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How much longer can Cardinals stick with Jake Westbrook?

Aug 22, 2013, 11:19 AM EDT

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St. Louis’ offense bailed him out yesterday, but Jake Westbrook turned in another poor outing by failing to make it out of the fifth inning against Milwaukee.

Westbrook now has a 5.97 ERA in 13 games since returning from a disabled list stint for elbow problems, including allowing 26 runs in 21 innings this month. And if anything Westbrook’s secondary numbers are even uglier than his 5.97 ERA since the DL stint, as he’s managed just 24 strikeouts compared to 30 walks in 75 innings.

For a team fighting to win the NL Central and avoid the one-game Wild Card coin flip how much longer can the Cardinals afford to trot Westbrook out to the mound every fifth day? Carlos Martinez is untested in the majors, especially as a starter, but he has a whole lot more upside and couldn’t be much worse if he tried.

  1. spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    The question is who not when. The Cards need someone to step up. Personally I would like to give Martinez the chance again. Last time out he was very good but got squeezed and then gave up a homer on a pitch that wasn’t bad at all. Unfortunately he hasn’t excelled in his last couple of outings in AAA. Wacha just hasn’t shown the ability to dominate Big League hitters.

    The other issue is Lynn. His inability to make pitches in jams, and his propensity to allow crooked numbers is becoming a concern. A couple more outings like the last couple and he may be sitting near Westbrook in the bull pen as a second long reliever.

    Maybe it is time to consider extending Segriest. But if Mujica needs to recover, then that option is probably erased.

    • bfunk1978 - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:42 AM

      Lynn is another big deal. 2nd year in a row he’s proven himself to not have the stamina to turn in a full season. Started out hot and faded.

  2. cohnjusack - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Looking at Jake’s stats early this season is the exact reason you should be looking at K, HR, and BB rates! Looking at ERA and saying “dude’s having an awesome year!” can screw you up every time. DIPS is real people! Westbrook was not pitching very well earlier this year…he was getting lucky. Hits weren’t falling, he was stranding runners (though he did only give up 1 HR in his first 9 starts) and the result was a sterling ERA with poor peripherals. Which one ended up having the much better predictive quality?

    • bfunk1978 - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      Westbrook certainly does seem to be a DIPS

    • gibbyfan - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      As I very long time Card fan I have taken my share of barbs on here because from the beginning –beginning in pre season I have posted that we should have hung on to Lohse and let Jake go. I have argued that that Jake wouldnt make it and Lynn was pitching over his head–Lohse would have been a key addition while the younger guys develop.
      To answer your question I dont think Jake should be left in the rotation—I would rather try out one of the younger guys and hope for best —Maybe we could still get Lohse back since the Brewers are out of it–I would take him for the two years…………The way it is now is going to be a challenge.
      I am not happy that I saw this coming–was hoping I was wrong

      • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:50 AM

        And I keep having to tell you it wasn’t just a matter of choice. I too wish the Cards could have held on to Lohse, but his contract was different than Westbrook’s. The error was when the contracts were handed out, not in the off-season of 2012-2013.

      • gibbyfan - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        Spud—
        In terms odf available talent I would imagine it was generally accepted even before last season ended what they had in Lohse/ Westbrook. I would have just let Jake go and let the tender stand to see how it played out. Worse case no worse than present case and probably better. Cards dont make many misttakes but IMO that was one–contract differences were not enough to justify this result

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        I here you on Lohse Bob. I think with him it was more of a situation where he was due for a decent pay day and the organization didn’t want to open the checkbook. If you remember…seemingly no one wanted to pay him what he was looking for. But again though…I do understand your larger point as I too was worried about Westbrook. And Lohse would have certainly helped alleviate some of that.

      • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:09 PM

        Nobody has been a bigger champion of Kyle Lohse than yours truly. But the Cards got the number 17 pick in the draft, by letting Lohse sign elsewhere, and that could not have been achieved by dumping Westbrook.

      • paperlions - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:14 PM

        The problem is that they only would have needed Lohse for 1 year and Lohse was looking for 5 years. Yeah, he settled for fewer….but the Cards are awash in young starting pitchers and simply didn’t need to commit to a guy like Lohse for 5 years or 4 years or even 3 years.

        One of reason the Cardinals have been able to maintain a competitive team is because they haven’t actively mortgaged the future for a short-term need either by trading away the farm or by handing out future albatross contracts. Lohse is a good pitcher, but last year was his career year, he’s 34 now, and he’s not the kind of front-of-the-rotation arm you need in the playoffs either…which means he is not the kind of guy that overpay in terms of years because of the special talent he has.

      • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:28 PM

        Hard to say if 3 years for Lohse would have been a bad idea. Any more than that and I would agree would have been to long. I doubt if Lohse would have been satisfied with the 3 years early in the off season.

