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Michael Wacha Should Stay In Memphis All Season

With the Cardinals starting pitchers hitting the DL as almost an every week situation, the calls have become louder from Cardinals fans to call up last years #1 pick, Michael Wacha who has been building hype since the day he was drafted. However, Wacha should stay in the minors this season.


(Note: I wrote this last week before Gast's injury and Wacha's promotion to start tomorrow. I think most of my arguments still stand, including the closer look at his numbers.)

The Cardinals called up Tyler Lyons last week when it was discovered that Jaime Garcia's shoulder required season ending surgery. Many fans were calling for Spring Training darling Michael Wacha to make his debut instead. Last week the Orioles called up Kevin Gausman who was also drafted in 2012 and has pitched a similar number of minor league innings to Wacha. However, the Cardinals should resist the temptation and league Wacha in Memphis for the remainder of the season.

  1. The Cardinals are not the Orioles. They have one of the best records in baseball due to the success of their starting pitching (amongst other things). Those starting pitchers currently are: Wainwright, Lynn, Miller, Gast (who is now hurt) and Lyons. Westbrook is coming back in a week or two and the most unsurprising news of all, Chris Carpenter could be back in July.
  2. He's not yet on the 40 man roster. Obviously, this is easily remedied, but one player has to be moved off the roster and available to waivers to make room for Wacha.
  3. The Cardinals are not lacking for starting pitching depth and most of it is not in Memphis, it is in their major league bullpen. Maness, Martinez, Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal were all starters as recently as last season. Rosenthal is the 8th inning guy, so the Cardinals won't likely move him from that spot this season, but Kelly would be a great candidate to get moved back to the rotation. Maness is probably better off in the major league bullpen as I'm not sure his stuff would get major league hitters out a 2nd or 3rd time through an order. Martinez's development is becoming squandered in the major league bullpen, he needs to pitch, so he could be sent back to Memphis to condition as a starter with Kelly. (Note: Martinez is already back at Memphis working as a starter. The Cardinals probably could have skipped the major league promotion and just moved him to Memphis from Springfield.)
  4. Wacha's numbers are great in Memphis, but he's getting way lucky and not striking out a huge number of batters. His BABIP is .197 when average is .300 or over and he's only struck out about 16% of the batters he has faced this year. For comparison's sake, Kevin Gausman has struck out over 20% in AAA this year.
  5. His superficial numbers look GREAT: 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA. But, if you dig deeper as we did in #3, his FIP is 4.05. He's giving up contact at 5% greater rate than average and his swinging strike rate is 1.2% below average. This means that his pitches are hittable at Memphis and his very low BABIP is all that is saving him now.
  6. His numbers will balloon as the season goes on, it is only natural. He needs to improve his pitching improve his ability to get swings and misses before he is ready to get major league batters out with regularity. For Wacha's sake that should be as soon as next year, but it shouldn't be this year.