing back to the mean as more games are played.

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The Shelby Miller Conundrum In St. Louis

The St. Louis Cardinals should seriously consider whether they should ever host another “Star Wars Night” at the ballpark after the results on August 7th.

ShelbyMillerHurt

They lost the game.  They almost lost another pitcher.  Another pitcher stepped in on short notice and the rotation is now in shambles.  The Force was not strong with this one.

Read more about Star Wars Night and which Cardinals match up with Star Wars characters over at CardsConclave.

The conundrum now comes due to the fact that the Cardinals dodged a bullet.  It now appears that Shelby Miller, after taking a line drive off his pitching elbow on the second pitch of the game, will not be headed to the disabled list and may not even miss a scheduled start.  That’s good news.

But it leaves the team in a pinch.

The Cardinals promoted Carlos Martinez to make the start tonight in place of Jake Westbrook, who admirably took over the game from Miller yesterday.  They have also promoted Sam Freeman while sending Brock Peterson and Keith Butler.  The potential problems break down with the following scenarios:

Scenario 1 – Miller heads to the disabled list

Should the Cardinals decide that Shelby would benefit from a 15-day disabled list visit, the team is in pretty good shape.  Martinez would stay and assume Miller’s rotation spot and Peterson could be recalled immediately without having to wait for the 10-game window of time to pass.  Players sent to the minor leagues have to remain there for 10 days unless they are promoted to assume the roster spot of a player going to the disabled list.

In this scenario, the team would only work with a short bench for a day or two and not be concerned with the need for the extra arm in the bullpen.

Scenario 2 – Miller is fine, does not miss a start

It is strange to say that this may be the hardest scenario for the team.  Due to the lack of a long-reliever on the team, they effectively burnt two starters, Miller and Westbrook, in last night’s game.  Martinez will make the start tonight but then be unavailable for five days.  The team would, most likely, send Martinez back to the minors for a relief pitcher after his start in this scenario.  The problem is, since no one is going on the disabled list, the options for relievers become a bit more limited.  A short bench is one thing but a short bench and a short bullpen is another.

The Cardinals are starting to test their depth in pitching this season, which I covered in today’s piece for Yahoo! Sports.

It may be time for John Mozeliak to see what is available on the trade market and be willing to deal a prospect or two.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
He is a freelance writer that publishes work for InsideStl and Yahoo Contributor Network as well.
Follow him on Twitter.

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The Red Hot Royals

The Kansas City Royals have caught fire after the All-Star break, winning 11 of 13 games and nine in a row after a 7-2 victory over the Twins on Thursday afternoon. The only problem is that their AL Central foes, the Tigers and Indians, are also red hot. The Indians have won eight straight games and sit 2 games behind the division-leading Tigers. Kansas City is now 6.5 games back.

Mike_Moustakas

Royals fans now have a sense of excitement after the way the team has opened the second half. Keys to the Royals’ second half surge have included:

Stellar starting pitching

Jeremy Guthrie leads the Kansas City rotation with a 3-0 record in the second half. James Shields and Ervin Santana each have two wins. Wade Davis and Bruce Chen both have one win in two starts. Santana has a sparkling 1.21 ERA while Davis isn’t far behind at 1.80. Chen and Shields both have a 2.25 ERA and Jeremy Guthrie’s is the highest of the starters at 4.00. Chen has solidified his spot in the rotation for now and Davis has improved on what was a rough first half of the year.

A lights out bullpen

Four Royals’ relievers have yet to give up an earned run after appearing in at least four games. Luke Hochevar leads the group with 8.1 innings of scoreless relief. Tim Collins and Aaron Crow have 4+ innings without allowing a run and Louis Coleman has 3.2 innings without a run to his name. Not only has the bullpen been great, but they have also excelled in pressure situations, protecting six one-run wins for the Royals. When you combine the starters and the bullpen, Royals’ pitching sports an incredible 2.25 ERA since the break, good for second in the majors, ahead of the Tigers and behind only the Indians.

