Feldman: Westbrook shows hard work does pay off

Feldman: Westbrook shows hard work does pay off

Credit: Getty Images

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 17: Starter Jake Westbrook #35 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on August 17, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)


by Brian Feldman


Posted on August 22, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 22 at 1:39 PM

(Baseball StL) -- As a general manager you’ve always got to have one eye on the present and one eye on the future.  And the Cardinals’ announcement that they’ve extended pitcher Jake Westbrook adds another piece to the 2013 starting rotation.

This deal (locking Westbrook in for ‘13 plus a mutual option for ‘14) is the culmination of a lot of hard work for the Athens, Georgia native. 

Coming over from Cleveland in the middle of the 2010 season as part of a 3-team trade where the Cards gave up Ryan Ludwick, Westbrook was outstanding right out of the gate.  In 75 innings he had a 3.48 ERA and showed that power sinker he’d become famous for. 

But Westbrook warned that a lot of his success might have been a result of being new to the National League. 

He might’ve been right.  Because in 2011 after resigning in the offseason Westbrook had an extremely frustrating year.  He made 33 starts, for 183.1 innings, but got hit a ton.  Opponents hit .290 off him en route to a 4.66 ERA...which led to him not even being on the postseason roster for part of the playoffs.  Though he did get the win in Game 6 of the World Series.

Fortunate for him, he had signed a guaranteed 2-year contract with the Cardinals.  Which meant he had another season to prove 2011 was a fluke.  And in the winter of 2011/2012, Westbrook put in a boat load of work.  He lost weight, he got in probably the best shape of his life and he rededicated himself to proving others wrong.

The fact we’re sitting here talking about him signing another contract with the team before this season even ended is proof that his hard work paid off.  Westbrook is arguably better now than he was during that 2nd half of 2010 when his success could have been because no one knew him.

Through 24 starts he’s got a 3.50 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) and is among the best in the game at fielding his position.

It’s also worth nothing not only did Westbrook take less money to stay a Cardinal the first time he signed, he avoided free agency this time around too by agreeing to this.  He genuinely loves St. Louis and wants to pitch here.

That’s certainly a sight to see nowadays when most athletes want every last penny that they can muster out of teams. 

So, what does this mean for the 2013 rotation?  First and foremost, this signing certainly is going to make bringing Kyle Lohse back a major challenge. 

You’ve got Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia under contract.  You’ve got Lance Lynn still under control.  Now Jake Westbrook is going to be here.  Throw in Chris Carpenter (if he’s healthy) and you’re rotation for next season could be set.

Maybe, just maybe, if Carpenter isn’t healthy then the Cards could justify throwing big dollars to bring Lohse back.  But even then you’ve got to remember they’ve got youngsters like Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller who could be ready to compete. 

Either way, this signing of Westbrook is another step towards ensuring the Cards should be in contention once again in 2013...and beyond.