it's more or less official: wainwright's in the rotation. derrick goold has the scoop in this morning's post-dispatch:
first of all, those are pretty conservative era estimates for 2007. for wells, i used his ZIPS projection; for wainwright, i'm assuming he's a run and a half worse than he was as a reliever last year; and for brad thompson, i'm allowing an increase of 2 full runs over his career big-league era. i'm even projecting that carpenter takes a step backward. nevertheless, if we rough out those estimates over a full season's worth of work, these five starters figure to be about 30 runs better than last year's group; if the two kids progress and keep their eras in the range of 4.00, and/or if wells clicks with duncan, we could be looking at a 50-run bump. so it's not at all unrealistic to project this rotation as 3 to 5 wins better than the one the cards fielded last year. to put it in era terms: last year's rotation compiled an aggregate 4.79 era. these 5 guys project to have an era in the 4.30 to 4.50 range. for comparison's sake, the 2004 starting rotation (which anchored a 105-win team) had an aggregate era of 4.08.
one thing to like about this projected rotation: it can strike people out. the top 4 guys all have career k rates north of 6.5 per 9 innings. the big concern is the workload --- we don't know whether the bottom 4 guys can handle 180 innings apiece. but reyes threw 170+ innings last year without incident; wainwright has topped 150 innings four times in the minors. additional replacement-level arms will undoubtedly be brought aboard for insurance (i would still like to see them take a shot at john thomson), and a jon lieber or kris benson might shake free in a trade either before or during the season. but if these are the five guys the cards end up with, i think they will still compete. a rotation built around those five starters should be good enough to get the team into the mid- to high 80s in wins.
is there room for improvement? you betcha --- tons of it. but the cards are wise to stay patient and wait until they can get a pitcher who would really improve the team, rather than make a panicky acquisition (eg, a badly overpriced suppan or weaver) that kinda sorta looks like an improvement on paper. the pitchers who truly might have made the cards better either are committed to the west coast (jason schmidt, randy wolf, greg maddux) or are just flat-out too expensive (barry zito). given those players' unavailability, the team has made the reasonable decision to improve from within. to repeat myself from one week ago: