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Can we talk about the rotation?

Pitching coach Mike Maddux via AP

Throughout the winter, Cardinal management was working on some rotation configuration. They had very few locks and a lot of questions and “what if's.” At one point, there were thought to be as many as 10 pitchers competing for three spots. With only a 60 Covid-19 season last year and no minor league season, there was little to go on to make a decision. There were many in the Cardinal fan base looking for some Free Agent signing. With names like Jake Odorizzi, Trevor Bauer, Taijuan Walker, Drew Smiley, Jose Quintana, Corey Kluber being available, and our own Adam Wainwright.

Fan angst was understandable as the Rotation looked very thin; with Dakota Hudson not available, Questions on Miles Mikolas and Carlos Martinez. Kwang Hyun Kim looked promising. There were even Questions about Jack Flaherty given his somewhat pedestrian 2020. internally the Cardinals had Daniel Ponce de Leone, John Gant, and Austin Gomber. All who had MLB experience as a starter. Other names like Jake Woodford, Mathew Liberatore, Alex Reyes, and Genesis Cabrera surfaced as well.

Spring Training

By the time Spring Training rolled around, the picture was still somewhat unsettled, and still, a few FAs that could have provided stability were out there. However, after acquiring Arenado, removing Gomber from the equation, the signing of Wainwright, and promising reports about Martinez and Mikolas. This also meant that guys like Gant, Ponce de Leone, Woodford, Cabrera, and Reyes would be considered bullpen help. The rotation of Flaherty, Wainwright, Kim, Mikolas, and Martinez. That decision left the farm system with little to NO MLB-ready arms.

During the Spring, there would be an issue with Mikolas, and it became apparent he would not start the season on time. This put John Gant back in contention for a Starting Job. Then Kim experienced some issues, and it was clear he would not start the season on time. At this point, there was little left on the market that could be of help.

So that left the Cardinals with the following rotation

Right Hander Jack Flaherty

Jack was the only actual number one option on the St. Louis roster during the off-season.

After 2019 all indications were that Jack had what it took to be an elite pitcher. At 23, he led the team in ERA (2.75), in IP with 196.1, SO (231), and WHIP (0.968). He was one of several pitchers across MLB that had a not-so-good 2020. He only went 50.1 IP in nine starts with an ERA of 4.91 and a WHIP of 1.215. Still, coming into this season, he was considered the odds on favorite to be the lead man in the rotation.

Right Hander Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright via David Carson-St Louis Post-Dispatch

In January, after Adam Wainwright signed. The rotation started to take more shape. Adam was the team's best pitcher in the 2020 season. He pitched 10 games with a 5-2 record and 2 complete games. 3.15 ERA, 1.05 WHIP 54 Strikeouts 15 Walks. and a team-leading 65.2 innings pitched. The only real question was what kind of a pitcher would he be at age 39 over a FULL season.

Right Hander Carlos Martinez

Carlos Martinez via Joe Puetz - AP

There were questions about Carlos Martinez. After performing in the closer role for 2019 and 5 Not-so-good starts in 2020. Then there were some health concerns in the offseason after surgery to relieve discomfort in his shoulder. It was determined that he would be ready by Spring training.

Right Hander John Gant

John Gant has been arguably one of the most valuable pitchers in the Cardinal stable for the last 3 years now.

In 2019 he was 5-6 with 3.61 ERA in 97.1 IP in 19 games as a starter. In 7 games out of the pen pitching 16.2 innings, he was 2-0 with an ERA of 2.60. The last two years, out of the pen, he has been asked to pitch multiple innings and in high leverage. He threw well in the Spring. He pitched in 4 games, starting 3, going 14 innings with a 4.40 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, struck out 13 walked 8.

Right Hander Daniel Ponce de Leone

Daniel Ponce de Leone via Dilip Vishwanat

Daniel Ponce de Leone only had 3 starts in the spring had was ok his 4.76 ERA was lower than Flaherty or Martinez. But the rest of the stats were not that impressive. The feeling was that Kim would be off the IL, So he would only be needed for a couple of games. Then could be put back into the pen for middle relief once Kim returned to the Rotation.

6th starter

At times this year, Mike Schildt has employed the 6th man into the rotation. The primarily long consecutive game stretches. That guy was Johan Oviedo.

