St. Louis Cardinals 2013 Season in Review: Top Five Stories

2013 was another great year for the our beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Despite facing an incredible amount of adversity, they were still just two wins away from their 12th World Series title. Well, as part of our end-of-the-year project for the United Cardinal Bloggers, this post will be dedicated to bringing you my top five stories of 2013. Here we go:

stltoday.com

stltoday.com

5. The Emergence of Rookie Pitchers. Jason Motte went down before the season. Jaime Garcia required season-ending surgery after a handful of starts. Jake Westbrook pitched injured for much of the season.

Rookies–Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Michael Wacha, Seth Maness, and Carlos Martinez–became key contributors to the pitching staff. Throughout 2013, other rookies–Tyler Lyons, Keith ButlerJohn Gast, Sam Freeman, and Michael Blazek–had roles of their own as well. Considering only one of the 10 listed were traded (Blazek), fans can expect much from this group in 2014.
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Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

4. Matt Carpenter‘s Breakout Season. Carpenter filled two glaring team-needs in 2013 by taking over as the everyday second baseman and leadoff hitter. According to Fangraphs, he had the third highest WAR in the National League at 7.0. He made his first All-Star team and finished fourth in NL MVP voting.

With David Freese now in Los Angeles, Carpenter will return to his natural position at third base. Ideally, by the end of the 2014, this doubles machine will be moved down to the two-spot in the lineup, but that will be a direct result of the performances of Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos.
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Photo Credit: USATSI

Photo Credit: USATSI

3. Yadier Molina‘s Brilliance was Ever Present. As I stated in story #5, the pitching staff was largely dominated by rookies. It is hard to fathom how 2013 would have gone without Molina’s presence behind the plate. He was a calming presence for the young arms and was the mentor they needed to get through the long, grueling season.

Molina remained one of the best defensive catchers in the league–winning his sixth straight Gold Glove Award. His offense picked up yet again–leading to a .319/.359/.477 slash line. Putting all of 2013 together, Molina finished third in NL MVP voting and moved one step closer to being known as one of the best catchers to ever play.
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Photo Credit: AFP

Photo Credit: AFP

2. The Cardinals Win the Pennant! The Cardinals Win the Pennant! The Pittsburgh Pirates were the “sexy” pick by the national media to win the National League in 2013. However, Wacha and Adam Wainwright had other plans–allowing just two total runs in Games 4 and 5 of the NLDS.

They moved on to face the big bad, $220+ million-payroll Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. They won the series in six games with two wins from Lance Lynn and two wins from Wacha over the best pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw.

They ended up losing the World Series to the Boston Red Sox in six games, but for the purpose of this post, let’s just focus on the positives.
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1. Stan Musial. On January 19, 2013, the greatest Cardinal to ever live passed away. I would love to write a paragraph embracing just what Stan meant to the Cardinals and the city of St. Louis, but I really could not do him justice.

However, the lovely ladies over at Aaron Miles‘ Fastball constructed the perfect post to check out because it contains links to article from across the Web about The Man.

Thank you, Stan Musial. I may not have been able to see you play, but your impact on the Cardinals and the city of St. Louis will last forever. Because of this, I feel like Stan was the only choice for the #1 spot on my list.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page

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Joe Kelly Should Not Be Overlooked for 2014 Rotation

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Joe Kelly has been the best starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals since the All-Star break. Including a brief stint back in the bullpen, Kelly has been one of the top pitchers in baseball since mid-June.

The table below is a breakdown of his statistics since June 14th:

Date G ▴ GS Dec IP ER BB SO HR ERA BA
Jun 14 to Aug 17 12 7 4-0 53.1 11 21 34 3 1.86 0.222

Those statistics are absolutely incredible. He may not be pitching that deep into games, but he has pitched at least six innings in four of his last seven starts.  Sure, the relievers (Maness, Siegrist, Rosenthal, Mujica) cannot pitch every single day, but who can really complain if Kelly pitches six innings and allows only one or two earned runs?

If Kelly is truly the team’s best pitcher since June, then why is he not really being considered for the 2014 starting rotation?