Mike Moustakas is heating up

Moustakas has struggled for most of the season, but he has recently found his swing. He has a team-leading three home runs and eight RBI in 12 games played in the second half. He even has a .325 batting average, bringing his season average up to .229. Moustakas had the big two-homer game against the Twins on July 30.

Royals batters are hitting for average

Jarrod Dyson is setting the pace for the Royals with a .389 average in 18 at-bats. Four other players are hitting above .300. Billy Butler is at .327, Moustakas and David Lough are in at .325 and Miguel Tejada owns a .313 average. As a team, the Royals are hitting .266, tied for fifth in the American League (up from .256 pre-All Star break).

Greg Holland is shutting the door

Holland has been great all year and has only continued his dominance after the break. He has converted all six of his save opportunities and has allowed only one earned run. Opponents are hitting .280 against the hard-throwing right-hander. If the Royals continue their amazing run, Holland should only have more opportunities to close out tight ball games.

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St. Louis Cardinals have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week

The St. Louis Cardinals landed Friday in Atlanta ready to begin an 11-game, 10-day road trip against three of the best teams in the National League with the best record in Major League Baseball. They had a lead in the NL Central and the best hitter in the league.

YadierMolinaSafe

A week later, the Cardinals have yet to win another game, the Pittsburgh Pirates have passed them for the division lead, and catcher Yadier Molina is on the disabled list with a knee injury.

The Cardinals haven’t had many bad weeks in 2013, but this past week has been about as bad of a week as anyone could imagine.

The Atlanta Braves swept the Cardinals in a three-game series through the weekend, and the Pirates won four games in three days to take a 2.5-game lead in the division heading into play Wednesday. Now the Cardinals get the joy of facing the Cincinnati Reds for three games in Cincinnati.

Much of the problem has been the shutdown of the most productive offense in the game.

The Cardinals still lead the National League with a .271 team batting average and continue to lead baseball by an incredibly large .040 margin with a team batting average of .334 with runners in scoring position.

However, they have not scored more than two runs in six of their last seven games to go with a .158 batting average in the last week. Plus, they will be without Molina and his .330 batting average for at least the next 15 days.

Granted, those are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad numbers, but the Cardinals do have a legitimate excuse based on the pitchers they have faced in those seven games.

Braves starters Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen have a combined earned-run average of 3.23, while the first four starters the Pirates threw against the Cardinals have a combined 2.49 ERA.

Those pitchers are going to shut down just about any team more often than not, and they put Cardinals hitters in their first slump of the season.

This won’t continue, of course. The Cardinals’ overall season numbers are some of the best in baseball for a reason. Just as the hot streak has mellowed (OK, plummeted), into a slump, the hitters will return to form before long.

If nothing else, Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati is a good hitters park, even though the Cardinals are scheduled to face Bronson Arroyo, Tony Cingrani and Mike Leake, who have a combined 23-13 record with a 2.92 ERA.

The schedule also doesn’t get easier after the road trip is complete, as the Los Angeles Dodgers come to St. Louis for a four-game series next week.

This is quite a test, especially with Molina on the disabled list, but the rough stretch could pay dividends later in the season and the playoffs.

The crowds in Atlanta and Pittsburgh were the most electric of any fan bases the Cardinals have played in front of this season outside of St. Louis, and it is important for the team’s large group of young players to play in that type of environment.

A 95-mph fastball and sharp breaking pitch are great pitches at any time, but men who throw those pitches are rarely as consistent, especially when they feel the pressure of an important game.

Right now it is easy to look at the Cardinals situation as if the proverbial glass is half empty, but the team was unlikely to succeed in the playoffs if it cruised through the entire regular season without a hiccup at some point.

Sure, the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics took five of six games from the Cardinals in late June, but the Braves, Pirates and Reds are the teams the Cardinals will likely face in the playoffs.

In any case, it is better to lose those games in July instead of October.

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What to do with Wade Davis?

When the Royals made a splash this off-season by acquiring James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays, they figured they were getting two above average Major League pitchers that would solidify their rotation right away.

