an extension for wellemeyer?

after the phillies lost yesterday, i was thinking the cardinals might climb past them and reclaim 2d place in the wild-card standings; instead they’re in 4th, as the astros moved past them. in truth, the three teams are tied --- they all have 67 losses. houston was 9.5 games behind the cardinals just 6 weeks ago; since then our team has gone 20-19 while the astros have gone 32-11. that’s right ---- 32-11, a .744 winning percentage. they’ve been without carlos lee during the bulk of this run; who’s picked up the slack? you’ll laugh. geoff blum has slugged .534 during the last 43 games; his career slg is .390. kaz matsui (career .393 slugger) has posted a .565 slg pct, and ty wigginton (career .463 slugger) has put up a .748 mark with 14 homers. to put that into context, pujols over the same stretch has slugged .805 with 15 homers; wigginton, in essence, has turned into albert for a third of the season. the astros’ run differential during the streak is +49, which is very good but not all that much better than the cardinals’ figure, +30 --- certainly not enough better that it should propel them 10 games upward in the standings. for the season as a whole the astros still have a negative run differential, -13, yet they’re 12 games over .500.

the game last night was essentially a replay of the sunday-night rubber game at wrigley last month, the last one carp started. he left in the 6th with an injury, you might remember, and right after he departed the cardinal infield botched two plays and turned a small rally into a 5-run outburst. last night, the miscues turned a minor threat into 4 runs. they lost a run when soriano nailed a man at the plate, another echo of the august meeting at wrigley --- he tossed a guy out in the opener of that match to keep a crucial run off the board. cubs made the plays afield, cards didn’t; i realize that’s not very penetrating analysis, but sometimes the game is not very complicated..

switching gears: for all the talk about re-signing looper and / or lohse after the season, i haven’t heard anybody make this suggestion: try to lock up wellemeyer for 2 or 3 years. he’s in his final year of arbitration eligibility and likely (educated guess) to get somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.5m for 2009; if they guarantee the guy $5m for next year and $7m for 2010, would he turn it down? i realize he’s only had 1 good season, but the cards made a similar commitment to joel pineiro last winter (2 years, $13m) based on 10 good starts. wellemeyer's season has been far better than that. if you take away one ill-advised start --- the june 13 pounding against philadelphia --- his era for the year is 3.38; brandon webb and dan haren both have 3.41 eras, for comparison’s sake. you can accuse me of cherry-picking, but the june 13 start never should have been made; wellemeyer should have been on the dl with a sore elbow (that was his only start between june 5 and june 26). it’s the second straight year wellemeyer’s elbow has acted up, which may be why the cardinals aren’t willing to gamble on a multi-year deal, but he’s got way more upside than a lohse / looper type and probably can be had for a smaller commitment of years and dollars. if it’s a choice between 2 yrs / $12m for a guy with a #2 starter ceiling, or 3 yrs / $25m for a guy with a #3 starter ceiling . . . . not a very difficult choice, is it? of course, we don’t know whether welley would be interested; he might want to keep his options open and try for a bigger payday in 2010. but i’d like to see the cardinals pursue this possibility, they gave wainwright a $15m guarantee based on 1 good season, and welley’s 2008 (non-cherrypicked) compares favorably to wainwright’s 2007 in most respects:

W-L ERA IP H BB SO HR BB/9 K/9 FIP
welleymeyer 08 12-6 3.74 168.1 155 51 116 21 2.7 6.2 4.36
wainwright 07 14-12 3.70 202 212 70 136 13 1.9 6.0 3.90

wainwright’s performance, you’ll recall, earned him the "ace" designation; i’d argue that wellemeyer has been at least as good this year. he’ll probably end up with 190 innings or so, close to the 202 wainwright threw in 2007; he’s averaging 6 innings a start, vs wainwright’s 6.1 ip/gs average last year. not a big difference. since the all-star break (10 starts) he has gone 5-2 with a 3.25 era and a stingy .681 opponent ops. the elbow does give you pause, but he has thrown 110+ pitches in 4 of his last 6 outings, and 7 or more innings in 3 or his last 5, with no apparent ill-effects . . . . .

ok, now i’ve probably jinxed him; the guy is pitching tonight. at any rate, if the cards are going to invest multiple years in a pitcher this off-season, i’d just as soon have them invest in wellemeyer as in any of the other names you hear floating around.

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