Next up in Cardinals position series is the starting pitching. In 2015, it waas historic. In 2016, it was inconsistent.
After missing most of the 2015 season with a torn Achilles tendon, Adam Wainwright’s future as the Cardinals ace seemed to be in jeopardy. Many wondered if Wainwright would return to his previous All Star form that dominated the NL Central for the past decade. But all hope of Adam returning to his Cy-Young contending form seemed to disappear after his performances in April.
In his first 5 starts, Wainwright went 1-3 with a 7.16 ERA while recording only 14 strike outs and giving up 11 walks in 27.2 innings. Adam’s struggles with allowing runs continued in May where he posted a 4.62 ERA, but he tallied 27 strike outs while allowing only 6 walks in 37 innings. But although his ERA was nearly 1.5 points higher than his career average, Wainwright helped the Cardinals win all 6 games he started in May, getting credit himself for 4 of the wins.
The best stretch of Wainwright’s season came during June and July, where he went 4-2 in 10 starts while posting a 2.67 ERA with 63 K’s and 15 walks. His best start of the season came on July 16th when he pitched a complete-game 3-hit shutout against the Marlins. But unfortunately, the end of the season saw Wainwright return to his form similar to that of April and May. In his final 12 starts, he went 4-4 with a 4.81 ERA.
Overall, Wainwright had trouble this year with consistency. He ended the year with a 4.62 ERA, his highest ever in a full season by nearly a full run, but still managed to go 13-9. Father time might finally be catching up to the Cardinal cornerstone, but as for now he is still effective and should continue to help the Cardinals win in 2017.
After posting an impressive 14-7 record with a 3.01 ERA in 2015 in his first full season as a starting after transitioning from the bullpen, expectations for Carlos Martinez were high at the start of the season. Martinez got off to a hot start in April as he emerged as one of the NL’s best pitchers. In his first 4 starts, Carlos went 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP.
But after a red-hot April, Martinez proved that he is mortal during May. In 6 starts, Martinez went 1-5 with a 5.18 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. But in June, Martinez returned to premier form posting a 1.31 ERA. The final three months of the season were very impressive for Carlos. In his last 16 starts, Martinez went 9-4 with a 3.24 ERA, 101 K’s and 39 walks.
On the year, Martinez finished 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA in 31 starts, just as impressive as his All-Star caliber year in 2015. The future is bright for the 25-year-old Martinez, and we will see continued dominance in the 2017 season.
2016 was an odd season for Jaime Garcia, to say the least. It seemed that every performance by Garcia was either a masterpiece or a disaster. After posting a 3.73 ERA with 35 K’s in 31.1 innings in April, every month was progressively worse, ending with a horrendous September, where Garcia recorded a 0-3 record with an ERA of 6.38 and a WHIP of 1.75.
But this year was storied by Garcia’s inconsistencies. In his second outing of the season on April 14th, Jamie pitched a complete-game, 1-hit, 13-strikeout, shutout against the Brewers, with a game score of 97, the second best performance by a pitcher on the year.
Jaime also recorded another top 30 start by an MLB pitcher on the year on August 5th against the Braves. In 8 shutout innings, Jaime recorded 11 strike outs while allowing just 4 base runners, good for a game score of 86. But poor performances piled up during the year, highlighted by his May 22nd outing against the Diamondbacks where he allowed 5 runs and 10 hits in just 2.1 innings, equaling a game score of a mere 16. On the year Jamie had 8 games in which his game score was below 40, and 5 games with a game score of above a 70.
Overall, Jamie showed signs of excellence, but even more signs of awfulness in 2016. He finished the season with a 4.67 ERA with a 10-13 record in 30 starts. With a $12 million contract option for Jaime in 2017, the Cardinals front staff will have a lot of thinking to do of whether or not to pick up the option.
In his first season with the Cardinals after signing a 5-year deal last winter, Mike Leake underwhelmed St. Louis in 2016. In 30 starts, Leake went 9-12 with a 4.69 ERA. Potentially Leake’s biggest asset on the year was his consistency. Outside of a stellar May in which he went 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA, every other month Leake saw his ERA hover between 4.85 and 5.83.
Leake’s best game of the season came on May 21st against the Diamondbacks when he pitched 7 shutout innings while allowing just 4 base runners. But overall, Leake had his worst MLB season in his 7-year career in 2016. The Cardinals were hoping for the Mike they saw in 2015 as a Red and Giant, when he went 11-10 with a 3.70 ERA, and will hope for that in 2017, but 2016 was a year to forget for Mike Leake.
After an All-Star year in 2015, all eyes were on Michael Wacha to see if he could replicate his 17-7 season. But in his 4th season with the Cardinals, injuries and inconsistency got the best of Wacha. Michael’s season got off to a rough start when he was rocked by the Pirates on April 5th, to a tune of 5 runs and 10 hits in 4.1 innings. But he followed up with one of his best performances on the year on April 11th against the Brewers, where he pitched 6 shutout innings while allowing 5 base runners and striking out 7.
But after an impressive April where he went 2-1 with a 3.07 ERA, Wacha his a 10 game winless streak from the end of April through mid-June, where he went 0-7 with a 5.22 ERA. He turned that around in during the rest of June and through July, but on August 9th Wacha headed to the DL with a shoulder injury. When he came back in mid September, he pitched out of the bullpen and only received one more start. On the year, Wacha finished 7-7 with a 5.09 ERA in 24 starts, a major setback from 2015.
Luke Weaver came up in mid-August from Triple-A Memphis when Michael Wacha headed to the DL. In 8 starts, Weaver went 1-4 with a 5.70 ERA. But on the bright side, Weaver struck out 45 batters and allowed just 12 walks in 36 innings. Weaver was named the Cardinal pitching prospect of the year at the end of this season, so stay optimistic for 2017 because Weaver has the goods to perform well at the major league level
Also a late-season call up from Triple-A Memphis, Alex Reyes pitched out of the bullpen for his first 5 appearances. But after 9.1 shutout innings, Reyes was promoted to the starting rotation for 5 games. In those 5 starts, Reyes went 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA. Combined with his stats from the bullpen, Reyes went 4-1 on the year with a 1.57 ERA in 46 innings. Reyes had what was needed in 2016 to keep the Cardinals in playoff contention, and the Cardinals organization should be excited to see what he can do in 2017.
Mike Mayers definitely wishes that his one and only start for the Cardinals in 2016 never happened. He allowed 8 hits and 9 runs, while only recording 4 outs. He was quickly returned to Triple-A ball, but then was brought back up in September and utilized as a reliever in 3 appearances, where he allowed 7 runs in 4 innings. His stats at Double and Triple-A on the year were superb, so it’s only a matter of time before that translates to major league success, but don’t expect to see that at the beginning of 2017.
Overall, the Cardinals pitching performed decently well in 2016. Wainwright won a lot of games. Martinez stunned the majors with another huge season. Garcia showed signs of brilliance and pitched a few gems. Wacha also showed signs of dominance. And Alex Reyes was spectacular once he was promoted to the big league. But on the flipside, Wainwright gave up his most runs ever, Garcia proved to be extremely inconsistent, Wacha was derailed by injuries, Leake under-performed, and the other two late-season call ups couldn’t impress. On the year the Cardinals had an ERA of 4.08, good for 12th best in the majors, while showing how good their young pitchers are. Overall, the Cardinals didn’t have amazing pitching but definitely had the starting pitchers to get to the post season in 2016, and the same should be true for 2017.
Photo by Billy Hurst USA Today