With the season right near the mid-year point, I'm giving out my opinions on mid-year grades. Grades are based not simply on stats, but also on performance compared to expectations. For instance, if an unknown rookie hitter came out of nowhere, and put up a first half of .285-12-35, he would get a much better grade than if Pujols had put up the same numbers, because so much more is expected of Albert..... with that, the first installment is on the starting pitchers. All in all, the starting rotation has been an area that has overachieved and exceeded expectations. Thought to be a weak point in spring training, this staff has provided steady, if not always spectacular results, and have been the primary group responsible for keeping the Birds in the race. Any thoughts or differing opinions on these grades are welcome:
Todd Wellemeyer: A Considered by most to merely be keeping a spot in the rotation until Mulder, Carpenter, Clement, etc returned to the picture. Wellemeyer has been pretty much the Cards most consistent starter, and has greatly exceeded what was expected of him. He has given the Cards 6 or more innings in 11 of his first 14 starts. His performance in May was exceptional, when he was the NL Pitcher of the Month, including a stretch of 6 straight quality starts, during which time his ERA was 2.13. Elbow problems will hopefully not sidetrack his second half.
Kyle Lohse: A- A spring training addition has added valuable stability and given the Cards a team leading 98 1/3 IP. He also leads the team with 10 quality starts (out of 17), and has been the stopper on a number of occasions. Throw out a tough two game stretch where he was bombed by the Cubs, followed by a seven run outing at Colorado, and his ERA is 2.85 for the year.
Adam Wainwright: B+ The nominal staff ace is as good as advertised, and could easily have had 2 or 3 more wins before being sidelined with a finger injury, if the bullpen hadn't let him down on several occasions. 8 of his 13 starts were quality starts and he continued to build on his strong 2007, establishing himself as one of the top starters in the NL. His return to health is a key to the second half.
Braden Looper: B- Tough one to grade, as he is tied for the team lead with 9 victories, but has fallen short of the other starters in terms of keeping the team in games. Has been spectacular at times, but horrible on other nights. Not necessarily surprising for a lifetime reliever, but consistency is what brings his grade down a little bit. Sparked the team with an outstanding 3 hit shutout of Cincinnati the day after the Pujols injury.
Joel Pineiro: C Another tough one, given the shoulder injury struggle in the spring. Pineiro started the season on the DL, making his first start April 13. He began with two mostly horrible outings, then followed with a couple of gems. He then scuttled for a few mediocre starts before landing on the DL again with a groin problem. Like Looper, the key is to gain more consistency and be a strong member of the staff in the second half. Has thrown well since coming off the DL, with his last two starts yielding 3 earned runs in 14 innings, giving hope that better things are coming in the second half.
Mitchell Boggs: C Only 3 starts but has pitched reasonably well, including road wins at Cincy and Boston. Has struggled a little with control, and has pitched behind in the count a little too much. The health of everyone else will determine if he stays in the second half mix.
Brad Thompson: D+ Also only three starts, but I'm including him since he began the year in the rotation. Another Cardinal hit by injury, he simply hasn't produced much after his first start against Colorado...and outstanding 7 inning, 0 ER performance. His other starts have been non-descript, and his relief work not much better. The best thing for the Cardinals would be for him to be at Memphis or working in long relief.
Mike Parisi: Incomplete Terrible in both starts he had, and not much better in relief. Not enough to fairly grad him, but probably ticketed for Memphis very soon.
Next installment will be the relief pitchers....