Tyler Lyons, Michael Wacha and Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP)

Originally thought of as just a quick fix for the injured Jake Westbrook, John Gast may end up being in the Cards rotation for quite a while with the recent news of Jaime Garcia.  I’m surprised Garcia lasted as long as he did with a partial tear of the labrum in his shoulder.  I understand wanting to try and avoid surgery and make it a last option, but I’m expecting Dr. James Andrews to give Garcia the news that he needs to go under the knife.  Tyler Lyons will step in for Garcia on Wednesday in San Diego, but I’m not sure he’ll be a long term answer. 

Wednesday will also bring an answer as to who will be sent down from the BP.  My guess is it will be between Joe Kelly and Mitchell Boggs.  I was surprised to hear that Boggs got the call back up so soon.  His problems have followed him to Memphis, and there doesn’t appear to be a quick fix as he’s staying with his new stance on the mound.

If either Boggs or Kelly aren’t one of the choices to go down and it’s Carlos Martinez instead, I’ll be a little confused to say the least.  I know the Cards want to stretch him out as a starter, but I’m not sure how many games you can expect to be in late when your only reliable arms are Randy ChoateSeth Maness, Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica.

Getting back to the starting rotation, right now all eyes are on Westbrook.  He had a setback with his elbow which prompted another cortisone injection, and that elbow may determine the arrival date of Michael Wacha.  Lyons may get away with a few good starts…hopefully anyway, but he hasn’t done anything in the minors nor does he have the pitches to stay in MLB for long as a starter.  If he can end up being a decent LOOGY down the road I’ll take it.  Cardinal Nation wants Wacha now, but we need to temper those feelings and remember that this kid was pitching for Texas A&M at this point last year.  I watched him pitch a few games in ST, and Yadier Molina made the comment that he was “ready now” at that time, but this is a dangerous situation for the Cards.

When the Cards drafted Wacha, the experts covering the draft compared him to Jon Garland.  Because of his success so far in the minors and how he impressed during ST, he’s now being talked about like the next Chris Carpenter.  It’s not fair to him or his development as a SP.  It’s a tough situation for the Cards, and a lot of factors come into play.  If the Cards really feel he is going to be the steal of the 2012 draft and a front of the rotation starter for years to come, they’ll want to have him under team control as long as possible.  Calling him up too early cuts into that time of team control, and here’s a good article from FanGraphs which explains some of that.  The Cards 28-15 record also helps the delay of Wacha’s arrival.  They have the wiggle room to take chances right now.  If the Cards were 4 or 5 games below Cincy in the standings, Wacha might be here instead of Lyons.  Rushing Wacha could be dangerous in a number of ways, and it isn’t necessary until the Westbrook situation is clearer.

The Cards are still leading all of MLB in pitching with a 3.16 ERA, led by the SP’s ERA of 2.63.  Because of how bad the BP was for the first month, the BP ERA is still only down to 4.55, which is 13th in the NL.  The offense is coming alive, ranking 3rd in both AVG (.266) and OBP (.329).  The Cards are doing it without the power of the HR, as their 33 HR’s rank 13th in the NL.

Matt Carpenter is solidifying his place as the leadoff hitter for the rest of the year and in the future.  He continues to take pitches (4.04 P/PA) and set the table (.378 OBP).  Jon Jay has really turned the corner with his new stance, hitting the ball with more authority to all fields.  I’m really surprised anyone who has been doing something so long can make such as drastic change and see results as quick as Jay has.  I want to tip my cap to him, I just don’t want to hear anymore about him winning or even being in the running for a Gold Glove Award from Al Hrabosky.  Jay has a -4.1 UZR and a -17.7 UZR/150 on defense, which means his range is just awful, and 17th out of 21 qualifying MLB CF’ers.  It’s no secret why, which is because he gets awful jumps on most balls.  So please Al, just stop.  Pete Kozma keeps on getting it done in the 8 hole and Yadier Molina is tied for 5th in the league with a BA of .333.

The only change I want to see is with Daniel Descalso.  He’s just not getting it done on offense or defense.  Ryan Jackson is tearing up AAA, hitting .385.  The only reasons the Cards must have for not swapping the two are because they think Descalso will turn it around and that Jackson might not be as good getting the sporadic AB’s in his place.  Another reason could be to use Jackson as a trade chip later on, or keeping him playing on an everyday basis in case of an injury to Kozma.  It’s hard to imagine Jackson looking as lost at the plate as Descalso does, but in John Mozeliak we trust.  Even with that trust, I wouldn’t mind giving Jackson a month or two to see what he can do and letting Descalso get everyday playing time back in the minors.  I don’t see how it can hurt.

It’s important for the Cards to win the games started by Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.  While Gast has been good, the uncertainties of him along with Lyons aren’t something to take lightly.  What will make it tough is watching the pitch counts of the big 3, but also making sure they go deep enough into games to have plenty of BP arms ready for the games started by Gast and Lyons.  There are no easy decisions for Mike Matheny to try and keep a good balance. 

Right now, Miller, Lynn and Wainwright are all in the top 22 on the PAP (Pitcher Abuse Points) list, which is not a list you want to be on.  It’s not an exact science, but I think it does make some good points about extending SP’s in this day and age where pitch count is everything.  It’s simple really….SP’s are conditioned throughout their pro career to save wear and tear on their arms and when you go above that, you’re risking injury.  The fine balance Matheny must use just became more complicated with the loss of Garcia, but extending your big 3 too many times too early is asking for trouble.  All 3 were cut short in their last start because of the high pitch counts in their previous ones.  None of them were as sharp in those last outings, and you only hope it doesn’t carry over into the next one or further.  Westbrook was also in the top 20 on that list before he went down with an injury.  Coincidence…maybe, but it’s not something Matheny should mess with.

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