I don’t get it. I just…I really don’t get it. How do Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan sit down for dinner, begin discussing the Cardinals’ pitching situation, and conclude that Adam Wainwright can best help the Cardinals by pitching out of the ‘pen? It’s times like this that I desperately wish I could somehow email the Cardinals’ dugout and lay the e-smack down on their coaches. What are they thinking?!?!
In a previous post ( https://cardsnstuff.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/close-but-no-closer/ ), I addressed the Waino in the closer role discussion like this:
You don’t take an ace quality pitcher and limit his innings. What would you think if the Cubs suddenly moved Rich Harden to the closer role? Or the Brewers suddenly yanked Sheets out of the rotation and inserted him into the ninth inning? I’ll tell you what my reaction would be…Whoo Hoo! The fewer innings I have to face those guys, the better…and if they are the closer, a lead by my team means I don’t have to face them at all. The same is true of Wainwright. You want to make Brewers and Cubs fans happy? Move Waino to the closer role.
Now, the discussion has “popped” up again – Waino to the ‘pen.
Let’s think about this…the Cardinals have a 2-game series coming up next week against the Brewers. In that series, they have a realistic chance of throwing Carp and Waino at them back-to-back to possibly put us in a virtual tie for the Wild Card, if not better. Instead, Duncan says it’s “unlikely” that the two co-aces will co-exist in the rotation in the foreseeable future. If Carp is healthy and appears ready to go, Waino is likely scheduled to appear in the ‘pen. If not, Carp is out and Waino is in the rotation.
This is absolutely ridiculous. It’s as close as it comes to baseball insanity.
Let me tell you what’s going to happen. Carp is going to be healthy after his side session this week. TLR and Dunc will insert him into the rotation schedule for the first game against the Brewers. Then, someone else will pitch the second game – Joel? Wellemeyer? Whoever it is, they won’t be as good as Wainwright, and the Brewers lineup, after being frustrated by Carp all night long the day before, will tee off against our starting pitcher in the early innings of the second game. It will be four or five to nothing in the third or fourth inning…and when the Brewers leave town, they’ll load our playoff hopes onto their Milwaukee-bound greyhound and carry them right out of St. Louis. And Wainwright will be sitting in the ‘pen, having never even glimpsed the mound for lack of a save situation, wondering why his manager kept his best bullet in his pocket when the Cardinals were clearly in a life or death situation.
A fan on the Post-Dispatch forum was praising the bullpen for their recent improvement. Apparently, this fan was praising Mo for not getting bullpen help at the deadline. Sure, Mo did the right thing, but not because this ‘pen didn’t need the help – because it did – but simply because the price was too high…by far (K-Mac, Garcia, Bryan Anderson, plus 1 for Fuentes? I think not…). So, if this ‘pen didn’t improve through trade, and they didn’t improve because they didn’t need the help in the first place, why did they improve?
Because of the starting pitchers.
Our rotation has finally been consistently going longer than 5 innings for a comparatively long stretch of time. And, lo’ and behold, our bullpen has improved. Wow. Imagine that…starting pitchers working deep in games actually improves the bullpen. Who would’ve ever “thunk” it? This is not a new concept, people. This is why we need Wainwright AND Carp in the rotation.
I know, I know…you’re reading this thinking, “They aren’t ready to go that deep in games, yet!” First of all, they’re more ready than we think…considering the type of pitchers they are in the first place (low-count, ground ball, efficient starters). Carp and Waino could do more with 70 pitches than most MLB pitchers can do with 100. But, you do have a point…they aren’t fully conditioned to pitch 7 strong innings…yet. Of course, Wainwright would get a start against Atlanta before the Brewers series to build some stamina, but that’s just one game.
So, why am I still implying they could help the ‘pen if their stamina isn’t 100%? Because they battle. Because they refuse to break. When Joel and Lohse are pitching in the seventh in a one run game with runners at first and second with one out, chances are, they’re going to score. But with Adam and Carp…those guys can and will bear down and get out of the inning. Why is that important? Because just having them in the game, in the same situation as the other starters, means you get to save at least one and possibly two relievers out of the ‘pen each time they start a game. With Lohse and Joel, Tony’s going to have to go to Springer or some combination of Villone/Garcia and a righty-to-be-named-later. He’s going to have to stretch McClellan and Perez or both because he needs the big outs. And all that mix and match relief pitching depletes the ‘pen and makes us vulnerable for subsequent games.
I’ll put it this way…with ace quality pitching on the mound, your bullpen is a luxury…a fall-back plan in case things don’t…well…go as planned. Sure, you usually (and will in their case) have to use them, but you don’t have to use them near as much. With the other 3 or 4 starters in our rotation, however…the bullpen IS the plan. You enter the game knowing your ‘pen is going to be in the game by, at best, the seventh inning. And, because the run differential is most likely going to be smaller with a middle or back end of the rotation starter, you’re going to have to use more bullpen pitchers to get the same number of outs if they come in to back up Joel or Lohse than if they came in to back up Waino and/or Carp. Why? Because your margin for error is much smaller with the other guys. You can’t afford to let Villone face a lefty, a righty, and a lefty in the seventh inning of a one run game…you’ve got to bring in Springer or K-Mac. But if those guys are backing up Waino/Carp, then the run differential may look more like 2 or 3 or even 4 runs…and then, all of a sudden, you’ve got some options to play with…and maybe Villone goes a batter or two longer…or he never comes in the game at all because K-Mac is able to handle it.
Look…the bottom line is this…the Cards are a better team with Wainwright AND Carpenter in the rotation…Period. I don’t care what you throw back at me…that’s just simple, common sense truth. And TLR and Dunc have got to get over their “I can’t sleep with this many rookies in the ‘pen” mentality and realize that our playoff hopes (both making it and winning once we get there) are much better when our two co-aces are actually allowed to be aces in the rotation.