Editor's Note: I apologize in advance for the "book" that follows.
I was thinking that it would be interesting to make a case for some pitchers that aren't of top caliber that maybe the Cardinals should sign and/or go after. I think that everyone would agree that when Wellemeyer and Lohse are on, their "stuff" is much better than someone like a Jeff Suppan or a Jason Marquis (two ex-Cardinals, for example.) Now, obviously, Lohse is 12-2 which is going to make it difficult for me to make this argument. I wanted to see if middle-of-the-pack, durable, high-stamina, consistent innings eaters were better to have than others who may not eat so many innings, or may get hurt consistently.
The Cardinals starters in 2008 have, thus far, pitched in 98 games and thrown 575 innings. That's 5.867 innings pitched per game. That means that, basically, six out of every seven games, the Cardinals starter goes 6 innings, and in the seventh game he goes five innings. That is a pretty consistent wear and tear on the bullpen...3 innings of work 6 nights a week and 4 innings of work every 7th night. If it were that simple, TLR and Dunc could come up with a rotation of relievers; however, of course it is not that simple.
The Cardinals starters in 2007 started 162 games and threw 889 innings. That's 5.488 innings per start, which means that, basically, every other day the relievers threw 3 and 4 innings. The Cardinals' pitching staff was much worse last year than this year. Much of that was due to inconsistency and injuries in the starting rotation.
Back to 2008. The Cardinals' relievers best month this year going by ERA (3.64) saves (12) and WHIP (1.29) was March/April. The starters (coincidentally?) averaged going 6.11 innings per start that month. I do not this that this is a surprise at all; in fact, I did not look these numbers up before starting this post. In May, the relievers ERA jumped to 4.34 and then in June to 4.66. Their saves went to 7 then 6. Their WHIP went to 1.54 then 1.69.
The Cardinals have had quite a few injuries, just in looking at their starting rotation, within the time period I am currently looking at.
Rewind to the "good ol' days" of the mid-2000's. While our offense was seen as much better, with the MV3 in tact; is that really the case? I'll use runs/game, just because that's the eventual goal of an offense...to score runs.
2008: the Cardinals have scored 463 runs in 98 games. That's 4.72 runs per game.
2004-2005: The Cardinals scored 805 runs in 162 games in 2005 and 855 runs in 162 games in 2004. Added together, that's 1660 runs in 324 games. Altogether, the 2004-2005 Cardinals scored 5.12 runs per game.
The difference is an exact .4 runs per game. That is a pretty wide margin. Now let's look at the discrepancy in pitching, however.
In 2004-2005, the Cardinals pitching staffs stayed pretty much in tact. Put it this way. In 2007, the Cardinals had 12 different pitchers start at least one game and 7 different pitchers start at least 10 games. So far in 2008, 9 different pitchers have made at least one start and 6 different players have started at least 5 games.
In 2004, while 8 different players made starts, 5 of them started 28 games or more that season. The other three combined for a measly 8 starts out of 162 games. That year, the Cardinals' starters threw 996.1 innings in 162 starts. That averages out to 6.15 innings per start. 6.15 is pretty equivalent to the 6.11 that the 2008 starters were throwing through the 1st month of this season, when both the starters and relievers were pitching incredibly well. However, the 2004 starters kept it up for the entire season.
In 2005, the starters outdid themselves. The starters threw 1048 innings in 162 starts, which averages out to 6.47 innings per start. Relievers then had to only get 6 outs one night and 9 outs the next, on average. These 2005 starters had only 7 players making the 162 starts and, amazingly, the top 5 all threw 30+ starts. They were so consistent and durable (to bring me back to my original point) that the other two starters threw one start apiece. The top 5 started 160 of the 162 games.
