Thursday, December 14, 2006

There Is No Such Thing As Too Much Pitching ...

As 2006 showed us, there are no sure things when it comes to starting pitching. 2007 will be no different for the Cards' starting 5/6/7/? (whomever they are), but the end results may be surprisingly superior (despite the many lingering questions).

In the 2006 postseason, both Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan uncharacteristically put their faith in unproven youngsters (Reyes, Wainwright, Kinney, Johnson, Duncan) over more experienced veterans (Marquis, Looper, Encarnacion), and it payed off in the biggest way. Maybe it was a one-time, injury-induced anomaly, or maybe it was a longer-term shift in philosophy and a reflection of ownership's wishes to place more responsibility on the shoulders of its young players.

The personnel moves thus far this offseason seem to point to the latter. With Izzy reportedly on the fast track to recovery, the worst-kept baseball secret in STL was finally let out of the bag yesterday: Adam Wainwright will move to the rotation (link). As I mentioned in a previous post, regardless of where you think Wainwright is better suited, the right move is to try him as a starter in 2007. If he tanks, the closer issue is resolved for 2008 and beyond. If he succeeds, a rotation spot is filled (at worst) adequately and affordably for at least the next 5 seasons. Either way, there will be a trickle-down effect in the bullpen in 2007, as we will better see how Kinney, Johnson, and Thompson (presuming he doesn't start) project over a full season, and in what roles. The same argument can be (and has been) made regarding Duncan in the outfield.

The corresponding reality is that the Cards will need pitching depth. With, at the very least, Reyes, Wainwright, and Wells all in the rotation, there are and will be legitimate concerns about both injuries and ineffectiveness throughout the season. With no more sure-fire, consistent performers left on the FA market (save perhaps Suppan), it would be prudent of Jocketty and Co. to fill up on high-risk, high-ceiling talent. We may already have Narveson and Thompson waiting in the wings, but why not have 7 or 8 potential starters? I've beaten the first two to death, but why not sign both Weaver and Mulder and then go for a guy like Joel Pineiro (I'll defer to an awesome article over at Fungoes; link). That would leave you with Carpenter, Weaver, Reyes, and Wainwright as certainties and a true battle between both Kip Wells and Joel Pineiro for the #5 spot in spring training (were he to lose, I could see Pineiro as a very effective bullpen guy). I think it's ignorant to presume that all the pitching gambles will pay off, so having 7 or 8 potential answers to 4 questions (including a hopefully healthy Mulder at midseason) will at worst give you a security blanket and more likely produce a pitching surplus and potential trading chips (from both the rotation and bullpen).

You may disagree and it may not happen, but such a scenario would certainly make spring training and every subsequent start just that much more exciting.


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