Shields and Davis

Shields has been as advertised, but Davis has quite frankly been terrible.

Davis’ ERA is approaching 6.00 (5.92) and his record has dropped to 4-8. In 97.1 innings pitched, Wade sports a 1.80 WHIP.

It’s not that Davis isn’t talented enough to be an effective starter. He posted respectable numbers in two seasons as a starter with the Rays. In 2010, he started 29 games and went 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA. In 2011, Davis also started 29 games, with a 4.45 ERA and an 11-10 record.

When you compare the numbers from those two seasons as a starter, there are a few alarming trends. Most notably, Davis’ hits per nine and walks per nine are way up. This season, Davis is allowing a whopping 12.2 hits per nine and 4.1 walks per nine.

Davis spent all of 2012 as a reliever for the Rays, and was great. In 54 appearances, Davis was 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA and a career-high 11.1 K/9.

So the question for the Royals becomes, do you leave Davis in the rotation and hope for the best, or do you make a switch and move him into a bullpen that is already very deep?

It’s not an easy question to answer. He has proven that he can be an effective reliever and with the Royals needing to make a move in the standings, they may not be able to stomach many more of his bad starts.

The Royals have two good candidates to take Davis’ spot in the rotation in rehabbing starters Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino. Duffy is further along in his rehab than Paulino, but whenever they are ready they could challenge for Davis’ starting gig.

Both Duffy and Paulino still have hurdles they need to climb before returning to the majors, but once they return it would make sense to move Davis back into the bullpen.

Until they return though, Davis has an opportunity to turn around his season and make a case that he still belongs in the rotation.

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St. Louis Cardinals starting rotation in natural lull, unless Jake Westbrook is hurt

The St. Louis Cardinals established the best record in Major League Baseball for much of the first half of the season because of their starting pitching rotation.

cardinals_westbrook640

They’ve lost that designation and the lead in the National League Central Division for much the same reason.

The Cardinals starters collectively posted a remarkable 2.62 earned-run average through May 25, but that was almost certain not to last.

The rotation’s ERA in June is near 5.00, and it has just 10 quality starts as the team went 11-13 in a recent 24-game stretch to fall two games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates at the beginning of the week.

Adam Wainwright had five of those quality starts and has kept the staff from completely crumbling with his 1.96 ERA in his last five starts.

Lance Lynn has been decent. He earned a win in three of his five starts in June and the team won four of those five, but his ERA also rose from 2.76 to 3.52 as Lynn allowed four or more runs three times.

Shelby Miller has gone through typical rookie struggles. After he began the season 7-3 with a 1.91 ERA, he’s gone 1-3 since and his ERA is up to 2.79.

Several pitchers have shuffled in and out of the fifth spot in the six weeks since Jaime Garcia underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. Joe Kelly now holds the spot and will take his first regular turn Saturday, but he was good in a spot start June 5 against the Arizona Diamondbacks when he allowed one run in 5.2 innings, although the Cardinals ultimately lost 10-3.

Those four pitchers figure to be stable forces for the Cardinals in the second half of the season, so that leaves Jake Westbrook as a major factor how the rotation looks moving forward.

Westbrook was great at the beginning of the season. He threw six or more innings of shutout baseball in three of his four starts in April and had a 1.62 ERA on May 8. But he then spent more than a month on the disabled list with discomfort in his throwing elbow and has been inconsistent since his return.

He made his first post-disabled list start June 14 against the Miami Marlins and gave up three runs and eight hits in five innings. He was stellar in his next start June 19 against the Chicago Cubs, giving up no earned runs through seven innings, but he’s allowed 10 runs in 10 innings combined in his last two starts.

The worst was his last start Sunday against the Oakland A’s. They touched Westbrook for six runs and 10 hits in four innings. Westbrook also didn’t help himself by walking two hitters and often had the look of a pitcher who was not confident he had the ability to get the hitters out. He often threw his hands in the air or hunched on his knees when the A’s put the ball in play.

