Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Are the Cardinals really using Spring Training performances to determine their 5th starter or was the decision already made before spring?

Its no secret that Spring Training stats can be misleading.  Pitchers may be working on specific pitches.  Teams rarely roll out their starting lineups until the end of the spring.  Its a small sample size, etc...

So, to base an important decision, such as who will be the Cardinals 5th starter purely on Spring Training stats is a bit ridiculous.

My theory is that a team normally knows who they want to win the job up front and that the Spring stats are used to justify their decision (or they just ignore them, if it doesn't support their decision).

Case in point, last season's 5th starter battle between Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal.  Rosenthal really didn't have a chance, as the Cardinals had already predetermined that he would help the team more in a relief role.  Thus, he got a token start, didn't fare well and was immediately relegated to the pen.

The same could be said regarding the Miller and Kelly matchup.  The Cardinals wanted Miller to "win" the competition and, although Kelly fared better at the beginning of the spring, Miller eventually ended up with better spring stats and was named the starter.  However, if Kelly had an ERA lower than Miller last spring, do we really think he would have been handed the job?

Fast forward to this spring and the competition between Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez.  Martinez has been spectacular, with a 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings, while Kelly has struggled with a 7.71 ERA in just 9.1 innings.

If the victor is going to be determined by just spring stats, Martinez would pretty much have the job locked up.  However, I think there are other factors at play.

Kelly was brilliant in the second half of last season, posting a 9-2 record and 1.91 ERA, while Martinez took well to the setup role late in the season and in the playoffs.  Thus, the Cardinals may decide its in their best interest to stick with those same roles this season.

I'm not the only one who is thinking that the whole spring training battle is a sham, as Rotoworld indicates that the "speculation of late has the Cardinals putting him (Martinez) back in the pen".  But if that's truly the case, why go through the whole competition to begin with?

It will certainly be interesting to see how this all plays out.  Because, if Martinez continues to pitch well and Kelly is still handed the 5th starter role, Martinez certainly won't be a happy camper. 

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