Predicting the St. Louis Cardinals' Starting Rotation for the Playoffs
The Cardinals were a game away from making back-to-back World Series appearances last season, when the San Francisco Giants made an improbable comeback after trailing three games to one in the NLCS.
This season, the Cardinals are looking to atone for their shortcomings of a season ago and get back to the Fall Classic.
Pitching has been the key to the Cardinals' success, especially early in the season. Based on some unreliability as of late from Lance Lynn and the rotating fifth starter spot, I think the Cardinals will elect to go with a three-man rotation in the postseason versus the four-man rotation some teams choose to go with.
Now they just need to get the NL Central locked up so they can avoid the one-game playoff with the other Wild Card team, which in turn could throw a wrinkle into the rotation in the event they advance for further playoff action.
Here is my prediction for their starting rotation for the playoffs.
No surprises here. Wainwright is clearly the ace of the staff and one of two holdovers of the 2006 World Series championship team, with his battery mate Yadier Molina being the other.
Wainwright has a good amount of postseason experience under his belt. In his 13 career appearances in the playoffs, Waino has posted a 2-0 record with a 2.48 ERA. In his 2006 postseason appearances, Wainwright posted an ERA of 0.00 with four saves in 9.2 innings pitched, serving as the teams closer.
In his four playoff starts, Wainwright has posted a 1-0 record with a respectable 3.52 ERA in 23 innings pitched. His ERA would be significantly lower if it weren't for the beating he took in Game 5 of the NLDS last year, where he surrendered six runs in just 2.1 innings pitched.
Look for Wainwright to get the Cardinals off to a good start when he gets the ball in October.
Shelby Miller has been up and down all season for the Cardinals, but he is the second- or third-best option for the Cardinals for a postseason rotation.
Miller got a small taste of the postseason last year in the NLCS against the Giants. He posted a 5.40 ERA with no record, but did strike out four in his 3.1 innings pitched.
This year, the Cardinals will rely on Shelby to toss the ball well into the sixth or seventh inning when called upon in his playoff assignment. Here is a brief breakdown of how Miller fared against the other potential playoff teams:
- Cincinnati Reds: 1-0 with 5.06 ERA in two starts
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 0-4 with a 5.32 ERA in four starts
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 0-0 with a 5.06 ERA in two starts
- Atlanta Braves: 1-1 with a 2.13 ERA in two starts
It's hoped that Miller can get the Cardinals through the sixth or seventh inning of his starts and keep the Cardinals in the game. If he can pitch through at least the sixth and turn it over to the bullpen, the Cardinals should have a chance to win if the bats are doing their job.
Joe Kelly has been a very pleasant surprise for the Cardinals this season. He had a few rough outings early in the season while pitching out of the bullpen, but as a starter, Kelly has shined once given his opportunity to take the ball every fifth day.
In Kelly's last 11 starts, he is 8-0 with a 2.10 ERA. While he, too, struggles to pitch deep into games, he has been getting through six innings on a fairly regular basis since being put into the rotation. He has pitched at least six innings in eight of his 11 starts since being inserted into the rotation.
Kelly also has some postseason experience under his belt as a member of the Cardinals last season. He appeared in seven games during the 2012 postseason run and posted a 2.35 ERA, while holding hitters to a .200 batting average.
Kelly has fared well against all the potential playoff teams so far in 2012.
- Cincinnati Reds: 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in one start
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA in six appearances, three starts
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two appearances, one start
- Atlanta Braves: 1-0, 1.46 ERA in two starts
Look for Kelly to continue his hot hand in the playoffs and hopefully help lead the Cardinals deep into October.