Right Hander Johan Oviedo

Johan Oviedo via Dennis Poroy

Johan Oviedo only pitched in 1 game in Spring Training. He started 5 games for St Louis in 2020 with mixed results. He was 0-3 with a high ERA of 5.47 and averaged only 5 innings per game. He only pitched 1 game during the Spring. When the Cardinals wanted a 6th man, he got the call. He threw okay in his 1st couple of games but has struggled since. In his last outing, he allowed 2 hits gave up 5 walks, and hit a batter, leading to 3 Runs. He threw 65 pitches in 2 innings and only throwing 22 strikes.

So what has happened?

Jack Flaherty after a rocky first start where he lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up 6 runs on 6 hits and setting an ERA of 12.46. He settled into the Flaherty that we saw in the second half of 2019. With 10 stars, 57 2/3 IP, 38 H, 14 ER, 18 BB, 63 Ks with an ERA of 2.18, opponents hit .184 against him. That is until May 30, when he noticed tightness in his back that got worse after an At Bat. It has been diagnosed as an oblique tear. He has since been placed on the 10-day IL timetable TBD.

Old Uncle Charlie, Adam Wainwright, has been hard luck. Charlie, his first game like Flaherty's was bad 2 2/3 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 1 K. After that, he had a stretch of 4 games where he pitched good enough to win but couldn't. Including a 9 inning complete game loss to Philadelphia on April 26th, he gave up two runs on 6 hits, striking out 8. through May, he was hot and cold. he did carry two shutouts into the eighth inning, getting one win and one ND. He may have a bad game here and there, but he has been relatively steady.

Carlos Martinez's first 3 starts were rough, giving up 13 runs in 15 innings, establishing a 7.80 ERA. His next 3 starts were opposites going 21 1/3 innings, giving up just 2 earned runs on eleven hits, with 10 Strikeouts and an ERA of 0.84. he had a bad outing on May 8th. He rolled his ankle celebrating in the dugout. 13 days later, he returned. Martinez had been solid, averaging about 6 innings per game with a 3.75 ERA. It does appear that he has switched from trying to overpower people to pitch instead of to contact and trust his defense.

John Gant - Gant has been recently referred to as Houdini. In 10 starts, Gants has allowed 12 runs, only 9 of which are earned this despite the fact he has walked 34 batters and only striking out 39. he is currently in a stretch of 11 scoreless innings. He has only allowed 3 runs in his last 25 and 2/3 innings, going back just a touch farther. If Gant could cut down on walks issued or not go so deep into counts, we could get more than five innings ab game.


Kwang Hyun Kim - Kim has pitched better than his 1-3 record would indicate he had a stretch of four games where he went 20 innings and gave up four earned runs, struck out 20, and had a 1.80 ERA earning only one win and 3 No decisions, with St Louis winning all four games. However, his last three starts have not been so good, only going 14 innings, giving up 11 runs 8 earned. Walks have recently been a thorn in his side, averaging almost three walks per game in his last five outings while barely averaging five innings a game.

Daniel Ponce de Leone - Most everyone knew Ponce was in effect a Band-Aid. He started 2 games, going 5 innings his first game giving up only one run. Then having a complete meltdown in his second game, not even getting out of the second inning. He has since been relegated to the bullpen. In nine games out of the pen, he has allowed as many runs as he did in his last start (7). He has also not walked a batter in his previous three appearances covering four innings.

Miles Mikolas via AP)

Miles Mikolas - Miles did not get his first (and only) start until May 22. He appeared to be the Mikolas of 2018 around the strike zone 59 pitches 43 strikes. Allowing 1 run on 3 hits. 1 walk, 3 Ks. However, he had to leave after the fourth inning with Arm tightness and is currently on the 60-day IL. there are indications he may still pitch this year but not until August

My take:

So, where does that leave us now?

With the recent injury to Flaherty And the unstable Nature of Kim and Martinez, we must look to the outside for help. Recent appearances by Jake Woodford and Junior Fernandez are intriguing enough to consider stretching them out in, say, a bullpen game or a two-week trip to Memphis to get them ready. As to what is out there, Many fans think Max Scherzer might be but at 38, and the fact he is an FA next year gives me more questions than answers.

Add to that, and he might not be available until the deadline. If we are to stay in contention, we need an arm by the end of the week. Teams that might be willing to deal now, like Detroit, Colorado, Baltimore rally, don't have any obvious go-get-'em arms.

I will take a look at that in my next article.

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