Back to 2008. This year, the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim?) have had the most success with their starting rotation (as mentioned on today's Sportscenter on ESPN - not the .com version, otherwise I would provide a link - if I knew how.) The Angels starters have averaged 6.41 innings pitched per start this year. Looking back to the 2005 starters for the Cardinals, I see that this means the relievers have to average 6 outs one night and 9 the next. A manager could set up a very nice, consistent rotation of relievers in this case, depending on how many runs his team has scored. The Angels are also, currently, the only team in baseball that is 20 games over the .500 mark.
Since being brought up to "the Show" in June of 2001, Kyle Lohse has started 30+ games every year since then. He has started 216 games in his career and has thrown 1251.1 innings in those starts. That comes out to 5.8 innings per start. For a middle of the rotation guy, that's good. I'll take that every time. However, if you take out 2006, where he appeared 19 times as a starter and 15 times as a reliever (i.e. - not having a clearly defined role as a starter or reliever) his numbers look more like this: 197 games started and 1151 innings pitched. That's 5.85 innings pitched per start...a little better.
Now, if you can have the following, it would be a fantastic start to a rotation:
A #1 guy like Wainwright who, when healthy, throws 6.53 innings per start.
A #3-4 guy like Lohse who gives you 5.85 innings per start.
A #5 guy like Wellemeyer who gives you 5.81 innings per start, or Braden Looper who gives you 5.77 innings per start (yes, I used that order for a reason.)
I believe that the Cardinals need a good #2 and #3 starter (or at least #2 and #4 starter) that eat innings. Of course, it could be wrong, but according to Cot's Baseball Contracts website there are some pitchers available that the Cardinals (I believe) should take a look at:
Jon Garland. He will be entering his age 29 season. Going into this season, Garland had thrown 200+ innings in four straight years, with the two years before that getting 190+ innings pitched per year. He has a career 1.375 WHIP and has thrown 1509.2 innings in his 242 career starts. That averages out to 6.24 innings per start. I know that he will be very expensive, as he makes $12 million this year. The Cardinals will probably not shell out long-term money to a pitcher after the Carpenter/Mulder fiascoes, but I am pretty sure the guy has never landed himself on the DL in his career and I'm also pretty sure that the guy has pretty solid mechanics.
John Lackey. (Another Angel, I know...and I'm not even a fan of the Angels, *sigh*). He will be entering his age 30 season. This is the first year since his call up in 2002 in which he will not make 30 starts, nor reach 200 innings pitched (minus 2004 when he threw 198.1 innings). He has a career WHIP of 1.30 and would also be a great option for a #2 starter. He has averaged 6.41 innings per start in his 194 career starts (1247.2 innings total). He makes $7 million this year, but does have a $9 million club option for next year. This will probably take him off of the market, if it has not already. I would not sell the farm to get him either.
Derek Lowe. Yes, he will be entering his age 36 season. Yes, I have gone on record in the past saying I would not necessarily want to sign him. I think a one year deal with Lowe, possibly two or three depending on how risky the Cardinals want to be, would not be a bad idea. I did not realize that he is currently in his fourth straight season (if it continues) of averaging 200+ innings pitched with a WHIP near (or below) 1.25. Now, in the late 90's he was a reliever, mainly, and has had a lot of flip-flopping around in his career, he has made nary two relief appearances since 2001. As a starter, he has gone 1472.1 innings in 241 starts (6.11 per start) and in the last four years he has pitched 758.1 innings in 121 starts (6.27 per start). Since he is so late in his career, he may be able to come slightly cheaper than the other two, he is making $10 million this year.
Jamie Moyer. He is of the same ilk as others. I won't bore you with statistics, but he is an innings-eater, with not quite as good peripherals (and a bit older) than the others. He might be a good #4-5 guy for next year to eat up innings so that relievers don't get very tired. He has thrown very well for the Phillies this year and, I bet, would be excited to come to a real pitcher's park.
CC Sabathia. I don't see the Cardinals getting him, but this is an obvious one.
The 2010 free agent class would bring about many more, but this post is long enough.
Thank you if you made it through all that. Suggestions, thoughts, comments, anyone?