I have started looking at LaDunc’s success with rookie pitchers since they arrived here. Seems to be a general view that they aren’t good with rookies. I’m going to try to look at rookie hitters as well later.
1996 -1997 are two good years for Cardinal Rookie pitchers. Two big names who come out of the minors are Matt Morris and Alan Benes. Matt clearly becomes one of the best Cardinal pitchers of all time under LaDunc. Benes starts strong and then is felled by arm injuries before he reached his potential. Mark Petkovsek had already had some success prior to LaDunc, but is still a borderline AAAA coming into 1996. He proceeds to have several good years for us and Anaheim before ending his career. Finally, TJ Mathews, recognized mostly for his contribution to bringing McGwire to St. Louis, starts his career here and goes on to have a solid career for several teams. No streets named after him anywhere, though.
What about those pitchers who came up for a short look in 1996. Only three have any success either with the Cardinals or later and wouldn’t be considered anything other than replacement level: Manny Aybar, Jan Frascatore, and Sean lowe.
Others on the list from 1996 who you probably can’t remember. The killer Bs: Barber, Batchelor, Beltran and Busby. Eiland and Erick Ludwick make up the others who get a sniff of LaDunc and then go on to anonymity. The short list of cups of coffee for 1997 are Croushore, King, McGraw and Raggio.
The combined ML record of all these re-treads is 85-90 with 9 saves, so it doesn’t look like LaDunc have misfired yet.
In 1998, we see three new names that provide more value for the Cardinals in trade bait than they ever did as pitchers. Juan Acevedo hits his high-water mark with the Redbirds before bringing Fernando Vina in trade. And Looper is centerpiece for future hall of famer (just kidding) Edgar Renteria. Cliff Politte nets us Garret Stephenson. Suffice to say that none of them are here long enough for Duncan to four-seam them out of town, so hard to render a verdict.
A couple other names appear briefly before receding into baseball history. Jose Jiminez who has a Kip Wellsian season for the Redbirds and Bryan Eversguard for a cup of coffee.
1999 begins the saga of “the Natural”. He bursts onto the scene late in the year and into the Cardinal rotation by 2000. Hard to argue that LaRussa wouldn’t play the rookie. Garrett Stephenson also wins a spot in the rotation – although not a rookie, he has been on the cusp until this year. This is it for 1999-2002 – the dark years.
The list of pretenders is long and painful including Stechschulte, Mike Mathews, Hackmann, Britt Rheames, Mike Crudale, Jimmy Journell, and Bud Smith (4th in Rookie of the Year balloting) who becomes Scott Rolen who becomes Troy Glaus who becomes …. a Type B draft pick in 2009. None of this crew amounts to anything.
Jason Simontacchi – let’s give this man a nice round of applause for having a most improbable year in 2002.
In 2003, Dan Haren and Kiki Calero hit the big leagues. Once again the curse of Steve Carlton intercedes and takes Dan/Kiki away in 2004 for Rick Wise (no, I’m sorry Mark Mulder). We are left to wonder what a rotation of Kyle, Ankiel, Haren, Carpenter, Wainwright would look like.
2004 is notable for the very few number of pitchers employed by the major league club. In the minors, a number of recognizable names are showing up including Wainwright, Flores and Thompson. Jason Marquis is not technically a rookie, but gets his break with the Cards in 2004. His best career year is in 2004. Interesting that Marquis will win 100 games in his career and will likely finish with a similar career to Matt Morris (who woulda thunk it?)
In the 2005-2007 period a big crop of rookies arrive including Thompson, Wainwright, and Reyes, amongst the group that sticks. Others that come and go are Dennis Dove, Troy Cate, Brian Falkenbourg, Tyler Johnson, and Josh Kinney
So what does this all mean? Well, I can’t find one pitcher that LaRussa gave up on too early who then went on to further success. The list is not inclusive of everyone I looked at but here the names that they had to work with: aybar, barber, batchelor, beltran, busby, eiland, frascatore, lowe, ludwick, cruoshore, king, mcgraw, raggio, jiminez, eversguard, heiserman, Hutchinson, brunette, hackman, stechschulte, karnuth, mathews, rheames, smith, Rodriguez, Molina, Joseph, Duff, Pearce, Smith, Cali, Falkenbourg, jiminez, Dove, and Cate. I would go further to say that many pitchers who went on to other teams never even had the middling success they had under LaDunc.
Looper, Smith, and Haren were traded so hard to judge LaRussa on these guys. Alan Benes and Josh Kinney got hurt. A few endings have yet to be written. So we are left with three enigmas:
1. Anthony Reyes who was never really very good but had a couple good games.
2. Jason Marquis who had his best year with Duncan in 2005 and while he never approached that success again; he has been eating innings for quite a while. He would have been better than some of the other awful number 5 starters we threw out there albeit, much more expensive.
3. Rick Ankiel who had a nervous breakdown.
In reading through a decade of pitchers coming through the system I conclude the following:
1. Walt Jocketty did a nice job cultivating some real assets for some very marginal players offset by that one horrible Haren trade.
2. LaRussa/Duncan has never had much internal talent to work with and not much of a conclusion on their ability to work with rookie pitchers can be drawn from this other than they know a bad pitcher when they see one. Not a bad talent actually.
3. Our ability to take Garret Stephenson, Jason Simontachhi, Kent Bottenfeld, Woody Williams, Joel Piniero etc etc and make them into serviceable starters is at the heart of our success. I assume Duncan gets most/all of the credit for that.
I’m left to wonder a couple points. First, I wonder whether LaDunc’s bad experience with Ankiel led them to bring Haren along more slowly. Looking back, if they had put Haren in the rotation for the entire year in 2004, he may have blossomed and the “trade not to be talked about” wouldn’t have happened. His Memphis numbers were great that year. We’ll never know.
Second, how many real starting pitchers does a team have a chance to develop in decade? What’s shocking to me is how few of these guys ever made it big. In 10 years it’s basically Morris, Looper (kind of), Marquis, Haren, and Wainwright. Thompson and Simontacchi are on the fringe.
Hope I didn’t miss much, feel free to correct me if I made a glaring error