(BaseballStL) -- To be polite, the season stats for the St. Louis Cardinal pitching staff does not read like those of a division champion. Pittsburgh had a better ERA. Cincinnati had a lower batting average against and both Cincinnati and Milwaukee had more quality starts.
With 55 one-run games and a 98-pound weakling offense, the pitching had to be good when it counted. And it was. More specifically, the relief pitching was. As a result, a pieced-together starting staff overcame injuries, trades, tired arms, rotating catchers and a constant lack of run support to get the game to a very young bullpen who closed the deal, if occasionally inelegantly. Oh, and 23 shutouts didn’t hurt either.
Overall, the statistics weren’t impressive, but the results were and baseball is about results, not stats so give them a cumulative grade of A-.
And let’s give Derek Lilliquist some propers for keeping this leaky vessel afloat.
Adam Wainwright: A+. 20-9 with an ERA of 2.38 is good, but what fans didn’t appreciate is that he didn’t have his best stuff for much of the last two months, but still found a way to keep the Birds in the game. This man is 33 years old and just about leads the world with 665+ innings pitched since coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2011. He is Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel.
Lance Lynn: A+. If Wainwright’s games look like fine art painted by a master, Lynn’s look like cave art drawn by Neanderthals. But the results ares every bit as impressive. Though just 15-10, Lynn led the team in strikeouts, had an ERA only slightly higher than Waino’s and finished with some of the worst pitching luck ever witnessed. He strung together a slew of quality starts and ended with a WAR of nearly 4, all for minimum wage.
Shelby Miller: C+. Finished 10-9 and threw 183 innings, many of them way too long. Led the starters in home runs surrendered (22), walks and WHIP, categories you don’t want to be first in. He was so inconsistent that at one point he was put in the bullpen. But then he found a new grip for his sinker and began to trust his curveball and a lot of things started to fall into place. He was downright nasty at the end of the year, although he still hasn’t been able to throw 7+ innings with consistency.
John Lackey: C+. Even though he’s 35, he showed flashes of being a middle of the rotation guy. He was 3-3 and an ERA of 4.30, inflated because Baltimore took him to the woodshed in an early game. Still, too many walks and a loss of command hurt him. Looks to be a big part of next year’s rotation.
If not for the bullpen, the Cardinals would have been the Reds, many games under .500 and looking for answers.
Seth Maness: A-. 6-4, 2.91 ERA. Answer to the question, which Cardinal pitcher appeared in the most games this year (73)? Just 11 walks in 80+ innings. He doesn’t fan a lot of guys so fielders have to be ready. But he pounds the zone.
Carlos Martinez: B. Wants to be a starter but isn’t mature enough to prepare properly. Too flighty and still thinks he can throw it past everyone. Fans a lot of guys but gets behind too often and let hitters get in favorable counts, which resulted in more hits than innings pitched. He’s only 22 and has real talent. But so did a lot of guys who lacked self-discipline and are now playing 16-inch softball for the company team.
Pat Neshek: A. Claimed off the scrap heap (non-rostered at start of year after he was released by Oakland), this guy made the most of his opportunities. Yes, he faltered at the end of the year, but he was 7-2 with a 1.87 ERA and had 6 saves. He walked nine in 67 innings and had a WHIP of .78. Pay the man.
Randy Choate: C. There are many mysteries in baseball (like how Don Larson pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series). How a 39-year-old journeyman can make $3 million for pitching 36 innings over the course of an entire season is another. He wasn’t awful, just unnecessary. According to Baseball Reference, in most of the games he entered, the bases were empty and the Cards were losing, which speaks to a lack of pressure or need. When I am reborn, I hope it is as a lefty. (Choate may still be pitching).
Trevor Rosenthal: A- for the results, D- for the way he got them. 45 saves, just two homers surrendered, fewer hits than innings pitched and 87 whiffs in 70 innings. What’s the problem? A 2-6 record and a WHIP of 1.4 means he put a lot of guys on base. Did he ever. About 14 percent of all at-bats ended in walks, way too high for a guy closing a lot of one-run games. He also pitched a lot from behind and many games ended with the lead or winning runs in scoring position. The Tums factory across the street from Busch sent him a thank you card.