In just a few moments, Jaime Garcia takes the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals in what is probably his last big chance with the organization that drafted him back in 2005. Garcia—somehow only 28 years old—has battled injury after injury since his last full season, the World Championship year of 2011. And with 2015 being his walk year, he needs a good showing this year just as much as the Cardinals do. But what exactly does that mean? What do the Cards really need from him right now?
In a word: efficiency.
The Cardinals have good pitchers in their rotation, but they’re far from efficient. It was fairly exciting to see Lance Lynn, John Lackey, and Michael Wacha get through seven innings this week, because in recent outings the rotation has pitched more like Carlos Martinez yesterday: get to 100 pitches, but not make it through seven (or even six) innings. Among qualifiers, the Cardinals only have two pitchers—Lackey and Wacha—who are in the top 50 in MLB in pitches per inning pitched. If that continues, the effect on the bullpen could become disastrous real quick. As a team, the Cardinals’ staff has great numbers. But the starters have to find a way to get deeper into games. In a year without Adam Wainwright, the team desperately needs an innings-eater.
Sure it would be great if the 2010-2011 version of Garcia showed up this season, when he was arguably the second or third best pitcher in the rotation depending on whether Wainwright or Chris Carpenter happened to be hurt. But those days are likely gone; expecting Jaime to come out throwing complete games this season seems foolish at best. Obviously what the team really doesn’t need is for Garcia to get shelled over and over again or get re-injured, although the Marco Gonzales honks would probably see that as a win. But if Garcia can just be OK-to-good, take the ball every fifth day, and go deep into the games he does pitch, the team should consider that a windfall. And since Garcia isn’t likely to be able to fire 100+ pitches per outing every day, he’s going to have to get the Mets and every other team he faces to make soft contact. In short, Jaime Garcia needs to revive the Dave Duncan/Tony La Russa days of pitching to contact.
Getting five good innings out of Garcia today might be acceptable, but it’s not going to be sustainable. The team needs more from him. And if that means lining up the best possible defense behind him regardless of the offense that lineup might provide, so be it. This is likely the beginning to Jaime Garcia’s final chapter as a Cardinal. Let’s all hope it’s readable.
Every year, the United Cardinal Bloggers cast ballots on all the best the St. Louis Cardinals and its merry band of citizen journalists has to offer. My picks are bolded & underlined, and some explanation for each vote appears in italics below it. I didn’t offer any commentary for my votes on the blogs because I believe you, the reader, should visit them. I think you’ll see, in each case, the blog I voted for speaks for itself.
Cardinal Bloggers Awards
1. Player of the Year
Like there’s ever any doubt.
2. Pitcher of the Year
He’s the Cardinals’ ace. He’ll be here for a while, and they need to build the rotation around him.
3. Game of the Year
–April 5 at Cincinnati-Opening Day, 2 HR from Pujols, slam from Molina
–May 30 at Chicago-Pujols three home runs
–July 18 vs. Los Angeles-Five runs in eight and ninth to win
–July 19 vs. Philadelphia-Four home runs
–August 10 at Cincinnati-Brawl, home run from Molina
I think this game represents the best of the 2010 Cardinals; unfortunately it was also a turning point in the wrong direction.
4. Surprise Player of the Year
I think “cautiously optimistic” is the most anyone would say about Garcia before the 2010 season. In 2011, the question will be whether he can still be an effective #3 starter. That’s quite a jump in perception.
5. Disappointing Player of the Year
What was most disappointing about Ryan was that stretch where even his defense wasn’t good. Ryan’s increased offense in 2009 was probably an aberration, unfortunately. Now we know.
6. Rookie of the Year
There’s really nothing to say here…easy call.
7. Acquisition of the Year
In April, the Penny signing looked like it was going to make the Cards the favorite to go all the way. The rotation looked completely unstoppable. But that didn’t last very long. Westbrook brought stability, and now he’s a Cardinal for at least two more years. That may not have happened without being traded to STL in 2010.
8. Biggest Off-Field Story
-Jaime Garcia’s shutdown without him knowing
-Mark McGwire’s return to baseball
-Colby Rasmus’s trade request
This was just weird. Rasmus looked bad, Tony LaRussa looked bad, and the team suddenly appeared even more chaotic than everyone speculated. It will be interesting to see how things play out next season.
9. Most Anticipated Cardinal
I’m going to go ahead and say it: Shelby Miller will make his St. Louis Cardinals debut in 2012, and will be a full member of the rotation in 2013 alongside Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia. We may see the other two guys before then, but Miller is a lock. Write it down.
10. Best Individual Cardinal Blog
11. Best Team Cardinal Blog
-Write-in: Joe Sports Fan
12. Best Media Blog
13. Best UCB Project
-Cardinal All-Decade Team
-Progressive Game Blog
The roundtable discussions really are my favorite. I love getting a preview of everyone’s thoughts on a topic, especially how those thoughts relate to my own. It’s the closest thing to live debate we have at UCB.
14. Most Optimistic Cardinal Blog
-Write-in: C70 At The Bat
15. Funniest Cardinal Blog
-Write-in: Cards Diaspora
16. Rookie Cardinal Blog of the Year
Tonight’s lineups, courtesy of Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The Cards are playing the Phillies at the right time, though both teams have been plagued by injuries this year. After dropping three of four to the Chicago Cubs, the Phillies are likely craving wins. But the Cards have momentum coming off a four game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers this past weekend. Plus, the pitching matchups favor the Cardinals: after Blake Hawksworth’s start tonight, the Phillies will have to face the Cards’ big three of Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright. Roy Halladay started the final game in Chicago on Sunday, so the Cardinals will not have to face him at all.
I say the Cards take three of four in this series.
For more on the Cards’ sweep of the Dodgers, take a look at my column over at InsideSTL.
Welcome to the first Nooner of 2010!
I have today’s Spring Training game on in the background while I work, and my lunch hour has proven to be rather eventful.
First, the good news: According to this article by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, LHP Jaime Garcia will be announced as the team’s 5th starter for 2010 later today. I’m happy about this for a couple of reasons: having a lefty starter in the rotation is a great equalizer, and the fact that it’s a guy that came up through the system only strengthens the validation for the Cards’ “draft and develop” plans. Congrats, Jaime. Do us proud.
Now, the bad news: Yadier Molina came up lame running to third base in the second inning of today’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. Early reports indicate it’s a strained right oblique. Yikes. I’d imagine a catcher would have a pretty tough time coming back from this injury. Guess we’ll see…