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

What to do when Jaime Garcia returns?

Being the least experienced member of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation as well as  the one added when Jaime Garcia was placed on the disabled list, Joe Kelly would seem to be the one most likely to leave the starting five when Garcia is expected to return from his minor league rehab stint on Sunday.

Or is he?

Let’s consider the options.

The performance of rotation-mate Lance Lynn has dropped off considerably in recent weeks. Specifically, his ERA is 5.43 over his last 10 starts. Lynn was a proven member of the 2011 Cardinals pen.

Any concerns about Kelly not pitching deeply enough into games should be measured against the fact that Lynn threw one inning less over the same number of recent starts.

Those worried about Kelly’s low strikeout rate need look no further than teammate Jake Westbrook. If one can consistently keep the ball down and the defense makes the plays, high strikeout rates can be less important.

Could the Cardinals move to a six-man rotation temporarily to accommodate all their starters? A variation on the theme would be to have a five-man rotation with six pitchers, resting a different one each time through.

Ace Adam Wainwright is still working back his way from Tommy John surgery, but has been clear that he wants to pitch more frequently, not less.

“I’m good to go as often as they need me,” Wainwright said this weekend. “I would think they’d want me a lot.”

Including Kelly’s outing of two runs allowed in 6 1/3 innings Tuesday night, here are the stats from the Cardinals starters over the last two months – since June 15:

Starter # starts IP ERA BB K
Lance Lynn 10 56 1/3 5.43 23 49
Joe Kelly 11 63 2/3 3.53 22 41
Adam Wainwright 10 67 2/3 2.93 13 65
Jake Westbrook 10 68 2/3 2.88 16 38
Kyle Lohse 11 74 2/3 2.53 17 50

So, what would you do?

When Jaime Garcia returns to the rotation, what would be your corresponding move?

  • Move Lynn to the bullpen. (50%, 100 Votes)
  • Go with a five-man rotation wih six pitchers, resting a different starter each time through. (22%, 44 Votes)
  • Move Kelly to the bullpen. (12%, 24 Votes)
  • Go to a six-man rotation. (11%, 22 Votes)
  • Other. Please specify below. (3%, 5 Votes)
  • Keep Kelly starting in Memphis (and Trevor Rosenthal in St. Louis pen). (2%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 199

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Note: The Cardinal Nation subscribers can read Kelly’s comments about his past relieving as well as his manager’s view of him.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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61 Responses to “What to do when Jaime Garcia returns?”

  1. Nutlaw says:

    In fairness, Lance Lynn has a 3.73 ERA since the beginning of July (7 starts). That essentially matches his 3.65 ERA for the season, which is quite good.

  2. Brian Walton says:

    If some of those voting for skipping a different pitcher each turn would explain your thinking, I’d appreciate it. It seems like you believe one 10-game break for each would be better than moving everyone to six games between each start. Or at least that is my interpretation.

    One other factor I did not explicitly mention before. By keeping all six starting (versus moving someone to the pen), the rotation may be better protected if another injury occurs ahead. There are several ways to do that, however…

    • blingboy says:

      I read where the Braves have gone to a six man rotation. It sounded like 6 men for 5 spots but not sure.

    • crdswmn says:

      I didn’t vote for the skipping a pitcher option, so I can’t explain the thinking. I worry that such a long break would do more harm than good. In addition, what is the argument for giving Lohse and Westbrook such a long rest? I have heard no indications that they need one. I briefly considered voting for a straight six man rotation, because it would give a little extra rest without giving too much rest, if that makes sense. However, after giving it some more thought I decided to go another direction with my vote and vote to move Lynn to the pen. I still think a straight six man rotation might work, though. It is at least something to consider, though in the end I doubt they will go that route.

      • blingboy says:

        6 man rotation = the woosification of baseball. Develop tougher pitchers instead.

        • crdswmn says:

          Baseball was woosified a long time ago when they instituted the DH. It has been down hill ever since. If you can’t beat em, join em.

          • blingboy says:

            And the DH, lengthening the careers of mostly high dollar free agents without blocking younger players, might never have come about had the reserve clause remained in place. So we should blame Curt Flood for the woosification of baseball. (And praise Gussie for trying to prevent it.) That must be why #85 is on the wall and #21 isn’t. Agree?

            • crdswmn says:

              Nope. Correlation without causation. Produce some evidence that we wouldn’t have had one without the other. There could have been no DH at all even without the reserve clause.

