The Cardinals pitching staff has, in some ways, been at the center of the baseball world this season. And between the cover of Sports Illustrated and the parade of young arms stepping up to fill injured veterans' shoes, there has been a lot to talk about.
So on an elite staff that is second in Major League Baseball when it comes to ERA, who is performing the best? Now, I know you might be tempted to answer "Yadier Molina," but I'm of course talking about the men on the mound.
With the return of Jake Westbrook in the imminent future, this roster may be getting a shake-up. But I have taken a look at the current starting rotation and ranked them according to who I believe is doing the best job. This is taking into account statistics, wins and run support.
Read on to find out who takes the crown!
*All statistics are current on baseball-reference.com as of June 10, 2013.
When the guy you rank No. 5 has a 3.51 ERA, you know this list must be pretty good. That is the case for the young Lyons.
Originally called up to replace the injured Jaime Garcia, Lyons has helped demonstrate what some have begun calling the Cardinals' "pitching factory." Starters keep getting injured, and the club keeps replenishing with homegrown talent.
He has made four starts since getting the call and maintains an acceptable 2-2 record, although the Cardinals seem to have left a lot of men on base in his two losses, scoring only two runs in each. He has a nice 0.974 WHIP, but only 14 strikeouts.
It is unclear as to whether it will be Lyons or Wacha moving from the starting rotation once Westbrook returns. Either way, Lyons can be proud of filling a crucial role. He'll be an important piece of the Cardinals' puzzle in the coming years.
"Wacha Mania" has officially hit St. Louis. The super-prospect got called up when Westbrook's replacement, John Gast, landed himself on the DL, and general manager John Mozeliak actually had to tell the city to calm down.
The 2012 draftee did not disappoint in his debut start, allowing just two hits over seven innings. Unfortunately for Wacha, the Kansas City Royals were able to plate a run on those two hits, and the game was later spoiled by the Cardinals' struggling Mitchell Boggs.
And further woes presented themselves when Wacha proved himself human in his second start, posting a less-than-impressive 10 hits in 4.2 innings. Of course, his second start pitted him against a strong offensive team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
And so, he finds himself with two no-decisions, a 5.40 ERA and 10 strikeouts.
It's difficult to judge his major league performance on two games that make him look like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But his one stellar start puts him in front of Lyons in my book. Whether he continues his role as a starter this year or not, Wacha is sure to be a fixture in the organization and possibly a future ace.
Last year's 18-game winner had a lot to prove this year. At spring training, he had to work to retain his spot in the rotation, and now he finds himself third on my list.
His ERA is an even 3.00; he has 82 strikeouts and a 1.111 WHIP. Through it all, he now sports an 8-1 record.
The numbers should make Cards fans happy, but I do have to take into account the fact that the offense has a penchant for scoring big when Lynn is on the mound. Run support is his friend, especially on days when he just doesn't seem to have the stuff (like Sunday's game against the Reds, which the Cardinals won in extra innings).
Lynn will always be a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy, but he can't beat the two stars that take their places above him. Which leads me to...
Miller made his debut late last year to a Wacha-like level of enthusiasm. And an excellent spring training gave way to him beating out Joe Kelly for the final spot in the Cardinals rotation (in lieu of Chris Carpenter's injury).
In an NL littered with breakout rookies, Miller is managing to stand out.
For starters, he has the second-best ERA in the majors at 1.91. Follow that up with a 7-3 record, one complete-game shutout and a 0.982 WHIP and you have a pitching prodigy. Not to mention the kid recently helped his own cause with a home run.
Miller will be a major contender for NL Rookie of the Year, and his talents are sure to wow us for a long time. He has certainly proven to be every bit the top prospect advertised to fans. How can it get any better than this?
I'll be honest. When I set out to write this, I was thinking I would put Miller in the No. 1 slot. Perhaps it was the excitement of a new and dominant arm—plus a potential Rookie of the Year—but after looking at the statistics, there is no denying the veteran ace his rightful place.
Wainwright is tied for first in the majors with nine wins (although he also carries with him three losses). His ERA is currently 2.34, but it gets really good when you look at specific statistics:
Complete Games: Three
Complete-Game Shutouts: Two
Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio: 13.00
Plus, he's only given up two homers all season. Wainwright's 2011 Tommy John surgery left us with some uncertainty about whether or not he would ever return to his dominant form, but it seems as if 2013 might be turning into an indicator of great things to come.