Let’s take a look at the current state of the 2014 rotation:

2014 Rotation “Locks”:
1. Adam Wainwright
2. Shelby Miller
3. Lance Lynn
4. ??
5. ??

Thus, this effectively leaves five (maybe six) guys for the final two spots:

a. Kelly
b. Jaime Garcia
c. Michael Wacha
d. Carlos Martinez
e. Tyler Lyons
f. John Gast

Case for Kelly:

His performance thus far in 2013 as a starter has been impressive. His stuff is just nasty. His four-seam fastball can touch 98 MPH on the radar gun. His two-seam fastball comes in around 93-96 MPH and has tailing action that leaves left-handed hitters buckling at the knees. He is gaining confidence in his changeup and slurve which will only make him a better starter in the future.

I realize that we have only seen a small sample size of Kelly as a starter, but as I stated above, he has the stuff to get both righties and lefties out. His laid-back personality shows that he will be able to survive a long season of up’s and down’s. Let’s see how he does for the rest of the season before locking him into the 2014 rotation, but the purpose of this article was to bring him into that conversation in the first place.

Case for Garcia:

He is left-handed. He has proven to be a successful pitcher thus far in his career–39-25 in with a 3.45 ERA in three seasons as a starter. Also, he is under contract through 2015 with team options for 2016 and 2017.

However, there are also few knocks on Garcia. His health always seems to be in question–he has now injured both his elbow and his shoulder in his short MLB career.

Also, for whatever reason, he has not been able to bring the success he has had at home with him on the road. From 2010 through 2012, his home ERA is an impressive 2.33. However, during that same span, his road ERA is 4.46. I cannot put a finger on this issue, but given the fact that half of his starts will be on the road, this can be troubling.

Case for Wacha:

He has been a successful starter in Triple-A. Just a year after being drafted, he has shown flashes of being a dependable starter at the big league level. Against the Royals in late May, he pitched seven innings and allowed just one earned run. When was the last time a Cardinals starter had a performance like that?

His stuff is unbelievable. He is able to touch 97-98 MPH on the gun, and his 6’6″ frame allows him to throw his heaters on a downward plane–kind of like Wainwright. His curveball has been nasty when it’s on, and given time, it will only get more consistent. He also has a change that can be effective as well.

Having only thrown just over 110 innings (Memphis + St. Louis) this season, has he been groomed to pitch 175+ innings next year? Not really. However, as a polished college pitcher with solid mechanics, I really do not see this as that big a problem for him.

Case for Martinez:

He has electric stuff. In his one big league start, he touched 100 MPH multiple times, and he flashed a devastating curveball. He has proven to be a successful starter in Memphis so far this season. Yet, he needs to fine-tune his off-speed pitches and learn how to get deeper into games. Look for him to develop this more the rest of the season and into the off-season.

Case for Lyons:

He is left-handed. He has been extremely successful for Triple-A Memphis–going 7-2 with a 3.39 ERA in 16 starts. He has not been able to translate this success to the big leagues just yet, but he has only been given seven starts so it may still be too early to tell.

His last start was actually pretty good–going 6.0 innings and allowing only three earned runs. This could have been even better had Matt Holliday caught that flyball instead of having it bounce off his glove/hand into the stands for a home run.

Case for Gast:

He is left-handed. Yet, it is tough to even make a case for Gast to be honest. Though he was 2-0 in three starts in the big leagues, he had a 5.11 ERA and was unable to pitch deep into games. Also, he is recovering from shoulder surgery and may not even be ready to return to live action until July 2014. Thus, with all the question marks, he is very unlikely to get this, but I figured I would include him in the conversation since he saw time in the starting rotation this season.

Trade Possibilities?

The Cardinals have a surplus of pitchers for just two starting spots in 2014. The organization also has some promising prospects that will look to crack the rotation sometime soon as well–Zach Petrick, Marco Gonzales, etc.

As we all know, shortstop is a weakness for the Cardinals. Though Pete Kozma has been good defensively in his rookie season, his bat has just been ice cold–.223 batting average, .273 on-base percentage, and .281 slugging percentage. He has not hit a home run since the second game of the season. The Cardinals already had Brendan Ryan at shortstop and dealt him for Maikel Cleto (haha!). Thus, they don’t need another one and need to make a move to improve at the position during the off-season.

It is likely at least three to five years before any of the team’s recent draft picks at the position will make it to the big leagues. Thus, wouldn’t it be smart to trade part a surplus to improve a glaring weakness?

