Is it time to demote Todd Wellemeyer?
I'm not sure it makes sense to have this conversation with the backup starter already in the rotation—it's a little like worrying about tire tread with the donut spare on—but Wellemeyer's game log is uniquely and unceasingly bad; it's hard to pick out a single stretch of any particular length that's cause for optimism. His run at the end of May, where he went 2-1, struck out and walked eleven, and didn't allow a home run?
Speaking of not allowing home runs—you remember this quote from back in May, when we were younger, so much younger than today?
"Total, absolute, chaotic randomness," said Todd Wellemeyer, winning the hearts of the statistically minded. "All we do is try to keep the ball down. Sometimes you give up home runs. Sometimes they hit line drives. Sometimes they go right at people. Sometimes they get underneath the line drives and they're home runs. That's all there is to it."
I loved it at the time and I still do now; if Khalil Greene weren't on this roster it would have no competition for the strangest, most out-of-character athlete quote to escape from the 2009 Cardinals. But back then it was news because he'd allowed zero home runs in April, and four in May; now it's news because he's allowed seven in his last four starts. The half a walk per nine he's gained from last year, the half a strikeout he's lost—moving back toward some home run mean is bad news for a pitcher who's already on the ropes.
What he's got on his side, at this point, is little but a lack of striking options. On the big league roster when Lohse comes back will be WonderBrad, Kyle McClellan, who has been the Cardinals' primary set-up man, and Blake Hawksworth, who was excellent (finally) in the minors but hasn't been called upon much in St. Louis. In AAA there's Clay Mortensen, who is already 24 and probably as ready as he'll be but not exactly lighting the Pacific Coast League afire, and P.J. Walters and Mitchell Boggs, who've already had their turns and have not impressed in their return visits to Memphis.
It's not a group that inspires an immediate and permanent change, and the whole situation brings to mind the disastrous full-season tryouts of Brett Tomko and Kip Wells, two more guys with good stuff and a summer in St. Louis they'll always remember for extreme, ceaseless hittability. (Speaking of which: Wellemeyer's BABIP is still inflated, and his FIP is still below five, but this is not the resume on which a pleasant, lasting career in a starting rotation is built.)
But upside be damned there are enough players at the margins, presumably even more able to struggle through the season—and either faster or, as the red baron contends, at least less haphazardly—than Wellemeyer to make sticking to him without trying the other options a poor use of the Cardinals' resources.