Westbrook Settles In, Shuts Down Reds in 7-1 Cardinals Victory

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 9: Jake Westbrook #35 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 9, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Jake Westbrook arrived at Cardinals camp in Jupiter twenty-five pounds lighter, a walking spring-training cliché, in the best shape of his life. The thinner Westbrook threw well for the Cardinals in spring training. Manager Mike Matheny even called him "the biggest surprise of spring," effectively ending The Red Baron's contest on the pitching front.

Westbrook last pitched nine days ago and, in this era of instant analysis and 24/7 coverage, the media tropes have evolved considerably since then. The check-in weight at pitchers and catchers matters not. Spring training stats are passé. The focus has moved on from what tom s. calls the stupid small sample size of spring for an even dumber, smaller sample size of a few games.

Westbrook got off to a rather poor start to the night by walking four opposing batsmen in the first two innings. As if to remind us of the long-irrelevant WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched), he held the Reds hitless. Gradually, Westbrook seemed to gain a feel for his trusty sinker and the Reds began to make that contact most common when Westy is pitching; the Reds' final six outs against Westbrook came via groundball (two in the sixth on an inning-ending double play). Even with the four walks, it was a good start overall for the veteran righty.

During spring training, we looked at the average start for each member of the Cardinals rotation. Westbrook's average start in 2011 befit his status as the fifth starter. Nonetheless, his projected 2012 foresees improvement and Westbrook's first start of season was a down payment on that improvement. Here is a chart comparing Westbrook's April 9 start to his average from 2011 and projected average start for 2012.

Westbrook

IP

Pitches

H

R

ER

HR

SO

BB

2011 Season

5.6

93

6.30

3.12

2.88

0.48

3.15

2.21

2012 Projection

5.71

--

6.14

2.79

2.79

0.54

3.46

2.14

April 9, 2012

7.0

88

3

1

0

0

2

4

The likelihood of Westbrook giving up four walks and zero runs in the same game ever again is quite low. It's really only possible due to the single hit allowed. That being said, he did provide the Cards with their fourth quality start in five games played (with Adam Wainwright the only starter not to reach the quality start benchmark in his first start).

Westbrook likely would have earned a pitching "win" even if he would have allowed a few more runs. The offense was once again excellent with his battery mate Yadier Molina leading the run-scoring charge. Molina was the third of three first-inning homers for the Cards and followed his deep fly with a walk and then a two-RBI double that effectively iced the game.

The Cardinals are now 4-1 on the road trip and season. They will play the Reds in the second game of the three-game series at 6:10 P.M. CDT tomorrow.

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