The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

ERA+ from the Cardinals’ big three

Looking at ERA+ marks by the St. Louis Cardinals’ top three pitchers over the Albert Pujols years.

Where we last left this discussion, there seemed no correlation between a top season by three St. Louis Cardinals offensive leaders and the club making the playoffs. My natural curiosity led me from hitting to pitching, which is the subject of this article.

For each season of the last decade, the Albert Pujols years, I selected the Cardinals’ top three starting pitchers based on ERA+, a good summary cross-season measurement. Despite the five-man rotation, I chose three because that is the same sample size previously used for the hitters. That selection will become even more clear later in this article.

For visual clarity, I left pitchers in the same column from year to year.

Year ERA+ ERA+ ERA+
2001 Morris 137 Williams 190 Kile 140
2002 Morris 117 Williams 159 An Benes* 144
2003 Morris 110 Williams 106 Stephenson 90
2004 Carpenter 124 Suppan 103 Marquis 115
2005 Carpenter 150 Suppan 119 Mulder 116
2006 Carpenter 144 Suppan 108 Reyes* 88
2007 Wellemeyer 142 Wainwright 119 Pineiro* 112
2008 Wellemeyer 115 Wainwright 133 Lohse 113
2009 Carpenter 182 Wainwright 155 Pineiro 117
2010 Carpenter 122 Wainwright 161 Garcia 145
2011# Carpenter 117 Wainwright 140 Westbrook 101

* partial season
# career averages

The first thing that jumped out at me was the passing of the torch of staff ace from Matt Morris at the end of the prior decade to Woody Williams to Chris Carpenter to Adam Wainwright, with a few gap seasons in the middle.

Another thing that caught my eye was the ever-changing names in the third column. In this case, the third is not based on salary or rotation order, but in terms of results – being one of the top three in the rotation as measured by ERA+.

It is amazing to me that while two of the top three often remained constant from year to year, the identity of the third top pitcher changed ten times in ten years!

Looking ahead to 2011, I could have assumed Jaime Garcia’s second season will be superior to Jake Westbrook’s, but I didn’t. With just one full season under Garcia’s belt, that seemed presumptuous when Westbrook already has a consistent body of work. (For completeness, Kyle Lohse’s career ERA+ is 93.)

As in the earlier analysis, I assumed career ERA+ marks for Westbrook, Carpenter and Wainwright next season.

Summing the top three pitchers’ annual ERA+ marks and ranking the seasons from high to low provides this:

Rank Year ERA+ ERA+ ERA+ Total Playoffs
1 2001 Morris 137 Williams 190 Kile 140 467 yes
2 2009 Carpenter 182 Wainwright 155 Pineiro 117 454 yes
3 2010 Carpenter 122 Wainwright 161 Garcia 145 428 no
4 2002 Morris 117 Williams 159 An Benes* 144 420 yes
5 2005 Carpenter 150 Suppan 119 Mulder 116 385 yes
6 2007 Wellemeyer 142 Wainwright 119 Pineiro* 112 373 no
7 2008 Wellemeyer 115 Wainwright 133 Lohse 113 361 no
8 2011# Carpenter 117 Wainwright 140 Westbrook 101 358 TBD
9 2004 Carpenter 124 Suppan 103 Marquis 115 342 yes
10 2006 Carpenter 144 Suppan 108 Reyes* 88 340 yes
11 2003 Morris 110 Williams 106 Stephenson 90 306 no

* partial season
# career averages

Four of the top five seasons were playoff years, with 2010 the lone exception. 2011 slots in at number eight of 11, but if Garcia’s career ERA+ of 133 was used instead of Westbrook’s 101, the additional 32 points would vault the 2011 projection up to number five.

Not wanting to prolong this process, I did take it one final step to try to tie up the loose ends. I am going to list it here rather than running yet another similarly-themed piece tomorrow.

In perhaps some bad chemistry, I added the OPS+ of the top three hitters each year to the ERA+ of the top three starting pitchers and re-ranked the Pujols years.

Rank Year OPS+ ERA+ Total Playoffs
1 2009 463 454 917 yes
2 2001 423 467 890 yes
3 2010 454 428 882 no
4 2002 452 420 872 yes
5 2004 499 342 841 yes
6 2008 464 361 825 no
7 2005 435 385 820 yes
8 2011# 452 358 810 TBD
9 2003 485 306 791 no
10 2006 444 340 784 yes
11 2007 381 373 754 no

# career averages

While the top years changed slightly, the end result was similar to the pitchers’ in that four of the top five scoring seasons ended with a playoff berth. Whether there is real correlation here, coincidence or something in between, I don’t know.

Poll: Which Cardinals starting pitchers will have the highest (best) ERA+ in 2011?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Follow me on Twitter.
Follow The Cardinal Nation Blog on Facebook.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.