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

Carpenter, Lohse and Dave Duncan’s impact

In several recent tweets, ESPN’s Buster Olney was sharing the thoughts of a talent evaluator offering his opinions as to why Kyle Lohse is still unsigned. The following quote comes from the evaluator with the conclusion apparently Olney’s.

“When’s the last time you saw a pitcher leave St. Louis and do well elsewhere?” The Dave Duncan effect.

With the recent announcement that Chris Carpenter will not pitch in 2013 and that his career may be over, the question of whether Lohse’s future might re-intersect with the St. Louis Cardinals was re-hashed by some.

While that return still seems most unlikely, the two right-handers – Carpenter and Lohse – seem to have experienced a tremendous benefit from working under the legendary Duncan. In fact, the now-retired pitching guru was credited for turning upward the fortunes of many a pitcher who had not excelled prior to joining the Cardinals.

While I believe that storyline to be true, I decided to try to quantify it. With raw materials provided by researcher Tom Orf, I worked the data to break out the results of the 76 pitchers who threw at least 50 innings for the Cardinals during the La Russa-Duncan years of 1996-2011.

To appear here, the pitchers must also have logged at least 50 additional innings at some point during their career while wearing another MLB uniform. As a result, Cardinals-only pitchers like Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright are excluded from the analysis.

For the 76, I compare their ERAs as Cardinals with Duncan to their ERAs over the remainder of their Major League careers.

The average ERA across the group was 0.33 runs per nine innings better under Duncan in St. Louis than otherwise. One third of a run seems significant.

  • 46 of the 76, or 61 percent, had a better ERA with Duncan in St. Louis. Their StL ERA improvement was an average of 1.02 runs per nine innings.
  • Two of the 76, or three percent, had the same ERA with Duncan in St. Louis as for their entire career.
  • 28 of the 76, or 37 percent, had a better ERA elsewhere. Their Duncan-StL decline was an average of 0.76 earned runs per nine innings.

In other words, over 60 percent of Cardinals pitchers who also appeared for other clubs delivered an average ERA of over one run better under Duncan’s tutelage with St. Louis than they did over the remainder of their careers.

In the table that follows, the pitchers are ranked by the difference between their St. Louis ERA under Duncan and rest of career ERA. Those with the greatest improvement as Cardinals are listed first.