Well, in my humble opinion, I really do not want to trade Wacha or Martinez. Both project to be top-end of the rotation guys and have shown flashes of brilliance in brief appearances in the big leagues.

The only other player on the above list that could bring a solid return would be Garcia. I realize that potential trade partners will be worried about his health, but he claims that he is on track to be ready by October so hopefully that is not an issue. Also, compared to other starters in the league, he has a relatively cheap contract–$7.75 million in 2014 and $9.25 million in 2015.

I realize that most people believe that every rotation needs at least one left-handed pitcher. This makes a lot of sense, especially if you face an opponent that has a lot of left-handed hitters. However, Kelly has been more successful against lefties than he has against righties this season. Also, Wainwright and Lynn have shown to be successful against lefties as well. Thus, does it really matter if the pitcher throws left-handed or not? In my opinion, as long as the pitcher is able to get lefties and righties out, then that is all that matters.

My Picks for the 2014 Rotation:
4. Kelly
5. Wacha/Martinez

  • I think Wacha is better suited for the spot at this time, but it is still hard to rule out Martinez

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

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Shelby Miller Injured on Second Pitch of Game, Carlos Martinez to be Called Up?

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

BREAKING: As was discussed prior to the news being made official, Carlos Martinez has indeed been called up to start Thursday’s series finale against the Dodgers (via @LangoschMLB).

SHELBY UPDATE: As of 10:30 AM CT, it appears that Miller will avoid the disabled list at this time (via @LangoschMLB).

On just his second pitch of the game, Shelby Miller was injured on a comeback line-drive off the bat of Dodgers’ leadoff man, Carl Crawford. The liner struck Miller in his throwing elbow–ricocheting over David Freese into short left field for a double.

According to Jenifer Langosch and the St. Louis Cardinals, Miller has been diagnosed with a right elbow “contusion” after x-ray came back negative. This can be seen as good news considering the speed at which the ball came off Crawford’s bat. In short, a “contusion” is basically just a bruise, so expect Miller’s elbow to be black and blue tomorrow. However, if you want a more in-depth definition of the injury, I provided one below.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “Contusions are second only to strains as a leading cause of sports injuries. Most contusions are minor and heal quickly… But, severe contusions can cause deep tissue damage and can lead to complications and/or keep the athlete out of sports for months.”

Also, here is what Dr. Rick Lehman, the founder/medical director of the U.S. Center for Sports Medicine, had to say after the diagnosis was made public:

lehman

Thus, it looks as if Miller is headed to the disabled list. If it truly is just a contusion and no complications arise, this very well may end up being a “blessing in disguise” for the Cardinals. Before tonight, Miller was on pace for nearly 175 innings pitched this season.

As a rookie who is widely considered the Cardinals’ number two starter, the team needed to start limiting his innings in some manner. Sure, I do not wish an injury on any player, but as long as this one remains minor, then this may be the perfect time to give Miller the rest he needed.

Also, as I stated in a previous article, I believe Carlos Martinez deserves a shot in the starting rotation considering he has been used as a starter for the majority of the season in Memphis. With Martinez scheduled to pitch tomorrow in Triple-A, this is the perfect time for Martinez to get a shot in the rotation at the big league level. (Just a heads up, I had this part written and published before the Martinez news was made official)

Get well, Shelby, but in the meantime, let’s hope Cardinals fans can get a taste of the future with Martinez in the big league rotation. Miller needs the rest, and Martinez needs the experience. If any injury can ever be considered a good one, this just may be it…as long as Shelby returns fully healthy in a few weeks.

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

St. Louis Cardinals: Time to Break Homer Drought against Bronson Arroyo, Reds

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

After 13 runs scored in the last night’s game against the Pirates, the Cardinals’ offense may have finally gotten its “mojo” back. Let’s hope it can carry over in Cincinnati for the crucial series against the Reds.

Before tonight’s game, let’s break down the Cardinals’ hitting against the game one starter:

Bronson Arroyo: 138 innings pitched, 9-8 record, 3.26 earned run average, 76 strikeouts, 25 walks, 18 home runs allowed.

Against the Cardinals, Arroyo is 0-2 in three starts. He has 19 innings pitched with eight earned runs. He has allowed three home runs–one each to Holliday, Beltran, and Adams.