            • Brian Walton says:

              Disagree violently. 85 is on the wall because he used to own it. I see no connection between reserve clause and DH. The reason DH remains in limbo today is because AL owners lied about it being a three-year trial in 1973 and Bud and his predecessors did nothing about it since.

              • blingboy says:

                Brian, Flood vs. Kuhn was decided on June 19, 1972, and the following spring, on March 6, Larry Hisle of the Twins stepped into the box as a DH. Case closed.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Because events occurred in subsequent years, they are related? You have got to be kidding me.

                  • blingboy says:

                    Brian, the reserve clause was in place for 90 years. It is struck down and the very next spring the DH is there. At the least, that raises the possibilty of cause-effect.

                    • Nutlaw says:

                      Your assertion then is that after losing their fight against free agency, the owners decided to put themselves in a position to further overpay veteran players by instituting the DH?

                    • blingboy says:

                      I’m not sure about who pushed for what, nor about motivations. My point is that the one followed immediatly upon the heels of the other, suggesting causality.

                      It could be that the owners knew that salaries would go up and thought they needed to do something to draw more fans, I really have no idea.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      If that is the only support you can offer, you’ll have great difficulty finding a second, I predict.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    Brian, the Cardinals traded for Ryan Theriot in November 2010 and the very next year, they won the World Series. Are you saying we didn’t win the World Series because we had Ryan Theriot? 😉

        • blingboy says:

          Wacha is on a schedule where he pitches a 2 inning stint every 5 days. He’s gonna be a real tough guy.

  3. blingboy says:

    1. Is Craig an OF playing out of position this year, or will he be a 1B playing out of position next year? I worry about stuff like that.

    2. The other day, Bernie pointed out how rough Furcal’s defensive metrics are looking. I think range is the problem as far as the stats go, and truthfully, it is apparent to the naked eye. The arguement being made was that Jackson (and DD?) should get more reps, and Furcal a less demanding schedule.

    On the one hand, it would be good if Furcal was rested and in better shape for the post-season. On the other, we have to get to the post-season. We also don’t want to wreck him for next year, which brings me to my next point.

    3. I liked Jumbo’s arguement that we should rest the starters under contract for next year and work the one’s who aren’t. There is a certain beauty in that.

    • Brian Walton says:

      1. Not sure I understand your point. Craig is not a world-class defender but his bat dictates the need to play him. He is the starting first baseman now and should be next year too, barring further injury or trade.

      2. I don’t think it was best to give Jackson his first MLB action at second base. Hopefully, they can get a few leads during this homestand and Matheny can put Jackson in at short.

      3. Interesting.

      • blingboy says:

        1. That was kind of garbled, but my issue is whether Craig’s natural position is OF or 1B. Once Carlos is gone, Craig may move to RF to make way for Adams. Health permitting. Given his bat, I have no problem with him playing out of position, I’m just wondering what it is. Or maybe he doesn’t have one. If he is a first baseman for the next year and a half, then how about updating the roster matrix? I might sleep easier. 🙂

        2. I can’t imagine Furcal would be so emotionally fragile that Jackson couldn’t get his feet wet at SS, but I can think of no other reason.

        As to your appeal for explainations from those favoring the 6 men for 5 spots choice, I’d be interested also. Still trying to digest that concept. (Picture Gibby being told he was getting skipped so he could rest.) I’m for Lynn to the pen. I don’t think he’s physically worn, but maybe the stress is getting to him. A break to recharge could help. Mighty Joe should have to pitch himself out of the rotation.

    • crdswmn says:

      I’m sure I am in the minority, but I still think a DL stint for Furcal is a good idea. Let Jackson play SS against LHP at least. That is his natural position, and I see no reason to let him ride the bench this way. If he is not going to play SS, then I think he should go back to Memphis.

  4. Bw52 says:

    Moving Lzynn to the pen gets my vote but i wonder if his early woes in a game will continue with him in the pen?
    I also question Garcia being able to come back and contribute………………

    • kray66 says:

      That was my vote, but I too thought of his difficulty getting going. You can’t have a reliever who has a rough inning since that’s usually all you’re asking of them.

      I too think we need to hedge our bets on Garcia. I still voted for moving Lynn to the BP, but perhaps the 6-man rotation might be better to keep everyone on some sort of rotation and still starting in case one drops out (Garcia) again.

  5. crdswmn says:

    Melky Cabrera tested positive for testosterone, suspended 50 games.

    I’ll bet he is on the phone with Ryan Braun’s lawyer right now.

