(Baseball StL) -- The numbers are pretty ridiculous when you think about it. Usually when a starting pitcher owns a 2.88 ERA that would qualify not only among your team’s best, but also the league’s best. But for the Cardinals? Nah. That will get you the worst ERA among starting pitchers.
Pretty filthy, huh?
Check out the stats from the Cardinals starters. Shelby Miller leads the way at 1.40, Jake Westbrook is next at 1.62, Adam Wainwright comes in third with a 2.51 earned run average and then Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia both round things out with a 2.88 ERA each.
Westbrook doesn’t qualify for the league leaders because he hasn’t thrown enough innings (had one start washed out due to rain and missed another because of injury) but if he did the Cardinals would have all five starters among the top 18 in the NL. As it is, they have four of the top 18 because Westbrook’s 1.62 doesn’t count.
As a rotation, that’s a 2.38 earned run average. Easily best in the National League - and MLB for that matter. But the best part is it’s nearly a full run better than second place. The Nationals have the second best rotation ERA in the NL at 3.14.
So, who gets the credit for all of this? It can’t just be the pitchers. I refuse to believe it’s just these guys going out there and dominating without being put in the optimal surrounding.
Number one on the list is the catcher. Yadier Molina. This is a guy that should win the MVP every single season. Why? Well, based on the strict definition of the word “valuable” find me someone else who - if taken away from his team - would crumble the most. Make no mistake about it, Molina is a coach on the field.
Shelby Miller says repeatedly that he does nothing but listen and do what Molina tells him while pitching. Many have called him the most irreplaceable player in the entire game. The guy simply has a way of knowing what other hitters’ weaknesses are and what it takes to get them out.
Number two has to be the pitching coach, Derek Lilliquist. For someone to come in and replace a legend like Dave Duncan is not the most enviable of positions to be in. But Lilliquist has done an incredible job in the role. He quite obviously did a wonderful job watching and learning over the years in the minor leagues and acting as a sponge with Duncan when exposed to him in spring trainings.
I admit I was more concerned about the future of the Cardinals without Dave Duncan than I was without Tony La Russa. That’s turned out to be a push. They’ve recovered quite well from both absences.
And, lastly, the credit goes to the front office led by GM John Mozeliak. You can put any average Joe on the field with Lilliquist coaching him and Molina guiding from behind the plate and you’ll probably get better results than you would without them. But to get the kind of dominance the Cards have seen this year? That takes major talent. And the right type of talent to blend in with the staff. This is where the scouts and front office executives come in. Credit them for identifying, drafting and signing Shelby Miller as a high school star out of Texas. Credit them for doing the same with Jaime Garcia a few years before that. And Lance Lynn as well.
If you’re going to make a run at a World Series, you better have a great starting rotation. The Cardinals do. And that means they’ve got a chance as much as anyone else.