However, disregarding past performances against St. Louis, Arroyo is coming off a really good July. In five starts, he was 3-2 with a 2.16 earned run average. He had 33 and one-third innings pitched with eight earned runs. He allowed five home runs and had 19 strikeouts to just five walks.

Bold Prediction: One home run each for Holliday and Jay. Okay, the first is a lot less bold than the second, but given the current homer drought, I figured it was fine calling any home run a bold prediction.

So when is Arroyo most vulnerable? The first pitch. In 84 at-bats this season, hitters have 29 hits with 10 doubles, three home runs, and 12 runs batted in. Why is he most vulnerable on the first pitch? Well, the only straight pitch he has is his fastball. He only throws it 13-14% of the time. However, 17-18% of his first pitches are fastballs–most likely an attempt to get ahead of the hitter. Thus, Cardinals’ hitters won’t see many straight pitches tonight so expect them to be first pitch swinging more often than not.

I know that in my last article I said that Adron Chambers deserves a shot to start now that he has been called up, but given the current outfield’s success against Arroyo, it will be difficult for Matheny to keep any of the three from the starting lineup.

Let me explain why below…

Cardinals Hitting vs. Arroyo:

Those in bold are the hitters to watch.

Matt Carpenter: 1 for 12, .083 batting average, .083 on-base percentage, 1 single, 1 strikeout

Carlos Beltran: 11 for 32, .344 batting average, .400 on-base percentage, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 6 runs batted in, 5 strike outs

Allen Craig: 1 for 14, .071 batting average, .071 on-base percentage, 1 double, 2 runs batted in, 2 strikeouts

Matt Holliday: 16 for 51, .314 batting average, .386 on-base percentage, 4 doubles, 4 home runs, 10 runs batted in, 10 strikeouts

David Freese: 1 for 15, .067 batting average, .125 on-base percentage, 1 single, 4 strikeouts

Jon Jay: 13 for 32, .406 batting average, .424 on-base percentage, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 3 runs batted in, 3 strikeouts

Tony Cruz: 1 for 5, .200 batting average, .200 on-base percentage, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Pete Kozma: 1 for 7, .143 batting average, .143 on-base percentage, 1 single, 2 strikeouts

Daniel Descalso: 9 for 25, .360 batting average, .360 on-base percentage, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 4 runs batted in, 3 strikeouts

Matt Adams: 1 for 1, 1 home run, 2 runs batted in

Based on the above statistics and some other factors, here is the lineup I would use for the game.

1. Carpenter 2B
2. Beltran RF
3. Craig 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Freese 3B
6. Jay CF
7. Cruz C
8. Descalso SS
9. Miller P

I originally had Adams in the 4-spot playing first base, but given Craig’s successful night at the plate last night, I decided that he should be kept in the lineup–moving him to the 3-spot and Holliday to the 4-spot–just like last night.

Another thing to watch for is Shelby Miller and his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. He has allowed home runs in three of his past four starts. Thus, he will have to work extra hard at keeping the ball down in the zone given the ballpark and its proclivity to allow home runs.

Game Prediction: Cardinals 6, Reds 3.

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupOfJoe

St. Louis Cardinals: Breaking Down Lance Lynn’s Numbers

Photo Credit: cbssports.com

Photo Credit: cbssports.com

Cardinal Nation, it is time to give Lance Lynn some of the respect he deserves.

But, Joe, doesn’t he have a really high earned-run average? Well yes, he does. His 3.98 ERA is the 35th highest of starting pitchers in the MLB. However, regular ERA can at times be deceiving, so there is another statistic out there to come to Lynn’s defense (pun intended?)–fielding-independent pitching (FIP).

According to Fangraphs, FIP “measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance [by the defense] on balls in play and timing were league average.” Well, Lynn has the 16th best FIP in the MLB at 3.16. This ranks him above stud pitchers Cliff Lee (3.17), Yu Darvish (3.21), and Jose Fernandez (3.23).

What about his efficiency? He has to be the least efficient pitcher out there, right? In short, no.

Lynn is not the most efficient pitcher out there, but he is definitely not the least either. He is averaging 16.4 pitches per inning which is 28th highest in the league. Basing efficiency off this statistic, some notable pitchers that can be considered “less efficient” than him this season are Justin Verlander (17.4 pitches/inning), Gio Gonzalez (17.1 pitches/inning), and Shelby Miller (16.7 pitches/inning).