Min. 50 innings StL Dunc StL Dunc Rest Career Difference
Pitcher From To Age IP ERA IP ERA ERA
Al Reyes 2004 2005 33-34 74.2 1.93 293.1 5.12 -3.19
Mark Thompson 1999 2000 28-29 54.1 3.81 282.2 6.11 -2.30
Alan Benes 1996 2001 24-29 415.1 4.27 78.2 6.28 -2.01
Rigo Beltran 1997 1997 27-27 54.1 3.48 52 5.36 -1.88
Luther Hackman 2000 2002 25-27 119.1 4.30 92.2 6.11 -1.81
Chris Carpenter 2004 2011 29-36 1331.2 3.06 870.2 4.83 -1.77
Russ Springer 2003 2008 34-39 133.2 3.03 722.2 4.80 -1.77
Julian Tavarez 2004 2005 31-32 130 2.91 1274.1 4.62 -1.71
T.J. Mathews 1996 2001 26-31 144.1 2.74 291 4.36 -1.62
Jason Simontacchi 2002 2004 28-30 285 4.77 70.2 6.38 -1.61
Matt Morris 1997 2005 22-30 1377.1 3.61 428.2 5.17 -1.56
Todd Wellemeyer 2007 2009 28-30 377.2 4.31 237 5.66 -1.35
Cory Bailey 1996 1996 25-25 57 3.00 150 4.32 -1.32
Trever Miller 2009 2011 36-38 95.1 3.12 428 4.42 -1.30
Mike Matthews 2000 2002 26-28 140 3.99 103.2 5.28 -1.29
Steve Kline 2001 2004 28-31 247.1 2.69 435 3.98 -1.29
John Frascatore 1997 1998 27-28 175.2 3.38 195.1 4.56 -1.18
Cal Eldred 2003 2005 35-37 171.1 3.41 1196.2 4.56 -1.15
Jason Isringhausen 2002 2008 29-35 408 2.98 599.2 4.09 -1.11
Brad Penny 2010 2010 32-32 55.2 3.23 1843.1 4.29 -1.06
Jeff Suppan 2004 2010 29-35 642.2 3.94 1900 4.96 -1.02
Randy Flores 2004 2008 28-32 178 4.35 72 5.25 -0.90
Lance Painter 1997 2003 29-35 145.2 4.63 304.1 5.53 -0.90
Woody Williams 2001 2004 34-37 588.2 3.53 1627.2 4.43 -0.90
Dennys Reyes 2009 2010 32-33 79 3.42 647.2 4.31 -0.89
Edwin Jackson 2011 2011 27-27 78 3.58 1190.2 4.45 -0.87
Ryan Franklin 2007 2011 34-38 312.1 3.52 888.2 4.36 -0.84
Tony Fossas 1996 1997 38-39 98.2 3.28 317 4.09 -0.81
Darryl Kile 2000 2002 31-33 544.1 3.54 1621 4.31 -0.77
Ray King 2004 2005 30-31 102 2.91 309 3.64 -0.73
Todd Stottlemyre 1996 1998 31-33 565.2 3.77 1626 4.46 -0.69
Kiko Calero 2003 2004 28-29 83.2 2.80 219 3.41 -0.61
Kent Bottenfield 1998 1999 29-30 324 4.17 587.2 4.74 -0.57
Rick Honeycutt 1996 1997 42-43 49.1 3.28 2110.2 3.73 -0.45
Mark Petkovsek 1996 1998 30-32 290.1 4.49 419.2 4.91 -0.42
Josh Hancock 2006 2007 28-29 89.2 4.01 88 4.39 -0.38
Joel Pineiro 2007 2009 28-30 426.1 4.14 1328 4.50 -0.36
Darren Oliver 1998 1999 27-28 253.1 4.26 1613.1 4.57 -0.31
Mike Timlin 2000 2002 34-36 163.1 3.36 1041 3.67 -0.31
Heathcliff Slocumb 1999 2000 33-34 103 3.84 528 4.13 -0.29
Kyle Lohse 2008 2011 29-32 598 4.27 1375 4.53 -0.26
Dave Veres 2000 2002 33-35 224 3.33 470 3.49 -0.16
Juan Acevedo 1998 1999 28-29 200.2 4.26 369.1 4.37 -0.11
Ron Villone 2008 2008 38-38 50 4.68 1118 4.73 -0.05
Chuck Finley 2002 2002 39-39 85.1 3.80 3112 3.85 -0.05
Blake Hawksworth 2009 2010 26-27 130.1 4.07 53 4.07 0.00
Jason Marquis 2004 2006 25-27 602.2 4.60 1199.2 4.60 0.00
Jake Westbrook 2010 2011 32-33 258.1 4.32 1372.2 4.30 0.02
Garrett Stephenson 1999 2003 27-31 505 4.56 146.1 4.52 0.04
Dennis Eckersley 1996 1997 41-42 113 3.58 3172.2 3.50 0.08
Donovan Osborne 1996 1999 27-30 392 4.09 481.2 3.98 0.11
Sidney Ponson 2006 2006 29-29 68.2 5.24 1691.2 5.02 0.22
Braden Looper 1998 2008 23-33 450.2 4.37 725.1 4.01 0.36
Andy Benes 1996 2002 28-34 777.2 4.25 1727.2 3.84 0.41
Pat Hentgen 2000 2000 31-31 194.1 4.72 1881 4.28 0.44
Dustin Hermanson 2001 2003 28-30 222 4.58 1061 4.13 0.45
Jeff Weaver 2006 2006 29-29 83.1 5.18 1754.2 4.69 0.49
Mike James 2000 2001 32-33 89.1 4.03 224.2 3.53 0.50
Manny Aybar 1997 1999 25-27 246.1 5.30 144.2 4.79 0.51
Chris Perez 2008 2009 22-23 65.1 3.72 213.2 3.08 0.64
Brett Tomko 2003 2003 30-30 202.2 5.28 1613.1 4.57 0.71
Mike Mohler 1999 2000 30-31 68.1 5.66 348.2 4.86 0.80
Jose Jimenez 1998 1999 24-25 184.1 5.52 337 4.59 0.93
Ricky Bottalico 1999 1999 29-29 73.1 4.91 555.1 3.87 1.04
Mike Morgan 1996 1996 36-36 103 5.24 2669.1 4.19 1.05
Anthony Reyes 2005 2008 23-26 220.2 5.38 72.2 4.33 1.05
Jeff Fassero 2002 2003 39-40 95.2 5.17 1938 4.06 1.11
Jeff Brantley 1998 1998 34-34 50.2 4.44 808.2 3.32 1.12
Mark Mulder 2005 2008 27-30 311 5.04 1003 3.91 1.13
Kip Wells 2007 2007 30-30 162.2 5.70 1175.2 4.57 1.13
Kent Mercker 1998 1999 30-31 265.1 5.09 1060 3.93 1.16
Travis Smith 2002 2002 29-29 54 7.17 57.2 5.93 1.24
Dan Haren 2003 2004 22-23 118.2 4.85 1758 3.58 1.27
Danny Jackson 1996 1997 34-35 55 5.56 2017.2 3.97 1.59
P.J. Walters 2009 2011 24-26 50 7.38 62.2 5.60 1.78

