The Cardinals are fortunate to have a endless supply of young power arms coming up through their system. They have played a big role on the Cardinals pitching staff the last couple of seasons, especially this one. There are many questions on what the team will do with all of these talented pitchers, but it's never a bad thing to have surplus pitching. This week, due to unexpected circumstances, the Cardinals brought up Carlos Martinez to start Thursday's game and called up Michael Wacha to start Saturday's game.
John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny decided that Adam Wainwright needed some more rest. Wainwright hasn't been as sharp lately and has pitched the most innings on the staff. In fact, Waino leads the National League with 175.2 innings pitched. Secondly, Shelby Miller was struck in the elbow with a wicked line drive and could use some extra rest. The club has said that Miller will make his next scheduled start, likely vs. the Pirates. Jake Westbrook pitched 4.2 innings in relief and gave up 9 runs! Westbrook's ERA jumped from 3.48 to 4.11. More concerning, Westbrook is 2-3 with a 7.39 ERA and 1.82 WHIP since the All Star break. On a good note, starting Martinez and Wacha will allow Matheny to start Wainwright, Miller, and possibly Lance Lynn against Pittsburgh next week.
Martinez was brought up for just one start and was sent down in favor of Wacha, who will start Saturday. Martinez made his first major league start Thursday and had mixed results. Martinez has dynamite stuff and can reach 99 mph. He gave up several dinky hits, but pitched fairly well until he made a mistake pitch that AJ Ellis hit over the fence. He then left the game after 4.2 innings pitched with a finger cramp. Martinez is nicknamed "Baby Pedro" because of his likeness to 3-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez. He looks similar to Pedro and pitches with a flair. Carlos Martinez isn't fully polished yet, but has a bright future ahead of him.
Wacha started 3 games for the Cardinals earlier in the season, but was sent back down when Westbrook came off the DL. In those three starts, Wacha was 1-0 with a 4.58 ERA in 17.2 innings pitched with 14 strikeouts. Wacha was the Cardinals #1 draft pick in 2012 and was the Angels draft pick they forfeited for signing Albert Pujols. He is a tall right handed pitcher from who went to college at Texas A & M. Both Wacha and Martinez have pitched well in the minor leagues this year. They still both need some seasoning, but they are both incredibly talented. Below is a look at their minor league seasons.
W-L ERA WHIP IP K
Wacha 5-3 2.65 0.99 85.0 73
Martinez 5-2 1.87 1.18 62.2 54
Wacha has pitched most of the season in Triple A Memphis, except for his 3 starts in June. Martinez missed most of spring training due to visa problems and started the season off in Double A Springfield. Martinez made his major league debut in May as a reliever, and had another stint in the majors as a reliever. The organization considers him to be a starter, though. Between stints in the big leagues, Martinez has dominated in Memphis.
It's possible that Wacha and Martinez could be competing for the fifth starter job in spring training next year. The Cardinals aren't likely to pick up Westbrook's $ 9.5 million option for 2014. Chris Carpenter has given up on pitching again this season and is an extreme longshot to pitch again in the future. Jaime Garcia will be coming off surgery and might not be ready to start the season. That would leave Wainwright, Lynn, Miller, and Joe Kelly for the first four spots. Kelly has pitched well since joining the rotation. Both Wacha and Martinez have big upsides. Wacha might be more ready for the big leagues, but Martinez probably has more raw talent. The Cardinals will be in very good shape in the future on starting pitching.
The Cardinals have hit their biggest skid of the season in the last couple of weeks. They played the Braves, Pirates, Reds, and Dodgers in four straight seasons. These are all likely playoff teams this year. The Cardinals went 4-11 in this 15 game stretch(plus a loss on Friday to the lowly Cubs). That's not a good sign, although every team has down stretched during a long 162 game season. Yadier Molina was hurt for much of this stretch. The Cardinals offense went into a deep slump, outside of three wins were they scored 13 plus runs. I think the Cardinals will come out of the slump, but there are some concerns.
I don't think the Cardinals pitching is a concern. I think Wainwright will come back strong after given a couple extra days rest. Luckily, Miller wasn't injured too badly on his elbow. He will make his next start, and we'll see how that goes. The Cardinals have a lot of talent in their rotation and bullpen, with phenom arms like Wacha and Martinez in reserve. The Cardinals are 1st in the National League with 561 runs scored. They lead the NL in hits, average, and on base pct. They don't hit for many home runs or steal bases. They are 13th in the NL with 91 home runs and 15th(dead last) in the NL with 28 stolen bases. The team has also hit into 110 double plays, nearly one a game.
The Cardinals will need David Freese and Matt Holliday to pick it up. Holliday is starting to hit better and has gotten his average up to the low .280's. The Cardinals could use more power out of Holliday. Freese hasn't played bad this year, but hasn't hit for much power at all. The Cardinals could really use Freese's opposite field power that has disappeared this year. The Redbirds are also missing Yadi right now and Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig have went through slumps. Carpenter and Craig are good patient hitters who will soon break out of it. Jon Jay has also hit very well since the All Star break after struggling in the first half.
The weakest link is shortstop Pete Kozma, who's in their for his defense. Daniel Descalso has been spotting Kozma more often, although he isn't as good of a hitter. When everybody else is hitting, the Cardinals can live with the weak hitting Kozma in the 8 hole. When their not, he sticks out like a sore thumb. This isn't a home run hitting club, but the team needs to return to the timely hitting it had most of the season. The Cardinals can win again if they keep doing the things that worked for them earlier, getting a lot of hits and walks. Matheny has tried some different lineup combinations, but might need to consider more hit and runs to avoid double plays. This isn't an ideal team to steal bases with so many slower runners, but it could be a better baserunning team. I think this is why Mozeliak held on to prospect Kolten Wong. Wong is 19 for 20 in steals with a .303 average, 8 homers, 20 doubles, and 8 triples in Memphis. Wong will likely be called up in September. He is blocked right now at the major league level, but I think the team will find a spot for him in 2014.