Well, then he for sure doesn’t go deep into games, does he? This notion is incorrect as well. Through 21 games started this season, Lynn has 129 innings pitched, which means he is averaging just under six and one-third innings pitched per outing.

Unless you are Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals really do not need the starter to pitch in the 8th and 9th innings that often with how effective Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica have been this season.

Thus, based on the average of six and one-third innings per outing, Lynn leaves only two outs for the rest of the bullpen to get before reaching the Rosenthal/Mujica combination. With how effective Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist have been, they are fully capable of getting these two outs, so Lynn, once again, is not really punishing the team.

Lynn is no Wainwright or Miller, but he does not have to be on this team. St. Louis needs him to step up and be a reliable third or fourth starter, and as shown above, he is doing just that.

One last statistic I would like to throw out there is the quality start stat. A quality start is defined as any outing in which the pitcher completes six innings and allows no more than three runs. Lynn has 12 quality starts this season, second on the team to Waino (who has a league-leading 17). He has two more than Jake Westbrook and three more than Miller.

Room for Improvement

However, for all the praise I just gave Lynn, I 100% agree that he does have room for improvement, and the biggest thing he needs to work on if he wants to play a role in the post-season is his “efficiency.”

Through 21 games this season, he has thrown 2,108 pitches. This averages out to be just over 100 pitches per outing. He needs to cut down on this or else he will have a second half just like last season. I delved deeper into his pitch statistics to see what can be done for him to improve, and I came up with one thing. Before I get to that, though, let’s go over the numbers.

Lynn: Pitch Location Percentages

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

42% of his pitches in the strike zone, that can’t be good, can it? Well, let’s compare this to someone else in the National League. Wainwright. Waino is widely considered as one of the top-three NL Cy Young Candidates, and his percentages look like this:

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

The “inefficient” pitcher, Lynn, actually throws more pitches in the strike-zone than Wainwright by 2.99%. Then, why does Wainwright average 14.2 pitches per inning–2.2 less pitches per inning than Lynn?

Some would answer this by saying that Lynn just tries to strike everybody out. Is this really the case, though? Based on strikeouts and innings pitched, Lynn is averaging 0.95 strikeouts per inning compared to Wainwright who is getting 0.90 strikeouts per inning. Lynn may not be just pitching for strikeouts after all.

Then what’s the problem? What is causing him to have the 28th highest pitch per inning rate in the majors? Let’s look into it a little further.

Lynn: Swing Percentages

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Wainwright: Swing Percentages

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Hitters are not swinging at Lynn’s pitches that are out of the zone like they are with Wainwright. Hitters are swinging at nearly 10% more of pitches out of the zone when facing Waino than when they are facing Lynn. Why is that? Though no one can be entirely sure, I think I have a good reason behind this.

Lynn: Pitch Type Percentages

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Using this table as reference, 84.78% of his pitches are variations of his fastball–fourseam, sinker/twoseam, and cutter. After including the changeup, 88.86% of Lynn’s pitches are considered “straight.” Sure, his sinker/twoseam and cutter have movement, but what makes these effective are their late movement–thus, they are not really considered breaking pitches.

Thus, his relative inefficiency lies here. Lynn is unable to locate his “straight” pitches. To be honest, at this point in his career, he may never gain control of these pitches. He either will always be wild or needs to fine-tune his mechanics which is usually something that is reserved for the off-season, not in-season.

Now, after five tables and various ramblings, I will state what I think Lynn needs to do…

What Lynn Needs to Do

To combat his inablity to locate his “straight” pitches, he needs to throw more curveballs. Hitters watch film and read scouting reports. They know that nearly 90% of what Lynn throws is straight. So if it looks like it is out of the zone coming from his hand, it will most likely stay out of the zone when it crosses the plate. The guesswork as to whether a pitch is going to be a strike or not is not as big of a deal for hitters facing Lynn.

So, why is Wainwright so “efficient” when only 39% of his pitches cross the plate in the strike-zone? One of the biggest reasons is his regular use of his curveball.