Perhaps his elbow is hurting again. If that’s the case, the Cardinals could be in for a second half that looks very similar to the past six weeks. The team mixed and matched minor-league pitchers to fill in the holes left by Garcia and Westbrook when they were on the disabled list and had mixed results.

John Gast and Tyler Lyons were terrific in each of their first two starts, but Gast got hurt and Lyons had several bad outings that culminated with a start that lasted 1.2 innings June 21 as he gave up four runs in a 6-4 loss to the Texas Rangers.

Michael Wacha also pitched very well in his first career start May 30 against the Kansas City Royals when he allowed one run and two hits in seven innings, but he was inconsistent in his next two starts, and the team sent him back down to pitch for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.

Unfortunately, no matter how talented young pitchers are, they also carry with them the inconsistencies caused by a lack of major-league experience. They could all turn out to be great big-league pitchers, but they are still trying to find their way in 2013.

The Cardinals offense has continued to pound the ball throughout, hitting a National League-leading .282 since June 4, but the team could remain stuck in neutral if Westbrook doesn’t pitch in the second half of the season as the consistent groundball-inducing machine he’s been since the Cardinals acquired him July 31 from the Cleveland Indians in a three-team trade that also sent outfielder Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres.

That’s a lot of pressure on a No. 4 starter, but Westbrook could hold an unusually large key to the Cardinals’ success in the 2013 National League Central Division race.

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Oscar Mercado: A Regression in Drafting Philosophy?

OscarMercado

The philosophy for the Cardinals while drafting under Jeff Luhnow was always “best player available”. Don’t worry necessarily about specific needs or who is already filling what position on the big league club, but rather create a good problem by having too many players for a certain position. That has created situations where The Cards have both Allen Craig and Matt Adams ready to be big league starters at first. And the idea that it’ll all work itself out was exemplified with the transition of Matt Carpenter to second base, where his fielding has been adequate (enough) and allowed that impressive bat to hit lead-off.

But the philosophy of drafting for need may have permeated itself back into the Cardinals since the departure of Luhnow. I want to focus on the Cardinals 2nd round pick (57th overall), Oscar Mercado. The Cardinals chose Mercado, possibly with pressure to fill the need they have at SS with underachieving Pete Kozma filling the role now and uncertain Ryan Jackson in the minors. Mercado, who was ranked relatively high by Baseball America, was selected over other players who they even ranked higher (and from some analysts and scouts, they believe Baseball America ranked him too high.) Higher ranked players available at the time of Mercado being drafted included RHP Bobby Wahl, RHP Alex Balog and LHP Hunter Green.

Every report on Mercado states he provides basically no offense at all. The 2nd round seems to be awfully high to select a player solely on defense. He is stated as being able to possibly develop a “solid swing” that could lead to high-average, though minorleagueball.com states he COULD, with added strength, have a slash line up .280/.330/.400. But that is implied to be a ceiling for Mercado.

What else is troubling is the contention Mercado is highly overrated at defense. Scouting reports will comment on his skill at defense, including a recent  Post-Dispatch article which quotes from the scouting report at BA claiming him to be a “smooth, fluid defender whose glove will give him a chance to survive as a pro while his bat develops and strength catches up.” But his abilities has been questioned by other writers and scouts who have seen him in person, including Keith Law, who wrote:

Shortstop Oscar Mercado from Gaither HS in Tampa was similarly disappointing when I saw him over the weekend, playing a low-energy game on Saturday that featured two throwing errors to first on routine ground balls and a sloppy uppercut swing that helped him work his way out of hitters’ counts in two of his trips to the plate.

Mercado’s reputation in this draft is that he’s one of the only shortstops who is a lock to stay there, but he didn’t show the hands or the arm for that on Saturday and he certainly didn’t show the effort level, even in pregame warm-ups. He looked better last summer, but another scout who’s seen Mercado this spring said what I saw was representative of his showing so far this spring.” 