  6. Bw52 says:

    And no Selig- Milwaukee connection.

  7. blingboy says:

    I’m gratified but surprised the poll results have Lynn to pen over Kelly to pen by more than 4-1. We didn’t have a chance to vote for Garcia to pen but I wonder how many votes it would have gotten.

  8. crdswmn says:

    Just announced that Joe Kelly is moving to the pen and Garcia starts on Sunday.

    If Lynn continues to pitch as poorly as he has his last few starts, will this change? My guess is no.

    • Nutlaw says:

      Joe Kelly is still shy of 70 major league innings. He has a 1.427 WHIP. Let’s make sure that he isn’t bound for a serious correction before bumping more established guys from the rotation.

      • blingboy says:

        Besides that, Lynn pitched great early, and those stats are just as predictive as his more recent stats. In other words, his next few starts are just as likely to be like his early ones as like his recent ones. Lucky for him.

        Wainy is a special case, coming back from surgery. But I know of no way by which the wonks factor that in. So, I assume, tonight is just as likely to resemble his early starts as his last few. Disturbing. Hopefully the Snakes will stink and our O will thrash them.

        • Nutlaw says:

          You sound confused, bb. Sure, the small sample size of a few starts in August are worse than Lynn’s performance during the season. His performance over the past two months matches his season performance, as pointed out earlier.

          I’m not sure who you’re considering a “wonk”, but anyone with any passing familiarity with baseball knows that pitching performance suffers in the immediate short term following a major injury. And yes, statisticians do have enough common sense to dig up data showing that.

          • blingboy says:

            Sometimes I get carried away, Nut.

            I’ve said before that I believe the most likely thing a guy is going to do now is whatever he did lately. The reason being that data is more predictive the more proximate in time it is to the present, and becomes less predictive as it becomes more remote in time.

            I’ve never seen much acceptance of that idea within the baseball stats community, but if you say it is a factor in certain cases I don’t doubt you. TLR would have considered it heresy, and I’ve been hoping for evidence that the new regime might see things differently. Very frustrating.

            • crdswmn says:

              But statistically speaking recent data is not more predictive. What is predictive is the mean performance of a player over a long period of time. Variations from that mean generally (but not always) are not sustainable, and regression occurs. That is why I put the caveat of small sample size on my comments about Lynn’s recent performance. You can regress (statistically speaking) in either direction, so regression does not necessarily mean getting worse, you can regress to getting better. That is what is happening to Waino right now.

              • Nutlaw says:

                Sure, though that doesn’t mean that some players don’t get tired and worn down, that they have a reduction in performance due to injury, that their mechanics get out of whack or they pick up a new trick, or the league all of a sudden finds insightful scouting info on them. If one can properly quantify and correct for those factors, then sure, recent performance isn’t a predictor for tomorrow. People aren’t that good yet, so they have to stick with longer term smoothing out of data.

                • crdswmn says:

                  I agree, which is why I said variations from the mean are not always unsustainable. Sometimes people just become better or worse for some reason, known or unknown.

      • crdswmn says:

        Sure, but Lynn is 27 innings shy of exceeding the maximum amount of innings he has ever pitched, his WHIP has gone up to 1.65 in Aug. from a 1.21 in July, his K% has gone from 25.8 to 16.0, his BB % has gone up from 7.2 to 12.0 and his FIP has gone from 2.97 to 5.15. SSS of course, but if this trend continues, shouldn’t there be some concern, and shouldn’t his being “established in the rotation” be less relevant?

        I am suggesting when I say I would guess there will be no change, is that I don’t have any faith that Matheny will make any kind of tough decisions. I hate to be this way, but I see less and less indication that Matheny learns from his mistakes. He continues to do the same things over and over without any hint of adapting or changing unless forced to do so.

        This is how it appears to me. I hope I am wrong.

        • blingboy says:

          Matheny wouldn’t likely be the one making the decision.

        • Nutlaw says:

          Yes, if Lance Lynn gets pounded consistently, then he should be taken out of the rotation. If anyone gets pounded consistently, they should be taken out of the rotation. That doesn’t mean that it has happened or that one should assume that it will.

          Lynn has been striking out a batter an inning. When you do that, you inevitably give up some fly balls. On the days when you get unlucky and they go for home runs, you don’t look nearly as good as the days when those balls stay in the park. I’m not that worried, personally.

  9. Brian Walton says:

    The decision is done. With Kelly to the pen, the poll is closed.

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