        Like you said PL, he settled for 3 but that was because other teams were stupid, ex. Cubs and Jackson.

        And while I have always championed Lohse’s cause, I agree he is a #3, a darned good one, but not the shut down play-off type.

        If Gonzalez turns out to be a Big Leaguer, probably a #3 or #4 type then passing on Lohse will turn out to be a prudent move. Prudent for St. Louis, but not the other teams with lots of cash to burn.

      • gibbyfan - Aug 22, 2013 at 3:09 PM

        Guys—-I get your very valid points. I never thought it was a good idea to pay Lohse a foolish long term deal—leave that to the big money teams –the Cardinals are smarter—BUt, read carefully what I posted—-I would havelet Westbrook go and let the tender stand–As it turned out they probably could have had him for a two year deal because he wanted to stay —-If that didnt work then they still woul dhave gotten the pick and wouldnt have JW for this year and next.
        I believe as it stands right now Having Lohse instead of Jake could make ALL the diffrence this year

      • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 6:20 PM

        Actually I agree with you Gibby, but it was a tough call for the management, and with Boras as Lohse’s agent their fears were warranted. I just don’t agree that Lohse would have accepted a 2-year deal, and I don’t think he was wrong at his age to try and capitalize on his recent success. From what I understand both sides seemed to understand this.

        Sure in hindsight, Lohse’s deal was one the Cards could have easily matched, I just don’t think they believed he was signable, and had to match the option in order to receive the pick.

    • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      Not exactly accurate. When you have the best ERA in baseball for two months it isn’t just lucky. He was forcing an inordinate number of ground balls, even for him. Plus, he has most always been a better second half guy than first half, which may have given the Cards some false security.

      Since his injury he has been pretty sucky. But it is because he cannot command any of his pitches, not because of luck. Hard to say if he ever really recovered from the elbow problem. While he may have been fortunate in the first couple of months, but who believed he would keep up his early numbers, certainly not me. He was pitching very well, maybe not as good as league leader, but all the luck in the world wouldn’t change his outcomes recently.

      • paperlions - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        Yeah, he was getting a little lucky, but he was keeping his pitches down and on the corners and not walking many guys. Now, he’s freaking all over the place…seems like most pitches are 6″ off the plate (or high or low) or right down the freaking middle belt high. No control. No command.

      • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:32 PM

        Exactly.

      • forsch31 - Aug 22, 2013 at 10:10 PM

        Actually, Westbrook is walking as many people as he was when pitching “well”–walking more than he was striking out. In the first half of the season, he walked 30 and struck out 29 in 12 games for a ratio of 0.97. So far in the second half of the season, he’s walked 19 and struck out 14 in 7 games, for a ratio of 0.74.

      • spudchukar - Aug 23, 2013 at 10:53 AM

        The walk numbers may be similar, but the command is not. PL, is correct, he is missing by a lot, falling behind, and then grooving pitches.

  3. stlouis1baseball - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    I very much think it’s a question of “when” as opposed to “who.”
    The “who’s” are Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha…even Trevor Rosenthal.
    They cant wait much longer. The tipping point has been reached.
    26 runs in 21 innings this Month? Atrocious.

    • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      I had hoped that Wacha could move into the rotation by this time of 2013, but nothing that he has shown indicates he is ready. He cannot locate his fastball, has no breaking ball, and has a good but not great change-up. He has been getting by on reputation, not performance.

      Perhaps you guys who live locally, know about Mujica’s troubles. Not sure from the broadcast yesterday what the issue was, but it sure concerned me, and pretty much insures that Rosenthal stays in the pen.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:18 PM

        Yeah…great point on Mujica’s potential issue(s).
        If there is anything to that it definitely lends itself to Rosenthal staying in the Pen. Sooo….Carlos then!

    • paperlions - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      Tyler Lyons is also an option. A lefty who tore up AAA after being sent back down.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:32 PM

        Ha! Yep…and I completely forgot about Lyons. Wow.
        Just goes to show how many young arms are in the organization.

      • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:40 PM

        Yeah, he certainly is the other feasible option. His breaking ball is good, and if he keeps the ball down, with command he can be tough. Maybe the Cards ought to think outside of the box, and consider using some of the youngsters in multiple innings, rather than insisting on a 5th starter.

        And if Lynn doesn’t improve, maybe he should be added to the list, and move into a 2-3 inning option rather than continuing as a starter.

      • paperlions - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:44 PM

        I have wondered if they wouldn’t pair a couple of up to do some piggy back starts. Start Wacha or Lyons, see how far they go then put in the other one to see if he can finish it off.

