Wacha in the Bank: How Managing the Rookie's Workload Helped the Cardinals Win the Pennant

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

By banking Michael Wacha's innings during the regular season, the Cardinals were able to deploy the rookie in October en route to the franchise's 19th National League pennant.

During the winter meetings, St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak was a guest on the MLB Network. Mozeliak fielded a number of questions from the MLB Tonight talking heads. One of the questions asked was about rookie sensation Michael Wacha's contribution during the postseason. In response, Mozeliak said in part:

Candidly, we were banking innings. What I mean by that, we were making sure, like in Wacha's case, we had him skip some starts. . . . And we also had him be a part of a six-man rotation, but he was the only man in it. So he always bought an extra day. And one of the things we were focusing on is what we might look like in September and wanted to make sure we had the right pieces if we were going to be competitive.

Mozeliak's answer offered a rare window into the thought process and planning of the Cardinals organization. St. Louis had a plan to "bank" innings with Wacha so that he could be deployed during the home stretch of the pennant race (and in the postseason, if they qualified) to help the club win. And this is exactly what happened. The following graphic illustrates Wacha's usage throughout the 2013 regular season, in Triple-A and the majors.

FinalBankingWachas title=

The Cards used June and July to bank a lot of innings by giving Wacha many days off. Wacha notched seven starts for St. Louis and Memphis combined during the two months. Wacha enjoyed 53 days off during these months, including two breaks of 13 days in length.

In August, the Cards transferred Wacha to the big-league bullpen. He pitched regularly but for shorter stretches. Then, come September, St. Louis moved him back to the rotation where he helped the Redbirds win the division.

The following chart shows how Wacha's 2013 usage compared to Miller's at the end of the regular season.

Player

G

GS

IP

IP/G

Pitches

Pitches/G

Miller

31

31

173.1

5.59

2,968

95.7

Wacha

30

24

150.2

5.02

2,418

80.6

One report indicated that, entering postseason play, Miller had about 14 innings to go till he hit the limit set for him by the organization. Miller wound up throwing just one postseason inning, fewer than he did in October 2012. Wacha, on the other hand, tossed over 30 postseason innings and was an integral part of a starting rotation that propelled the Cards to the World Series. The following chart shows the two pitchers' usage stats for all of 2013, including the postseason.

Player

G

GS

IP

IP/G

Pitches

Pitches/G

Miller

32

31

174.1

5.45

2,982

93.2

Wacha

35

29

181.1

5.18

2,911

83.2

When all was said and done in November, Wacha and Miller threw a similar number of innings and pitches. About one start's worth of innings pitched and pitches thrown separated the two in each category. Wacha's extended breaks during the midsummer months, coupled with his use as a reliever in the St. Louis bullpen in August, allowed the Cardinals to bank innings of his that they didn't with Miller. This banking of Wacha's innings allowed him to help the club win the NL pennant.

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