*Revisiting the Jake Westbrook-Ryan Ludwick trade of 2010

Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

Analyzing the short-term and long-term effects of the 2010 trade.

One of the biggest deadline deals of 2010 consisted of a three-team trade that sent streaky outfielder Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres and sinkerballer Jake Westbrook to St. Louis from the Cleveland Indians. At the time of the trade, the Cardinals (58-46) led the Reds (58-47) in the division by one-half of a game, and the front office was looking to shore up the back end of the rotation for the stretch run. At the time of the trade, it was ultimately a two-horse race between the Cardinals and the Reds, with the Astros, Brewers, Pirates, and Cubs already brushing the dust off their golf clubs for the off-season.

The State of the 2010 Rotation (through July 31st):

Chris Carpenter (2.93 ERA over 23 starts), Adam Wainwright (2.23 ERA over 22 starts), and rookie Jaime Garcia (2.33 ERA over 20 starts) were all having fantastic seasons at the time, but Garcia was on the verge of being shut down due to a predetermined workload limit. In fact, he only pitched 47.1 innings after the trade deadline, and his last start occurred on September 13th. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, two pitchers, regardless of their beastliness, were not enough to fill a five-man rotation. So, who else was there?

Brad Penny had pitched decently well earlier in the season (3.23 ERA over nine starts), but he somehow got injured hitting a grand slam and didn't have a start after May 21st. Kyle Lohse pitched with an injury all season and was only able to muster a relatively ineffective 7.25 ERA over nine starts in August, September, and October. They had previously acquired Jeff Suppan from the Brewers in June, but with a 4.14 ERA and seven home runs allowed over eight starts (5.1 IP per start), he appeared to be nothing more than a #5 starter going forward.

Thus, if you include Lohse, Suppan, and an innings-limited Garcia, the rotation needed one more pitcher to log innings, get outs, and hopefully lead the team to some victories. That guy ended up being Jake Westbrook. To be frank, he wasn't having a very good season (4.65 ERA, 4.67 FIP), but the belief around the league was that Dave Duncan, combined with pitching for a contending team, could help turn things around for the veteran righty.

2010 Effects:

Did the trade pay immediate dividends? Compared to his numbers with the Indians, Westbrook was statistically solid with the Cardinals. He pitched 75.0 innings (6.25 IP per start) with an improved 3.52 FIP, but the Cardinals won in only five of his twelve starts. Given the fact that Westbrook faced teams like the Astros (twice), Marlins, Cubs (twice), Pirates (twice), and Brewers, this is somewhat disappointing. I realize that a pitcher can only do so much, but it's still worth noting in my opinion.

At the time of the trade, Ludwick had a quality .281/.343/.484 slash line and had contributed 1.9 fWAR for the Cardinals. Yet, after the trade, he struggled mightily to a .211/.301/.330 slash line with six home runs in 239 plate appearances in San Diego. He contributed -0.4 fWAR, or 1.6 less than what Westbrook had with the Cardinals. So, Westbrook filled the hole in the rotation, but what about the apparent opening in the outfield with Ludwick's departure?

Two players received more starts as a result: Jon Jay and Allen Craig. 42 of Jay's 66 starts (about half in RF and half in CF) occurred after the trade. Jay had an overall solid 2010 with a .300/.359/.422 slash line and 1.2 fWAR. However, he did have a decline in production (.244/.309/.314) after the trade, and if we didn't have his 2011-2013 numbers to look at, one would have argued that this was due to the extra exposure. Craig received 19 of his 27 starts (mostly in RF) after the trade, but he struggled to make much of an impact.

Thus, despite what appears to be a valuable, immediate-impact trade, the Cardinals staggered to the finish line, going 28-30 after the trade deadline. They finished five games behind the Reds and missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons after improbably winning the World Series in 2006.

Long-Term Effects (beyond 2010):

The impact of a trade lasts much longer than just two months after it's made. How do Westbrook's numbers compare to Ludwick's four years later? Well, after the trade, Westbrook accumulated 3.7 fWAR with the Cardinals while Ludwick has been worth 3.8 fWAR. One major difference is that all of Westbrook's "wins above replacement" occurred with one team while Ludwick's occurred with three teams: the Padres, Pirates, and Reds. Both players were injury-ridden in 2013, but one cannot forget that Westbrook was solid (2.95 ERA) from April through July 24th last season.

A few quick things of note: Westbrook was the winning pitcher (Yeah yeah, cue the "Kill the Win" comments) in Game 6 of 2011 World Series after pitching a scoreless top of the eleventh inning. Aaron Miles' Fastball had a brief post-retirement post on Westbrook if you're interested in reading about some of his Cardinals career highlights. (P.S. The post includes a link to a must-see video of his grand slam back in 2011).

Now that Westbrook is officially retired, Ludwick is primed to extend his lead in fWAR. However, he will turn 36 years old this season and is just now reportedly fully recovered from the shoulder surgery he received last season. He "feels good to be strong again," but as Cardinals fans, we know just how tough it can be to return to 100% after shoulder injuries, especially in the twilight of a player's career (i.e. Scott Rolen). Plus, with an outfield of Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman, Colby Rasmus, Carlos Beltran, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Peter Bourjos, etc. from 2011 through the present, where exactly would Ludwick have fit into the Cardinals plans?

Finally, what non-statistical impact did Westbrook have on the Cardinals? Unfortunately, we cannot quantify this, but I don't think it can be totally ignored. According to all reports I've read, Westbrook was a great presence in the clubhouse during his time as a Cardinal and was a leader for all the young pitchers despite his struggles at the end of last season.

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