        Lynn can be frustrating, but he’s also had some bad luck…that big inning this week was only partly his pitching…part of it was also his fielding, and some was some bad luck on flares….6 singles in a row with only two hit semi-hard.

        Also bad luck to have Descalso at SS….I know, I know…you guys think he’s fine on defense. There were at least 3 balls that game that Kozma turns into outs that Descalso allowed to be “hits”. His range is horrible and his is horrible at coming in on balls and then making a play…he has 3B skills, not SS skills.

      • stex52 - Aug 22, 2013 at 3:01 PM

        Secondary problem, Paper. Isn’t Shelby Miller getting pretty close to his innings limit?

        Are we looking for two young starters soon?

      • paperlions - Aug 22, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        I don’t think they are going to shut him down or need to….between MiLB and MLB, he threw over 150 IP last year. Right now he’s at 132 with 7 starts left…which will put him at 170-180…plus the post-season….and post-season starts (if any) will be with a LOT of days in between. He’ll be fine. They skipped him in the rotation around the ASG and also pushed him back a game or two a couple of other times to give him extra rest.

      • paperlions - Aug 22, 2013 at 3:07 PM

        Essentially, they have done with him what Washington should have done with Strass last year instead of just pitching him full bore until he hit his limit.

      • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 3:07 PM

        Well, I don’t believe Descalso is as awful as you believe, but it is true that he really isn’t a SS. His arm makes up for his lack of experience, but he panics at times and tries to pull off the impossible. I really don’t think there is much difference in range between Kozma and Descalso. But Kozma is remarkably steady and is outstanding on coming in on the ball, and turning the DP, with a strong and very accurate arm.

        But I refuse to give much credence to UZR ratings. Just recently I checked the NL shortstops, and it gave Kozma a range factor that was more than twice Rollins. Rollins may have lost a step, but no way Kozma has his range, even at this stage of his career.

      • paperlions - Aug 22, 2013 at 3:11 PM

        Kozma’s range is better than you think because he is so quick to move. Descalso takes forever to take his first step….can’t tell you how many times there is a GB that looks like an out or a double play from the CF camera, then they switch to show it bouncing harmlessly past a Descalso who has managed to take only 1.5 steps…he footwork is horrible.

      • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 3:17 PM

        Agree on Miller. He is a big kid, with a drop and drive style, easy delivery, and should be able to log outings through the year. It would help if he could keep his pitch count down though. He was better early in his last outing.

        While I agree Lynn has had a couple of unlucky innings, he complicates things with his nibbling.
        Plus, he cannot seem to make a big pitch when he gets in trouble. And his attitude is starting to rub me the wrong way. His body language can be discomforting. Just pitch dammit.

        One last rant. If the Cards announcers don’t get off the “lack of HR bandwagon”, I am going to destroy my Visio. They lead the league in runs scored. It doesn’t matter how they score. The last thing they need to do is try to go deep. The homers will happen or they won’t. Just keep up the current approach, it is working well.

      • paperlions - Aug 22, 2013 at 3:20 PM

        Hehehe…hit the mute button, it’s what I do…or switch to the other broadcast team, if they aren’t too horrible.

        I also do agree on Lynn, he will nibble too much…and then when he DOES throw a strike in a 3-1 or 2-0 count, it is up in the zone far too often….he’s still somewhat young, I think the stuff is in there for him to still improve…he gets a lot of movement, but too often he seems to start pitches in the zone that move out to be balls….whereas he rarely backdoors it by starting it off the plate and having it move in.

      • jeffthomasb - Aug 22, 2013 at 6:07 PM

        Total agreement on Lynn– he gets ahead in the count quickly, and then spends 3 or 4 pitches nibbling. And if he’s behind, look out. He also seems to get 2 outs fairly quickly, and then not be able to close out an inning. Watching him these last few weeks has been very frustrating– every single start of his lately has had one crooked-number inning. He seems to have hit his wall for the year.

        I also like Paper’s suggestion of a pitching tandem– two starters for one game. Impractical, but cool and different.

      • spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 7:53 PM

        That is kinda what I meant about “thinking outside of the box”. And even if you get only 2 or three innings out of one of the youngsters, you get to as many innings as an unsuccessful starter. Some days if all goes well a guy could go five, if not maybe only a couple, but run with whomever is hot, for as long as he is effective.

  4. cptnew1 - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    Westbrook is what he is, a marginal 5th starter/innings eater (well sometimes). I think that’s what the Cardinal were hoping he was going to be when they re-signed him. Essentially to hold a rotation spot till the younger guys are ready. The wheels came off and now they have to scramble to find another stopgap or have one of the rookies step up. The middle of a pennant race is not the greatest time to be doing that.

  5. spudchukar - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Anybody know anything about the Stoppelman kid in Springfield? Great numbers, not many walks. Any word on his availability or readiness?

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