2nd Round picks do not always transfer to good major league players, in fact they rarely do. Looking at the Card’s 2nd round picks during the 2000s, with the exception of Dan Haren, who was an all-star pitcher, most of the others never made it up or just had a cup of coffee in the majors. But I fear the draft of a shortstop who is only optimistically projected to have an OPS barely over .700 due to absolutely no slugging, is a predetermined destiny to begin with. And when you add possible holes at defense, which is his strength, it may all signal to a regressive philosophy of drafting on needs and desperation in spite of talent.

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The Rotation Battle Ends Today

Spring Training may be reaching the halfway point but the biggest battle in Jupiter for the St. Louis Cardinals will come to a close.

KellyMiller

The Cardinals entered Spring Training attempting to put together the final spot of their rotation.  The battle has come down to the young right arms of Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly.  Today, one of those young men will take a big step forward towards the 2013 rotation.  The other will have some other questions to answer.

The issue here is the timing of Spring Training and the regimen that pitching coach Derek Lilliquist lays out for the pitchers.

Every starter is building his pitch count to be able to reach the 100 pitch threshold by opening day.  As starters get stretched out, and the rotation takes shape, it becomes harder and harder to get long outings for six starters.  The rotation will begin throwing every five days and stretching out higher and higher pitch counts.

Joe Kelly will start today.  Shelby Miller will be the first arm out of the bullpen.  At the end of the day, one of the young men will start again in five days.  The other, well, that is to be determined.

That may be the true question.  Not the question of who rounds out the Major League rotation but the question of what happens with the other one may be of equal importance.  Does he go to Memphis to start there?  Does he remain in St. Louis and in the bullpen?  What best serves the Cardinals in 2013 and in the future?

One question will be answered today.

The rest will develop soon.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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Cardinals Rotation In The Spotlight

The St. Louis Cardinals entered spring training with the fifth starter position in the rotation up for grabs.  It appears that the spotlight on that competition will shine bright over the next few days.

Trevor Rosenthal - photo from FoxSportsMidwest

Trevor Rosenthal – photo from FoxSportsMidwest

As the spring air was pierced by the sounds of pitchers and catchers warming up and early batting practice taking place, the Cardinals settled in for a competition for the final spot in the rotation.  The guys gearing up for that competition were Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly.

It did not take long for plans to change.  Veteran ace Chris Carpenter broke the news that he would not be able to compete this year and Lance Lynn was all but assured his spot as the number four starter.

Then there were three.

Miller appeared to be the favorite early on based on his performance last year, his off season work, and the perception that the top pitching prospect in the organization was ready to take the next step.  The trio of right handers have seen very little time to this point in the spring and, despite much speculation, the team has not been forthcoming with any news.

Meanwhile, Kelly and Rosenthal had proven that they could handle the pressure of the big leagues down the stretch and repeatedly in the post season last year.  Kelly specifically showed over and over again that he could pitch in the rotation after taking over for Jaime Garcia last season due to injury.

Rumors began swirling on Thursday morning, while the team was dealing with news about shortstop Rafael Furcal, that there had been progress in making a decision in the starter competition.  One report surfaced saying that the Cardinals held a meeting for their starting pitchers, a meeting that Rosenthal did not attend.

Possibly the most telling and interesting part of that case is that minor league starters were in the same meeting.  Signs are pointing to Rosenthal’s fate being decided and he may very well open the season in the bullpen for St. Louis.

Now there are two.

The two pitchers left in the competition will take their cases to the mound on Thursday and Friday with Kelly starting Thursday afternoon and Miller toeing the rubber on Friday.  While it would be surprising if these two starts formed the firm decision in the mind of the Cardinals management, it would seem that the spotlight is shining on the next few games to showcase the talent the Cardinals have available.

The decision could come as soon as this weekend.  It will most likely come sometime around March 15.  Ultimately, the decision is coming soon and it’s down to two young pitchers that have shown they can be successful at the major league level.