Few may remember the name at the top of the list, Al Reyes. The reliever had a short, but very successful run in 2004-2005 before suffering an arm injury. Not surprising at number six and the top-ranked starter after Alan Benes is Carpenter, who was reborn in St. Louis after a non-descript beginning in Toronto.

The others above the line read like a who’s who of Cardinals greats over the past two decades – Jeff Suppan, Woody Williams, Jason Isringhausen, Darryl Kile and so on.

The two in the dead middle are now-journeyman starting pitcher Jason Marquis and swingman Blake Hawksworth.

Among the just-over-one-third who logged higher ERAs as Cardinals are those who were at the very early stage of successful careers before being traded away. This includes such hurlers as Chris Perez and Dan Haren.

At the other end of the experience spectrum, others became Cardinals as their long careers were winding down. That includes pitchers like Pat Hentgen and Mike Morgan. Yet others could never fully fulfill their promise with St. Louis due to injury. Mark Mulder may be at the top of that list.

Finally, some were never overly successful over the long haul, whether under Duncan or anyone else. Heading that list has to be Sidney Ponson, though Kip Wells and Brett Tomko receive honorable mention.

And Lohse? Interestingly enough, his ERA during his time as a Cardinal through the Duncan years was only 0.26 better than his non-Duncan career years. The difference of 4.27 with Duncan versus 4.53 without represents only about one quarter of a run every nine innings.

An important footnote, however, is that Lohse’s fantastic 2012, during which he registered a 2.86 ERA, is in the “Rest of Career” column, same as Eckersley’s Oakland years under Duncan, for example.

Even though currently unsigned, Lohse has plenty for which send thanks in Duncan’s direction. Immediately upon initially signing with St. Louis in March 2008, Lohse put together his best season over his first eight. It was his first 15-win season and his first-ever campaign with an ERA under four. Of course, he turned that into a four-year, $41 million deal to stay with St. Louis, signed that same September.

The raw numbers of pitchers with a positive ERA tends to put an exclamation point on something we already knew – that Dave Duncan had a significant impact on these pitchers as well as the St. Louis Cardinals.

When Hall of Fame consideration becomes relevant for Duncan, here is hoping that he will receive support to become the first to be enshrined in Cooperstown for success as a pitching coach.

I am betting that Lohse, Carpenter and hundreds of other pitchers who knew Duncan best would agree.

Update: As the result of the discussion below regarding the impact of Yadier Molina on pitchers’ results, I have added the following poll.

Does a great catcher or a great pitching coach have a bigger positive impact on a pitcher's ERA?

View Results

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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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48 Responses to “Carpenter, Lohse and Dave Duncan’s impact”

  1. blingboy says:

    As good as Dave Duncan was, I suggest that he is getting credit for the Yadi effect.

    I divided the list in the article into two groups, those ending their Cardinal tenure 2004 or earlier (pre-Yadi), and those ending it 2005 or later (Yadi). The result is that of the pre-Yadi group 57.7% (26 of 45) are above the line, while the Yadi group has 69% (20 of 29) above it.

