61 games into the season, the Cardinals are still under .500. Despite much of the team under-performing, which player has elevated himself to the best on the team?
While the Cardinals have struggled this season, they are still in the top half of the National League. Some players have been performing to get them there. Based solely off Wins Above Replacement, Carlos Martinez leads the pitching rotation at 2.3, while Jedd Gyorko leads the offense at 1.5. Has Carlos Martinez been the best Cardinals pitcher? Has Gyorko been the best hitter? Which of them has been the best overall, or who else could it be?
Candidates From The Rotation
A rotation that started the season so well has begun to show cracks recently. After his hot start to the season, Mike Leake has struggled lately, though still leads the rotation with a 2.70 ERA. Adam Wainwright followed up his rough start to the season with a string of great starts, and rebounded after his 9 run blowup, but still has an ERA of 4.73. This is despite him having a similar FIP to Mike Leake.
Luck really plays a factor in pitchers’ success. Using advanced metrics, Lance Lynn has been the worst Cardinals’ starter, yet has the second lowest ERA at 2.88. His strikeouts are down from his career numbers, his walk rate is up, and his home run rate is up, yet his 85 % strand rate and minuscule .201 BABIP against account for his low ERA. Know this: if Lance Lynn continues pitching like he has, he won’t have that pretty ERA much longer.
Michael Wacha has likely been the Cardinals’ worst starting pitcher, as his ERA has ballooned to 4.50 despite his solid start to the season. While I do not expect his ERA to remain that high, Wacha has neither over-performed nor under-performed significantly this season.
So with all those numbers out of the way, has Carlos Martinez been the Cardinals’ best starter? The answer comes down to him and Mike Leake, but for now WAR is right: Martinez has been the Cardinals’ best pitcher. Leake may have a better ERA, but he has struggled since his dominance against the Dodgers. And while Martinez struggled early, he has flashed utter dominance in several starts this season, and he looks to only improve as the season continues.
Candidates From The Lineup
Offensively, the only two players who could potentially claim the role as best hitter thus far are Jedd Gyorko and Tommy Pham. In only 106 at bats, Pham has already homered 5 times, to go along with his .302 batting average. Jedd Gyorko, on the other hand, has taken the starting third basemen job and ran with it, batting .307 with 8 hr in 189 at bats. As great as Tommy Pham has been though, Gyorko has been playing the entire season, and has performed consistently throughout the season.
With Gyorko and Martinez the two finalists, which one gets the top prize? To be even discussing Gyorko as the Cardinals’ best hitter right now proves that the Cardinals got a steal in the San Diego trade, as his 30 hr season last year and strong start this season have proven that he can absolutely rake. He has been one of the only bright spots in a struggling lineup right now, and it is hard to imagine where the Cardinals would be without him: he has been worth more than the 1.5 wins WAR gives him credit for.
Carlos Martinez battled inconsistency at the beginning of the season, and has begun showing signs of superstardom. His performances against the Giants and Phillies are great examples. His consistent ability to keep the Cardinals in the game, both through his pitching and timely hitting, have been huge for the Cardinals.
Right now though, Jedd Gyorko seems to be the best player on the Cardinals though. While Martinez has flashed dominance, he still succumbs to mediocre starts. Gyorko has hit consistently throughout the season, helping a struggling offense put runs on the board. If Martinez continues to flash his dominance though, he may soon take over as the Cardinals’ best player.
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