Sunday, April 26, 2015

Where has all of the Cardinals pitching depth gone?

There was a time, not so long ago, that the Cardinals were the envy of General Managers everywhere for their pitching depth.  You think your team has good pitching depth?  We had 3 guys who can throw 95+ mph (Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal) vying for our 5th starter spot in 2013.

Now, with the expectation that Adam Wainwright will miss the rest of the season with an Achilles tendon injury, per Ken Rosenthal, the Cardinals pitching depth, or lack thereof, is going to come into question.

Gone are Joe Kelly (traded to Boston last year for John Lackey) and Shelby Miller (traded for Jason Heyward).  Rosenthal is the Cardinals closer and the pipeline of power arms seems to have dried up.

Now the Cards pitching depth consists of a bunch of lefty control specialists (Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons), while the team's remaining minor league power arms are either being groomed for relief (Sam Tuivailala) or are too far away from the majors to offer much help this year (Alex Reyes).

What is even more concerning is that, while he should have been groomed as a starter and allowed to build up his innings each year, Carlos Martinez spent the last two years in the Cardinals bullpen and, as a result, he will likely face an innings limit this year (speculated to be around 150 innings). 

Another concern is that Michael Wacha will likely be on a similar innings limit as well, after a stress fracture sidelined him for a few months last year. 

Assuming that Wainwright is out for the year and Martinez and Wacha reach their innings limits in mid-to-late August, who is going to step in to fill those voids?  Who will be in the Cardinals rotation in the playoffs?  Will they even make the playoffs?

These are legitimate concerns for a team that use to pride itself on its pitching depth.  What use to be a strength now appears to be a weakness and the team could suffer as a result.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Adam Wainwright injured: Who might replace him in Cardinals' rotation?

In case you missed it, Adam Wainwright was injured tonight trying to get out of the batter's box on a popup of all things.  He will undergo an MRI to see the extent of the injury, but its likely he's headed to the DL.

Its uncertain how long he will be out, with some speculating that, if he has a torn Achilles, he could miss the rest of the season.  However, that is the worst case scenario.

At a minimum, he will probably miss at least one start, leading to the question of who will replace him in the starting rotation?  Here are the Cardinals' options:

Marco Gonzales

The first and most logical choice is Marco Gonzales.  He pitched well during the spring, losing out in the 5th starter race to Carlos Martinez, despite going 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA.

As an added bonus, he is already on the 40-man roster, so calling him up would not cause the Cards any roster management headaches.

The only problem with Gonzo is that he has not pitched too well in the early going at AAA, with a 4.50 ERA in 3 starts.

Tim Cooney

Cooney has fared the best of any of the AAA starters, with a 3.63 ERA in 3 starts.  His stuff is reminiscent of Gonzales, relying on his changeup and control, instead of trying to overpower hitters.  However, he is not as far along as Gonzales and the Cards may want to give him more time to develop.

Add in the fact that he is not on the 40-man roster and its unlikely that he gets the call.

Tyler Lyons

Yet another lefty, like Gonzales and Cooney, Lyons has made 12 starts for the Cardinals over the last two years, serving mostly as a stopgap until someone better was ready to take over.

He could serve the same function this year, if the Cards feel that the need to give Gonzales more time to get into a groove or if they think Wainwright will only miss a minimal amount of time.

He is also on the 40-man roster, which is an added bonus.


It appears that the Wainwright is going to miss the rest of the year with an Achilles injury, so Gonzales is the likely choice to fill in.  However, Gonzales is currently dealing with a shoulder/pectoral muscle injury, so Lyons will likely get the call in the short term.

Of course, they could always trade for Cole Hamels, but that is a story for another day....

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Catching up with the Cardinals

OK, its been a while.

The problem with any blog, where you're the sole writer, is that often "real" life gets in the way.

So, with all the background noise finally starting to die down some, its time to get caught up with the Cards.

The Cardinals did most of the offseason moves before Christmas, acquiring Jason Heyward (for Shelby Miller) and adding Mark Reynolds to the bench.  Heyward, who hit his first Redbird homer yesterday, seems to be a good fit for the team, while Reynolds gives the Cards a much needed right handed power bat to pair with Matt Adams at first.

Now, 10 games into the season, the Cardinals are 7-3 and sitting atop the NL Central.  However, its not all wine and roses for the team.  Despite the good start, there are some concerns to go along with the positives.

First, lets look at the positive, the pitching.

So far the pitching has been outstanding.  The Cardinals pitching staff sits atop the NL leader board with a  2.00 ERA.  Both the starters (2.02 ERA) and the relievers (1.95 ERA) have pitched well. 

Particularly impressive has been the two starts by Carlos Martinez.  After winning the 5th starter job, when Jaime Garcia succumbed to injury, he has had two straight quality starts, lasting 6 innings in both, while allowing just 7 hits, 4 walks and just 3 earned runs.  He seems more focused this year, which he is dedicating to his departed friend, Oscar Taveras, and the only thing that might hold him down is a innings limit of around 150.

Now for the main concern, hitting.

Sure, the team is hitting .260, good for 4th in the NL, and their OBP of .323 is good for 2nd in the NL.  Yet, despite the ability to get on base, the Cardinals have scored a paltry 41 runs (10th in the league) and have hit just 5 homers (14th in the league).

The Cardinals have not been known for their power hitters, finishing last in homers in 2014, but they were able to get by because of their approach with runners in scoring position (RISP).  However, after hitting .330 with RISP in 2013, that average dropped to just .254 last year, when the team struggled to score runs, and its sitting at just .264 so far this year.

Without any significant power presence and an inability to hit in the clutch, the team could struggle to score runs again this year. 

Overall, I feel confident in the Cardinals pitching staff.  The have a lot of quality arms and some depth in the minors.  The hitting is a concern, but, as we have seen with the Giants, good pitching and timely hitting can carry a team a long way.