  2. blingboy says:

    Well, now the poll question has me stumped.

    In the case where there is both a great pitching coach and a great catcher, which has the greater effect on ERA.

    I’ll have to think about that.

    It does seem that the combination of Duncan/Yadi and a more positive effect than Duncan/Matheny. But that would only suggest that Yadi had a more positive effect than Matheny. It says nothing about whether either one had more effect than Duncan.

    • Brian Walton says:

      There is also a time/experience consideration. I doubt the rookie Molina would have as much of a say in the game plan as the 2012 version whereas Duncan already had two decades of refining his approach by the time Molina arrived. At that point, I would guess Matheny was far more influential.

      Of course, game planning is only one part of the catcher’s job. There was probably not a big incremental improvement in the catch and throw part of the job between the two. Both catchers were very good.

      Interesting discussion, but difficult to draw hard conclusions.

      • blingboy says:

        Very reasonable, but the numbers don’t lie.

        • Brian Walton says:

          How could you have broken out Matheny vs. Yadi when the two were splitting the job? Your data is not a representation of how each pitcher performed with these catchers. To do that right, each game in each season would have to be analyzed as there were other catchers in the mix as well.

          I accept your fundamental point that the catcher has an impact on the pitcher. I don’t accept your data as being an accurate reflection or valid comparison point between catchers. You should probably try to find catchers ERA in those years as it would seem a better measure – if you want to go there. My intent was not to try to compare Matheny and Yadi, though that could be interesting, too. I only brought up Matheny as he also worked under Duncan and was also a Gold Glover.

  3. blingboy says:

    My conclusion is that the data in the table suggests that the great catcher has more effect on ERA.

    Think of the pitching coach who has no effect, either plus or minus, as a ‘replacement level’ pitching coach. Likewise, a catcher who has no effect would be ‘replacement level’ as far as calling games/managing pitchers. In the case of both being ‘replacement level’, a table like the one above would have an equal number of pitchers above and below the line.

    As Brian mentioned, Matheny was well thought of, so worst case, he was ‘replacement level’ as far as calling games/managing pitchers. In that case the entire 7.7% above replacement level of the Duncan/Matheny group was due to Duncan. So he is ‘worth’ 7.7% above ‘replacement’.

    So looking at the Duncan/Yadi group, which was 19% above replacement level, 7.7% should be attributed to Duncan, leaving 11.3% attributed to Yadi.

    So I conclude that the great catcher Yadi had more effect on ERA than the great pitching coach Duncan, and have cast my vote accordingly.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Considering Matheny won three Gold Gloves in his five years as a Cardinal, calling him replacement level seems unfair.

      So far, we seem to be the only ones who care! 😉

      • blingboy says:

        I guess we need to get a life or something.

        • blingboy says:

          Or the intellectual firepower displayed has intimidated everyone. I like that better.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          Its difficult to calculate/quantify some of these variables. Yadi’s reputation and Lohse’s slide step to home stopped the running game of all the teams. When do teams just give up speculating? That really adds to your numbers…………….. Dave D. had a different way of approaching the normal anxieties that effect a pitcher. Having manageable…. achievable objectives benefit a pitcher in so many ways. Lohse had a huge contact anxiety……….. Dave changed the game to a negotiation about when and where that contact might occur……………that works for some………. example in point……… Pablo Sandoval shreds Verlander. He waited him out and took him yard…………. against Lohse ……. the Giants had him give up the power opportunity to slap OPO……….the reason? they gambled that Matheny was going to pull Lohse ……… after the momentum shift, having runners at 2nd and 3rd no outs………and not scoring,,,,,,,,,, they attacked the contact pitcher with controlled aspirations………. that won them the game………… Mantheny suggesting the Cards were going to take a different approach for the game were noted………. Giants were a better team for understanding what he was getting at …… a suggestion from Mo????????????maybe………… any other motivations????????

          Dave’s personal log book was specific to his personal needs and understanding………. he found it helpful in his daily rhythm of game planning, making more efficient….. his most effective hrs of the day………..

          MM has said in the last few days that he wants some of these guys out from under the magnifying glass…………………… give that some thought…….

