yesterday i was fretting about the cards' rotation and engaging in some rather desperate speculation about cy-young-caliber pitchers who might get dumped onto the trade market. well, screw that. after watching wainwright's two innings last night, i realized there's a simpler solution: just put wainwright into the rotation.
is it really that difficult? he put up an 0.57 era in 15 grapefruit-league innings and had a 4-1 strikeout-walk ratio; if that "competition" for the #5 slot in the rotation hadn't been rigged, he'd have won it handily. since they started firing live ammo, wainwright has posted an era of 0.66, with a 5-1 strikeout ratio. he's making hitters look stupid, sending them back to the bench shaking their heads. and he's a starter -- pitched in 137 minor-league games, and started all but two of em. it's not as if this is the first hot month he's had in pro ball, either; he has a long record of success, a former 1st-round draft pick whom baseball america once deemed a top-20 prospect and listed in the top 50 just two years ago. (for reference, anthony reyes is the #47 prospect this year.) wainwright's stock dropped when he injured his arm in 2004, but his success is no fluke. he has always had a lot of promise; at 24, he appears ready to live up to it.
i wrote a little ode to wainwright back in february, and he has exceeded my hopes by a longshot. the guy is pitching with great determination and no fear; he acts like he's got something to prove, provides a shot of energy ev'y time he takes the mound. he's a valuable reliever, the best they've got so far, but he's still only 3d (at best) in the bullpen pecking order; they gotta find a more prominent role for this guy while he's hot. he throws hard, changes speeds, and above all makes batters swing and miss. with the stuff he's exhibited to date, you could imagine him throwing a shutout against a strong lineup in a postseason game. i can't see marquis doing that; can't see anybody else but carpenter, really.
once wainwright goes around the league a time or two, hitters will adjust and he'll take some licks; he's not gonna finish the year with an era under 1.00. but i'd settle for 3.80 in 15 to 25 starts; i'd settle for giving the guy a chance to succeed in the role he's spent 6 seasons grooming for.
so there's your solution: if and when the cardinals move a starter for an outfielder, they should stick wainwright into the vacancy. that'd strengthen the lineup and the rotation simultaneously. might weaken the pen just a tad, but since wainwright can't throw on back-to-back days and is not even that comfortable going every other day, he's just not adding that much value pitching out of the bullpen.
if wainwright does go into the rotation, then what of young mr reyes? gotta leave that discussion for another day, another post . . . .
albert's back is still mighty sore; that could render all our discussions here moot. . . . . the same article says mulder's back isn't bad enough to make him miss his turn this weekend; also that bigbie will be activated by the cardinals next week. see ya, john gall.