Feldman: Cardinals rotation key to team's success

Feldman: Cardinals rotation key to team's success

Feldman: Cardinals rotation key to team's success

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by Brian Feldman / BaseballStL

KMOV.com

Posted on January 26, 2013 at 7:24 PM

Updated Sunday, Jan 27 at 5:18 PM

(BaseballStL) -- The old saying goes "good pitching beats good hitting".  It's been true in baseball for decades, save for the steroid era, and will continue to be true for decades more, save for another PED era.
 
That's why whenever draft day comes around, I do understand the need to take a good bat if an elite one's available - you need to score runs after all - but all things being equal I'd take pitching and pitching and more pitching.  That's the most valuable commodity in the game today.
 
Sure, Allen Craig and Matt Holliday will provide thump for what should be a nicely balanced offense this season.  But let's be honest.  Pitching wins in baseball.  I don't care how good of a swing you have, no one is hitting 99 miles per hour when it's at the knees on the black part of the plate.  No one.
 
So let's look at this Cards rotation for 2013 and dissect how good of a chance it's going to give the team to win.
 
First and foremost, Chris Carpenter.  He's the key.  He's the X-factor.  He's the wild card.  He's whatever you want to call him as long as it defines important.  The difference between the Chris Carpenter we all know that's got a career 3.00 postseason ERA and the injured one who gave up ten runs in eight innings over two starts versus the Giants in the NLCS might be the difference between the Cards making the playoffs and not.
 
He's the emotional leader on this team so he'll have an impact regardless of how he pitches.  But I have always been one to believe that someone's leadership is also loosely tied to how that person performs.  If you aren't getting the job done on the mound (whether it's health related or not) it's kind of hard to be the unquestioned leader in a clubhouse.
 
Carpenter's going to be 38 on April 27th.  He's not getting any younger.  He's also got just a year left on his contract so he'll be a free agent after the season.  Could this be the last go 'round for Carp?  We'll see.
 
Next is the health of Jaime Garcia.  I've said for years that this guy has as good of stuff as anyone on the team.  When he's rolling, he's unhittable.  His late movement is just filthy and he keeps hitters off balance.  The issue with him, in addition to his shoulder, is his head.  For some reason, when something happens in a game that shifts the balance of his universe he freaks out and it affects him on the mound.
 
I'll never forget last year when he was cruising until there was a situation where he forgot to tag up on third base.  Yes, Garcia made a base running mistake and he allowed it to mess up his pitching.  From there he went on to give up a couple runs.  That stuff cannot happen.  He's got to get over whatever it is that's causing this.  You can't play baseball like that.
 
Garcia will get healthy.  At some point.  Whether it's to start the season or in May or June...he'll pitch a lot in 2013.  The Cards need him to be more consistent.  He's got ace stuff who sometimes pitches like a #5.
 
Lastly, to me, the key is the development of the kids.  Injuries are inevitable.  Last year no one had any idea that Joe Kelly would come up and pitch the way that he did while holding down a rotation spot for the injured Garcia.  I don't know if Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal or Joe Kelly will start the season in the rotation.  That will come down to other's heath.
 
But I am pretty sure that one or even two of those guys will be needed in a big way this year.  How they develop will mean a lot for the Cardinals going forward.  Especially with Carpenter and Jake Westbrook possibly leaving after the season.
 
I think you know what you'll get out of Westbrook (high three to low four ERA), Lance Lynn (top of the line stuff but needs to show better conditioning to last through the season) and Adam Wainwright (certified ace).
 
How those others stack up this year will go a long way to determining what 2013 will look like for the 'birds.

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