          • JumboShrimp says:

            Mike said something and it was in relation to Jaime Garcia who has been much more effective during home starts than during road starts. As a former catcher, Mike will be attuned to what pitchers think, as part of his job as a catcher. Mike may want Jaime to feel more comfortable and not to feel under a microscope about his every pitch. If Jaime is overt-hinking during his road starts, it may inhibit just going out and executing pitches.

  4. crdswmn says:

    Yes, it was the intellectual firepower that held me back. 😉

    First actual televised game and the conversations on Twitter were interesting. People are taking the Tulowitski rumors seriously and have already traded Matt Adams for him (like that is going to happen without a pitching prospect or two). I suppose it’s possible the Cardinals might be thinking of dealing for Tulo, but I kind of doubt it.

    Michael Wacha was impressive, but the peanut gallery already has him as the 5th starter after two appearances. Is there some kind of requirement to be a Cardinal fan now that you have to have the patience of a gnat? They guy hasn’t even seen AAA yet.

    I just need to start ignoring all the knuckleheads who think we don’t need Wainwright because we have the Gang of Preschoolers. Whatever. I can’t worry about it.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I knew this would happen. The specifics are glossed over in all the excitement. The Cards apparently inquired over the winter and were told by the Rockies that Tulo is unavailable. The people who wrote the articles were speculating about them talking next off-season. The money is huge and price could be too high. None of that matters. Some people want a trade done yesterday.

      Yep, Wacha don’t need no stinking minor leagues. Trade Miller now! Oops, he was the anointed fifth starter last week… A 40-man active roster probably wouldn’t hold everyone’s favorites.

      It is great the system has prospects, but for some people, common sense is being thrown out the window over the first-week of spring games. Interesting to see some of those fanning the flames.

      • crdswmn says:

        Lots of thin skinned people too. You challenge anything they say and they hit the unfollow button. Of course my smart alek mouth probably doesn’t help. 😉 Oh well, I yam what I yam, and I am too old to change. Unfollow me if you wish, life goes on.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Looking for something else, I ran across a post from July 2009 right after the Holliday trade. Some interesting reactions. I especially liked my closing, even if it was two years too early!

          • crdswmn says:

            It’s interesting to look back and read what we wrote in the past, isn’t it? I look at some of the stupid stuff I wrote when I joined this blog and I laugh. I hope I have learned along the way, at least I think I have.

            How many trades and signings have been made that turned out to be busts, and how many turned out well? It always seems a crap shoot to me. The Holliday trade was worth it in my book, but there are still people who trash the guy. Some of that is resentment over the salary that he makes. Many people don’t like the salaries that professional athletes make. I don’t think they are any worse than some of the obscene salaries that some CEO’s make. At least I find some worth in the ballplayers. most of the CEO’s are parasites.

            We all have our opinions, we just have different ways of expressing them. That many people find it so hard to admit when they are wrong, I find amusing. I am wrong so many times, and it’s not a crime to admit it. Perfection is overrated.

            I wouldn’t mind a post predicting another World Series win there Brian. 😉

  5. CariocaCardinal says:

    Too many variables. Defense (including placement), age, catchers, etc. Tough to draw a conclusion one way or another.

  6. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    What do you suppose the hold up in the market is about……. These are in the commissioners territory. ……. Dodgers still control the market and Lohse is still the poster boy. That likely ends soon… way of another.

  7. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    I’m sorry Jumbo, I didn’t read your message carefully enough. I had missed your last quip. Nice one. You do realize that “inward” is the direction of all heightened awareness? According to Jeshua, Buddha, Krishna, and Pelek the aborigine, my personal favorite. Just thought I would remind you, mastery of the smallest moment is the gateway to longer and more expansive states of grace. I hope if you go to the game tonight, and a foul ball comes screaming your way, your not thinking about game 162, least it hit you in a zippered area causing me to laugh gleefully..

    What a refreshing thread that was. As I reviewed it, I have few if any questions that have not been answered. The Albert reality explains almost everything. BD got that fine information on AP before the first extension. He didn’t care because of his age at the time. He kept that little rocket in his pocket……… what a world…… Fox is still in on LA Dodgers…………thanks to the commish…………go figure.