If Lynn wants to become more efficient, he needs to start utilizing his curveball more often. Wainwright throws his curveball 27% of the time, while Lynn throws his only 11% of the time. Sure, he does’t have a curveball half as good as Wainwright’s, but he needs to do something to keep hitters off-balance and second-guessing whether or not a pitch is going to be a strike or not.

He loves his fastball and for good reason, it is a fantastic pitch. However, by introducing a curveball on a more regular basis, hitters will start swinging at more pitches out of the zone. If hitters swing at more pitches out of the zone, this will ultimately lead to less pitches thrown per outing–increasing his “efficiency.”

Conclusion

To date, one of his best outings this season was against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 26th. He pitched seven innings, racked up nine strikeouts, and allowed just two hits and one run. In that game, Lynn used his curveball 22% of the time. He threw 106 pitches over seven innings–a 15.1 pitch per inning average. Thus, he was 1.3 pitches per inning more efficient than his current season average.

The outing that had people cringing was his start against the Chicago Cubs just before the All-Star break. In that game, he failed to get through the fifth inning, allowing six earned runs in the process. In that game, of the 74 pitches he threw, only TWO of them were curveballs.

Thus, unless he plans on magically gaining control of his fastball mid-season (very unlikely), he needs to start throwing his curveball more often. The statistics show that he is already missing the strike-zone 58% of the time, so he might as well make it a little more deceiving to the hitter by throwing a pitch that has movement. By doing this, he will not only get more swings on pitches out of the zone, but  will also get more swings and misses on his fastball due to the velocity difference between the two pitches.

Thank you for hanging with me on this one.

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupOfJoe

Striving for Success

Shelby Miller toes the rubber tonight against the Rockies carrying a respectable 4-2 record (that could be better considering how well he pitched in his 2 losses) with a minuscule ERA of 1.96. To further appreciate how successful he has been so far this season for the Cardinals, let’s take a look at where he was less than one year ago…

At 3:51 PM on June 5, 2012, @ShelbyMiller19 took to twitter and assured his followers, “It will turn around,” followed by “Home runs will kill. Giving up to[sic] many. Eliminate those. And we start rollin.” Prior to these two tweets, he pitched 5 innings against the Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals Triple-A Affiliate) in which he gave up 2 home runs and saw his ERA balloon to a gaudy 5.18. This was far from what was expected from him since he was considered by national scouts as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.

His next start, on June 11, 2012, could have broken him down, could have lead to the demise of another promising arm. He was only able to get through 4 innings against a team that was 15 games under .500 and gave up 2 more home runs while allowing 6 earned runs (ERA now at 5.72). A mere 21 year-old kid was struggling for the first time, and the beloved Cardinal Nation, which can be a player’s biggest fan but also biggest critic, wanted to give up on him. They wanted Mozeliak to deal him for a reliever to fill a present need–disregarding the fact that just months earlier, they were clamoring about how he was the future ace of the pitching staff.

With the way technology is today, fans are a mere 140 characters away (the maximum amount allowed per tweet) from being in contact with professional athletes, and I am 100% sure that Shelby was reading these temper-filled messages from the fans. He did not give up, though, tweeting on July 22, 2012: “Great pen today #CardinalNation.” He followed with a solid outing in which he pitched 7 innings allowing just 2 earned runs.

September call-ups were just a month away, and he was most likely going to get his opportunity then, and he did. It was his chance to leave an impression on the front office. He was used in 5 relief appearances before finally getting his first start on the last day of the season against the Central Champs–the rival Reds. He completely stifled them: pitching 6 scoreless innings of 1-hit baseball with 7 strikeouts. He got his chance, and despite his continuous struggles in Triple-A leading to parts of Cardinal Nation calling for him to be traded, he made the most of it. The coaching staff felt confident enough to put him on the playoff roster against the Giants, but we won’t go there (Yes, I am still bitter about that series).

Thus, it seems like Shelby Miller is finally living up to his hype. I realize it is a small sample size (only 6 starts), but I can only see him getting better, especially with veteran pitchers like Wainwright and Westbrook to mentor him throughout the season. If (and most likely when considering he is just a rookie) he starts experiencing some struggles, he will be much better prepared to handle them considering all that he has already dealt with in his young career.

In the meantime, LET’S GO BLUES!

Until next time…

Joe
@stlCupOfJoe