Soon, there will be one…

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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To Start Or To Relieve: Wade Davis

James Shields was the “big name” in the Shields/Wade Davis trade, but the success or failure of the trade hinges on Davis. Shields is the Kansas City Royals’ ace, but he’s a free agent after the 2014 season. Whether he pitches well or not, it’s likely he’s gone after two years. However, Davis is under team control until 2016. The Royals believe Shields will improve the team now. As for Davis, the Royals believe he will develop into a two or three starter and be a part of the starting rotation the next few seasons.

wadedavis2013springtraining

This spring, the Royals plan to give Davis every chance to make the starting rotation as their 3-4-5 starter. From 2009-2011, Davis started 64 games for the Tampa Bay Rays. But last year, Davis stayed in the bullpen, appearing in 54 games. During Spring Training, the Rays gave Davis a shot as their fifth starter, but he lost out to Jeff Niemann. And when Niemann went down with a broken ankle, the Rays promoted Alex Cobb to the starting rotation, leaving Davis in the bullpen.

So is Davis a better starter, or a better reliever? Let’s see what the stats say:

Year ERA G GS IP ER WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 3.72 6 6 36.1 15 1.266 8.2 0.5 3.2 8.9 2.77
2010 4.07 29 29 168.0 76 1.351 8.8 1.3 3.3 6.1 1.82
2011 4.45 29 29 184.0 91 1.375 9.3 1.1 3.1 5.1 1.67
2012 2.43 54 0 70.1 19 1.095 6.1 0.6 3.7 11.1 3.00
4 Yrs 3.94 118 64 458.2 201 1.315 8.6 1.1 3.3 6.7 2.04
162 Game Avg. 3.94 44 24 171 75 1.315 8.6 1.1 3.3 6.7 2.04
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2013.

Davis prefers a starting role, but his stats say he’s a better reliever. He had a much lower ERA, and over nine innings gave up fewer hits and struck out more batters. However, he did walk more batters over nine innings, which isn’t good if you’re a reliever. And with the Rays talented starting rotation last year, Davis stayed in the bullpen.

But how does Davis as a starter compare to the 2012 Royals starting rotation? Here’s the stats of the top five Royals starters:

Rk ERA G GS IP ER WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
1 Bruce Chen* 5.07 34 34 191.2 108 1.367 10.1 1.5 2.2 6.6 2.98
2 Luke Hochevar 5.73 32 32 185.1 118 1.419 9.8 1.3 3.0 7.0 2.36
3 Luis Mendoza 4.23 30 25 166.0 78 1.416 9.5 0.8 3.2 5.6 1.76
4 Jeremy Guthrie 3.16 14 14 91.0 32 1.132 8.3 0.9 1.9 5.5 2.95
5 Will Smith* 5.32 16 16 89.2 53 1.606 11.1 1.2 3.3 5.9 1.79
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2013.

If you take Davis’ worst year, 2011, he had a better ERA than the Royals rotation, save Jeremy Guthrie and Luis Mendoza. The Royals rotation had more SO/9 than the 2011 Davis and except for Mendoza and Will Smith, the Royals rotation had a better BB/9 ratio than the 2011 Davis. If Davis was in the Royals starting rotation last year, he would likely be the number three starter behind Guthrie and Mendoza.

So what does this mean? Well, Davis is a good middle of the rotation starter, but is a better reliever. If Bruce Chen and Mendoza regress, Luke Hochevar pitches like Luke Hochevar and Davis pitches like he did in 2010, he’ll be in the starting rotation. But if Chen, Mendoza or Hochevar have a great Spring Training, Davis might end up in the bullpen.

But that’s not likely, despite what happens this spring. The Royals will give Davis every opportunity to make the starting rotation, just to show the Shields/Davis trade wasn’t a bust like some Royals fans and pundits think it is. If Shields and Davis are starters, the trade doesn’t look bad. The team got two quality starters to improve their rotation. But if Shields is a starter and Davis is a reliever, then the trade looks like the Royals got an ace for only two years and another bullpen arm in an already strong bullpen. Not bad, but not that good either.

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