  8. Nutlaw says:

    While I don’t doubt Duncan’s positive influence on the team, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the pitching staff last year without him.

  9. JumboShrimp says:

    Lemme clarify the Lohse situation, since it inspires all sorts of odd viewpoints. Kyle has Boras as his agent and Scottie is comfortable marching to his own drummer and signing when he wants. The fact Lohse has not signed yet signifies little. He signed late with the Cards in 2008, so what?

    Writers have conjured up all sorts of ideas such as Lohse is being hurt by the draft recompense. Every free agent who costs a pick is injured by this.

    Boras has not signed Lohse yet, because he is Boras and he does things his way. He will sign when he decides to sign. Scott and Kyle did this before and the world did not come to an end, so they can do it all over again.

    Kyle Lohse is a fine pitcher and Boras will want not want to lowball him. He probably had a deal in his pocket and is just waiting to see if another team gets desperate and is willing to top it. If not, he will take the top offer. It is probably the Texas Rangers for 3 years, $13MM/yr. Kyle and Scott are already as rich as can be, so they are in no rush to sign.

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      Given Lohse had to sign for relative peanuts in 2008 is that a good example?

      • Brian Walton says:

        Shhh. Stop interrupting the narrative with those irritating realities… 😉

      • JumboShrimp says:

        CC, “relative” peanuts was still $4MM or $5MM for Lohse in 2008, more than most folks will earn, hardly real peanuts, as you appreciate.
        Another Boras guy who signed late was Fielder, who still got a huge payday.
        Likewise Bourn got a big payday this winter, though Boras took his sweet time.
        Boras has a trackrecord of being unhurried. This is one of his methods. His theory must be that a player’s performance should command the same salary, whether he signs in December or April.
        At some point, Boras and the player will settle for less than their prior demand or accept a longstanding offer. Lohse is already a rich guy, having earned more than $50MM. Because already filthy rich, Lohse can sign a contract when he decides to.

  10. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Thanks Jumbo……………………..

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Kyle Lohse was a great starting pitcher for the Cards. In Brian’s table above, the Lohse data should be adjusted to isolate his three super seasons for the Cards when uninjured (2008, 2011-12) from the two injury marred seasons (2009-10) during which the freak injury was the dominant factor in explaining performance. [This kind of correction for injury should actually be done for all pitchers in the table, if one is going to seriously investigate sources of pitching efficacy.]

      Lohse’s three healthy seasons as a Cardinal were strong and much better than his 6 pre-free agency years, because these were mostly in Minnesota (with the homer dome as his home park) and with the DH, which adds to every AL pitchers ERA. Another fundamental adjustment that would need to be made to Brian’s data analysis is to separate AL pitching results from NL, and then to add a fudge factor adjustment to AL ERAs owing to the fundamental difference between leagues of the DH, which inflates AL ERAs by 0.3 to 0.5 runs.

      The bottom line is Lohse was a better pitcher during his first 6 years than captured by the crude metric of ERA, because he pitched in the DH league, in the homer dome. During his three healthy years with the Cards, his ERA was much better, though Kyle is still the same guy. Much of the difference between Minnesota vs. St Louis owes to the DH and park effects. Kyle may have matured in his pitching style too and been helped by the catcher and pitching coach, but none of this can be quantitatively proven, because all performance is just observational data and not a controlled experiment that might allow the quantitative estimation of causative factors.


  11. JumboShrimp says:

    Here is a fun question……….

    Could Wacha win the open job of 5th starter?

    Wacha seems a bit like the Reds pitcher Leake, who pitched three years at Arizona State. Leake made the amazing jump from college starting pitcher to ML starting pitcher. Wacha could be a sufficiently outstanding collegiate pitcher that he is capable of the same astounding jump. Yadier says Wacha could pitch in the majors now and if anyone would know major league pitchers, it would have to be Yadier Molina!!

    The Cards do not have to give the 5th slot to Wacha. If Miller returns to action soon, he may snag the job. Rosenthal and Kelly are two other possibilities. This can allow the Cards the luxury of sending Wacha to the AA rotation during April.

    But if Wacha is uncommonly gifted, he may excel at AA and soon earn promotion(s). Wacha could become one of the hot news stories of 2013.

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